Saturday, May 31, 2008

Eyewitness to the Johnstown Flood

At 4:07 PM on May 31, 1889 the residents of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, heard a low rumble that soon turned into a devastating roar. 14 miles upriver the South Fork Dam had burst, sending twenty million tons of water rushing towards the town at speeds of 40 miles an hour and more. 2,200 died and thousands more were rendered homeless by the disaster.

Many of the steelworkers in the town were of German ancestry which meant there were Brethren in the path of the flood. One of those who survived was Nannie Hanwalt Strayer (1863-1955) and her son Clarence who was four at the time. Years later she remembered:

"I was in the living room and noticed a rush of water with wood. As I looked, I saw people on parts of houses. I went to the rear and looked out of the bathroom window. All small buildings were swimming. All the houses around us were floating away....

"The houses on the other side of the street were all gone. The brick ones melted away. We thought our house would stand. Suddenly it was struck. The plaster came down. The front windows were broken. Water was rushing in upon us. Papa saw a hole and some light and climbed out; took Clarence up and then helped me get out of the drift wood.... We were sailing with the wreckage but did not know we were moving. Fourteen people were on our roof....

"The men of our party went down and helped to arrange a path that we could crawl out. All bridges were gone and our only way out was toward Green hill ... Clarence and I were getting along very well, I thought. A man with two children came and took Clarence on his back....

"We did no weeping until we came to a battered tin room on which fourteen dead people were placed ... a great crowd of people was gathered, waiting and watching for their friends. I felt ashamed to shed tears when we came to them. They had Clarence in their arms. They asked him where Papa and Mama were. He said, 'They are coming.' They knew we were alive."

Source: Frank Ramirez "Tercentennial Moment" for May 4, 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

Annual Meeting 1882 - Part 2

There was a sense of foreboding in the air as the thousands of Brethren gathered for the 1882 Annual Meeting in Northern Indiana. The previous year Annual Meeting had appointed a committee to visit Henry Holsinger in Berlin, PA investigate charges brought against Holsinger by at least five districts. This Berlin Committee was unable to hold a hearing due to conditions insisted upon by Holsinger which the committee could not accept.

The committee then announced "that Brother H.R. Holsinger cannot be held in fellowship with the Brotherhood, and all who depart with him shall be held responsible to the action of the next Annual Meeting." In effect, Holsinger was excommunicated until Annual Meeting could act.

Holsinger's supporters attacked the action of the Berlin Committee while his detractors agitated for his permanent expulsion. Many people felt Holsinger and his group had gone too far, but they felt the Berlin Committee's action was far too severe. Some suggested the committee had gone beyond its authority and should have withheld a decision until their report was presented to Annual Meeting.

Nine months later Annual Meeting was gathering in Northern Indiana where Enoch Eby was the moderator. Eby has also served on the Berlin Committee, so when the committee's report was presented on June 1, he stepped aside and D.E. Cripe took over the chair. The committee report was read and explained, then a motion was made for adoption.

Holsinger's opponents no doubt expected a bombastic tirade based on his past history at Annual Meeting. They were in for a surprise. Friends of Holsinger presented a compromise paper which Holsinger had promised to sign if it was accepted. Its tone was urprisingly conciliatory given the past nine months of vitrolic rhetoric.

Holsinger made five points in the paper including, "I humbly ask the pardon of the brethren for all my offenses." Viewed from the perspective of more than 100 years, Holsinger's promises seem quite reasonable, but emotions were high and, as Elder Moore had commented, Holsinger had made many enemies.

Nearly the entire day was spent debating the question. Finally, the motion to accept the Berlin Committee's report was pressed, and a vote was called for. Elder Moore estimated there were 7,000 voting members present and all but about 100 stood to support the motion.

After the vote, Moore described Holsinger's mood as depressed. Still he was able to rally his spirits enough to lead a group of his supporters to a nearby schoolhouse where they discussed what to do next. Holsinger's group eventually held a meeting in Dayton, Ohio, in June 1883 which marked the official formation of the new denomination.

1882, in Northern Indiana, marked the last year for these two groups to meet together at Annual Meeting until this year when the Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Church will meet together for their annual meetings in Richmond, VA, July 12-16, for a 300th anniversary celebration.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land: Church of the Brethren in Indiana

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Annual Meeting - Pentecost 1882

The Brethren gathered for Annual Meeting on Pentecost (May 28), 1882, in Northern Indiana on the John Arnold farm in Elkhart County. The 35-acre site was located a short distance east of the present intersection of U.S. 6 and Ind. 15. The Big Four railroad ran north and south past the site, and the B&O railroad ran east and west a short distance to the south. Both railroads made special arrangements to transport passengers directly to the conference grounds. There was even a temporary U.S. Post Office built at the site.

The Solomon's Creek (now Bethany) was in charge of arrangements. J.W. Rowdabaugh was 12 years old when the 1882 conference was held. He wrote about his memories in 1951 when he was 81 years old.

A large tent was erected with a seating capacity of 5,000 inside and seats all around outside. A dining hall had a seating capacity of 1,500 at one time. There was also a large lunch room. A double furnace was installed for cooking 41 head of corn fed beeves. The cooking continued day and night by Solomon Rowdabaugh and Cyrus Lantz as head cooks.

A baggage room and ticket office were in the depot built by the Big Four. They also put in telegraph service and a switch. The B&O built one-and-a-half miles of new track from their main line so they could land their passengers on the meeting ground. The two railroads hauled passengers to the surrounding towns for night lodging, bringing them back to the meeting grounds in the morning.

The church building (Solomon's Creek) and the houses and barns for miles around were also used for sleeping quarters. The Big Four did not have enough passenger coaches so they used a box car.... One field was used for horses and wagons, as many people came for many miles and stayed for the entire nine-day series of services. Horse feed was furnished by the local Brethren free.

Supplying food for a gathering of thousands was a major undertaking. Meal tickets cost 15 cents each, and some of the food listed included 41 "beeves," 2,000 pies and 13 gallons of apple butter. Special arrangements were made for fresh bread each day. Quoting Rowdabaugh again, The bread was baked in Chicago and shipped by the car load to Milford junction on the B&O railroad. The cases were lined with muslin. D.W. Weybright and Elmer Troup muslin-lined a sideboard wagon box and hauled the unwrapped and unsliced bread to the meeting ground. They said the bread was still warm when they opened the car. They also testified to me that the bread with butter was good eating.

Later accounts of the 1882 conference have placed the attendance as high as 10,000, but an accurate estimate is nearly impossible. Rowdabaugh himself wrote, No one ever knew the exact total of attendance at this conference ... Judging from the amount of food used, it is evident that this meeting was one among the largest in attendance of any Brethren conference.

Part 2 regarding the business of the 1882 meeting follows tomorrow.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land: Church of the Brethren in Indiana

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Catherine Hummer

The story of Catherine Hummer of White Oak, Pennsylvania, is an important, if largely forgotten, event in our Colonial history. In 1762 a Brethren teenager in Colonial America claimed she saw angels. She said she looked into heaven and saw people who were baptized after death - three times forward of course - and saved. And she preached about it. That made her the first woman to preach among the Brethren.

There was tremendous controversy. Some who heard her preach insisted they saw angels as well. Others questioned the source of her visions. She saw these visions, according to the accusation, only when alone in the presence of the doctor Sebastian Keller, a married man who'd left his wife behind at the Ephrata Cloisters. Her father, the first minister of White Oak, fiercely defended her. Conrad Beissel, the charismatic head of the Ephrata Community, believed her visions and recorded them, inviting her to stay.

Like a meteor across the sky she attracted the attention of Colonial Pennsylvania, Brethren and non-Brethren alike. For a moment she was the brightest thing in the heavens. And like a meteor she vanished, without a trace. Despite the fact she was a central figure in a major controversy. Most of her life is a mystery. Not even the dates of her birth and death are known.

More important than Hummer herself was the Annual Meeting decision that followed on May 28, 1763. Twenty-two Brethren elders, including Alexander Mack, Jr., and Christopher Sauer II, came up with one of the most extraordinary decisions that Brethren have never paid attention to, one that should certainly speak to us today.

"...we advise," they wrote, "out of brotherly love, that on both sides all judgments and harsh expressions might be entirely laid down, though we do not have the same opinion of that noted occurrence, so that those who do not esteem it, should not despise those who expect to derive some use and benefit from it."

The Brethren, who prized uniformity in their nonconformity to the world, decided they could achieve that uniformity in action and appearance - but not in thought. They could not and would not legislate what fellow Brethren ought to believe with regards to the truth about Catherine's visions. Their only concern was about the outward behavior of Brethren toward each other.

Source: Frank Ramirez, Tercentennial Moment for May 25, 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

John Ulrich, Sr.

When John Ulrich, Sr., came to Indiana in 1822 to attend a sale of public land at Richmond he brought his funds in the form of gold in a saddle bag. He rode horseback from Roaring Spring (PA) and after spending the winter at Dayton, Ohio came on to Richmond, Indiana. He could not speak English so when he bid he held one finger for One Dollar and then with the fore finger on his right he made a sign on the fore finger of his left hand of one-quarter more to indicate that he bid $1-1/4 per acre. He had bid off 1200 acres of land on Nettle Creek for $1500. He had this much along in his saddle bag in gold. This he had obtained from the sale of the Mill and Mill Seat at Roaring Spring. This mill he had operated since 1795 and it had been willed to him by his father Daniel Ulrich in the year 1781.

John and his second wife, Elizabeth Clapper Ulrich, came to Wayne County, Indiana and located north of Five Points along Nettle Creek and built a log cabin there. This cabin was built near an Indian Trail. Tradition has it that when the men folks were gone from the house grandmother Ulrich would hang several men's hats on pegs outside the door so that any Indians passing by would suppose that there were men at home. In this way she was able to keep away unwelcome visitors.

John also brought with him his son Daniel and his family. The story goes that as they came horseback across Ohio and Indiana they carried willow switches to help the horses along by switching them. And then it is said that these willow sticks were thrust into the ground near the place alloted to Daniel and his family to live and that from them grew willow trees. In fact about three generations of large willow trees have grown on the area where this is said to have happened.

Source: People and Places, Lawrence W. Shultz

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Address

On this Memorial Day, many will visit the cemetaries where loved ones were buried and in some of those cemetaries a community leader may be called up to make a brief address. Such was the case in 1960 when L.W. Shultz was asked to speak at the Lancaster Township Cemetary. On this Memorial Day here are excerpts from that Memorial Day Address.

The first white settler to come to this community was Joseph Sprowl in 1834. Lancaster Township was first formed in 1837 ... The first burial here was that of Sarah Hoover Heaston who died October 25, 1837 at 23 years of age. ... Now in 1960 ... some 5000 have been buried here including 107 men who have served in the armed forces. Many of you can join with me in saying that your closest kin are buried here. More than fifty of my closest relatives have been here interred and there names can be found on these stones.

I come today to speak on the theme - TODAY WE REMEMBER - and shall spend most of my time in recalling to your minds the memory of those who have here lived in this community and now lie buried in this city of the dead.

Six score and six years ago our forefathers began coming into this area bringing forth a new community and setting up homes, schools, and churches, dedicated to the ideals of democracy and Christian faith. Today after 126 years we are met on these grounds in their honor and in memory of them and their descendants who lie in the beautiful cemetary across the road. In a large sense they have made their own record and the best we can do is to recall in memory their names, why they came and what they did here in our land to make it a great country in which to live. And too we should renew our pledge to them, our God and our country that we shall strive to keep alive the virtues and ideals which they have given to us as a heritage so that democracy, education, and religion shall continue to be the dominant forces in our lives and the lives of those who come after us.

Perhaps at this point I should stop as Lincoln did in that Memorial Address in 1863. But there are certain avenues I should like to explore and portray to you. Who were these pioneers? What did they seek here? What did they leave us as a heritage? What is our obligation in the days ahead to best show our gratitude for their gifts to us?


We of today need to remember that the strength of our civilization is spiritual rather than scientific or physical. America has become great because of its ideals which have their roots in the church life of yesterday and today. Twelve of the original thirteen colonies were founded by church groups. Our schools, hospitals and charitable institutions were founded by the churches of our lands. The ideals and framework of our human rights came out of the Christian faith and teaching. And so for the future assurance that we may have the blessings of God and His guidance for our children and their children we need the Church. Let us strengthen it by our faithful attendance and support. In the great events of life - birth - marriage and death we recognize it. Let us do so every day as well as on Sunday.

We should come as did the wise men of old to say as he did in Eccles. 12:13 - "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter - Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."


Source: People and Places: An Autobiography, Lawrence W. Shultz

Sunday, May 25, 2008


L.W. "Pop" Shultz and his wife Cora completed 30 years as directors of Camp Mack in 1956, having served since its beginning. At "Mass Meeting" held June 3 of that year at Camp Mack, Shultz shared what he titled "A WORD OF GRATITUDE AND APPRECIATION." What follows are excerpts of that address as recorded in his autobiography, People and Places.

This brief presentation is not to be a farewell address.
It is not a Good Bye speech either.
The Germans have a better word for it - "AUF WIEDERSEHEN"
This means - "Till we see each other again."

This short "Wiedersehen" word is to be today a word of gratitude and appreciation for the heritage that we have received from the Long Ago; a Thank You to all who have made Camp Mack what it is Today; and finally an Expression of our hope and expectation of what can and may happen in the Days Ahead.

Thirty-One Years Ago these grounds were dedicated. The Church of the Brethren in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan planned and built together here. Camp Mack was dedicated to the idea that camping affords a unique aid in the training of the youth of the church....

We are grateful too today that two centuries after Martin Luther, Alexander and seven others "Counted the Cost", broke away from a state formal religion and taught that our faith should be meaningful in everyday life; that there should be no force in religion; that the New Testament should be our guide for living and that we should use every means of grace to increase our spiritual growth. Their successors have handed on to us this torch through the ensuing...years.

Again we are grateful today that so much has been achieved here on these grounds named after the founder of our brotherhood. We appreciate the sacrifice and contributions of so many of you and many others who are not here today. ...

The men of the churches of Indiana have made this auditorium a reality in 1940. During these years the women of the churches have supplied much camp equipment. On June 5, 1949 the youth groups of the camps and churches completed their contribution of the twelve mural panels - something unique in the history of the Christian Church. ...

Finally we express our hope and expectation for the future. We envision many, many campers coming here to be taught our Christian heritage, to fellowship with the best leaders and fellow campers; to learn to meditate and to worship; and to let God reveal Himself through His World, His Word and His Will.

In the days ahead many campers will here be praying that here the

Spirit of the Living God may fall afresh on them, and that they be
Melted, molded, filled and used in dedicated service to Christ and His Church.

Let us be glad today that many here on this Wabee shore will in the future hear the call of the Man of Galilee as he will continue to say:

Come - Follow Me - I am the Way, Make Me your Guide.
Come - Learn of Me - I am the Truth, Make Me your Teacher.
Come - Abide in Me - I am the Life, Make Me your Dwelling Place.

And so as lives are here touched by lives and the Spirit all of us can feel that our prayer has been answered that the Lord establish the work of our hands here.

Auf Wiedersehen.

Source: People and Places, Lawrence W. Shultz

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fifty Books in Exchange for a Cigar

L.W. Shultz was known for his love of books - he read them, he wrote them, he published them, and at Manchester College he cared for them in the college library for some twenty years. In his autobiography he reports that by the time he was 14 he had read the Bible through twice. He also tells the following story of a profitable and fateful decision made in 1906 shortly before his 16th birthday.

At the end of the threshing season in 1906 our thresherman, Joe Lefever, gave a treat to those who were in the threashing ring that ran all the way from the Stringtown road ... to the Lengel Hill.... It was a large ring as we called it. My job for several years was to sack the grain at the separator and haul it to the graineries and store it in bins. It was the hardest job in the ring and usually given to us boys. We had to be at the machine the first thing in the morning and were last to get away at night for the grain had to be stored. Well, the thresherman handed out cigars that night.

I took one home, showed it to mother, and told her that I would smoke it. It laid up on the clock shelf for some weeks. One evening in the fall before school I told mother that on the way to get the cows from the back pasture I was going to smoke that cigar. It about broke her heart and she made the bargain that if I would destroy the cigar she would give me fifty cents.

The bargain was kept and with the fifty cents I bought a permit to borrow books from the Huntington City Library. During my senior year in high school I read fifty books from that library ... It was a very profitable and fateful decision.

Source: People and Places, Lawrence W. Shultz

Friday, May 23, 2008

Remembering L.W. Shultz

A Robert Burns quotation: O would some power the gift to give us to see ourselves as others see us; begins the first chapter of an autobiography of Lawrence W. Shultz. We introduced "L.W." yesterday on the anniversary of his death in 1982. Today we share some of the remembrances in the chapter of Shultz's book titled "Do You Remember"

Donald Durnbaugh: ...(another) area of mutual interest is that of Brethren history. This culminated in our work together on the Brethren Bibliography. I have been impressed of the vigor of your work in collecting and writing books about Brethren families and history, and by your effectiveness in sharing your enthusiasm for history with others. Perhaps most of all I have been impressed by your unflagging energy, persistence, and drive in working at the goals in the church life over the years.

M.R. Zigler: Do you remember when the Church of the Brethren did not have a Brethren Service Program to match the peace testimony of the Mennonites and the Friends? One evening at Elgin we were thinking that something should be done and I said to you, "Go to your hotel tonight and prepare a resolution for the Board of Christian Education next morning." You did it and that was the official beginning of the Brethren Service program.

Rufus King: Soon after I came to join the Manchester College staff there soon came to my office - a short, heavy-set, white-haired man with bushy eyebrows that shaded a deep-set pair of twinkling eyes giving advance notice of an animated personality. With s sheaf of papers under one arm and several books under the other, he had stopped by to leave some freshly printed matter and to share some nuggets of historical interest. In the years since, my contacts and friendship with L.W. Shultz have reinforced that first impression that here is a person with intense historical curiosity and appreciation for his ancestral background and style of life, one with an interest in people, a knowledge of families, a mastery of Indian lore and history, extensive travel jaunts shared with others in America and abroad, and an ability and interest fortunately, to record for posterity his experiences and impressions. L.W. is a promoter and countless numbers have had their lives enriched because of his writings and projects to which he has given his energy.

Russell C. Wenger: Do you remember? I do - It was a day in the twenties (1924) that you, Moyne Landis, and I had spent it in a pleasant and somewhat anxious quest for a camp site on the lake area of Northern Indiana. After much counselling with others, and after a second look at Lake Wabee we recommended it as the site for our church camp in this area. It was not an easy decision, but it came to all three of us almost simultaneously that evening at the lakeside that "THIS IS THE PLACE".

Source: People and Places: An Autobiography by Lawrence W. Shultz

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lawrence W. Shultz

Although L.W. Shultz is most often connected with the development of Camp Mack, in later years he led groups of Brethren on tours that acquainted them with the European homes of their ancestors and brought them into contact with the Holy Land described in the New Testament.

Shultz was born October 24, 1892 in Huntington County, Indiana. He married Cora Winger June 1, 1915. He was elected to the ministry in 1910 and an elder in 1919. He graduated from Manchester College in 1914 and a master's degree from Northwestern University in 1924. He was a high school principal before joining the faculty at Manchester College in 1924 as a teacher and librarian.

Shultz was instrumental in the development of Camp Alexander Mack, and he and Cora were managers at the camp for over 30 years. He was active on a number of boards and committees for the Middle Indiana District from 1923-1946 and the Brethren Service Committee from 1939 to 1946. Shultz was active in book publishing writing seven books himself, assisting with six more, and helping to reprint many more which had been lost for some time. His topics covered Brethren history, geneology, and Indian lore.

One of his principal interests was leading Brethren tour groups from 1949 to 1970. He led at least 25 groups on tours to Europe, the Holy Land, and to points of Brethren interest in the U.S. and Canada. Several hundred people participated in these tours to more than 30 countries which brought many of them in close contact with their Brethren heritage for the first time.

Shultz was a resident of Indiana his entire life and died on this date, May 22, 1982. More memories of L.W. Shultz will follow tomorrow.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Brethren in China

On July 30, 1908, while the newly renamed Church of the Brethren was celebrating its 200th anniversary, the vanguard of Brethren mission work in China - Frank and Anna Crumpacker with Emma Horning and George and Blanche Hilton - left Seattle on the USS Minnesota. Four weeks later they arrived in Shanghai and traveled to Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province. There, with the help of Paul Corbin of the American Board mission, they investigated the possibility of establishing mission work in Shanxi.

In April 1910 the first Brethren converts were baptized and later that year a Brethren mission station was established in Ping Ting, and on Sunday, June 12, the first public preaching service was held in the Crumpacker home with about 40 attending ... On May 10, 1911, the first love feast was celebrated in the Crumpacker home with four Americans and three Chinese participating. ... China was in the process of overthrowing the imperial government and establishing a republic ... Despite the turmoil, Brethren ... mission work grew.

Later conflict between China and Japan would lead to increasing problems for Brethren mission workers. ... Between 1908 and 1941, 83 Brethren had served in China and 12 lost their lives to that service, either in China or as the result of diseases contracted there.

Very little physical evidence remains of the Brethren mission work in China ... although lives of individual Chinese were changed, children were educated, lives were spared and improved because of hospitals and health education, and the status of women was greatly improved.

Source: "China revisited: A legacy of mission," by Gene Wampler in Messenger May 2008
Today, as brothers and sisters in China seek to survive a devastating earthquake and flooding, our hearts go out to those in a faraway land where the Brethren were once very involved in mission work for the Glory of God and Our neighbors good.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

African Love Feast

The following story told by Chalmer Faw (missionary in Nigeria 1939-1945, 1965-1976) is recounted by Kermit Eby in his 1958 book For Brethren Only.

The Brethren had been in Africa for some years. Converts were won. A church was established. And, as was the custom in the homeland, a love feast was held. The food was somewhat different, and gourds were substituted for bowls at the feet-washing. But the order and the spirit were the same.

The tribe among which the Brethren worked were known as the Buras. They enjoyed the love feast above all other religious experiences. They prepared for the occasion prayerfully, and the air was electric with anticipation before the hour arrived.

Soon the news of the love feast traveled far and wide, until it reached Girgilling, a town located eight miles southeast of Garkida, Brethren headquarters. The tribe at Girgilling was called Whona, and their language was unknown to any white man.

The chief of the Whona came to Garkida and asked that the love feast be celebrated in his village. The Brethren hesitated more than a little. But the chief of the Whona would not be put off. All will be taken care of, he insisted. Just come!

Still doubting, the Brethren accepted the invitation. On the date set, they trekked to the village of Girgilling. When they arrived, everything was in readiness. Mats were spread under a large palm tree. Plates were filled with food, and water was poured into gourd containers. And as the Brethren, black and white, sat down to the meal, the chief, his wives, children, and tribesmen, yes, even his goats and dogs, were gathered to watch.

During the entire service, held in a strange dialect, there was the most reverential silence. To this reverence, the mixed congregation responded. Never, says Brother Faw, did they feel God's presence so near!

After the singing of the closing hymn, the congregation, as is the custom, went out into the night.

Awed by such a welcome and such a response, Chalmer Faw approached the chief of the Whona, and inquired of him through an interpreter as to why he was so anxious to have a love feast in his village. The answer was simply and directly given.

"Many times," stated the Whona chief, "I have seen the white man take our land, impress our men, and violate our women. This is the first time I have ever seen a white man wash a black man's feet!"

Monday, May 19, 2008

Brethren Have a Plumb Line

Kenneth Morse gathered the following quotations of Kermit Eby as a sidebar in the Brethren Encyclopedia.

In almost every article Kermit Eby wrote (whether for labor union, educational, or church publications) and in almost every speech he gave (whether for a professional gathering or a popular assembly) he described and reflected upon his Brethren heritage in words similar to the following:

  • "I grew up in a Brethren world. I went to church twice on Sunday, prayer meeting on Wednesday, and revival meeting from two to four weeks each year...."
  • "Grandfather's religion as he inherited it from the Brethren was nonauthoritarian, without dogma, and all inclusive. Brethrenism was a way of life, not a cult, not an exclusive sect; nor was it to be an institutionalized church."
  • "Grandfather's world was a world in which the way a dollar was earned was as important as its earning."
  • "Increasingly I realize my own sectarianism. Increasingly I am of the opinion that the fire goes out when the sect becomes a denomination and the denomination a church making its peace with the world."
  • "My Brethren ancestors were "levelers." Brethren ministers were chosen by lot .... At communion time, ... the ministers usually sat at the front of the church, but on a bench at exactly the same level as those of the congregation. Theirs was an elevation of character, not of status."
  • "Brethren, it seems, cannot escape their curse - a sense of purpose. They are under a mandate to leave the world a better place than they found it."
  • "The Brethren turned to the New Testament as their source of truth, and then looked out into the world ... These truths which they distilled from their suffering are very real today, for we Brethren have a plumb line by which we can measure our faiths and our lives."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Love Feast at Baugo

While some members of the church today would suggest that Love Feast has changed very little over the years in their congregation, the following excerpts from "Love Feast at Baugo" in Kermit Eby's 1958 book For Brethren Only might cause us to reflect on changes surrounding the Love Feast we have forgotten.

Baugo had its love feast the last week in May or the first week in June. Instead of using only the bread and wine in memory of the death and resurrection of our Lord, we members of the Church of the Brethren ate together a complete Lord's Supper of beef and bread and beef broth. In this farming community, we held our annual love feast when most of the planted corn was up but not big enough to plow. The clover was in bloom. The wheat was headed out but the haying and the harvesting were still two weeks away.

The love feast was the service which dramatized our religion and renewed our faith.

The "examination sermon" was the first in the series of event preceding the love feast. Sometimes Grandfather preached it, but usually a neighboring minister exchanged pulpits with him. The examination sermon was straight from the shoulder. If the barbs were too pointed or if the preacher's eye remained fixed too long on one person, tongues started wagging. We were told to look into our lives. If there were any family quarrels, they were to be settled. If anyone had cheated his neighbor by giving short measure, like Zacchaeus he was to restore it fourfold. If any husbands or wives had strayed (how I used to wonder what straying meant!) they were to confess their sins before God and the brethren. ...

The examination sermon was followed by a visit to each family by the deacons, of whom there were six in Baugo, who traveled in pairs like the disciples of old. Before beginning their visitation they met with Grandfather. Exactly what was said I never learned, but I can guess. Each Baugo member's record was examined and the deacons were encouraged not to shrink from their duty. ...

Thursday was love feast day. On Tuesday we went to Baugo to clean the church and arrange the tables. While the menfolks carried out the benches and washed them with water from the schoolhouse pump, the women scrubbed the floor, polished the windows, and secured the tin communion dishes and great kettles in the basement. ... Not all was work on cleaning day. Baugo Creek was warm enough for swimming, and while the old folks stood around and talked we youngsters kicked off our overalls and shirts and jumped in. ...

Wednesday forenoon the deacons' wives met at Grandmother's to bake the communion bread. Before beginning work, the sisters put on their prayer coverings and held a short worship service. The coverings were worn and not a word was spoken until the baking was finished. ...

On love feast morning we got up a little earlier than usual ... Just before noon, fires were built in the great ovens in the church basement. ... The afternoon at Baugo was a busy one ... the beef to be cooked, seasoned, and cut up;; the dishes, knives, forks, and spoons to be put in place for the supper; the tubs to be filled with water for the feet-washing and the great towels with drawstrings in one end placed beside the tubs; the basins and the hand towels distributed; the loaves of bread cut up and piled in big wicker baskets; a hymnbook laid between each two places.

...Before supper, the brethren began washing each other's feet. I hoped they would hurry. My stomach was empty and I was thirsty and getting sleepy. By the time the bread and wine were passed and the climax of the service reached, I was sound asleep. When the congregation stood to sing
Blessed Be the Tie That Binds, Dad began shaking me to wake up. ... By 9:30 the love feast was over. The hired man drove us home. Dad stayed to help clear the tables and to see that everything was ready for breakfast in the morning.

And that's the way it was for love feast at Baugo in the early 1900s.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Revival at Baugo

A reminder of typical "Revival Meetings" in the early 1900s come from these words written by Kermit Eby in his 1958 book For Brethren Only. This excerpt from the chapter titled "Revival at Baugo."

Our yearly revival meetings at Baugo were held in the winter months of December, January, and February. Then the days were short and the nights long. The work on the farm was restricted to chores and, weather permitting, an occasional day of wood cutting. Winter, the season of snow and bobsleds, facilitated the transportation problems of revival meeting time. One night Whislers would pickup Troxels, Harters, Ebys, and all the other intervening neighbors. The next time would be the Troxel's turn, then the Harters', then ours. What fun we children had singing, snowballing, or running behind the racing sleds to keep our feet warm!

But revival meeting was a serious business. Souls were to be saved, and backsliders were to be brought back to the straight and narrow Dunker way. The first and most important step in insuring a successful revival meeting was the selection of the minister. Really good revivalists, men who could guarantee an increase of at least twenty new members, had to be spoken for several years in advance.

Church attendance always picked up on revival meeting Sundays. The lukewarm dropped in; so did the chronic sufferers from Sunday headaches. The meeting normally lasted two weeks. It began on Sunday morning and concluded with a Sunday evening service. However, occasionally, when the interest reached its climax late, and the unconverted were seen to be still wavering, the meetings were extended one or even two weeks more.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Grandfather Schwalm

Kermit Eby talks about his Grandfather Schwalm in his 1958 book For Brethren Only.

My Pennsylvania German Grandfather Schwalm was an elder in the Church of the Brethren for some thirty years. As an elder he was responsible for administering the affairs of Baugo and of several other neighboring churches. As an elder he also had the task of maintaining church discipline: seeing to it that the older members of the church kept the faith, that we younger ones joined the church when we reached the age of accountability, and that no Brethren you married outside the fold to be thus unequally yoked with unbelievers.

Grandfather preached on Sunday, went to prayer meeting on Wednesday might, and presided at monthly council meetings and semiannual love feasts. His regular church work was enough to keep him busy, but it did not end in the pulpit and in conference. Grandfather performed weddings, anointed, comforted, and prayed for the sick, and preached their funerals when God chose to call. The poor, too, were his responsibility. Widows and orphans were supplied with food and fuel. The improvident were helped on butchering day and at Christmas. The lazy were admonished to work a little harder and to save a little bit more! Grandfather received no pay for these services; seldom were even his expenses paid, and if they were, he passed the money on to some needy person or gave it to advance the Kingdom in some foreign land.

Grandfather was a farmer preacher. He worked during the week with the same men for whom he preached on Sunday. His life extended into his farming. The Pennsylvania Dutch believed that a man's character was manifest in the orderliness of his fence rows as well as the eloquence of his prayers.

My memories of Grandfather are mixed and varied. When I was five, he gave me an orphan lamb, which I desperately wanted. When he gave it to me, he said, "Kermit, this is your lamb. Love it, and take care of it." And to my young mother he said, "Lizzie, he must always care for it, never you!"

Later when I was in my teens and big enough to go threshing he taught me the same lesson even more graphically. We were threshing some smutty oats. Clean-up time had come, and dirt and smut were almost strangling me. (So I thought.) I stepped back and permitted one of the neighbors to do double duty in the dust. Grandfather saw me, stepped up and asked for my shovel, and took my place. I stood there awkward and alone. After the job was finished, Grandfather stepped back and said, "A man always helps clean up!"

Source: For Brethren Only, Kermit Eby - "Grandfather Schwalm Had a Red Beard"

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Brethren Heritage

In his book from 1958, For Brethren Only, Kermit Eby talks about the importance of Brethren Heritage:

... Not only do I want young Brethren to know their Bible; I want them to know their history. Alexander Mack and Christopher Sower must become real men who wrestled with war and totalitarianism and worldliness, and who produced, out of that wrestling, Brethrenism.

I want his heritage so well understood that every Brethren young person is proud of it, and may I say as emphatically as I know how that neither our Christian nor our Brethren heritage can be taught in a thirty-five-minute period on a Sunday morning. It must, if it is to be made meaningful, be a part of our daily living, the very marrow of our bones.

...I do believe that we have a unique heritage - both radical and a relevant one. We do speak to the transcendent question of all civilization, which is war. We have an answer to the totalitarians with our emphasis on no force in religion.

... We understand what integrity means, but we have forgotten that a witness so significant as this must be bolstered in the community. By community I mean the fellowship of believers: common faith and a community to support it.

... Long ago I learned that the values of the society corrupt the organization created to oppose them. Brethren are no exception. We have become a church, are no longer a sect. We have made our peace, and with our peace there can come only assimilation or disappearance.

These things I miss: separateness, earthy sermons, Biblical teachings, brotherhood, roots.

Source: For Brethren Only, Kermit Eby - "Things I Miss and Do Not Miss"

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


The Baugo congregation in the Northern Indiana district dates back to 1868 with the original meetinghouse built in 1878. Persons who would otherwise know nothing about the Baugo congregation learned of it from stories told by Kermit Eby in his book For Brethren Only published in 1958 during the Church of the Brethren's 250th anniversary year. What follows is an excerpt from the book as Eby recalls his memory of Baugo.

Baugo is the little white country church which Grandfather Schwalm served as minister and presiding elder for more than thirty years. It is the church my mother and her seven brothers and sisters attended every Sunday morning and almost every Sunday evening - the church where they went to prayer meeting on Wednesday, revival meeting every night for from two to four weeks each year during the winter months, love feast breakfast in the early summer, and an all-day harvest meeting in the fall.

Baugo is small and plain and rectangular; its external dimensions do not exceed forty by sixty feet. Actually the years have diminished its size, for when Baugo was first built, a shed about twenty feet wide and thrity feet long was attached to the rear of the church. Here was stored the wood for the big stoves which heated the church in winter, and the dishes, foot-tubs, and great kettles used at the yearly love feast.

...Baugo was named for Baugo Creek. It was given the name
Baugo by the Pottawatomies, the Indians who once lived in northern Indiana and southern Michigan. The Baugo is a crooked stream which winds through the valley.... Here too were held Baugo's baptismal services after each revival meeting, often in the cold of winter. Thirty years ago it was accepted practice to cut the ice and baptize in the cold water, and as far as I know no one was ever the worse for the experience. Since then, the Brethren have moved from running water to heated tanks and interior baptistries, and as we have moved from cold, running water to still, lukewarm water, I sometimes wonder if our faith has not become as tepid as the water we are baptized in.

...Sunday morning at Baugo was more than a religious service. It was the gathering of the Freundschaft, a meeting of the clan ... but it must not be forgotten that the basic emphasis at Baugo was religious. The Brethren believed that life was real, God ever-present, and sin something to be trodden underfoot. Children were to be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord ... we were supposed to sit still and listen to the minister.

...The Baugo I have described was the central experience of our lives, at least until we were old enough to have dates, and even then we were expected not to wander too far away from Baugo's influence .... at Baugo we were taught, in season and out of season, that we are born for a purpose, and this purpose was declared by men and women who believed that their lives too had meaning.

Source: For Brethren Only, Kermit Eby - "Baugo Revisited"

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Kermit Eby

Kermit Eby was born in 1903 near Wakarusa, Indiana where he completed high school. He then spent four years at Manchester College and three years at the University of Chicago. He taught for ten years in public schools, two in elementary and eight in high school. From 1937 to 1942 he was the executive secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union and then moved to Washington D.C. where he was first assistant director of education and later director for the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). In 1948 he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago where he served until his death in 1962. He was elected to the ministry in 1927 and was married in the same year.

A prolific writer, Eby was the author of four books including The God in You (1954), and For Brethren Only (1958). He served for a number of years on the Board of Directors for the Church of the Brethren magazine, Brethren Life & Thought, to which he contributed numerous articles.

He often described his Brethren-Mennonite heritage and constantly related its values to current issues. He was subpoenaed in 1953 to appear before a Senate investigating committee. Denied an open hearing, he issued a public statement giving his position on communism and other issues.

V.F. Schwalm, in the Introduction to For Brethren Only, suggested that Brethren, during this (250th) anniversary year (1958), "can by reading these chapters catch some intimate glimpses of a Dunker home, a Dunker church, and a Dunker community of fifty years ago. Certainly his plea for integrity, for social awareness and social concern, for family solidarity, and for loyalty to the faith of our fathers should find a ready response to all who are aware of the crucial times in which we live."

The same could be said fifty years later in 2008.

Sources: The Brethren Encyclopedia
For Brethren Only,
Kermit Eby

Monday, May 12, 2008

Annual Meeting of 1856

The Annual Meeting of 1856 was held on Pentecost and the following days in northern Illinois. As mentioned yesterday, Pentecost came early and spring came later in 1856 in Northern Illinois and Annual Meeting continued through heavy rains. The minutes of the meeting were recorded by Henry Kurtz, clerk and show some 38 items of business were dealt with.

None of the items of business that year gathered as much print as Article 14. The committee appointed in 1855 to visit and confer with the far Western brethren to investigate the differences in doctrine and practice existing between them and us submitted the following report:

"May 8, 1856. We, the brethren who constitute the committee appointed by the German Baptist Church, at our last Annual Meeting, to visit the Western brethren who recognize Bro. George Wolfe, of Illinois, as their bishop, by the grace and favor of God were permitted to meet at their meetinghouse where we were received on the most friendly and Christian-like terms, and after different queries were proposed for our deliberation, the three (or four) following being considered the most important, we proceed to make our report accordingly, as follows:

"First. The question concerning the reality of a devil was considered, and after comparing opinions and sentiments on the subject of the reality of such a being, and his nature, we agreed upon the following view: That the Scriptures recognize a devil, or an evil spirit, that manifests itself in the flesh.

"Second. On the doctrine of universal salvation, which denies punishment hereafter, we cordially agreed with Bro. Wolfe that all men shall receive heareafter according to the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or bad.

"Third. On the subject of feet-washing, Bro. Wolfe is firm in his opinion that one persons should both wash and wipe the feet of a number of brethren, and then another, and so on, until all are washed; but he is willing to conform to the practice of the brethren in general, when in communion - meeting with them and begs forbearance on the part of the brethren in general, until they shall all come to see alike.

"Fourth. Bro. Wolfe is likewise strongly of the opinion that no time should be spent between the eating of the supper and the breaking of bread (the communion) but, that the whole ceremony should be prosecuted without intermission or delay.

"It is the sincere desire of Bro. Wolfe that, however these sentiments may clash with the general practice of the brethren, they may not be considered a sufficient cause why they should not be received in communion and fellowship with the brethren; with which views we, the committee, unanimously agree and present this our report to the brethren in general council met, for their deliberation and concurrence.

"Signed by David Hardman, J.H. Umstad, J.H. Tracey, A. Moss, John Metzger, S. Lehman, C. Long."

Source: Minutes of the Annual Meeting of the Brethren, 1856

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Today is Pentecost Sunday. It is earlier this year because of the very earlier date of Easter. Pentecost. Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian Church, is celebrated 50 days (pente) or the 7th Sunday following Easter. Although the early Brethren rejected the liturgical pattern of the Christian year, their Annuals meetings were traditionally scheduled for Pentecost.

Describing this practice, Henry Kurtz noted that "the first council meeting had been held ... about Christmas [1723], the presumed birthday of the Saviour, but now a more proper time was chosen in fixing Pentecost of every year, the birthday of the church, for the big meeting...." In early conferences the day was set aside for worship rather than business and included love feast.

In 1856 Pentecost came early and spring came late to northern Illinois, where the Annual Meeting continued through heavy rains and those present experienced what The Gospel Visitor report called "a gloomy and dreadful time." Henry Kurtz, observing that Pentecost was a "movable feast," varying with the date of Easter, proposed changing the time of Annual Meeting permanently to the first of June, but the 1857 meeting decided to make no change.

In 1902 the German Baptist Brethren (later Church of the Brethren) Annual Meeting made some allowance for a change of date for practical reasons, but that group did not permanently abandon the Pentecost time until 1917. The Pentecost date has been regularly followed by the Old German Baptist Brethren.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Henry Spickler goes Around the World

As we near the end of another college year, some graduates might wish to reflect on the daring dream of Henry Spickler, a graduate of Mt. Morris College, who in 1901 was challenged to travel around the world by ship and bicycle. The bicycle was provided by a local newspaper in Polo, Illinois in exchange for letters describing the trip.

Having no other resources, Spickler wrote: I am the man who rode a bicycle around the world without a cent. On leaving school ... I passed out of the east door of our home in Polo, Illinois, kissed my mother and sister good-bye, and without a single penney in my pocket, with my face to the east, resolved to keep going until I rode around the earth and entered our home by its west door.

It took Spickler three years to cover 40,000 miles and visit twenty countries before he could greet his mother at the west door. He worked at 75 different occupations to cover his expenses, which ran about five to ten cents a day. He was arrested in France, locked up in Germany, and lived with brigands to the Holy Land. In India he visited Wilbur Stover, a fellow student at Mt. Morris, who had gone there a few years earlier.

Spickler wrote descriptive articles for his hometown newspaper and for the Mt. Morris Index. Brethren readers followed his adventures in the pages of the Inglenook in 1908 and 1909, and the book he wrote in 1922, Around the World Without a Cent.

Source: Preaching in a Tavern by Kenneth Morse

Friday, May 09, 2008

2008 Gathering of Brethren in Schwartzenau

Representatives and friends of Brethren groups from all over the world will converge on the little village of Schwarzenau, Germany, about forty minutes north of Marburg, on Saturday, August 2, and Sunday, August 3, 2008, to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Brethren movement, and you are invited to participate! This celebration will be the 2008 Brethren World Assembly.

It was early August 1708 that Alexander Mack and his seven believer-friends gathered at the Eder River at Schwarzenau. One of them baptized Mack, and he baptized the others, thus beginning what we know today as the Brethren movement.

Tour buses, individuals, and international delegates will convene at Schwarzenau this year to worship together, to be challenged from God’s Word, to fellowship with other Brethren, and to hear from one of the pre-eminent historians whose specialty is the Schwarzenau Brethren.

The festivities will begin Saturday with registration at the Gasthof Feige in Schwarzenau. Guests may visit the Alexander Mack Museum, the former Alexander Mack Schule, the old mill, the church, and the castle in Bad Berleburg and the Berleburg Bible.

Walking tours of Marburg are also available. Exhibits of crafts will be available, and movies depicting the history of the Brethren will be shown on the grounds of the Manor House and at the Alexander Mack Schule.

A lunch in a large tent on the grounds will be available for 6 Euros, as well as a supper at the tent for 9 Euros (not included in registration fee). At 7 p.m. a musical concert will be given by the McPherson (Kansas) College Choir; and several local German ensembles.

The next day, Sunday, August 3, a worship service at 10 a.m. will take place in a retrofitted equine arena in Schwarzenau. Speakers will include the Rev. Frederic Miller, Jr., pastor of the Mount Olive Brethren Church in Virginia, and the 2008 Moderator of the Church of the Brethren, James M. Beckwith, who pastors a church in Annville, Pennsylvania.

Following a noon lunch at the tent (6 Euros for guests not paying the registration fee) a 2 p.m. anniversary program will feature more choral music and an address by Dr. Marcus Meier, author of The Schwarzenau Brethren, a monograph now being published in English by Brethren Encyclopedia, Inc.

The worldwide assembly will conclude with a gathering at the Eder River where there will be hymn singing, remarks, and a closing prayer, and benediction.

All events will be translated simultaneously into German or English, with individual translation headsets available to all who need them.

The preceding day, Friday, August 1, an optional “Peace Fest” will be held in nearby Marburg with a number of speakers including Dr. Ken Rogers, Dr. Ken Kreider, and others.

Registration for the 2008 Brethren World Assembly is $85 USD and registration forms are available by contacting Dr. Dale Ulrich at 26 College Woods Drive, Bridgewater, VA 22812, or by e-mailing or phoning (540) 828-6548.

Additional literature is available including lodging suggestions and a road map of the area around Schwarzenau.

This 2008 Brethren World Assembly is being planned and conducted, in conjunction with a committee of Germans, by the board of Brethren Encyclopedia, Inc. The Encyclopedia board is comprised of representatives of six Brethren bodies descended from the little group in 1708 led by Alexander Mack.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Alexander Mack: from Schriesheim to Schwarzenau

(This story excerpt of the life of Alexander Mack was written by Dr. Hermann Brunn of Schriesheim who, at the suggestion of M.R. Zigler, made several studies from local records.)

From Heidelberg it is a ten minutes trip to Schriesheim. The place is situated at the border of the Odenwald hills at the entrance of a valley about ten miles wide, which is flanked by the ruins of Old Strahlenburg Castle. But you will be disappointed, if you ask the natives for any information about Alexander Mack. If you are so lucky as to be understood, they will shake their heads: 'Alexander Mack? There is nobody around here with this name!' For usually nobody in Schriesheim knows the story of the founder of the Brethren.

This story is deeply buried in old papers and documents. Alexander Mack did not differ in any way from his fellow citizens most of the time he lived here. ... he was a young miller like many others until he came in contact with pietistic circles. So you'll find here nothing peculiarly interesting about him. ...

Along the Schriesheim Creek always have been lined up a row of water mills. About 1560 a certain Ebert Mack bought one of them and became the ancestor of a widespread miller dynasty in Schriesheim and the environments. One of his grandsons, George Mack, lost his mill by fire during the cruel Thirty Years War and turned to agriculture. He became sheriff and tax-collector, a well-to-do man who could give each of his seven sons a rather good education. ... The eldest son learned the milling trade, because his father probably hoped to build his mill anew. But this hope never materialized, so the young miller took over the management of the family farm, waiting for a change to buy a mill. This young miller, Johann Philipp Mack was the father of Alexander. ...

In 1679, 15 years after his marriage, he got a chance to buy one of the mills in the Schriesheim valley and a few weeks after that Mrs. Mack gave birth to a son, her eighth child ... Alexander.

Dr.Brunn continues to tell the story of Alexander Mack who grew up working in the mill along with his brothers. Mack came to know pietist Hochmann at Mannheim where Mack and other millers would deliver their flour. By 1706, Mack was facing diificult times in Schriesheim related to his pietist leanings and ultimately chose to sell his share of the mill to his brother Jacob and relocate in October 1706 to Schwartzenau.

Source: Story by Dr. Brunn as reprinted by Lawrence Shultz in
Schwartzenau: Yesterday and Today

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Schwarzenau - part 3

Schwarzenau, a "Village of Refuge" through the centuries is located on the Eder River in Germany. This community is part of a larger area of Germany where there was an expression of religious liberty about the year 1700. The ruling prince offered shelter for those who found it necessary to leave their communities in order to express their religious beliefs. Truth seekers came from many different countries and religious experiences. So many small groups maintaining their own faith created a situation that made it impossible to organize a community church at Schwartzenau until 1860.

Refugees were given a small area of land upon which could be built a small house. In the mountain above Schwartzenau in a thick forest was established another little village called Huettental in a valley by the same name. The valley is sometimes called "Peace Valley."

In this village eight people decided that there had to be a new fellowship to meet their needs. In the year 1708 this group formed the society of Brethren.

Source: M.R. Zigler writing from Schwarzenau, January 21, 1954
Introduction to Schwarzenau: Yesterday and Today, Shultz

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Schwarzenau - part 2

The name, Schwarzenau, where the Brethren began in Europe was first mentioned in the year 1059. It was then not a village but the seat or home of a nobleman. Later about his home grew up a village which has continued to this day. In those days there was only the Catholic Church. In the 1059 the ruling Archbishop of Mainz gave permission for masses to be held here and for babies to be baptized. This ruling was made because for many, many miles about Schwarzenau there was no church. A priest came to care for these services. The community suffered much from the plaques that occurred in the period 1100-1300; therefore the place is not mentioned again for some time.

Sometime between 1550-1600 the Count of Wittgenstein built a beautiful summer residence on the Eder River. The Counts of Wittgenstein joined the Protestant movement and the community around Schwartzenau came into the reform movement. The ruling count issued a call for all the people to live Christian lives, to read their Bibles, and not forget to pray. This community became an ideal spot for many people who could no longer submit to a very formal religion that did not satisfy their religious longings.

Among those who came to Schwarzenau were Alexander Mack and Hochmann of Hochenau. They led in many discussions over the matter of relationship to the established church and Christianity of the day. In many things they agreed but Hochmann would not go along with the founding of a new church. Alexander Mack and seven others after much study and prayer, came to the conclusion that they must form a new organization. In 1708 these eight were baptized in the river Eder.

Source: Schwarzenau: Yesterday and Today, Lawrence W. Shultz (1954)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Schwarzenau part 1

SCHWARENAU - This is a sacred name in Brethren history. All the different bodies of Brethren go back to Schwarzenau. The backward look is valuable for us because it helps us to see the great principles that bind us together. The name thrills us because of the spirit of the eight pious souls who met on the banks of the Eder. Schwarzenau is the official birthplace of Brethren history. The name has become a symbol for the first great principles upon which our church is founded: the New Testament as our rule of faith and practice, the ordinances as means of grace, no exercise of force in religion, religious freedom even at the cost of suffering, the simple spiritual life, peace according to the spirit and teachings of Jesus.

I hope that someday an artist will paint the picture of Schwarzenau with Mack and his companions at the Eder
Source: Rufus D. Bowman in the opening words of the magazine, Schwarzenau,
Volume I, July 1939
(Note: An artist, Medford D. Nehrer, has painted the scene at the Eder, depicting also the founding of the church and the departure from Europe to America. This is the first panel in a series of murals at Camp Alexander Mack, Milford, IN.)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Dean Kahler

On the first weekend in May, 1970, Dean Kahler, a freshman at Kent State University in Ohio and a member of the Church of the Brethren, was at home when student demonstrations protesting the US invasion of Cambodia broke out on the campus. On the following Monday, May 4, while on his way to class, he was seriously injured as soldiers of the Ohio National Guard opened fire when they feared the student process would become violent. Four students were killed. Dean dropped to the ground but was struck by a bullet, and he lost the use of his legs. He nearly died.

The Center congregation, of which the Kahlers were members, and Brethren all over northern Ohio were supportive in the difficult months that followed. Because of the national publicity given the incident, Kahler received many "hate" letters accusing him of being a Communist radical. Influenced by his Brethren background, he had earlier decided to be a conscientious objector and he was opposed to the war in Indochina, but he had not been involved in the protest movement on the campus.

As a paraplegic, Kahler learned to play wheelchair basketball and eventually returned to his classes at Kent State, where he received his BS degree in 1977. Kahler told an interviewer in 1975: We were taught as Brethren to love everybody; even those who smite you, or your enemies. I just try to keep remembering that all the time. Speaking at a memorial service at Kent State, he said, Non-violence is the only way.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Additional information on the May 4 shootings at Kent State:

Dean Kahler

May 4, 1970

"Then I was shot"

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Church and War

Excerpts from the 1970 Statement of the Church of the Brethren on War

The official position of the Church of the Brethren is that all war is sin and that we seek the right of conscientious objection to all war. We seek no special privileges from our government. What we seek for ourselves, we seek for all - the right of individual conscience. We affirm that this conscientious objection may include all war, declared or undeclared; particular wars; and particular forms of warfare. We also affirm that conscientious objection may be based on grounds more inclusive than institutional religion.


The Church of the Brethren feels constrained by Christ's teachings to lead its people to develop convictions against war. The church cannot concede to the state the authority to conscript citizens for military training or military service against their conscience.

The church will seek to fulfill its prophetic role in this matter in two ways: by seeking to change political structures and by influencing individual members. The church will seek to use its influence to abolish or radically restructure the system which conscripts persons for military purposes.

The church pledges its support and continuing fellowship to all of our draft-age members who face conscription. We recognize that some feel obligated to render full or noncombative military service and we respect all who make such a decision.


The Church of the Brethren, since its beginning in 1708, has repeatedly declared its position against war. Our understanding of the life and the teachings of Christ as revealed in the New Testament led our Annual Conference to state in 1785 that we should not "submit to the higher powers so as to make ourselves their instruments to shed human blood." In 1918 at our Annual Conference we stated that "we believe that war or any participation in war is wrong and incompatible with the spirit, example and teachings of Jesus Christ." Again in 1934 Annual Conference resolved that all war is sin. We, therefore, cannot encourage, engage in, or willingly profit from armed conflict at home or abroad. We cannot, in the event of war, accept military service or support the military machine in any capacity." This conviction, which we reaffirmed in 1948 and now reaffirm again, grew out of such teachings of Christ as the following:

"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also . . . (Luke 6:27, 28).

"So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12).

"Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:52).

Source: 1970 Statement of the Church of the Brethren on War

Friday, May 02, 2008

Diary of Christopher Sower - May 2, 1778

During the time of the Revolutionary War the Brethren in the Philadelphia/Germantown area were caught between the warring factions. They refused to take sides because they were opposed to all war. They tried to explain to those who questioned them that they were not an enemy of the King, but an enemy of war, because war is the enemy of the Savior. Christopher Sower was placed under a ban for daring to advocate, in the perilous hour of war, his unchanged hostility to war. In October 1777, he left his home and printing business in Germantown to live with his children living in Philadelphia.

"I lived there (Philadelphia) quietly and peaceably till the second day of May, 1778, when I went back to Germantown, and was in my house that night, when a strong party of Captain McClean's Company surrounded my house and fetched me out of my bed. It was a dark night. They led me through the Indian corn fields, where I could not come along as fast as they wanted me to go. They frequently struck me in the back with their bayonets till they brought me to Bastian Miller's barn, where they kept me till next morning. Then they strip'd me naked to the skin and gave me an old shirt and breeches so much torn that I could hardly cover my private parts, then cut my beard and hair, and painted me with oil colors red and balck, and so led me along barefooted and bareheaded in a very hot sunshiny day.

A friend of mine seeing me in that condition asked them whether they would takes the shoes from me if he would give me a pair. They promised not to take them from me. And so he took the shoes from his feet and the hat from his head and gave them to me. But after we had marched six miles, a soldier came and demanded my shoes and took them, and gave me his old slabs, which wounded my feet very much.

Source: A History of the Brethren, Martin Grove Brumbaugh

Thursday, May 01, 2008

District Meeting of Southern Indiana - May 1, 1863

Last month we mentioned that district meetings in Indiana, resembling present day meetings, began in 1863.

May 1, 1863 near Flora, Indiana (during the Civil War) was the occasion for a district meeting that brought the following Query:

A soldier comes under conviction while in camp, requests of the brethren to be baptized, and if not permitted to come home, requests the brethren to come to the camp and baptize him, promising that he will leave the service as soon as he can honorably do so. What will the brethren in this meeting advise the brethren to do in this case? Answer: It is considered advisable that such applicant should be received into the church.

Another Query asked: Is it right according to the Gospel for brethren to attend and participate in speaking at political meetings held by the people of the world in the present age? Answer: It is not right.

Query: Is it consistent with the Gospel and the order of the Old Brethren to sing such pleasing tunes at out communion meetings as are sometimes sung by the brethren, singing the different parts to the music? Answer: It is if we sing with the spirit and the understanding also.

This then was the "mind of the church" in the Southern District of Indiana on May 1, 1863.

Source: History of the Church of the Brethren in Indiana, 1952