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