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"