Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bowman Brethren

In the late 1850s, John A. Bowman (see yesterday's entry), an elder in the church was disfellowshiped because of a disagreement regarding his use of a court of law. Bowman had been appointed the executor of his brother Samuel's estate. In carrying out certain provisions of the estate regarding the care of their mother, Bowman was opposed by some of the other heirs who filed a bill of chancery in court.

After securing the approval of his congregation, Bowman defended himself successfully in court and was able to settle his brother's estate. Somewhat later, evidently, certain members of the congregation became dissatisfied with Bowman's use of the court, which was basically a violation of Brethren principles as set forth by the Annual Meeting. A congregational council was held to consider the charges against Bowman, and as a result he was disfellowshiped.

Bowman believed that the action was unjust and proposed to appeal his case to the highest court of appeal in the church, the Annual Meeting. However, the Civil War now made it impssible for him to attend the meetings which were held in the North after 1861. Consequently, he simply continued his actions as an elder, preaching, baptizing, and holding love feasts. Those Brethren who followed him in his action became known as Bowman Brethren. His followers grew to about 130.

The murder of Bowman in 1863 came before it was possible for him to appeal his case to the Annual Meeting and also left his flock without a shepherd. His concern and that of his followers was presented at the Annual Meeting of 1866. The Annual Meeting accepted the need for an investigation and followed its routine practice of appointing a committee. The investigation was most thorough in its character, and the result was the committee decided that Brother John A. Bowman had been unjustly disfellowshiped because he had only done what the church had granted him permission to do.

The members of his church were to be received back into the full fellowship of the Brethren Church without being rebaptized. This event in the life of the church evidently was one of the rare occasions in which a division ended happily, except for the death of John A. Bowman.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Saturday, August 30, 2008

John A. Bowman

A native of Tennessee - born in 1813 and married in 1830 - John A. Bowman united with the Brethren about 1832. Soon after he moved to Sullivan County, Tennessee where he became one of the leaders of the newly-organized Pleasant Hill congregation and was called to ministry in 1842. He became a noted preacher and was called to preach over a wide area in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. He also preached in non-Brethren churches on occasion. One sermon preached in a Baptist church on temperate life was published. The sermon advocated moderation not only in the use of "intoxicating drinks" but also in dress, eating, sleeping, conversation, exercise, and behavior.

In the late 1850s, he became involved in a court case as the executor of an estate, which led to his expulsion from the church and the development of a separate group. (Read more tomorrow)

In late August or early September, 1863, he was interrupted by a group of Confederates who had come to seize horses from his barn. According to a letter written by B.F. Moomaw shortly after the event: A man was discovered about to take his riding horse. He approached toward him and when coming pretty near, the man ordered him not to approach but John still advanced expostulating with him and finally took hold of the horse when he shot him through the abdomen and then clave his skull with the butt of the gun. So ends his eventful life and it is thought will end his church.

And thus, Bowman became one of the Brethren victims of the Civil War.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Friday, August 29, 2008

Joe Van Dyke

Joe Van Dyke joined "The Four Horsemen" during the summer of 1929- a summer that would become a legend in Brethren camp history. He had been licensed to the ministry in 1925 at the age of 22.

After reading a letter he had written to his mother that summer he summarized his observations: I wrote that I had the most fun with Perry and I liked Chief (Chauncey) the best. I said nothing about Dan in that letter ... I liked Dan so much, but I never felt at ease with him as I did with the others.

Van Dyke would later graduate from Manchester College in 1935. For nineteen years he taught in elementary schools and for 22 years was a high school teacher, all in Michigan.

In 1930 (following the summer of 1929), he began writing regularly for The Gospel Messenger in which he was identified as "The Roamer." He contributed articles, short stories, and poems also to Our Young People and wrote one-act plays that he published on his own. He was one of the editors of Brethren Action, an independent journal published in the early 1940s.

Sources: The Brethren Encyclopedia
Passing on the Gift, Glee Yoder

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dan West

Dan West was the fourth member of "The Four Horsemen" traveling from camp to camp during the summers of 1926-1929 and the only single member of the group. He was often teased by the others in group about all his girl friends, always the prettiest ones, in each camp. They told him that at 36 he should be marrying. They often kidded him that he had formed the habit of allowing some of the most beautiful and intellectual women all over the country to think he was in love with them. He was eventually married to Lucy in 1932 shortly before his 39th birthday.

Dan West was the discussion leader and had a marvelous way of bringing out the best in youth. He would follow Chauncey Shamberger as the National Director of Young People's Work from 1930 to 1936. In 1937-1938 he traveled to Spain to serve as a relief worker during the Spanish Civil War. While working in Spain he envisioned the concept behind Heifer Project, believing it better to send cows rather than powdered milk. Returning home to Northern Indiana he sold the idea to his neighboring farmers in the Church of the Brethren.

Source: Passing on the Gift: The Story of Dan West, Glee Yoder

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Alvin Brightbill

Alvin Brightbill was a music educator, song leader, composer and seminary professor. He was married and called to the ministry in 1923. He studied at Elizabethtown College, Bethany Bible School, Northwestern University and some other music schools.

From his days as a student at Bethany until his official retirement in 1968, Brightbill served on the seminary staff. He was an instructor at Bethany Training School (1925-1926), and Bethany Biblical Seminary (1927-1936) and professor of church music, fine arts in religion, and speech, 1937-1968.

In addition to traveling with The Four Horsemen to Brethren camps in 1926-1929, he traveled widely in the Church of the Brethren and other denominations leading music institutes in local churches, directing hymn festivals, repairing organs, and assisting with music and worship conferences. He led maany Annual Conference gatherings in hymn singing. He served as editor for the 1951 (red) Brethren Hymnal.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Perry Rohrer

Perry Rohrer was born in Argos, Indiana in 1898 and graduated from Manchester College in 1922 and from Bethany Bible School. He served on the Bethany faculty from 1925-1942 as teacher of recreation and Christian education and as special lecturer in mental health.

He joined with Chauncey Shamberger, Dan West, Al Brightbill as one of the original "Four Horsemen" traveling from camp to camp in the summers of 1926-1929 and served as the recreation director.

He later became one of the founders of a new company as a pioneer in the use of clinical psychology in industry. He write two books: Recreation in Theory and Practice (1922) and Let's Stay Married (1934).

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Monday, August 25, 2008

Chauncey Shamberger

Chauncey was born in 1894 in Missouri, graduated from Manchester College and studied at Bethany Bible School and Yale Divinity School. As the first denomination youth director from 1920-1930, Shamberger organized Brethren camping.

He was among The Four Horsemen traveling from camp to camp from 1926-1929.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sweet Chariot

Quick now, who can answer where the name: "Sweet Chariot" fits into Brethren history?

Clue: it was a nickname given to a venerable Studebaker sedan.

The answer is "Sweet Chariot" was the nickname given to unreliable vehicle used to transport "The Four Horseman" from camp to camp during the summers of 1927-1930. Together the four covered almost 7,000 miles in each of the four summers.

The Four included: Chauncey Shamberger, known as "Chief," who was the administrator, Dan West who was the discussion leader, Al Brightbill the music leader, and Perry Rohrer the recreation director. Joe Van Dyke joined the other four in the summer of 1929.

These men went from camp to camp, week after week, providing leadership to campers. Taking turns driving, they usually traveled on Sundays to get to the next camp, bouncing along graveled roads at an average of 35 miles per hour. On one occasion, by changing drivers frequently, they left a camp at New Windsor, Maryland, on Saturday morning and were signing in campers near Palmer Lake, Colorado, on Monday morning!

While traveling on Sunday they would frequently develop their own "Sunday service" as they sang all the songs and hymns they could remember. Al strummed his guitar in the crowded car filled with the five men. In the midst of the songfest Dan enjoyed telling about the black conscientious objector who stepped out of rank and sang a spiritual.

Camping for "The Four Horseman" as they became known to the church, was not a vacation but was a serious responsibility to make each camp meaningful for each young person. They were trained specialists and carried a heavier load in each camp than those who came as leaders from the local area for a given week. Traveling together from camp to camp was a time to joke and poke fun at each other, trying to relax as they eagerly looked forward to the next camp.

As so it was eighty years ago as the camping movement was beginning in the Church of the Brethren that "The Four Horsemen" spent four summers traveling across the country in an old Studebaker sedan that came to be known as "Sweet Chariot."

Source: Passing on the Gift: The Story of Dan West, Glee Yoder

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Abraham Lincoln and the Brethren - part 2

Freeman Ankrum in his book Sidelights on Brethren History writes: "It is a well-known fact that Elder D.P. Sayler (see earlier posting) was a frequent visitor of the President (Lincoln) in the White House. He and Lincoln were rather intimately acquainted. Lincoln would call him "Bishop Sayler" and once told him that he considered him capable of filling any office to which he might be called.

"There is a story which says that Elder Sayler accompanied one of his friends who was to interview Lincoln concerning an appointment. When the business of the friend was attended to, Lincoln turned to Daniel P. Sayler and inquired: "And, Bishop, what do you want?" "Nothing," Sayler replied. "Then I commission you to preach the gospel," said the President.

"There were numerous conferences with Lincoln, some of which brought much criticism upon the head of Elder Sayler. It must be remembered that in those days the Brethren looked with disfavor upon voting. They were also nonresistant and in opposition to many of the war policies of the government. Sayler was an adviser to Lincoln regarding the planning for a place for the Brethren in the war. The famous military draft of August 1862 brought near-rebellion in some Northern cities. In connection with its formulation, Sayler had advised in the making of the provisions for the "peace" people. "

[This included a certificate recognizing the individual as a member of the German Baptist Church which teaches and practices nonviolence and exempts them from military duty.]

"When Sayler called at the White House and assured President Lincoln of the sympathy of the Brethren, he was taken severely to task by some of the members for presuming to speak for them."

Source: Sidelights on Brethren History, Freeman Ankrum

Friday, August 22, 2008

Abraham Lincoln and the Brethren - part 1

In his 1962 book, Sidelights on Brethren History, Freeman Ankrum writes that, "Although little has been published about it, there is a strong reason to believe that (Abraham) Lincoln espoused the Brethren faith."

Ankrum relates a story told by Mrs. Anna Wagner of Indiana that " elder in the Fairview Church in Southern Indiana, told my father that he was acquainted with the Minister that baptized Lincoln. Father had forgotten the name of the Minister, but he was a member of the German Baptist Church, sometimes nicknamed "Dunkards." Lincoln sent this Minister word to come to Springfield on a certain train, which arrived there at night. Lincoln sent him twice as much money as he needed.

"Lincoln met him and they went to the river where Lincoln was baptized, yet that night. Lincoln had brough extra clothes needed for both, and having changed clothes they went and waited for the train to arrive, and the minister left after midnight ... Linclon promised [that] after his term of office expired he would conform to the church."

Ankrum goes on to add: "It has been pointed out to the writer that when Lincoln decided to wear a beard he wore the type popular with the Brethren of his day."

Was Abraham Lincoln baptized by the Brethren. There is no written or recorded evidence to confirm the story, but still the oral tradition suggests he might have been. Tomorrow will bring another account of a Brethren leader who known to visit President Lincoln at the White House.

Source: Sidelights on Brethren History, Freeman Ankrum

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Eva Elizabeth Hoffmann

Eva Elizabeth Hoffmann was a widow and a member of the Brethren congregation in the Marienborn area of Germany in 1711 when she made a decision that change her life.

On August 21. 1711 she made the decision to allow her daughter to be baptized by Alexander Mack. As a result she and her daughter were summoned before an official of the local count. They were ordered to leave the territory immediately.

Alexander Mack, who was also ordered to leave, wrote a letter to the count on behalf of the two women. He pleaded that Hoffmann be given special consideration since she was a poor widow. Hoffmann herself asked to be allowed to remain until her crops and the wool she was spinning could be disposed of for money. In November, however, she was informed that she was "no longer to be tolerated in the territory ... and must take herself elsewhere."

And that's the way it was in Germany, on this date in 1711 - nearly 300 years ago.

Source: Let Our Joys Be Known
Heritage Curriculum by Richard Gardner and Kenneth Shaffer

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pole-vaulting Preacher

The Men's Pole-vaulting competition begins today at the Olympic Games in China, which seems an appropriate time to tell the story of the Church of the Brethren's own "Pole-vaulting Preacher."

Robert "Bob" Richards, who was at the time a Church of the Brethren minister, competed in three Olympics in the 40s and 50s. He won the Gold Medal in the 1956 Games, clearing fifteen feet on his sixty-fifth attempt, only the second pole vaulter in histry to clear 15' [Note that vaulters are clearing 19' this year.] In 1951 Richards won the Sullivan Award as the amateur athlete of the year and was also the US national decathlon champion.

The only two-time Olympic gold medal winner in the pole vault, Richards later became involved in promoting physical fitness and continued to vault in his later years. He was the first athlete to appear on the front of Wheaties cereal boxes in 1958 (though not the first depicted on all parts of the packaging), and also was the first Wheaties spokesman, setting up the Wheaties Sports Foundation, which encouraged participation in Olympic sports.

Richards grew up in Champaign, IL, where he was a member of a local gang - five of his comrades later went to prison. Instead of following their course Richards became active in the Champaign Church of the Brethren. With the encouragement of Pastor Merlin Garber, he went on to Bridgewater College and Bethany Theological Seminary. He was ordained in 1946 as a Church of the Brethren minister and was later pastor of the Long Beach, CA Church of the Brethren. Always in demand as an inspirational speaker (he used to average 500 speeches a year), Richards held many evangelistic meetings.

At the height of his sports activity, Richards would tell reporters, "I can sincerely say I owe my athletic achievements to the power of the Lord."

Sources: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Church Name Change

A symbol of the many changes that were occurring throughout the church at the turn of the century was the discussion surrounding the adoption of a new name. By the late 1800s, many people had become uncomfortable with German Baptist Brethren which had been adopted in 1871. Even though the last German-language hymnal was printed in 1903, the majority of Brethren could not use the language after 1900. The name was considered too limiting and was often cited as a hindrance to evangelistic efforts.

Even though the name of the denomination was officially German Baptist Brethren, they were still popularly known as Dunkards or Dunkers outside the church, and many members themselves clung to those terms. Annual Meeting came close to adopting the name Dunker Brethren Church in 1905. The discussion continued until 1908 when Annual Meeting adopted the name Church of the Brethren. It was the same year that the bicentennial of the original baptisms in Schwarzenau was being observed.

As with most other changes, some Indiana congregations immediately adopted the new name. For others, it took much longer. One impetus to adopt the new name was World War I which made an affinity to anything German extremely unpopular. At West Goshen, for example, a stone marker identifying the church as German Baptist Brethren was removed from the front wall and put into storage after the church and several individual members received threats. In 1933, the stone marker was taken out of storage and placed in a sidewalk. It was again moved and used as a cornerstone when an addition was constructed in 1955.

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

Monday, August 18, 2008


It seems that music has long held an important role in worship for the Brethren. It is said that the earliest Brethren not only sang together but were constantly composing new hymns - which were sang without musical accompaniment. And yet while music has played an important role in our heritage, it has also been the source of conflict in many churches over the years.

After the denominational split of 1881-1883 there continued to be a struggle among the Brethren related to the use of musical instruments in the church, particularly pianos and organs. While a number of Brethren had obtained musical training on their own from the mid-1800s, conservative Brethren condemned having musical instruments even in private homes, although many (including some elders) purchased pianos and pump organs. Some of these musicians wanted to use their talent in worship, but traditionalists would not allow it.

One of the best examples of the attitude at the time was at Middle Fork (later Rossville) in Indiana where three meeting houses were in operation. After the 1882 split between the Progressives (Brethren Church) and the Conservatives (Church of the Brethren), the Edna Mills meeting house was used on alternate Sundays by the two groups until the late 1800s. The Progressives purchased an organ and used it during their worship services. The next week when it was the turn of the Conservatives to use the house, the organ was unceremoniously shoved into a closet.

The first pianos began showing up in Indiana churches soon after the turn of the century, and the pace accelerated in the 1920s. It was not without controversy, however. Most congregations debated the issue over several years before the question was eventually resolved. In some congregations, the question was resolved by a sort of default process. Pianos were sometimes donated by a particular family. Rather than offend these members or lose an excellent donation, congregations accepted them.

At Kokomo, the situation was slightly different. The debate over the use of a piano had gone on for several years when the youth of the church decided to take matters into their own hands. They managed to obtain a piano and, late one night, a group of young people lugged the heavy instrument up to a second floor classroom where it was covered with blankets. It wasn't until several weeks later that opponents to the use of a piano found out about its existence. They demanded its immediate removal. However, most of those against the piano were elderly and somehow there never seemed to be enough younger, able-bodied people around at the same time to haul the offending beast out. The piano stayed.

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

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Enten Eller Trial

On this date, August 17, 1982, Enten Eller was convicted by a judge for failing to register for the draft. He was placed on probation for three years and ordered to register within three months. Later when he still refused to register, he was ordered to perform two years of unpaid, public service in a Veterans Administration Hospital or a similar institution.

Eller was a college student at the time at Bridgewater College and said he refused to register because of his religious beliefs. Eller was the first person in the nation convicted for failure to sign up for the draft after it was revived in 1980.

Time magazine reported that 150 supporters gathered outside the Roanoke, VA courthouse to sing and pray prior to the trial. Eller offered no formal defense during the 3-1/2 hour trial. "God told me not to register," he explained to District Court Judge James Turk. Eller's belief won the judge's respect but after calling the defendent an "honorable person," he found him guilty. (Read Time report)

After graduating summa cum laude from Bridgewater, he served several years of court-ordered alternative service. After his service, Enten pursued ministry studies while at the same time beginning his own computer business. He later served the church as a pastor and in other leadership roles, including the Sudan Initiative Assessment Team, and currently serves as Director of Distributed Education and Electronic Communication at Bethany Seminary.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

More tragedy in Europe

The two-hundred-fiftieth anniversary year in 1958 is remembered for its inspiration and spiritual uplift which it brought to the church. It is also remembered in history for its tragedy and sorrow.

Two days after the air disaster of KLM flight 607 E off the western coast of Ireland which took the lives of ninety-nine persons, including passengers and crew, among whom were thirteen Brethren and seven of their friends; an auto accident in Sweden on August 16 resulted in serious injury to M.R. Zigler, who had presided at the celebration in Schwarenau, and death to his life-long companion and wife, Amy Arnold Zigler. This tragedy cast a shadow of grief over the entire Brotherhood and in many areas of the Protestant world.

M.R. Zigler had reached retirement age in 1958 and had already made plans to leave his post in Geneva as European Director and the Brethren representative to the newly organized World Council of Churches. He and Amy had made plans for a final European vacation in Sweden following the 250th Anniversary celebration before returning to the United States. Following Amy's death, he would retire to Sebring, Florida. In 1980 he began a term of volunteer service at the Brethren Service Center he had established in 1944 in New Windsor, MD. Here he began a series of program to revitalize the peace emphasis that would lead to On Earth peace.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Friday, August 15, 2008

Michael Robert Zigler

MR Zigler was a strong church leader, administrator, and peace advocate within the Church of the Brethren. When the USA entered World War I, Zigler volunteered to work with YMCA and was sent to Parris Island, a Marine Corps base in South Carolina where he spend the war years organizing recreational and spiritual programs. He came out of that experience determined to throw his life into strengthening the uncertain peace position of his church.

He married his college classmate, Amy Arnold, on August 10, 1918. In 1919 he was called to Elgin to become the executive secretary of home missions where he served for fifteen years. For many in the church during those years, MR came to incorporate the spirit of the denomination. He is said to have visited all but 25 congregations during those years.

Zigler was active in ecumenical work and later when World War II erupted, the Brethren looked to him to organize the denominational response. Due to his leadership, Civilian Public Service programs were created to allow conscientious objectors to work in camps administered by the historic peace churches at work projects established by the government. After 1945 efforts were broadened to a worldwide program to aid war victims and refugees.

In 1948 he left his post as Brethren Service Commission executive to become its first European director and, concurrently, the Brethren representative to the newly organized World Council of Churches. Under his leadership the European program took on new life and activity. He continued this work until 1958 when he reached retirement age. He was one of several people designated by Annual Conference to represent the church at the 250th anniversary at Schwarzenau.

Kenneth Morse has written that from July 11 to August 7, 1958, he saw M.R. Zigler almost every day and says: "(he) was eager for our delegation to appreciate the magnitude and the variety of the Brethren service program in Europe. He...made plans for us to tour centers of Brethren activity in Europe; to visit government officials, interchurch agencies, reconstruction projects, work camps, and refugee centers; and to talk with church leaders, BVS volunteers, and the recipients of heifers and other aid. We were indeed favorably impressed, even overwhelmed...."

Sources: The Brethren Encyclopedia
Kenneth Morse, Preaching in a Tavern

Thursday, August 14, 2008

KLM Air Crash

On August 14, 1958, twenty members of a Brethren heritage tour were among ninety-nine persons who died in the crash of a Dutch airliner off the coast of Ireland. The tour group was returning home from the Church of the Brethren's two-hundred-fiftieth anniversary convocation in Germany. Forty-three other members of the tour group had returned to the USA earlier.

According to information in Wikipedia, the plane had departed Ireland on the second leg of a transatlantic trip from Amsterdam to New York. After radio contact was lost, a rescue operation was launched which found light debris on the surface of the ocean. The remains of some passengers were recovered. Due to the lack of evidence, Irish and Dutch investigators could not pinpoint a probable cause for the accident. They examined the possibility of a bomb, electrical failure, or pilot error, but believed that the most likely possibility was "'overspeeding' of one of the outboard propellers resulting from oil pollution after a gear had been damaged when the supercharger of the corresponding engine was accelerated (shifted)."

The accident was the worst commercial aircraft disaster up to its time.

Church of the Brethren members, their friends and companions, who lost their lives were remembered on a memorial page of the book The Adventurous Future which included the compilation of addresses, papers, statements, and messages associated with the celebration of the two-hundred-fiftieth anniversary of the Church of the Brethren.

Sources: The Brethren Encyclopedia
The Adventurous Future

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Helena Kruger

Helena Kruger was born in Siberia and emigrated with her family from Russia in 1921 at the age of 19. She and her husband Peter, a Mennonite, eventually settled in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where they joined the Church of the Brethren in 1941. Recruited by M.R. Zigler for relief work in 1945, Helena served in Belgium, Italy, and Austria. In Austria she founded a kindergarten and, virtually single-handed, founded and furnished the Thalham Tuberculosis Sanatorium.

The refugees with whom she worked in Austria noticed something different about Helena. Not only did she speak more languages than most American workers (Russian, German, Dutch, Polish); she also evidently understood how refugees felt and what they experienced.

They were right about Helena Kruger, for she had once been a refugee - at the time of World War I. She knew about starvation first hand. She said, "Starvation is a terrible thing. Those who have not experienced it do not know. Field mice, dead horses, and whatever you can find can be eaten when hunger is keen enough." And Helena knew about being displaced, traveling in strange countries, living in refugee camps. She could appreciate also what it meant for her family when the Mennonite Central Committee helped them resettle in the United States.

So when the call came following World War II to assist with the plight of European refugees, she and her husband arranged their lives so that at least Helena could assist. Her husband said, "If the church had not helped us to come to America, we would be homeless a second time." Helena told her friends, "We wanted to help others as we had been helped."

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Laura Wine

As a young registered nurse, Laura Wine was rejected for overseas mission service because she once had tuberculosis. Finally, after retiring from a career in nursing in the Chicago area, she was then accepted for volunteer service in Nigeria at a Church of the Brethren mission hospital. When she died in 1969 after a brief but severe illness, missionaries and doctors suspected a previously undiscovered viral disease that was later named Lassa Fever.

Author John G. Fuller who wrote Fever, the best-selling account of a four-year struggle to identify the deadly virus, writes of Laura's illness: "Neither she nor anyone else knew at the time that her malaise and backache would set into motion one of the most frightening episodes of modern medical history. It would reach from Africa to the United States in a series of unpredictable incidents that was to bring into action many of the leading medical scientists in the world."

John Hamer was the only doctor at Lassa during Laura Wine's final months there. He and his wife, Esther, observed that "Laura's giving of her life, which she was totally prepared to do for the sake of Christian service and medical advancement, was a symbol of love. Love made the difference all the way for her."

Source: Preaching in a Tavern, Kenneth I. Morse

Monday, August 11, 2008

Nathan Leopold

Nathan Leopold served as a medical technician at the Castener Hospital in Puerto Rico for 13 years from 1958 until his death in 1971, under the sponsorship of the Brethren Service Commission. But the remarkable story has a deeper and darker past that takes us back to the 1920s.

Nathan Leopold, along with Frank Loeb, two wealthy college students, murdered 14-year old Bobby Franks in what was called at the time, "the crime of the century." The duo were motivated to murder Franks by their desire to commit a perfect crime. The two spent months planning the crime and working out an arrangments to collect a kidnapping ransom with little risk of being caught. Indeed, it was a pair of eyeglasses found near the scene that led to their capture. The glasses had a special spring mechanism and Nathan Leopold was one of only three persons in the Chicago area to own glasses with this mechanism.

Once apprehended, Leopold and Loeb retained Clarence Darrow as counsel for the defense; Darrow’s summation in their trial is noted for its influential criticisms of the capital punishment and retributive, as opposed to rehabilitative, penal systems. In the end, Darrow succeeded in defending the two from a death penalty and they were sentenced to life in prison (for the murder) plus 99 years each (for the kidnapping).

In prison, both Loeb and Leopold used their education to teach prison classes. In 1936, Loeb was killed by another prisoner. In 1944, Leopold agreed to participate in a Malaria study in which he was infected with malaria. While in prison he mastered 27 different languages.

Finally in 1958, Leopold was paroled and this begins the Brethren-portion of his story. His parole was under the sponsorship of the Brethren Service Commission. On many occasions he expressed his appreciation for the willingness of the Brethren to accept him upon his parole as a medical technician at Castener Hospital in Puerto Rico.

He wrote in a 1965 article for Brethren Life & Thought, "So far as I am aware, mine was the first case in which the Brethren sponsored a man released from prison on parole. To me the Brethren Service Commission offered the job, the home, and the sponsorship without which a man cannot be paroled. But it gave me so much more than that, the companionship, the acceptance, the love which would have rendered a violation of parole almost impossible."

Leopold especially cherished the friendship of W. Harold Rowe, executive secretary of the Brethren Service Commission, who accompanied him when he left prison for service in Puerto Rico. He said, "I was privileged to know Harold for over thirteen years; I saw him at least once a year and generally more. And each time I could spend time with him, it was as if I were morally refreshed and reinvigorated."

This writer recently had the opportunity to see Leopold's personal copy of a well-worn Bible which he left at the time of his death in Puerto Rico to Dr. Lee Smith.

Sources: Wikipedia
Preaching in a Tavern by Morse

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Homer and Marguerite Burke

Homer and Marguerite Burke were both Indiana natives who pioneered mission work in Nigeria and Puerto Rico. Homer was born in 1896 near Plymouth and studied medicine while Marguerite was born near Middlebury in 1898. She contracted tuberculosis during nurse's training and because of this, no doctor would consider her for foreign service which had been her dream.

Following their marriage, the Burke's applied to join the infant mission effort being started by the Brethren in Nigeria. They were accepted and first arrived in Nigeria in 1924 and began their work by establishing a local health service. They gradually gained the trust of the Nigerians and developed a small hospital. Although their emphasis was on providing medical care, the Burke's never forgot their evangelistic calling. It was Homer who extended the first evangelistic call in 1927 that brought forward the first converts to the Nigerian Church.

The Burkes stayed in Nigeria for 14 years before coming home in 1938. Homer established a medical practice in Bremen, Indiana and practiced medicine there until 1946 when they accepted a call to work at the Castener Hospital in Puerto Rico until 1961. The Burkes returned to the United States for a short time in 1961 with the intention of retiring, but they once again answered the call for help and returned to Nigeria in 1962 where they would stay until 1974. While individual health care was still an important part of their work, much of their emphasis during this second period of service was on public health programs: innoculations, baby clinics, and health instruction.

The Burkes finally retired to Indiana in 1974. Marguerite died in 1978 and Homer in 1983.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Castener Hospital

Castener Hospital in Puerto Rico came into existence in August 1942, when the first Brethren Service Commission conscientious objection medical unit arrived in Castener ready to begin work. The Medical Unit had been trained for service in China but was not permitted to go because of the entrance of the United States into World War II. The unit was sent instead to Puerto Rico, a United States territory. It was named the Martin G. Brumbaugh Reconstruction Unit after the Brethren educator appointed by President McKinley in 1900 as the first US Commissioner of Education for Puerto Rico.

The Brethren Service Commission had begun exploringing the feasibility of establishing a CPS unit in Puerto Rico as early as April of 1942 when Andrew Cordier was sent to investigate. His reports were favorable. David and Janet Blickenstaff were sent in June to organize the work under the local government, and the unit arrived in August.

Programs were established in medical care, community health and recreation, nutrition, sanitation, education and resources. A Brethren academy was opened for graduates of ninth grade in 1948, the same year the Castener congregation was started. A modern 33-bed hospital was built in 1959 and officially turned over to a local board of directors in 1976.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Friday, August 08, 2008


Today the world's focus turns to China where the Summer Olympic Games will get under way with the Opening Ceremony this evening. There will be Brethren among those traveling to China, including at least one Brethren athlete, Brian Sell of the Woodbury (PA) Church of the Brethren who will be running in the marathon.

It was 100 years ago when the first group of Brethren missionaries (Frank and Anna Crumpacker, Emma Horning, and George and Blanche Hilton) arrived in China for the beginning of Brethren mission work which would last until the 1940s. The first missionaries arrived in Shanghai and traveled to Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province which was still reeling from the anti-Western, anti-Christian "Boxer" rebellion in 1900. Eighty-three Brethren served in China between 1908 and 1941 when tensions between the occupying Japanese and the Brethren resulted in church leaders in China asking the Americans to leave.

Two years ago, Joe and Gene Wampler led a family group back to Shanxi province and visited again in the area where they were born and spent most of their early years. (see article in the May 2008 Messenger) They share that the Christian Church in China is thriving. A former Methodist mission church served in recent years by Pastor Yin - son of Elder H.C. Yin (read the July 17 entry), a leader in the Chinese Brethren Church since 1912 - now numbers 5,000 members and is one of 10 Protestant churches in Beijing.

Gene relates: "During a taxi ride in Beijing, as we passed the former mission compound, I mentioned to the driver that I had lived there in 1947. The driver said there was a church there. I said, 'I know, I used to attend that church.' Then I asked if he was a Christian and he said he was. He said that a lot of people attend that church .... The Brethren mission work and the missionaries themselves are fondly remembered."

Source: "China revisited: A legacy of mission" by Gene Wampler
May 2008 Messenger

Thursday, August 07, 2008

1958 Brethren Tour

Lawrence W. Shultz led Brethren tours from 1945 to 1970. In 1958 he led an Anniversary Tour with 72 participants to England, Scotland, and Europe including the 250th Anniversary of the Church of the Brethren in Schwarzenau, Germany. In his book, People and Places, he includes some Quotable Quotes from that 1958 Tour Party.

I'm just going to shine in European History at Bridgewater this year, The tour notes are tremendous. I cannot tell you how much pleasure and help they have given me.
- Doris Jean Miller

Oh for our Blue Bus again to run away from chores, telephones, meetings, etc.....
- Ada Gehrett

My film convinced the folks that we saw places and did things such as no other group ever did. - Margaret Geisel

I have more than 900 pictures of the trip. They tell a tremendous story to me.
- David Hanawalt

We often look back to Europe through our mind's eye. We thought you would like to see yourself asleep in Holland. Here is a slide. - Emma and Clyde Weaver

It sounds like they had a wonderful time. I trust those going to Europe/Schwartzenau this month will also have many pleasant memories of their trip as well.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Schwarzenau Resolutions

The following resolutions of gratitude and appreciation were adopted unanimously by the assembly of about four hundred Brethren at the conclusion of the Schwarzenau convocation on August 6, 1958.

The Church of the Brethren on this sixth day of August, 1958, assembled in a world convocation of Brethren at Schwarzenau, Germany, in celebration of the two-hundred-fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the church in this beautiful and peaceful village on the Eder, desires:

First: To recognize with praise and gratitude the kindly providence of God our Father, in bringing safely once again to this land of our fathers so many Brethren from the communities of Europe, and from the countries of Americas, India, Africa, South America, and other parts of the world. We praise God for that blessed fellowship in Christ which knows no bounds of geography, and no partiality of race or color.

Second: To express our profound gratitude and appreciation to the kindly and sturdy people of Schwarenau, for their tireless effort in preparing for our coming, for the cordial reception which they have extended to us in their homes and community, and for the warmth of their friendship expressed in countless deeds of kindness and helpfulness not only on this occasion but across many years of visitation by our people to this place of our origin.

We especially express our gratitude to the officials of church and government and request that they convey to the people of the Schwarenau area our warm greetings and deep appreciation.

Third: To pledge the Church of the Brethren, under the Lordship of Christ our Redeemer, to a renewed ministry of love to all peope to the end that peace between man and man, race and race, nation and nation may become a reality on this earth. We reaffirm our faith in the spirit of love and reconciliation as an instrument of harmony among the peoples of the world and implore rulers and statesmen to seek peace and security, not on the basis of violence and preponderance of arms, but upon the principles of brotherhood and goodwill, of reason and understanding, and of freedom and justice to all.

Source: The Adventerous Future

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Changeless Principles In A Changing World

August 1958

Schwarzen Germany

Changeless Principles In A Changing World

Paul H. Bowman


...Change is evident everywhere.... Change itself is a changeless law of life which we cannot escape. Life is full of beginnings and endings. ... Change is not only the law of life; it is also the law of progress. There are times in history when old ideas must be abandoned and the mind of man emancipated from the past. If new ideas fail to appear and new vision fades, then stagnation and death are inevitable.

It would seem that God loves change, else He would not have made a world like this.

Change is difficult and sometimes revolutionary. Thinking and acting anew is not as simple as we sometimes believe it to be. It is much easier for most of us to go on thinking and acting as we have always done. ... In the midst of our changing order, man is restless. He seeks stability and is constantly in search of solid ground. His spirit demands certitudes which are adequate for the stress and strain of his turbulent life. This deep hunger of the human soul is a common aspiration of Christians everywhere.

Christ, our Lord, was not afraid of change. He sought to conserve the good and the best of the order which was already old in his day. He came "not to destroy but to fulfill." Yet he loosened the shackles of the law which had held the spirits of men in servitude for uncounted centuries. He planted in the minds of a few men some of the most revolutionary ideas of all time. He was the forerunner of a new order. He is always hovering on the edge of today calling His followers to a changing and adventurous tomorrow. ...

The decisive test of Christianity is that in the midst of change and revolution there are elements of faith which remain constant and are continuously relevant to the will of God, to the life of man, and to the problems of complex society.

... We are not here to idolize the past or to apologize for the mistakes of our history. Our prime concern is for those living elements of our faith which will apply in our changing world. It is that heritage which we seek to quicken, preserve, and perpetuate for the good of (all).

Principles are constant and develop along constant lines, whereas the rules of the church are temporary and short lived. The rules may be repealed and superseded, but the order of God rests on moral absolutes which are the enduring substance of the church and of society.

Let us with humility and with a deep sense of inadequacy seek to set forth some of these living and changeless principles.

1. The principle of the open mind and the open Book. In the quiet seclusion of this beautiful valley the early Brethren searched the Scriptures, explored history, and sought earnestly for the guidance of the Spirit of God in their struggle to know the mind of Christ. ... regardless of our proneness to forget, we consider the principle of the open mind and the free search of the Scriptures relevant to truth and progress and vital to the Christian order in our own times.

2. The principle of freedom in religion. The principle of religious freedom undergirds our protest against compulsion in religion and sustains our insistence that dominance over the conscience of man may be exercised by no authority on earth, either ecclesiastical or political. ...

3. The principle of love and universal goodwill. Our fathers were committed to the principle of brotherly love and goodwill in all human relationships. This they considered Biblical and Christian, morally right and politically practical. It was for them a bond of fellowship in the church and the basis of harmony, stability, and security in society. As corollaries of this principle, the Brethren advocatednonviolence, nonlitigation, and the adjustment of disagreements and differences by deliberation and reason in the spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness. ...

4. The principle of creative citizenship. Our fathers regarded religious duty as entirely compatible with civil duty but not subservient to it. ...they established a boundary between civil and religious duty at the point where the two became irreconcilable. At that point they obey the voice of God rather than the voice of man. ...

5. The principle of demonstrative Christianity. Our fathers were devoted to the belief that our profession of faith must offer in everyday life a practical demonstration of its claims. ...

6. The principle of the simple life. The doctrine of the simple life has a new relevancy in our day. Our fathers sometimes employed drastic measures in their eagerness to keep themselves disentangled from the world. ... But their struggle to avoid deflection from spiritual values by the appeal and the insistent demands of the immediate and the temporary confronts us even today with desperate urgency. ...

7. The principle of the dominance of Christ. Our fathers, nurtured in the atmosphere of devotion and prayer at Schwarezau, in 1708 accepted Christ as their supreme Lord and their only Savior. ... When we Brethren are true to our heritage, Christ is Lord of our personal lives. His ideals and teachings, and example, and spirit, are for us the finalities of faith. Christ is also, for us, Lord of the Church which is His body, knit together in love and unity. ... We must seek unity in diversity and learn that in the midst of conflicting opinion we may still find unity in our common love and loyalty for Christ, who is the Lord and Savior of men and women of every race and tongue.

These truths we believe to be universally relevant. They witness to ultimate values and are limited neither by time nor by geography. Our fathers believed them to be valid in 1708 and we believe them to be valid still.

Christ our Lord is always going on before. He is always inspiring new ventures of faith and imparting to us new insights. He is forever breaking new ground and calling us to new areas of service.

To our Lord, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, to the living elements of our faith which we believe to be changeless and yet relevant to a changing world, and to the Lordship of Christ transcendent of both time and space, we dedicate ourselves in penitence, humility, and gratitude. We face the adventurous future with a firm resolve that the living elements of our faith shall, under Christ, continue to live in us and apply in our changing world.

Source: The Adventurous Future

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Brethren and Schwarzenau

Address by Desmond Bittinger, Moderator

August 6, 1958 - Schwarzenau, Germany

We are pleased that after two hundred fifty years it is the privilege and the opportunity of the Church of the Brethren officially to return to Schwarzenau. Here in this lovely, quiet valley of the Eder ... we reverently commemorate our anniversary.

Why do we cross an ocean to conduct this pilgrimage?

We have come back to pay our respects to the memories of our forefathers who, in this valley, established themselves into a fellowship and in this river were baptized as the founders and disciples of a new church, the Church of the Brethren. We come, also, to pay our respects to you who have continued to live here, to you whose ancestors made the inception of this church possible, and to you who through two centuries have kindly welcomed those of our people who have visited here.

But even more than for these reasons, we have come back to this valley ... in order to take stock of ourselves and to reappraise the continuing work which we as a church should undertake to do. We have returned to this valley to seek further guidance from God and to seek for a recommission from Him as we move forward into the unfolding future. ...

What happened in this valley that has significance for the Church of the Brethren?

Here some earnest seekers after truth found a part of what they sought. Their descendants have sought to conserve and to add to that truth. But of major significance was their attitude toward truth. ... Two hundred fifty years ago, here in this valley, ...persecutions were allayed; an unusual freedom was allowed to those who were searching for truth and who sincerely arrived at differing understandings of God.

As a result of this, many who wished to pursue the quest for truth found their way here. Alexander Mack, sacred to the Brethren, was among these. Surrounded by other individuals, he knelt before the open Bible and asked God to give all of them further insights into His truth. Their prayer was for open hearts and minds, which would remain open. Through prayer and searching they came to believe that they had discovered new truths, truths which were not embodied in any other existing denomination as fully as they thought necessary. For this reason they went into the River Eder and by trine immersion established the Church of the Brethren.

What were these new truths which they believed they had discovered?

First was the determination to keep open the door through which they had come into existence: the right of a continuing, prayerful, openminded search for truth. In order to assure this they determined from the first that the New Testament would be their perpetual textbook; they would not restrict it with a creed. Discipleship, study, prayer, and growth toward Godlikeness would be their goal. ...

A second aspect of the Brethren findings was that they resolved to follow the ordinances of the Bible as teaching devices. Through such observance the Christian could better grow in grace and in the knowledge of God, they believed.

What happened to this church subsequently?

It fell under persecution from the very first....

The Brethren are still searching for the truths of God ....

Where shall the Brethren go from here?

The Brethren have not become a large denomination. They have not turned the world upside down. They have sought with earnestness, however, to give a testimony to simple, openhearted, helpful, Christian living. They have sought to keep their minds and hearts open so that Christ can indeed live, in the fullness of love, within their lives and use them for His Kingdom's purposes.

This should be their commitment for the future. It is a simple commitment: openness to God's increasing and indwelling; complete surrender to God's will and to God's use; complete dedication to the Master's prayer for the world, "That all may be one."

Love is the ultimate weapon against any or all conflict; love alone can cast out fear. God himself is love. The Brethren wish to be wholly dedicated to love.

May God bless this anniversary pilgrimage. May His Spirit bless this valley, and the people who dwell here. May God bless the members of the Church of the Brethren and make of them His servants as He leads us from this valley and from this day into an unfolding and growing future.

Source: The Adventurous Future

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Church Living Her Lord's Vision

August 3, 1958

Kassel, Germany

The Church Living Her Lord's Vision

Norman J. Baugher, General Secretary

... The Church of the Brethren is deeply grateful to the churches of Kassel, the surrounding area, and Germany generally for welcoming us as you have to your great country for this celebration of the two-hundred-fiftieth anniversary of the founding of our communion. ...

I wish to speak briefly on the urgency of the present-day church's living the vision Christ had for his people. When Jesus spoke in Nazareth (Luke 4:18, 19) to inaugerate His active ministry, the urgency of a new revelation and a new strategy for God's people struck with such force that the world has heard only the first rather than the last reverberations of what He said. ...

Review seriatim the aspects of this vision of Christian witness. Sense how immediately relevant to our world situation it is and how straightforwardly it suggests a unique servant role for the church today.

First is the concern for the poor - "...he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor."

Here is a pattern of pity and passion for people, especially the disadvantaged, which is a dominant quality of the whole ministry of God revealed in His Son. A revolutionary world today challenges the church rather deeply at this precise point.

Next is the mission to the distressed - "...he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted."

Redemptive suffering is one of the witnesses of the Christian which is of the very nature of the cross itself. To take suffering, brokenheartedness, and sadness and reveal through them a spirit that "transfigures the misfortune with courage and steadies it with trust" is to have that quality of experience and life which is of the very heart of God....

Then there is a gospel to set life free - " proclaim release to the captives ... to set at liberty those who are bruised."

Jesus is sent to free every yoke and bondage of captivity. No fear, no ignorance, no prejudice, no habit, no outer or inner power is so strong but that He can give liberty to the life that is held captive. ... The church is commissioned to be the agent of release, freedom, and liberty.

Finally, Jesus was concerned about vision - "...and recovering of sight to the blind..."

There is a ministry of compassion and concern toward the blind which runs throughout the life of our Lord. The blindness may be physical. It may be a social color blindness or a cultural blindness. It may be a spiritual or moral dullness which does not discern the things of God and of right human relations. The church is summoned to a great ministry of opening ... eyes to God and their neighbors!

All of this consummates in the establishment of a reign on earth important to God - " proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."

Elsewhere Jesus says it this way: "Thy Kingdom come...on earth as it is in heaven."

Across the centuries and even in our time, on many frontiers and in many hearts, this Kingdom is coming! God has ordained its coming! ... The Spirit of the Lord is upon the church to reign in the hearts of (all): showing forth a concern for the poor, carrying forward a ministry to the distressed, setting the imprisoned free and at liberty, and giving vision to the blind. To fulfill such a ministry is the task of the whole church wherever she lives. ....

Source: The Adventurous Future

Saturday, August 02, 2008

250th Anniversary in Germany

Three communities in Germany are of special interest to the Brethren. The first of these, of course, is the village of Schwarzenau, the place in which the church had its origin. The second is the city of Berleburg, the seat of government for the Wittgenstein district, and the residential city of friendly Count Henry, who extended tolerance and protection in the days of Alexander Mack to religious dissenters, including the Brethren. The third is the city of Kassel which in 1958 was the administrative headquarters of Brethren work in Germany.

The 250th anniversary celebration in Germany centered in these three communities, with the Schwarzenau program on August 6 being of major interest and importance. It was, however, preceded on August 2-5 by the Kassel Conference which was considered the regular conference of Brethren workers in Europe.

Over the next several days we will highlight several addresses from both the Kassel Conference and the Schwarenau program, concluding on August 6 with The Schwarzenau Resolutions. We are fortunate that these were preserved in the book, The Adventurous Future, compiled and edited by Paul H. Bowman, along with other events from the 250th Anniversary in 1958.

Source and excerpts from The Adventurous Future

Friday, August 01, 2008

A Dunk in the Eder

From the beginning the Brethren felt a call to radical obedience to the teachings of Jesus as found in the New Testament. In 1708 they found that obedience to Jesus and the scriptures meant disobedience to the state. But after counting the cost, Alexander Mack and seven others decided to risk everything for their faith.

The call to radical obedience led three women and five men into the waters of the Eder River in central Germany on an early August morning in 1708. There the one who had been chosen by lot baptized Alexander Mack, who, in turn, baptized the other seven.

Alexander Mack, Jr., wrote about this day in the foreward to his father's pamphlet Rights and Ordinances, saying, "After they had all emerged from the water, and had dressed themselves again, they were all immediately clothed inwardly with great joyfulness."

What is more difficult for you and I to comprehend today is that by participating in this baptism, all eight became criminals because each of them had been baptized as infants and it was illegal to be baptized again.

In the Fall of 1706, Alexander Mack, his wife Anna and their two small sons left Schriesheim where Mack was the son of a respected mill owner but where they faced persecution for their Pietiest beliefs. They moved to the village of Schwarenau in the territory of Wittgenstein, an area known for religious tolerance. Here the Mack family and other Radical Pietists had more freedom to pursue their understanding of radical obedience to Jesus Christ as presented in the New Testament.

Soon Mack and this small group of dissenters came to the conclusion that obedience required baptism. And true baptism, they were convinced, had to be an act chosen by an adult to demonstrate an inward change. These realizations caused the group to do even more serious Bible study to see how they were to live out their faith.

After much prayer and study, they decided to form a new community based on believers baptism by immersion. A letter was written to a trusted teacher named Hochmann seeking his advice. Hochmann confirmed the scriptural basis for their intentions, but he warned them to be sure it was God's will and to be ready to "count the cost."

After counting the cost and announcing their intentions to other Pietists, they gathered at the river on an early August morning to be dunked in the Eder. And the rest, as they say, is history, our history of 300 years.

Source and excerpts from Let Our Joys Be Known,
an adult Brethren Heritage Curriculum written by
Richard B. Gardner and Kenneth M. Shaffer (1998)