Friday, October 31, 2008

Ephrata Cloisters

In Ephrata, Pennsylvania, stand the remaining buildings - now a historical park - of a religious society which brought considerable pain and self-examination to the Brethen between 1725 and 1768. It was founded in 1732 by Johann Conrad Beissel, after his separation from the Brethren.

As it grew, the Ephrata Community eventually comprised three categories of members: celibate sisters, celibate brothers, and married householders. The sisters and brothers lived in separate buildings built specifically for them, while the householders lived in scattered farmhouses near enough to be summoned by a bell. The latter joined the celibates for worship. By 1750 all land within five miles of Ephrata had been deeded to persons loyal to Beissel. By 1750 Ephrata had a population of about 300.

The beliefs of the Ephrata Community were quite similar to those of the Brethren. They had no formal creed, considering the entire Bible as their code, members were permitted to preach during meetings. Celibacy was advocated as the ideal state for all persons, but it was not made manditory although some married persons separated and joined the celibate orders. A number of ordinances were observed, including believers baptism, the love feast, and feetwashing.

Confessions were written and handed to Beissel, who then read them publicly for the edification of all. Discipline was considered to be a method of keeping oneself in tune with God's will. It involved a meager diet, constant prayer and worship, little sleep, hard work, and no luxuries.

A printing press, a productive farm and orchard, a grist mill, a saw mill, a flax seed oil mill, a fulling mill, a paper mill, and a bark mill were all established. A tannery was set up and the sisters operated looms and made cloth. The economic and religious impact on the surrounding area was considerable.

Educational contributions were made by Ephrata in two ways. A classical academy, attended by students from as far away as Philadelphia and Baltimore, was begun in 1740. The Sabbath-school was also begun around 1740. There was a steady stream of visitors, both famous and obscure, who came through the doors of the cloisture. American government officials and travelers from foreign countries had all heard of the people of Ephrata with the curious customs.

Following Ephrata's peak period, the decline in numbers was steady and seemingly inexorable. From 250 residents in 1759 to no more than 135 persons in 1770. In the late 18th century, a daughter community at Snow Hill was established which outlasted its parent. The celibate orders at Ephrata legally ended in 1814. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania acquired the property and several major and minor buildings have been restored since 1941. The site is now a tourist attraction with thousands of persons touring the grounds annually.

Sources: The Brethren Encyclopedia
Heritage and Promise, Bittinger

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Conrad Beissel

Conrad Beissel was a convert to the Brethren baptized by Peter Beckerin 1724 at the age of 33. Becker then placed him in charge of the new Conestoga congregation. For the next few years enthusiastic evangelists from Conestoga continued to gain new converts. However, things did not go smoothly for the isolated congregation. Beissel soon indicated that he was observing the Saturday Sabbath as a matter of personal conviction, although he was not preaching it.

However in December 1728, Beissel made a complete break with the Brethren. The Conestoga congregation divided and Beissel moved to Ephrata. Beissel began to teach radical doctrines and to build up a following. He was a powerful preacher, a disciplined ascetic, and a driving taskmaster. Not all of those attracted to him were able to endure, but many did. From those he welded together a prosperous and self-supporting monastic community which came to be know as the Ephrata Cloisters. (More on this tomorrow)

Around 1745, Beissel and his associates established a printing press which sent a flood of devotional and religious materials into the homes of the German-speaking people throughout the colonies. Among the principles Beissel taught was the superiority of celibacy over marriage, communal property, mysticism, and the seventh day as the true Sabbath. He was tireless in proselyting. Among his converts were many Brethren, including Alexander Mack, Jr., and a number of other persons from the Germantown church. Beissel's power lay in his personality and in his ability to appeal to the Pietistic leanings of the Brethren. Also, he met them on their own ground of obedience to the Word.

Beissel rules the Ephrata Society with an iron hand. He banished those who did not yield to his regime. He introduced many monastic customs and gave comfort to all sorts of symbolism in Biblical interpretation. The result was an increased departure from the plain Gospel tenets of the people with whom he was for a time identified.

Sources: Heritage and Promise, Bittinger
The Brethren Encyclopedia
A History of the Brethren, Brumbaugh

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wilhelm Knepper

Wilhelm Knepper was an early member of the Brethren and a hymnwriter. A weaver in Solingen, Germany, he joined the Brethren about 1716 and in 1717 was one of six Brethren sentanced to hard labor for life. While in prison Knepper wrote some four hundred hymns.

Our hearts and voices let us raise,
committed now to give God praise
in each and every hour.
Let loosened tongues our lips now fill
with talk of love and God's goodwill,
and thus acclaim God's power.
Source: Let Our Joys Be Known
A Brethren Heritage Curriculum
Richard Gardner and Kenneth Shaffer

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Jacob and Sarah Berkey

Elder Jacob Berkey was born in Somerset County, Pa. and moved to Indiana in 1848. He and Sarah were the parents of eight children. The Berkeys settled on a quarter section of land located across the road from the present site of the Rock Run Church east of Goshen.

When they arrived in Elkhart County, the closest congregation was Elkhart (West Goshen). The Berkeys soon began to actively organize a new congregation closer to their home. Rock Run was organized in 1850 and Jacob Berkey was elected to the ministry and placed in charge of the congregation. He became widely known for his preaching, both in German and in English.

Jacob Berkey was described as a man without fear who was not afraid to confront sin. He was strongly opposed to the use of tobacco and whiskey and one of the earliest Dunker temperence lecturers. He was often considered progressive in his thinking, advocating the single mode of washing feet at love feast and the formation of Sunday schools. One of the first protracted (revival) meetings was held at Rock Run under his leadership.

His wife was well known for her hard work in keeping the Berkey household intact while her husband was often traveling for the church. She was largely responsible for the home and the farm while her husband was gone for days at a time.

The story is told that when the Rock Run congregation began talking about building a meeting house, some of the members objected on the grounds that they would have to wait to eat their noon meal until they had traveled all the way back home instead of having a fellowship meal. Elder Berkey reportedly volunteered to feed anyone in his home who felt this was a problem. There is no record that Sister Sarah raised any objection to this offer.

About 1879, Jacob and Sarah moved to northeast Texas where he was instrumental in establishing several congregations. In the spring of 1881, he was called to conduct an anointing service. His route required him to cross a rain-swollen stream near Gainsville. A man on the other side warned him not to cross, but Elder Berkey waded into the water on horseback and was swept away. His body was recovered the following day. The judge and lawyers of the county, who had been impressed by his preaching, paid for his burial outfit. Sarah lived until October 26, 1888.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ida Shumaker

Ida Cora Shumaker was born on October 27, 1873. From her girlhood days she loved the church and taught a Sunday-school class even before her baptism at the age of fourteen. After graduation from high school, she began to teach school which came naturally to her. For twenty-one years she taught in Pennsylvania's public schools.

Then came the conviction that she should serve in India. For about two years this consciousness increased and at last she laid her feeling of unworthiness, her desire for a home of her own, and also the question of her health upon the Lord and promised that she would serve Him wherever He led. Approved for India at the Winona Lake Conference in 1910, in October of the same year she sailed from New York. One month later she reached Bulsar and was given a hearty welcome.

As in America she had spent much of her time in the schoolroom, so also in India she soon found that teaching was her chief activity, whether in Sunday school or day school, inside a classroom or out under the spreading branches of a banyan tree. Her classes being always filled with children, she had the opportunity of giving full expression to her love for them.

Miss Ida had the gift of storytelling. It made no difference whether she stood before a crowd of hill-tribe boys and girls, surrounded by a circle of missionary children, or in front of a great Annual Conference audience. Her messages and her characters were real and animated.

Her life was full and happy. She would have been the last one to call her efforts a sacrifice. She had an alert sense of humor which helped her to appreciate the fun in nearly every situation. This redeeming characteristic helped her over many rough places and through misunderstanding and persecution.

In 1940 - at the age of 67 - she came home to stay, but the desire to return to India was too strong. After four years she went back to India and had the joy of being with her beloved friends for another fifteen months. She died on February 16, 1946 at Bulsar.

Source: Anetta Mow in Brethren Builders in Our Century, 1952

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Closed Churches

Yesterday's post showed the original 1866 congregations when Northern Indiana became a district and a list of 1882 churches with their memberships. Some of those churches have continued to the present day and others have closed. Here is a bit of information of the churches from 1882 which have since closed.

  • Columbia City with 40 members in 1882 was disorganized in 1927. A new congregation was formed in Columbia City in 1961.
  • Elkhart Church became West Goshen
  • Flat Rock (Dekalb County) with 35 members in 1882 was disorganized in 1901.
  • Little St. Joe - organized from a division of Cedar Creek in 1873 - with 35 members in 1882 was disorganized in 1914.
  • Pleasant Hill became Agape
  • Pleasant Ridge became Wawaka
  • Pigeon River in Steuben County was organized in 1865 from English Prairie, had 88 members in 1882, and was disorganized in 1910.
  • Portage organized in 1831 as the second congregation and the first building in Northern Indiana, later organized four other congregations from 1853 to 1870. Some members left with the Progressives in 1882 and was disorganized in 1921.
  • Solomon's Creek became Bethany.
  • Shipshewana with 107 members in 1882 was disorganized in 1938.
  • St. Joseph disorganized in 1921.
  • Springfield combined with Wawaka
  • Tippecanoe with 140 members in 1882 moved to North Webster in 1922 and changed its name in 1929.
  • Van Buren with 46 members in 1882 was located in LaGrange County. Closure uncertain.
  • Washington with 162 members in 1882 changed its name to North Winona in 1919.
  • Yellow River with 100 members in 1882 became Mount Pleasant.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land, Appendix 1

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Indiana Divides Into Districts

On October 25, 1866 representatives from Indiana congregations met in the Antioch congregation in Andrews, Indiana for the purpose of dividing into three districts. This special State Conference was in accordance with a recommendation from the Annual Conference.

Officers for this special meeting were George Hoover, moderator; Jacob Miller, foreman; Hiel Hamilton, clerk; and Daniel Miller, assistant. The work of suggesting a division of churches had been assigned to a committee of six which reported on their work. Eighteen congregations were assigned to the Southern Indiana district and another eighteen to the Middle Indiana district. The following nineteen congregations were assigned to the Northern Indiana District: Portage, Baugo, South Bend, Bremen, Pine Creek, Union, Yellow Creek, Elkhart, Turkey Creek, Union Center, Solomon's Creek, Rock Run, Springfield, Shipshewana, Washington, Cedar Creek, Tippecanoe, Pigeon River, Fawn River (English Prairie).

The Northern Indiana District of Indiana also included the southern part of Michigan. We do not have the membership of those early churches but by 1882 we have a report of the churches that shows the number of congregations had grown to 34 with the following memberships totaling over 3,800: Baugo (110); Blue River (100); Bremen (55); Cedar Lake (64); Camp Creek (50); Cedar Creek (36); Columbia City (40); Elkhart (275); English Prairie (147); Elkhart Valley (91); Flat Rock, Dekalb County (35); Laporte (76); Little St. Joe (35); Pleasant Hill (40); Pleasant Valley (30); Pleasant Ridge - now Wawaka (32); Pine Creek (320); Pigeon River (88); Portage (102); Rock Run (240); Solomon's Creek (260); Shipshewana (107); St. Joseph (140); Springfield (32); South Bend (175); Tippecanoe (140); Turkey Creek (125); Union (175); Union Center (200); Van Buren (46); Walnut (62); Washington (162); Yellow River (100); Yellow Creek (90).

Source: History of the Church of the Brethren in Indiana, Otho Winger - 1917

Friday, October 24, 2008

Alexander Mack Quotes

Two important quotations from Alexander Mack:

"Count well the cost," Christ Jesus says,
"when you lay the foundation."
Are you resolved, though all seem lost,
to risk your reputation,
your self,
your wealth,
for Christ the Lord
as you now give your solemn word?
The Son of God wished to found and ordain a water bath
for his entire church,
that it should be an efficacious seal
and outward symbol
of all those who would believe in him.
Thus, the Son of God ...
made a beginning of water baptism a mighty example in which
we should follow him.
Source: Let Our Joys Be Known
A Brethren Heritage Curriculum
Richard Gardner and Kenneth Shaffer

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Alexander Mack - Letter on Disagreement

Alexander Mack, Jr. held very strong opinions but he had an even stronger love for Christian love and patience.

Abraham Harley Cassel not only had the largest collection of books among the early Brethren, he also preserved some early correspondance which provides insight into the early Brethren. Among the letters in his collection was one written on October 23, 1798 - 210 years ago today! The letter was written by Mack at the age of 86 in which he addresses a biblical disagreement he had with John Preisz, the elder of the Indian Creek congregation and a friend whom Mack had baptized twenty-five years earlier. The two men regarded each other warmly and never hesitated to disagree with each other.

In this letter, Mack addresses Preisz as "Tenderly beloved brother, dear and well esteemed fellow pilgrim," and opened, "With a heartfelt greeting and salutation of the kiss in the spirit of sincere brotherly love..."

Regarding their disagreement, Mack wrote, "Though I have read thy letter again and again with diligence and in the fear of the Lord, I cannot say that all those scripture passages referred to by you did produce such an impression, as I understand they have produced in you. But what shall I say? The flowers in the garden are still and peaceful, though one clothed in blue, the other in red, and the white. They praise quietly their Creator, and shew forth in entire concord the manifold wisdom of the supreme Being."

Though they were in disagreement, Mack said, in a postscript, "I have told no person in our neighborhood, that there was a dispute between me and you, nor have I permitted any person to see your letter. The Lord has called me into peace. May that same peace, which passeth all understanding, keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen. Amen."

Perhaps one reason they were able to keep their disagreements in perspective was because they kept first things first. In one tender and poignant paragraph, Mack tells Preisz: "Last night the youngest child of my youngest daughter has left the body of death, and is gone from the land of mortality over the stream, which has no bridge, into the land of the living. This child has performed its whole journey in 13 months, and I have traveled now already 86 years and 7 months, and have not yet passed over Jordon. But what our God doeth, is done well."

And that's the way it was - 210 years ago today - from the perspective of Alexander Mack, Jr.

Source: Frank Ramirez' Tercentennial Minute for October 19, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Philip Younce

Philip Younce was born in Ashe County, North Carolina in 1775. At 19 years of age, he volunteered in General Anthony Wayne's march against the Indians. His march with General Wayne through the Northwest Territory made him aware of the advantages of a wilderness home there. On his return home and with a determination for an adventurous life in the wilderness, he set forth on that mission. At the age of 38 he was married to Margaret Byrket whose parents were of the Dunker faith.

As was the common practice among the early Dunker families, the younger generation, after marriage, united with the church. Philip was called to the ministry while still in North Carolina, before he set out on his trek to establish his wilderness home.

After a short sojourn in Kentucky he moved northwestward and in 1813 reached Miama County, Ohio where he made his final earthly home. He entered into his ministerial calling with vigor and the early growth of the Brethren Churches in Miami and Darke Counties was chiefly the result of his ministry.

The following story is told by a Brother David Stauffer:

Elder Younce had regular appointments in the neighborhood where the Painter Creek Church now stands. The incessant rains that spring had made the woods very bad and Painter Creek was out of its banks. On the Saturday before Brother Younce's appointment on Sunday, Jacob Stauffer took his son David (then about ten years old) with him and went to the point of the crossing of Painter Creek to warn Brother Younce that the creek was beyond the fording point.

As they approached the creek, they soon discovered Brother Younce coming on his famous horse "Barney," which had carried him safely over hundreds of miles through swamps of mud and water in Ohio. As Brother Philip approached the banks, Brother Stauffer with his strong voice sent the message across Painter Creek, "the creek is past the point of fording."

Brother Younce returned the message, "Barney is a good swimmer," and the seemingly dangerous trip was at once commenced. They had not gone far until Barney had to swim. With his strong limbs Barney made regular strokes and surprisingly he made almost a straight course through the rapid current to where Brother Stauffer and son David were standing. Brother Philip was clad with rubber leggings and by drawing his limbs up closely, he did not get very wet and these were soon dried by their big log fire.

He preached the next day, after which he returned as he came.

Source: Lest We Forget and Tales of Yester-Years, Vol. III, Rolland F. Flory

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mark Schrock

Mark Schrock (1904-1968) was born in Elkhart County, Indiana and a graduate of Manchester College and Bethany Seminary. He was ordained in the Middlebury congregation in 1927. He served as pastor of churches in Illinois, Idaho, Washington, Michigan, as well as Northern Indiana. During World War II he directed a Civilian Public Service camp in Oregon and was area supervisor (West) for the Church of the Brethren CPS program.

He served for fourteen years (1948-1962) as Executive Secretary for the Northern Indiana district and from 1963-1966 as executive of the Central Region.

On this date, October 21, 1968 he died in a farm accident northeast of Goshen while building a new stone bridge across a creek to replace an old plank bridge. In many ways he served his church for many years as a "bridge-builder" until his death on this date forty years ago today.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Letter from Peter Shaver

The following letter was written by Peter Shaver from Bremen, Kentucky on February 6, 1861. The State of Virginia (the state of his birth) had not yet joined the Confederacy and at that time it appeared it would not do so. The letter was addressed to his oldest son, Benjamin Shaver, who at that time was representing Muhlenberg County in the State Legislature at Frankfurt.

I find the people in this part of the county ... for the union but all that we can hear appears to be gloomy and doubtful. I still hope that a settlement of the difficulties will be reached. It seems to me that the Southern Aristocratic Democrats have neither reason or judgment. I cannot see what they expect to win. But when a people are doomed they are blind and will work out their own destruction. I think that when they feel the heavy taxes that will fall on them they will revolt and return to the Union.

I am proud Virginia has taken such a noble stand. (Virginia it appeared at that time was not going to join the Confederacy.) She always was brave and patriotic. She has great influence and I hope that her plan will be successful and that peace and harmony may be restored.

I am astounded that there are so many disunionists in our State. I perceive that a goodly number are in the Legislature. If the Union must be dissolved, will we not be in a worse condition than Mexico? If this Union is divided, Kentucky will go with the Southern division. Times are hard now but they are nothing whatever to what they will be if this rupture takes place.

There is no class of citizens that have contributed more to cause this distracted state than the clergy of the North. Their influence is great. They have gendered every hate, strife and bitterness in society, whereas their Master, whom they pretend to serve, taught nothing but peace and good will to all people. As a nation we have been the most happy and prosperous in the world. Perhaps we have grown too rich, too proud and corrupt and that we need some chastisement to bring us to our senses; then we will do what is right again.

Dear son, you complain of the great responsibility that rests upon you. All that I can advise you is to have confidence in your judgment and be swayed by no man's opinion without mature consideration. I hope the people of Kentucky will pause and consider what they will do before it is too late.

A reform is certainly wanting in the Federal Government, too many officers, an empty treasury and a large debt have accumulated in time of peace. I hope all the States will return to the Union, and if South Carolina will not, she will be no loss to the government. She has never done any good; a perverse member she always was.

Now all I can say, fall on what side we may, let us be loyal citizens, so that we may lead peaceful and quiet lives. For myself, I have nothing to lose or gain; it is for posterity that I feel interested. My prayer is for peace and prosperity and the Union forever.

Your most affectionate father,
P. Shaver
Source: Lest We Forget and Tales of Yester-Years, Vol. III, Rolland F. Flory

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Peter Shaver

Peter Shaver was the eldest son of Andrew Shaver, Sr., and the older brother of Andrew, Jr. who died of smallpox while providing hospitality to strangers (see yesterday's post).

Peter was considered one of the best educated men in the "Dutch Settlement." He was a progressive farmer and wielded the axe, the hammer, and the pen with equal grace. He served as a deacon and clerk for the Muhlenberg Dunker Church.

His initials "P.S." appear on the document outlining the beliefs and practices of the churches of Tennessee and Kentucky which begins:

First: The church to be governed by the Gospel of Jesus.
Second: We believe in the ordinance of baptism to be administered by immersing the candidate three times forward in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Third: We believe in the Holy Communion to be administered in the night, and the washing of one another's feet, Jno. 13:4-6. We also believe in the Holy Kiss, recorded five times in the Gospel---.

Tomorrow: A letter to his son from Peter Shaver

Source: Lest We Forget and Tales of Yester-Years, Vol. III, Rolland F. Flory

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Andrew Shaver of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky

Andrew Shaver, Sr. came to Virginia from Bremen, Germany, a short time after the American Revolution. His wife and five sons moved to Kentucky and the "Dutch Settlement" in 1815. Three sons soon moved to Ohio but Andrew, Jr. and Peter chose to remain in the "Dutch Settlement." Out of respect for their father, they were instrumental in renaming the settlement, as it is now known as the Bremen Country.

Andrew Shaver, Jr. was married to Susan Bower in Virginia, and was a very successful farmer in the Bremen country. Andrew's life was cut short due to his pioneer and Christian hospitality.

One evening two strangers coming through the Bremen country stopped at his home and asked for supper and a night's lodging. Their request was granted but they later complained of being ill and their hospitality continued for several days. Their illness proved to be the dreaded smallpox. Andrew nursed them through their seige but contracted the disease itself, which proved fatal. He died at the age of forty-four years. His wife, Susan survived him another thirty years. They were the parents of eight children.

Tomorrow: Peter Shaver, older brother of Andrew

Source: Lest We Forget and Tales of Yester-Years, Vol. III, Rolland F. Flory

Friday, October 17, 2008

Henry Rhoads

Henry Rhoads was probably the first among the early pioneers who settled in what was then known as Logan County in Western Kentucky. Born in Germany in 1739, he came with his father, Henry Sr., and landed in Philadelphia in 1750. His family was among the first to move across the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania to Brothers Valley in what is now Somerset County.

Henry, Sr. was a minister in the German Baptist Church and built the first meetinghouse in the Brothers Valley on high ground in a clearing belonging to his son, Henry, Jr.

Henry, Jr. was married to Elizabeth Stoner on October 9, 1760. He received his education in the Cloister School at Ephrata, where he received much training in the Bible, which aided him greatly as a minister in Kentucky. In 1774, he and several other young men joined the Brothers Valley militia to protect the pioneer families against the Indian marauders. This action led to the disfellowship of Henry and the other young members.

After further military service during the Revolutionary War, he became eligible for free land in the Kentucky wilderness. At the urging of his wife, he returned to the faith of his fathers after the war had ended. Meanwhile three Rhoads families began the move to Kentucky, settling in what was then called Severns Valley. The settlement at Severns Valley was later renamed Elizabethtown in honor of Henry's wife Elizabeth and has kept that name to the present day.

Henry eventually moved to Logan County where he obtained 2500 acres of military land upon which he first built his log cabin, which was replaced by his two-story plantation home built in 1792 and still in a fairly good state of preservation. It continues in the possession of the Rhoads family.

Henry was a minister, or at least he preached the Gospel to his neighbors, preaching in both German and English. His Bible was of the 2nd edition of Sauers Bible. Henry passed away on March 16, 1814 just a few months before the Muhlenberg County Church of the German Baptist Brethren was organized on June 18 in the so-called "Dutch Settlement."

Source: Lest We Forget and Tales of Yester-Years, Vol. III, Rolland F. Flory

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Brethren Serving from New Windsor

The philosophy of service that found concrete expression at New Windsor was set forth quite clearly and simply in the familiar New Testament passage that Brethren had already chosen, in the Annual Conference of 1941, as the charter for their newly authorized Brethren Service Commission. The words come from Matthew 25:31-46. The setting is Jesus' parable of the separation of the sheep and goats on the day of judgment, when the Son of Man shall come in his glory.

Here are the significant words that were quoted to outline the function of the Brethren Service Committee: I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came unto me. Inasmuch as you did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, you did it unto me."

By the end of World War II, the New Windsor campus had become a bustling center of service activities. The former college buildings were being adapted to a program that would expedite the sending of food and clothing to several areas of the world.

The Brethren were motivated by several factors: an awareness of need; a tradition of caring; a philosophy of service growing out of the New Testament; and a willingness to cooperate with other Christian denominations and agencies to get the job done.

Source: New Windsor Center, Kenneth Morse

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A College in New Windsor

The campus which is now home to the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Maryland, was purchased in 1849 by Andrew Baker as land on which to build a college campus for a school that was already flourishing under his direction in town.

The academic tradition in New Windsor must have been well established by the mid-nineteenth century. Not only was there a lovely setting for a college on the hill, but local educators were working vigorously to provide quality training and worthwhile experiences for Maryland youth. In 1850 the college was known as Calvert College and was incorporated and operated under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church until financial difficulties forced its closure in 1866.

A few years later the school was purchased by a Presbyterian minister and the name changed to New Windsor College. The college continued to face financial problems until 1913 when the Church of the Brethren purchased the property and moved Blue Ridge College from Union Bridge a few miles away.

The Brethren were aggressive in building for the future. They remodeled Old Main, built Windsor Hall in 1914, a gymnasium-auditorium in 1915; and in 1920 they added Becker Hall to provide classrooms and a men's dormitory. But such efforts, along with movements to improve the educational program, could not assure the permanent endowment resources the school needed to meet the economic challenges of World War I and the depression years that would follow. Also Church of the Brethren congregations in the East were already helping to support three church-related colleges within a few hundred miles of New Windsor. In 1927 Blue Ridge College became a junior college but even that change could not guarantee its survival.

In 1937, the college was sold to a private group of educators from New Jersey and New York, who hoped to expand and enlarge the college while retaining the name. But the future for the college was hardly promising and the college closed its doors in 1942 and the property returned to the Brethren trustees. A public auction was scheduled for September 6, 1944.

But the utilization of the facilities for other purposes had already occurred to some Brethren. L.W. Schultz, a member of the first Brethren Service Committee, would later recall the day in 1944 when BSC met in New Windsor and purchased the property for a service center. M.R. Zigler, the staff executive for BSC who negotiated the purchase for an amount that would at least cover the indebtedness for the former college, later stated: We didn't really know what we were doing, but we were convinced that Brethren Service was a long-range program.

Tomorrow: more on the Service Center.

Source: New Windsor Center, Kenneth Morse

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Brethren Service Center - New Windsor, MD

It happens often. Visitors from overseas arrive in the United States and are puzzled because the first persons they meet here have never heard of New Windsor, Maryland. Later they understand - when they finally locate the small town on a road map or find their way to the quiet village tucked away in the Maryland hills. How does it happen that a town of only a thousand residents has a worldwide reputation?

The explanation rests with a cluster of buildings on a former college campus at the edge of New Windsor - the service center operated by the Church of the Brethren and utilized by Church World Service, Lutheran World Relief, and many other world service agencies.

Don't be surprised if overseas visitors are confused. They may have lived in Europe in the harsh years after World War II when food and clothing given by Americans came by way of New Windsor and the town name appeared on bales and packages. A daughter or son may have participated in an international youth exchange that began with orientation in the Maryland town. The medical supplies so important for a missionary doctor or nurse likely reached their overseas recipients by way of a warehouse in New Windsor. Refugee families often found the Service Center a temporary home while waiting to be received in American communities. For many artisans and craft persons overseas the New Windsor address is their doorway to a market for their "self-help" products in international gift shops.

Americans with a little elementary geography do not expect New Windsor to be as conspicuous as Baltimore; but they, too, marvel that such a modest country town welcomes around 35,000 visitors each year. Some come as volunteers to help in the humanitarian programs at the Center, others to participate in retreats, and many as tourists attracted by its unique gift shop.

More about the Brethren Service Center tomorrow.

Source: "Introduction" to New Windsor Center by Kenneth Morse, 1979

Monday, October 13, 2008

October 13, 1940 - Chinese Brethren Martyred

The Brethren sent misionaries to China in 1908 who worked at spreading the gospel, baptizing and introducing the love feast, while improving the lives of ordinary Chinese - many of whom lived in absolute misery. All this came to a crashing end with the Japanese invasion of China.

In comparison to the murder of thousands of people by the armies, the deaths of three Brethren missionaries and thirteen Chinese Brethren are not, perhaps, significant on the world stage. That makes it all the more imperative for Brethren to remember.

Little is known about the fate of Minnerva J. Neher, Alva C. Harsh, and Mary Hykes Harsh. The three Brethren missionaries were stationed in Show Yang. Around 7:30 in the evening on December 2, 1937, a little girl came to ask them to come and help a dispute. They left together and were never seen again. Rumors about their fate flew, but nothing was learned either then or after the war when Brethren missionaries returned to China.

More is known about what happened to the thirteen Chinese Brethren at Liao Chou who were martyred for their faith in 1940. Liao Chou was organized as a Brethren congregation in 1912. When war broke out Brethren remained behind to feed the children and keep the Bible school open.

In August of 1940 the Japanese arrested seven Brethren. They were tortured and forced to sign false confessions that they were Communists and released. Six more women were arrested in October. On October 13, 1940, three were stabbed to death with swords. The other three were raped and released.

On October 13 the eight previously arrested were rounded up and shot. Later, on November 16, two cooks were shot as well. Most of them were leaders in the church.

After the war Brethren attempted to investigate to learn more. Little could be learned beyond the brutal fact that they had been martyred because of their Christian faith. Today we pause to remember the terrible sacrifice of these Chinese Brethren martyrs on this date in 1940.

Source: Adapted from Frank Ramirez Tercentennial Minute for October 12, 2008

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Landa U. Kreider

Among the Brethren participating in the colonization in Cuba in the early 1900s (see yesterday's entry) was Landa U. Kreider and family. He was born September 14, 1874 in South Whitley, Indiana and received his education in the rural schools of Whitley County. He was married to Emma Blanche Snell of Sidney, Indiana in 1894 and together the family farmed until 1906.

Brother Kreider was called to the ministry in 1901 by the Sugar Creek Church and in 1906 he took over the ministerial work in the new colony in Cuba. After serving six years in Cuba, he returned to Indiana in the spring of 1912. They returned to the Kreider homestead until 1918 when he moved to Michigan to serve as pastor of the Sugar Ridge Church of the Brethren.

He returned to Indiana to serve the following churches: North Winona (1921-1925). In 1925 he moved to Columbia City, where he served as both pastor and elder of the Blue River congregation until his retirement in 1948.

A son and a daughter died in Cuba and are numbered among the nineteen buried at Omaja. His wife Emma Blanche died in 1913 and he later remarried a second wife also named Emma.

Source: Lest We Forget and Tales of Yester-Years, Rolland C. Flory

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Brethren Colony in Cuba

While the Brethren work has included missions in numerous countries over the past 300 years, many Brethren today might not know that the Brethren once established a church in Cuba a century ago.

Cuba received its indepence from Spain after the United States intervened in the Spanish American War. After four years under the United States, the government was turned over to the Cuban people on May 20, 1902 as the democratic Cuban Republic.

Inducements were made to the people of the United States to settle and help establish a stable government. The first Brethren to go to Cuba were George and Curtis Bowman, a widowed father and son. They settled in an underdeveloped town of Omaja. In 1906 they were joined by the Kreider and Snell families. In 1907 Elder Ira Eby and family joined the Brethren and a church was organized. In December 2007 they asked the General Mission Board that a missionary be sent to assist them in their church work. They also received authorization to solicit the Brethren in the States for up to $500 to build a church building.

In the spring of 1908 the Mahan family joined the group. Brother Mahan had served on the editorial staff of the Gospel Messenger and was moved to assist the new church in Cuba. In 1909 the church at Omaja, Cuba sent a letter of Greetings to the Annual Conference and received a response from the Conference officers which stated in part: We extend to you the love of Christian fellowship and greetings, commending you to the goodness and guidance of him who careth for you, that you may be blessed and ever be a blessing in his service.

A list of colonists who also went to Omaja include two individuals from Canada, several from Illinois, Missouri, Virginia, and Ohio. The largest number of colonist families were from Indiana. Possibly the Omaja Church never numbered more than thirty. The cause of the decline of the membership was the collapse of the economic system and the return of the American families to the States.

A silent reminder of the Brethren colony in Omaja is the once Brethren cemetary, where lie the remains of nineteen bodies from Brethren families who worked and died there. The Omaja Church remained somewhat active until 1937, when Brother Charles Nye reported to Brother Grant Mahan that the church building was sold and thus ended the work of Brethren colonization in Cuba.

Source: summarized from Lest We Forget and Tales of Yester-Years, Vol. III, by Rolland F. Flory

Friday, October 10, 2008


In answer to the question: Why Brethren Are Pacifists?; Rolland Flory writes, The Christian Church of Believers are committed to pacifism because God had commanded, "Thou shalt not kill."

This teaching continued in some places among Christians over the years while being dismissed by others as the church came under the protection and control of the government. Some Christian sufferers of the inquisition fled to the Alps in northern Italy where a remnant survived.

The following story comes from an early issue of the Gospel Visitor:

It is related that a company of soldiers were ordered at a certain time to march into a small town and take it. From the description of the persons and circumstances connected with the incident, it is believed that it took place in the Tyrol, a province of Austrian dominion in the southwest frontier of Germany. However, it was settled by a colony who believed the Gospel of Christ and proved their faith by their works.

As it is customary in such cases, a neighboring village, appraised of the fact, sent a messenger in haste to inform the inhabitants that troops were advancing to their town. They quietly answered, "If they will take it, they must."

Soldiers soon came riding in with colors flying, fifes piping their advance. They looked around - saw the farmer at his plow, the blacksmith at his anvil, and the women at their chores and spinning wheels. Babies crowded to hear the music and the boys ran out to see the trainers with feathers and bright ribbons. Of course none of these were in a proper position to be shot at.

"Where are your soldiers?" they asked. "We have none," was the brief reply. "But we have come to take this town." "Well, friends, it lies before you." "But is there nobody here to fight?" "None, we are all Christians."

Here was the condition of things wholly unexpected. The sort of resistance which no bullet could hit. The Commander was perplexed. "If there is nobody to fight with, of course we cannot fight," said he. "It is impossible to take such a town." So he ordered the horses' heads to be turned around and the soldiers passed quietly out of the village.

This simple incident, whether true or not, in every particular shows how easy it would be to dispense with armies and navies if men only had faith in the religion they profess to believe.

Source: Lest We Forget and Tales of Yester-Years, Vol. III, Rolland F. Flory

Thursday, October 09, 2008


The early Brethren were very much opposed to members marrying one who was not a member of the Brethren. This was based on a very literal interpretation of 2 Corinthians 6:4, Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Rolland F. Flory in his book Lest We Forget and Tales of Yester-Years, Volume III, recalls the following story of his brother Samuel.

My father, Elder John Flory, was a strong believer in this for members of the church and especially for members of his own household. Samuel, my older brother, was keeping company with a young lady who was not a member of the church. On one Monday morning I remember quite well that a final ultimatum was given by father to either drop his relationship with the young lady or seek another place of residence.

Brother Samuel complied and soon went to Manchester College for a winter term. Here he became acquainted with a member of the church. Their acquaintanceship led them, after several months, into marriage and together they live a happy married life for over fifty years. Both contributed much to the welfare of the church.

About the time of this incident, Elder William R. Guthrie was conducting services.... I remember quite well a conversation that took place at the morning meal when, after the morning devotions, Brother Guthrie remarked, "John, you should not be too harsh on Samuel. You no doubt know that when I was married my bride was not a member of the church but she became a member soon after our marriage and has become a faithful Dunker preacher's helpmate."

Flory then adds this postscript to the story: The young lady who was rejected as the wife of Samuel later became the wife of his first cousin, united with the church and became a true and faithful member of her adopted church.

Source: Lest We Forget and Tales of Yester-Years, Vol. III, Rolland F. Flory

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bethany at Hastings Street

Bethany Bible School opened its doors in a large house on Hastings Street in Chicago in October 1905. "We were a group of country people who had never seen Chicago and were going into that city alone." Nettie Senger was speaking for mose of the 160 students who came to Bethany Bible School during its adventurous years on Hastings Street (1905-09).

Sixty years later a number of them, in response to a letter from Ernestine Hoff Emrick, recalled their experiences.

  • We had to keep the front door locked but did not have eight keys. So we decided on a password.
  • We had a bathroom, cold as Greenland, with running water - ice water in winter.
  • Classrooms were small, a bit on the dingy side.
  • Sacrifices were the order of the day. The teachers set the pattern.
  • I worked ... in the Loop one day a week and got $1.25 a day ... I walked 2.5 miles to save carfare.
  • Bethany's being in the city didn't bother us; we were closer to our practical work. I was asked to take a class of street boys ... They knew all the tricks of the trade.

Source: The Brethren Encylopedia

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Bethany Bible School Opens

In October 1905, Bethany Bible School opened its doors in a large house on Hastings Street in Chicago with twelve students. It marked the beginning of the fulfillment of a dream held by E.B. Hoff and A.C. Wieand.

The Chicago location, however, was in doubt until nearly the last moment. Both Wieand and Hoff had deep reservations about locating their school in Chicago. A decade later the honest Wieand would write, "Personally, I hated Chicago. I dreaded to come to the big city, with all its rush and sin. My heart would sink every time I would approach the place and see the black pale of smoke."

In fact, both men would have preferred to open their school in Elgin, Illinois. In 1903, Wieand wrote Hoff, "how about the place ... Shall it be Elgin or Chicago ... I still believe Elgin is the place to begin." In 1903, Elgin seemed an ideal location. As home to the Brethren Publishing House, it was rapidly become the de facto denominational headquarters. Unfortuneatly, Elgin had one major drawback: it was located near Mount Morris College and there was fear of trying to locate the two schools so near each other.

Despite the feelings toward Chicago, Hoff would eventually acquire a large house across the street from the Hastings Street Mission where he was in charge. The students embraced the city, at least judging by Bethany's rapid growth. Beginning with 12 students, there were 22 by the end of the first term and 33 by the end of the second term.

In 1908 Bethany would move to the West Van Buren campus and in 1963 would move to the western suburbs at Oak Brook. Here it would remain until its last move to Richmond, Indiana in 1994.

Source: Bethany Theological Seminary: A Centennial History, Kostlevy

Monday, October 06, 2008

A.C. Wieand Visits the Holy Land

V.F. Schwalm, in his biography of A.C. Wieand, tells the following story of a visit A.C. Wieand and his wife Katherine made to the Holy Land in 1910.

The Wieands, along with seven other tourists, were on a trip they hoped would encircle the entire Dead Sea area. However, at Kerak, the capital of ancient Moab, they were caught in an insurrection of Arabs against the Turks. Thinking they were protected by friendly guards, the tourists sought to return to Jerusalem, but on the way they were kidnapped by a hostile band of Arabs.

Their money and equipment were taken at gunpoint, and they were threatened with death. The bandits tried to divert them from the main road into a swamp, but the travelers after a time were able to continue on the right path. Finally, after many harrowing adventures, they were rescued by friendly Arabs.

Schwalm wrote: It seems the good Lord certainly had his arms around our friends. When they approached Jerusalem they could say ... "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people, henceforth and evermore."

Source: The Brethren Encylopedia

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Andrew Cordier and the Brethren Love Feast

Andrew W. Cordier, who helped draft the charter of the United Nations and who for seventeen years served as one of its top officials, once told an interviewer that he received his first world view at the Brethren Love Feast.

Inez Long quoted Cordier as saying in 1960 that "utter sincerity, utter fairness, and utter integrity are basic to communication, and I first learned them as prior conditions to coming to the love feast tables. At these tables, after applying the rules of Matthew 18, the Brethren dramatize the idea of brotherhood under God.

"I saw these concepts acted out before my eyes by people I loved and trusted, from the time I could remember. The ideas stayed with me ... such concepts of brotherhood at the conference table of the United Nations give peace a fighting chance."

M. R. Zigler recalled an occasion when "in the presence of Dag Hammarskjold, a visiting delegation of the World Council of Churches Central Committee, and representatives of the United Nations, he [Cordier] said he found that his basic teaching came from what is known as the "love feast" of the Church of the Brethren to which he belonged."

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A.C. Wieand

Albert Cassel Wieand was born near Wadsworth, Ohio in 1871 and united with the Chippewa congregation in 1884. He later attended and graduated from Juniata College before teaching at McPherson College from 1892 to 1900.

In the summer of 1893, the chronically ill Wieand read an article in the Gospel Messenger written by Gertrude Flory who contended that the only real hindrance for those seeking divine healing was lack of faith. Following Flory's instruction, Wieand found an elder who would anoint him. As he remembered years later, "I realized that without an absolute consecration of my life to God, I could not hope for healing thru the anointing."

In 1895, as Wieand became fixated on the idea of a Bible school for the German Baptist Brethren Church, he became so sick that he could not continue his planned course of study. Committing himself fully to the work of creating a Bible School, Wieand's health was restored. With his destiny settled, he began preparation for his career in advanced religious education. He received his Ph.B degree from the University of Chicago in 1901.

While studying in Chicago, he often lived with the family of E.B. Hoff whom he had met earlier in McPherson. In 1901-02, he and Hoff traveled to the Holy Land. Overlooking the village of Bethany from the Mount of Olives, they chose the name Bethany Bible School for the school they hoped to found.

At both the University of Chicago and Columbia University in New York City, Wieand encountered and embraced the emerging progressive educational theories of the time. While teaching at New York's Bible Teachers' Training School from 1903-1905, he discovered a useable model for the Bible School that he hoped would serve Brethren needs for the new century. There he would borrow two "cardinal principles" underlying the course of study at Bethany: the development of "spiritual power" and "the mastery of sacred scripture."

In the fall of 1905, after twelve years of study, Wieand was finally ready to join his increasingly impatient colleague E.B. Hoff in their joint mission to bring theological training to the Brethren.

Tomorrow: The Brethren Love Feast
Coming: The beginnings of Bethany Bible School

Source: Bethany Theological Seminary: A Centenial History, William Kostlevy

Friday, October 03, 2008

Saying of E.B. Hoff

As Bible teacher at Bethany from 1905 to 1928, E.B. Hoff was remembered for making short but pointed comments easily remembered by his students. His son and biographer, Ernest G. Hoff, explained that this was his gift, but a carefully disciplined one, for he often recorded in his notebooks the colorful xpressions as they occurred to him. Following are some of his best remembered sayings:

  • A good cry of penitence yields a good crop of trust.
  • Not many of us are good enough to have enemies.
  • Some sermons are mostly introduction with nothing to follow - big porch and little house.
  • Tithing is one tenth of what we should do.
  • The only church orgnization that Jesus had was one hub and twelve spokes.
  • You can't understand unless you have a place to stand.
  • If a Christian is a farmer, every cow should bawl for the kingdom of God, every sheep should bleat for the kingdom, and every pig should squeal for it.
  • Some people are more sheep-wise or hog-wise than otherwise.
  • Boil down your writing until it makes good thick molasses; at least, if you can't make crystals.
  • If your theology doesn't fit the Bible, you had better change your theology.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

from E.G. Hoff biography of E. B. Hoff

Thursday, October 02, 2008

E.B. Hoff

Emanuel Buechley Hoff (1860-1928) was born near Smithville, Ohio into a Brethren family and the Chippewa congregation which would, a few years later, see the birth of A.C. Wieand. Many years later, E.B. Hoff and A.C. Wieand would become the founders of Bethany Bible School.

In the early 1860s the Hoff family would move to Iowa and in 1877 E.B. Hoff was baptized. From 1883 to 1886 he attended Mt. Morris College. The Hoff family, unlike most farm families of the day, had a large library and a certain reputation for eccentricity. The South Waterloo congregation where Hoff was called to ministry had a reputation for innovation. In 1870 the congrregation hosted the first Annual Meeting held west of the Mississippi River.

In 1886, following graduation from Mount Morris College, Hoff engaged in local ministry near South Waterloo which had experienced a split in 1883 reflecting the division in the larger denomination as some members left to create a Progressive Brethren church. Five years later, following the death of his young wife, Hoff relocated to McPherson, Kansas where he first met A.C. Wieand. Here he was re-married and from 1895-1897 served the Des Moines, Iowa congregation while his wife practiced medicine.

In 1897 he enrolled at the University of Chicago and in 1899 was called to head the Bible department at Manchester College. During 1901-02, he traveled with A.C. Wieand to Europe and Palestine. In 1903 he took charge of the Hastings Street Mission in Chicago and continued his education at the University of Chicago. In October 1905, Hoff and Wieand founded Bethany Bible School where he was Bible teacher until his death in 1928.

It was the belief of E.B. Hoff that "our teaching and preaching are inspired only when they are in line with Bible truth."

Tomorrow: Best remembered sayings of E.B. Hoff

Sources: Bethany Theological Seminary: A Centennial History, William Kostlevy
The Brethren Encyclopedia

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Howard Pyle Meets the Brethren

Howard Pyle was an American Illustrator and writer, often called the "father of American illustration." His 1883 classic, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, remains in print to this day and his four-volume set on King Arthur cemented his reputation. He wrote over two hundred texts and and published more than three thousands illustrations.

In 1894 he began teaching illustration and in 1900 he founded his own school of art and illustration. Among his many famous students was N.C. Wyeth. Among his pictures are some drawings of a Brethren love feast, an aged couple and a young couple on the way to worship and individual pictures of sisters at worship.

The drawings of the Brethren were published in 1889, along with an article of the Brethren as a young writer at the age of 27 for Harper's Magazine. The assignment by his editor to spend some time among the Pennsylvania Dutch and initially viewed with some apprehension. Pyle confessed in a letter to his fiancee that he was at first put off by the German Baptist Brethren, but soon learned that they were "smarter than they looked."

In his article he described the Brethren as follows:

Here on meets the Dunker per se in every by-road and lane - men with long beards and flowing hair parted in the middle. At the farm-houses are pleasant, matronly faces, stamped with humility and gentleness, with an air of almost saintly simplicity is given by the clear-starched cap, the hankerchief crossed on the breast; the white apron, and the plain gray or drab stuff of the dresses.

The style of living of these good people, their manners and customs, are of the most primitive type. Their aim is to imitate the early Christians in their habits of life as well as in their religious tenets. There is absolutely no distinction of caste among them.

... Their dress is of the simplest description, quaint and old-fashioned in its cut; they offer no resistance to injuries; they observe no conformity with the world and its manners and customs; they refuse to take oaths in courts of law.... They are called Dunkers ... They also sometimes call themselves "God's Peculiar People."

Sources: Wikipedia, Howard Pyle

The Brethren Encyclopedia

Harper's Magazine