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