Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Dan West

One of the giants who strode large across the Church of the Brethren in the 20th century was Dan West. Kermit Eby, one of his good friends, once wrote of him, "Dan West is a modern mystic, yet, like all his Brethren forebears, practical."

Dan was born in Preble County, Ohio in 1893 and graduated from Manchester College in 1917. He spent most of his adult life on farms near Goshen, Indiana, with his wife Lucille and their five children.

As a young man, West was inducted into the U.S. Army in 1918 with the understanding that he would be assigned to noncombatant duties. When he was assigned to a machine gun batallion, he refused to serve and expected to go to prison for his stance. Instead, he was discharged from the army.

During the summers of 1927 to 1930, he spent most of the summer months providing leadership to summer camping programs with other leaders such as Chauncey Shamberger, Perry Rohrer, and Alvin Brightbill. He served on the denomination's Board of Christian Education from 1928 to 1930, then accepted an appointment as director of youth work in 1930. He met and married Lucille Sherck in 1932 and, although he was a member of the national staff, he chose to live on a farm near Goshen, Indiana, rather than at Elgin, Illinois, saying he preferred to remain close to the "grass roots" of the church. He was a member of the Elkhart Valley Church for many years.

He became the first lay person to be elected moderator of Annual Conference in 1965. Delegates to the 1966 conference still recall his use of a towel of service instead of a gavel to conduct the business sessions.

Dan contracted amytrophic lateral sclerosis in 1968 and died on January 7, 1970.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land, Bowers