Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sawquehenna, the White Lily

At the 1922 Annual Meeting, M.G. Brumbaugh told the story of "Sawquehenna, the White Lily," the name given by American Indians to a Martin family child who was captured during the French and Indian War.

She soon forgot her native language and grew up as an American Indian. Sixteen years later, the girl was one of 125 white children released from captivity and returned to Pennsylvania where they hope to find their families.

Among those seeking work of their children was Sawquehenna's mother. Unable to recognize her daughter in any other way, she sang a Pennsylvania German melody that the girl remembered. In this manner they were reunited.

Source: Sawquehenna, the White Lily, by W.O. Beckner, Gospel Messenger, 1922

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Margaret Replogle

Pearl Hanawalt tells the story of Margaret Replogle in a privately printed history of the Hanawalt family.

Margaret Replogle, a girl of fifteen, was siezed by American Indians in 1766 while attending a husking bee near her home in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Margaret dropped patches from her handkerchief and apron along the way, but the trail was lost, and she lived with her captors for seven years.

Margaret was then sold to the French who turned her over to the English at Detroit where she was set free. She walked all the way back to her Pennsylvania home, where her parents had almost lost hope of seeing her again.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mary Ingles

Rolland Flory in his book, Lest We Forget and Tales of Yesteryears, recounts the story of a farmer's wife captured by the Shawnee Indians. In July 1755 during the wheat harvest in a fertile valley near Blacksburg, Virginia, the Shawnee Indians captured Mary Ingles and took her with them to a Shawnee settlement in Ohio.

There Mary was purchased by Indian hunters who took her to Kentucky. Mary was able to escape into the forest and found her way back to Ohio and later in mid-winter she arrived home to be reunited with her family.

Although Mary Ingles likely was not Brethren, her family was closely associated with German Baptists, both from the Ephrata group and the Germantown group who lived on the frontier. Her story, based on records kept by early settlers, is the subject of a popular novel, Follow the River, by James Alexander Thom.

Source: Preaching in a Tavern, by Kenneth Morse

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sander Mack

Alexander Mack, Jr. was the oldest of three sons born to Alexander and Anna Margaret Mack. He was born in Schwarzenau, Germany on January 25, 1712 and moved with his family at the age of 17 to Germantown where he learned the weaver's trade. He was successful and widely known for the stockings, caps and skirts he manufactured. He lived exceedingly simple, had few wants to supply and saved as much as possible.

He was a strong man and it is said that at the age of 82, walked 10 miles on a particular day.

Upon the arrival of his family in Germantown, he was known as a spirited preacher on Sunday afternoons to the unmarried people in the congregation. Following the death of his father in 1736 Sander, as he preferred to be called, was greatly depressed. At this time he was greatly influenced by one Stephen Koch and joined with him in establishing a small monastery on Wissahickon. A couple of years later he joined the Ephrata Society.

But all did not go well at Ephrata and after a tension and rivalry grew in the Society, Mack left with several others on a long journey hoping absence would help relieve the situation. However, upon their later return to Ephrata they found the trouble no less.

By 1748 Mack had lived in Germantown long enough to win the confidence of the people and he was appointed, along with Cristopher Saur, to provide oversight for the congregation on a trial basis. Five years later in 1753 they were ordained bishops. Mack was an unusually good bishop and served the church in this capacity for fifty years.

In 1749 at the age of 37 he was married to Elizabeth Nice. They had two sons and six daughters.

His writing ministry was stronger than his preaching ministry and more of his writings have been preserved than any other member of the early church. His preserved letters provide us with the ideals and spirit of the church of that day. He was also among the best poets and hymn writers of the early church. His last "Birthday Hymn" was written on this date, January 28, in 1802. As translated from German, it reads:

Before the mountains were made
And the world was created,
God loved the gates of Zion,
Just as now and forevermore.
And out of pure loving
He has written us in the book of life
Whoever signs his name thereto,
Will remain in blessed state.

"The poor pilgrim whom the mercy of God has sustained unto his 90th year has written this yet with his own hand. Sander Mack

Source: Some Who Led by D.L. Miller & Galen B. Royer

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Church That Wouldn't Give Up

The Union Church in Northern Indiana is an example of a congregation that wouldn't give up. The church was organized in 1858 by a group of 40 people in Marshall County who took turns hosting meetings in their homes and barns. The first meeting house was built in 1871 southwest of Plymouth. The congregation grew rapidly and established a mission point in Starke County which was organized as a congregation in 1895 but was closed in 1955. A second new congregation was established in Plymouth.

There was a major loss of members in the 1890s when a number of families emigrated to the North Dakota area. Another rapid decline took place during the 1920s. Most of the members had been farmers and they began to move in large numbers to Plymouth and South Bend. The decline was so great that the congregation was disbanded in 1929.

The empty church building was maintained and used for occasional gatherings, however by 1946 it had been decided to sell the property at auction. The night before the auction, a group of persons who wanted to keep the building and reopen it as a church ... but it was too late to call off the auction.

It was agreed to split the land and the building so that they would be sold separately. Most bidders were interested in the land. The building was auctioned first and sold to the group who wanted to reopen the church. This made the land worth very little to the other bidders and the Union group was then able to purchase the land as well.

While a new fellowship addition has been added, the original building has since been designated as a historical site in Marshall County.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land

Saturday, January 26, 2008

John T. Lewis

Mark Twain called him "the most picturesque of men" and "an inplacable Dunker-Baptist."

John T. Lewis was one of the few black members of the Brethren in the years before the Civil War, having united with the Pipe Creek church in Maryland in 1853, when he was eighteen years old.

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) had many reasons to admire Lewis, his friend for more than thirty years. Lewis had served as coachman for Clemen's father-in-law and was later a tenant farmer near Elmira, New York where the famous writer spent many summers. On August 23, 1877, Lewis saved the lives of Clemens' sister-in-law, her young daughter and a nurse when a runaway horse dragged their carriage dangerously downhill toward a turn in the road. Clemens, in a letter to a friend, describes how Lewis gathered his vast strength and ... seized the gray horse's bit as he plunged by and fetched him up standing!

The rewards that John Lewis received for his courageous act enabled him to pay off his debts and help his father who still lived in Maryland. Writing in a letter of thanks, Lewis said, Inasmuch as divine providence saw fit to use me as an instrument for the saving of those presshious lives, the honner conferd upon me was greater than the feat performed."

John Lewis also played a role in returning to the Antietam congregation in Maryland the large, leather-bound pulpit Bible that had been donated by the Daniel Miller family. The church was at the center of the battlefield in 1862 and used as a hospital for the wounded. After the battle, the Bible was taken from the church by a soldier who took it to New York. Later a group purchased the Bible in order to return it to the church.

John Lewis was for many years the only Brethren living in central New York and he arranged the return of the Bible to Antietam forty-one years after its disappearance.

In preparing his own obituary, Lewis observed that though he had long been cut off geographically from the church, he had tried to be faithful to the New Testament and order of the Brethren.

Source: Preaching in a Tavern, Kenneth Morris

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mattie Dolby

Martha (Mattie) Cunningham Dolby was a native of Indiana who struggled to work for the church against great odds -- she was a woman and she was black.

She was born in 1878 to parents who were both baptized German Baptist Brethren. Mattie was baptized at age 16. After graduating from high school and inspite of strong opposition of her father, she enrolled at Manchester College in 1900. She and her brother Joe cooked and ate their meals off campus during the first year because of prejudice. In the second year, however, fellow student Otho Winger organized a group which supported Mattie and Joe and made them feel welcome in the college dining rooms.

After graduating in 1903, Mattie joined an effort sponsored by the General Mission Board to start a new church among the Afro-American people in Palestine, Arkansas. After the first year, death resulted in her alone providing leadership to the new church. She worked tirelessly to organize a Sunday School and to raise funds for a new church building. However, it was malaria and ill health which forced her to leave this ministry in 1906 and move to Southern Ohio to work among several black congregations there. It was there she was elected to the ministry and installed in a ceremony December 30, 1911. She also met and married Newton Dolby in 1907.

A family move to Urbana, Illinos eventually resulted in Mattie's ministry being lost to the Brethren. They commuted 24-miles round trip each week for 7 years to attend a Brethren congregation until after a change of administration they were made to feel unwelcome and Mattie eventually served a Methodist Church as a minister for nine years.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Samuel Weir

Samuel Weir was born in Virginia in 1812 and at the age of 12 was sold as a slave to Andrew McClure. When the McClure's son was killed in a fall from his horse, the family vowed to change their way and to join the Brethren. The church refused to accept the McClure's because they owned a slave, and so they agreed to set Samuel free.

This so impressed Weir that he was drawn to the Lord and baptized into the fellowship of the Brethren in 1843 by Elder Peter Nead. Because their neighbors were so disturbed by Wier's release from slavery, the Brethren decided to escort him north for his own safety. He was taken to Southern Ohio, where he was accepted into the home of Thomas and Sarah Major, one of the early families to settle in that region.

Weir was elected to the ministry in 1849, even though some Brethren insisted his ministry be only among black people.

Source: A Self-Instruction Guide Through Brethren History, Donald E. Durnbaugh

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sarah Righter Major

James Quinter called her "a woman of energy and strong convictions ... a remarkable woman" who overcame the obstacles to become the first woman preacher among the Brethren.

After being converted under the preaching of Harriet Livermore in the Philadelphia congregation, Sarah experienced the call in her heart to preach. She suppressed it for a while and suffered such great distress of mind that her father persuaded her to open her heart to him. He sympathized with her call, and along with Peter Keyser, enabled her to overcome her fears and begin the work of witnessing. About that same time Brother Israel Poulson invited her to visit the Amwell NJ congregation where she spoke to the great edification of the congregation.

In 1834 the question of her preaching came before the Annual Conference, and the Conference responded: Concerning a sister's preaching, not approved of. Considered such sister being in danger, not only of exposing her own state of grace to temptation, but also causing temptations, discord, and dispute among other members. Several elders were appointed to silence her. However, after hearing her preach, one of them said, "I could not give my voice to silence someone who could out-preach me." Nevertheless, Sarah was never licensed or even authorized to do so by any congregation. She was simply tolerated. In certain congregations, permission was granted for her to preach, accompanied by her husband.

Henry Holsinger who had the experience of sharing the pulpit with Sarah in Philadelphia wrote of that experience, confessing his own prejudices against women preachers and the importance of accepting the ministry of one so gifted as Sarah Major.

Sarah Righter had great influence over her audiences, and when she became deeply interested in her subject, she grew eloquent. Her appeals were especially effectual to those of her own sex. Notwithstanding the strong prejudice against women preaching ... Sister Righter's extreme modesty and exemplary life subdued much of [the criticism]....

... It was my turn to preach in the forenoon, and I confess I was guilty of a feeling closely akin to humiliation, at the the thought of being in the same stand with a woman preacher. In the evening Sister Major preached, and I now humbly acknowledge that I was very much ashamed of myself and of my effort, but most of all I was dissatisfied with myself because of the prejudice confessed to above, but which I am thankful to have the assurance I had carefully concealed. She preached an excellent sermon. Her style was simple, her manner perfect, and every gesture in place.

Sarah devoted her life to preaching, caring for those in need, working for the release of slaves, and speaking out for the equality of women.

Sources: Preaching in a Tavern, Morse; Some who led. Miller and Royer;
A self-instruction Guide Through Brethren History, Donald Miller

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Harriet Livermore

Harriet Livermore was born the daughter of a New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice and former Congressman. Her grandfather was a United States Senator and Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court of Judicature. She was born an Episcopalian and later became a Congregationalist. She became one of the most well-known women preachers in America in the 1800s and is referred to in Whittier's poem Snow Bound. She travelled widely throughout America and four times to the Holy Land. Her message brought warmth and cheer to thousands.
During her travels she found great charm in the simple faith of the Brethren. She says, "I visited them and was pleased with their modest, humble appearance and behavior." In 1822 she says, "There was a whisper in my mind concerning baptism ..." The outcome was her immersion in the manner of the Brethren.

It is said that when Harriet came to Philadelphia, she was not welcomed by the more fashionable churches. Under the guise of hostility to women preachers she was refused admission to many pulpits. However Brother Peter Keyser of the Brethren Church in Philadelphia gave her the privilege to speak, her first sermon in that city. In the congregation was Sarah Righter (later to take on the married name of Sarah Major) whose heart was touched that day by the sermon. Sarah was converted, joined the church, and later became the first well-known Brethren female preacher.

By her own wish, Harriet Livermore was buried in the Brethren cemetary in Germantown in an unmarked grave with this caption: "All I crave is the pearly drop from Charity's meek eye to dim a little my numerous follies as I journey to my grave. And when laid there, let silence with my quiet dust reside, nor marble tell the passing traveller where the wandering pilgrim sleeps...."

Here among the Brethren of Germantown sleeps the body of Harriet Livermore "who abhorred evil more, loved righteousness more, journeyed more amid perils, suffered more, preached and prayed more, wrote more and wept more for Jesus than any other woman of whom we have a record." [Harriet Livermore, the Pilgrim Stanger].

Harriet Livermore, the wandering pilgrim, was influenced by the Brethren and touched the heart of one Sarah Righter Major who later would become a preacher to the Brethren in her own right.

Source: A History of the German Baptist Brethren by M.G. Brumbaugh

Monday, January 21, 2008

Preaching in a Tavern

Kenneth Morse began in 1943 and served a 35-year tenure on the Church of the Brethren denominational staff. He was a popular writer who served as editor of youth publications, The Gospel Messenger (renamed Messenger during his tenure), and hymn-writter (including Move in Our Midst).

His 1997 book Preaching in a Tavern, published by Brethren Press, includes 130 real-life anecdotes about Brethren. Since it is an important sourcebook for many of these daily writings, I thought you might enjoy the anecdote from which the book takes its title.

George Price and several other Brethren ministers were visiting congregations in western Pennsylvania in the early 1800s. Seeking a night of rest, they found overnight lodging at a tavern, but the proprietor warned them that a dance scheduled for that night, predictably accompanied by loud music and boisterous behavior, might disturb them. Learning that the next inn was seven miles distant, the ministers decided to stay and "sleep through it."

When the leader of the dance expressed eagerness to meet the preachers and arranged for his friends to come along to meet with Price and his companions, the conversation proved so interesting that the dance was postponed and George Price was encouraged to preach to this impromptu congregation in the tavern.

J.E. Miller, who recounts the story [The Story of Our Church], concludes, "Thus it came to pass that those who came to fiddle and dance heard a Dunker preach and pray."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Alexander Mack Seal

The Alexander Mack Seal is well-know Brethren symbol with a variety of variations that have been published in a variety of Brethren publications. It remains unclear whether the original seal was that of Alexander Mack Sr. or Alexander Mack Jr. The original seal itself has never been found but an impression showing its design and symbolism was found in the old Germantown Church in Pennsylvania.

George Falkenstein, at one time a pastor of that church, tells about the discovery and offers an interpretation of its symbolism in his History of the Germantown Baptist Brethren Church in 1901:

The Brethren Church of Germantown has an interesting collection of old parchment deeds. While we were examining these documents from their historic interest, Mr. Julius F. Sachse discovered the impress of Mack's seal accompanying an official signature. The impression is in red sealing wax and is in perfect condition. ... the seal consisted of several symbols each of which had religious significance. The entire combination constitutes a remarkable index to the character of its owner. In the center is the cross, which means sacrifice; the heart means devotion, and placed on the cross, further means sacrificed in devotion; the branches of the vine mean fruit-bearing. Thus the seal reads: a devoted, fruit-bearing sacrified life.

Source: Preaching in a Tavern by Kenneth I. Morse

Friday, January 18, 2008

Alexander Mack - Anna Margaret Kling Marriage

On January 18, 1701, Alexander Mack, age 21, and Anna Margaret Kling, age 20, were married in the village church by Pastor Louis Agricola.

William Willoughby in his book, The Life of Alexander Mack: Counting the Cost, suggests that their wedding may have been the social event of the year, for it united two of the most prestigious families of Schriesheim. Anna Margaret's grandfather had been a mayor of Heidelberg. Her father, John Valentine Kling, was a member of the Schriesheim town council and an elder in the church (Reformed Church). The Mack family owned and operated the village mill and vineyards and were also active in the Reformed Church of Schriesheim. Alexander's father also served as a member of the town council and as an elder in the church.

One wonders if the marriage had been in more recent years, what a wedding invitation might have look like:

The parents of
Anna Margaret Kling
Alexander Mack
invite you to a celebration of marriage
to be held
January 18, 1701
in the Reformed Church of Schriesheim
Pastor Louis Agricola

A Reception will follow.

Congratulations to Alexander and Anna Margaret today, January 18, 2008 on what would be the 307th Anniversary of your marriage.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Anna Margaret Kling Mack

As is true with many women of the period, little is recorded related to their early years that is not related to their fathers or their husbands. The same is true with Anna Margaret Kling.

Her great-grandfather Kling settled in Schriesheim in 1650 and married a wealthy heiress, who made it possible for him to invest in an inn. The Kling family has continued to be leaders in the same communities for over three centuries. Her father served as an elder in the Reformed Church and on the city council.

While little is known about Anna before her marriage to Alexander in 1701, we do know that she gave birth to five children, one of whom died in infancy. We also know that she shared an enthusiasm for Pietism with her husband and welcomed Bible study groups into her home on a regular basis.

Five years after her marriage to Alexander, moving into the mill and becoming an extended member of the Mack family, religious persecution would require her family to move to Schwarzenau in 1706. There she managed the household while her husband traveled extensively. In 1708 Anna Margaret (she shared the same name as Alexander's only living sister) was one of the original group of Brethren baptized in the Eder River.

In 1720 she and her family and other Brethren migrated to the Netherlands where she found the language unintelligible. She died within six months and her only daughter died within the following week.

Tomorrow we celebrate the anniversary of her marriage to Alexander, a marriage which would end with Anna Margaret's death less than 20 years later.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Alexander Mack - early years

In 1662 in Schriesheim, Germany, John Philip Mack was married to Christina Fillbrun and the young couple purchased a house in which to raise a family. In 1674 invading armies involved in the Dutch War of 1672-1679 harassed and looted the surrounding villages and a large portion of Schriesheim was burned. When the French army withdrew, a weary people under the leadership of Mayor George Mack (John's father) began to rebuild. In June 1679 John Philip Mack was able to re-purchase what had been the old family mill. A month after the purchase of the mill, the 8th of their 11 children was born. On July 27, 1679, their new-born son was taken to the Reformed Church where the new pastor, Louis Agricola baptized their son and christened him "Alexander" in honor of his godfather and uncle, Alexander Fillbrun.

As Alexander grew older, most of his friends were of the same church, for since the Reformation the population of Schriesheim had been primarily Reformed. The Mack family attended the church faithfully and Alexander was taught the doctrines of John Calvin and at age 13 he attended confirmation classes and memorized the Heidelberg catechism in preparation for his confirmation on Easter Sunday 1692.

As a boy, Alexander worked along with his brothers in the family mill and vineyards. The plans were that the older brothers would take over the mill and Alexander, the fourth son, would attend the university in Heidelberg; but that changed when his oldest brother died at age 24 and Alexander would now become a miller.

When Alexander was five, a new schoolmaster (Peter Ewald) was chosen who continued teaching until age 70. For eight years he served as Alexander's teacher of reading, writing, and arithmetic. When Alexander was eight years old the community welcomed a new set of cast bells to the city hall where his grandfather had served as mayor for 30 years. Another highlight of the family during Alexander's childhood years was the marriage of his only living sister. The Mack family was perhaps the wealthiest family in Schriesheim and were able to provide their daughter a very generous dowry.

Throughout his growing years, the community was often caught up in a variety of wars that moved through the area. By the time Alexander was 18, half of his life had been spent in war. When his brother just older than Alexander was married and chose to move out of the area, there were now two sons John Jacob and Alexander left to carry on the family business. Alexander was not wholeheartedly committed to being a miller. He experienced feelings of restlessness and did not have a rapport with his father or his brother and was searching for more than being a miller. He had a strong feeling of right and wrong and feelings or moral laxity within his own church. He was beginning to think of his own future and of marriage.

Tommorow we take up the story with that of Anna Margaret Kling, and the following day we celebrate the anniversary of their marriage.

Source: The Life of Alexander Mack: Counting the Cost by William G. Willoughby

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Martin Luther King Jr

Martin Luther King Jr never was a member of the Church of the Brethren but many members of the Church of the Brethren during the 1950s and 1960s were influenced by Dr. King's work for peace, justice, and racial equality.

Today, January 15, would have marked his 79th birthday. [Many persons do not know, however, that he was born Michael King, Jr. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929. His name (and his father's name) was changed in 1933 to Martin Luther King, Jr. at the request of his dying grandfather.)

My most vivid memory is when Dr. King came to Manchester College and spoke in chapel on February 1, 1968. There was a great deal of hatred directed against Manchester College in 1968 when the community learned that Dr. King would be coming to campus. FBI agents reported that death threats had been made (King would be assassinated two months later in Memphis), and security from the airport to the College and at the College was extremely high.

As a college freshman, I was not fully aware of all the related drama but I was present and can still remember the impact of his dramatic speech, "The Future of Integration," and still have a printed copy of the speech.

Much has happened in the past forty years, some that would please Dr. King if he lived today and some, I fear, that would continue to frustrate him. Long before Martin Luther King, Jr., generations of Brethren worked for peace and justice and even in a more limited way for racial equality. On this anniversary of Dr. King's birth, and in the midst of the Church of the Brethren 300th anniversary year, let us continue to “hew out of mountains of despair a stone of hope ... (and) transform the dangling discord of our cities into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood (and sisterhood).”

Monday, January 14, 2008

Coquille Valley, Oregon

In 1872 three Brethren families moved from Iowa to the Coquille Valley in Oregon. The church they established in the Valley immediately began to reach out for new members and by 1894 had twelve preaching points. The Barklow family was one of the pioneer families and this letter was sent by the Barklows to the Christian Family Companion January 14, 1873.

After twelve days' travel, we arrived within twenty miles of the place where we wished to settle, and the way would not admit a wagon any farther ... There we remained for three days, while we prepared one-horse sleds, suitable to pass on a trail, by which we conveyed our goods through a dense forest of fir and cedar, over a small mountain, cutting our way through, and bridging logs by throwing smaller logs against them, so that a beast could pass over. In this way we worked through to the Coquelle River, the distance of eight miles .... After being here a short time, we notified the people that there would be preaching in the grove a short distance from our houses, on the coming Sabbath, where there assembled a good and attentive congregation .... We think, the Lord willing, churches will spring up in Oregon.

Source: Preaching in a Tavern, Kenneth I. Morse

Sunday, January 13, 2008

First Brethren Hymnal

The first Brethren hymnal is a 1720 volume of which only five copies are known to exist.

1720 is only twelve years after the first baptisms and the birth of the new church in Schwarzenau, Germany. The hymn book was printed at Berleburg, near Schwarzenau, and contains German texts of hymns then being sung by separtist and pietist groups in Europe. It also contains a few hundred new hymns apparently written by Brethren. The preface to the hymnal explains that some worshippers did not like having to choose from many different hymnals. The hymn book contains a hymn by Alexander Mack that continues to be sung by Brethren today: "Count Well the Cost." It also contains hymns that celebrate such specific Brethren practices as the love feast and feetwashing.

1720 was a year when two well-known German composers, Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frederick Handel, were both in their prime at age thirty-five. It is a time, especially in Germany, when baroque music is flourishing.

The 1720 hymnal, printed only twelve years after the beginning of the Brethren movement, is tangible evidence of the importance of hymn writing and hymn singing among Brethren.

Source: Preaching in a Tavern, by Kenneth I. Morse

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ocean Voyage

The Brethren who had their beginnings in Germany in the early 1700s soon began to migrate to America in search of religious freedom. Peter Becker led a small group to America in 1719 and under the leadership of Alexander Mack, a group of 59 families (126 persons) left Rotterdam on July 7, 1729 and landed at Philadelphia September 15, 1729.

Crossing the ocean in those days was perilous and many hardships were endured. The ships were overcrowded, there was no refrigeration and food was often scarce during the trip that lasted some 70 days. Dean Henry in A History of the West Goshen Church 1830-1980, shares an interesting account of one such trip copied from the Brethren's Family Almanac of 1890.

In the year 1730, when our brethren fled from Creyfield to seek asylum from their cruel persecutors in our highly favored America, they embarked from Friesland in a large Flemish vessel with several hundred passengers on board. When about midway on the mighty ocean a tremendous storm arose, so furious and of such long continuance, that all hopes were given up for lost. For the sea became so boisterous that waves were piled upon waves mountain high and threatened every moment to swallow up their frail barge.

The sails being all lowered and much of the merchandise had already been thrown overboard, but all was apparently of no avail, until almost overcome with grief and on the point of despair, the captain happened to come down into the hold of the ship which was occupied by the brethren, (their poverty forbidding them better accommodations) when lo! he beheld the little band of brethren all united together in a company and fervently engaged with singing and praying!

The captain was so struck on beholding their calmness and the pious serenity of their minds, that he was moved to the shedding of tears; but went immediately back again and began to admonish the consternated crew, as he no longer feared being lost - for he found that he had such pious men on board, that the Almighty would not for their sakes permit them to perish in the deep - which inspired them with such confidence in the Almighty's protection, that they soon became calm and composed, the fury of the storm also abated; the sea soon became calm; and the rest of the passage was completed without any further indications of danger.

The storms that face the Brethren today are different than those facing the brethren on the 70-day ocean voyage to America in 1730, but maybe a uniting together in fervent prayer and singing would do us as much good as it did our ancestors in the faith.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Elder Samuel Murray - Part 2

As noted yesterday Samuel Murray was a Brethren minister who moved to Indiana in 1851 at the age of 45. We are fortunate that a portion of his autobiography was quoted and preserved in the 1917 edition of History of the Church of the Brethren in Indiana by Otho Winger.

We learned yesterday that Murray had seven different preaching points within a 30-square-mile territory. Today we discover how difficult traveling could be for ministers in those days.

... I often had my hat brushed off of my head and nearly filled with snow. Of course I had to get off in the snow to get it, then get on my horse and go on, thanking the Lord it was no worse. I well remember one Sunday morning I started for an appointment some eight miles distant. I soon got to a large pond with a thin plate of ice on it. I knew it was not safe to venture in with a horse, so I had to go around through the woods; did not go far till I had my hat brushed off again. Of course I got off and got it again. The brush was full of snow. I often had to put my head down as far as I could and hold my hat with one hand; in this condition I crossed my path, a deep snow being on the ground, and the sky full of dark clouds. I got lost and could not tell where I was.

I kept straight on and finally came to a very high fence around a small field. I noticed a cabin on the other side of the field; I got off in the snow, laid down the fence, got the horse over, then put it up; got on my horse and rode across the field, then had another fence to lay down and put up. I got on my horse and rode up to the cabin and called. The wife came to the door. I said, "
Can you tell me the road to the Baptist meetinghouse?" She said, "Back there." I looked around. I then discovered I had not got very far from home.

... I then soon struck through the woods, hoping to strike my path, and did. I took my path again and finally got to a creek which I had to cross. It was so high I could not possibly ford it. I went down the creek to the first house and found the mother of the family at home. I asked where the men were and she said, "They are over at the churchhouse." I asked how they got over. She said there was a high foot-log; if I thought I could walk it. I could put my horse in the stable and go over. I did so, and when I got over I found the house pretty well filled with attentive hearers.

Today we would likely have just called and cancelled worship services for the day. But in 1851 there was no instant communication and we give thanks for the commitment of men like Samuel Murray who traveled on poorly marked paths in all sorts of weather to preach the Gospel to a church house filled with attentive listeners. Give thanks, even today, for those who go beyond the call of duty for Christ and the Church.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Elder Samuel Murray - Part 1

On Saturday evening, March 31, 1906, Elder Samuel Murray closed his earthly pilgrimage at the home of his son in Indianapolis. The next day was to have been a celebration of his 100th birthday. He had hoped to live to see that day and to preach a sermon, short though it would be.

Samuel Murray was born in Huntington County, Pennsylvania. At the age of 12 he moved with his parents to Southern Ohio, traveling by wagon to Pittsburgh and then by flat boat to Cincinnati, and again by wagon to their new home. Six years later his father died, leaving Samuel to provide for his mother and siblings. He learned and carpenter trade and the milling business. He was married 5 times, four of his wives died after only a couple of years.

While living in Ohio, Murray was elected a deacon, and three years later was called to the ministry. In 1851 he moved to Miami County, Indiana. There was no church there but under his leadership a church was organized and it is said that wherever he went his missionary zeal led a great increase in the church, his appeals to sinners were strong and effective.

From his autobiography, quoted in Otho Winger's History of the Church of the Brethren in Indiana, Murray describes some information from his first work in the ministry in Indiana: "I soon had a circuit of about thirty miles square. The country was new, much more wild and uncleared land than cleared. The woods were very thick with brush and undergrowth; many places the roads were very bad ... Our travelling all had to be done afoot or on horseback. I had seven different points to preach at."

Elder Samuel Murray was but one of many who brought the Gospel and the Church of the Brethren into Indiana in its early days. Tomorrow we will learn a bit more of the experience of this early Indiana minister.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Goshen Conference - January 9, 1918

Northern Indiana was in the midst of a cold spell on January 9, 1918 (an official record low of -24 degrees was set three days later). That month is still on record for one of the greatest snow accumulations in history. Meanwhile, a special Annual Meeting for the Church of the Brethren was held that day in Goshen, Indiana. The purpose was to speak Peace to the government.

When the United States entered World War I, a military draft was instituted. Brethren who held to the traditional values of peace and nonviolence were suddenly the object of severe persecution. Those who refused to serve in the military were imprisoned, and those who were inducted into the military were often the object of threats and derision if they made their objections known. The special conference was called for January 9 at the Goshen City Church of the Brethren to deal with this problem.

The result was a resolution approved by the delegates that became known as the "Goshen Statement." It affirmed the traditional Brethen position on peace and military service and was sent to President Woodrow Wilson and other government officials. The delegates also appointed a Central Service Committee to deal with peace concerns and a Committee for Relief and Reconstruction.

Official government reaction was swift and harsh. Officers of the special meeting and authors of the Goshen Statement were threatened with prosecution for sedition by the War Department. Efforts to reach a compromise were unsuccessful and after a great deal of prayer and consideration, the members of the General Service Committee agreed to withdraw the Goshen Statement from circulation and affirmed their loyalty to the U.S. government.

This experience led the Brethren to join other historic peace churches in lobbying the government for recognition of their religious objection to military service. By the time the draft was instituted again for World War II, there was official recognition for conscientious objector service.

Resource: Planting the Faith In A New Land: Church of the Brethren in Indiana

Ninety years later, the Church of the Brethren continues to hold an official position which states: "We believe that war or any participation in war is wrong and incompatible with the spirit, example, and teachings of Jesus Christ" (1918). "It is our conviction as humble followers of Christ, that all war is sin. We cannot therefore encourage, engage in, or willingly profit from armed conflict at home or abroad. We cannot, in the event of war, accept military service or support the military machine in any capacity" (1934).

January 9, 2008. Have you taken the opportunity to speak a word of peace to the government today?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Peter Keyser

Leadership of the early Brethren include some familiar names: Alexander Mack, his son Alexander Mack, Jr., Peter Becker, and the two Christopher Saurs to name a few early leaders.

And then there was Peter Keyser who was elected to the ministry by the Germantown Church in 1788 and served the congregation for 61 years and the elder and leader of the church for 47. He was a man of great physical strength and a natural athlete. He was capable of an immense amount of work and study. He was a tanner until 1794 when he moved to Philadelphia and established a wholesale lumber business.

Peter was a public-spirited man and served as a member of the Philadelphia Board of Health, inspector and treasurer of the prison, and the first director and controller of the city public schools. He could speak equally well in English and German and was considered one of the great preachers of his day.

As a young man he was put to work grinding bark for his father's tannery and, eager to learn the scriptures, he prepared a shelf over his work on which he placed an open Bible. So he began his practice of memorizing long sections of scripture. Over a period of years he completely memorized the New Testament and major portions of the Old Testament.

Later in life, Keyser became blind but that was no handicap for the preacher who could announce a chapter and repeat it from memory without missing a word. People who knew him often said that if the Scriptures were destroyed by accident, Peter Keyser could replace them from memory.

Perhaps in memory of Peter Keyser, you would like to memorize a verse or two today and throughout this 300th Anniversary year.

Monday, January 07, 2008

John Naas

Kenneth Morse puts it this way in the book Preaching in a Tavern (Brethren Press, 1997): The John Naas story has been told so often that it seems to be more of a legend than an actual story. Although no documentation has yet been discovered, it is so consistent with records about John Naas that Brethren have been inclined to take it as part of their heritage.

Brethren are perhaps most familiar with John Naas through the children's book The Tall Man as written by Dorothy Brandt Davis (Brethren Press, 1963). But the story has been told in a variety of ways over the year.

John Naas was a leader of the brethren church in Germany, first in the Marienborn area by 1714. When the Brethren were expelled in 1715, the Naas family moved to Krefeld where Naas was also an elder of the congregation. As noted yesterday, he and Christian Liebe shared leadership in Krefeld for a period of time until they came to a disagreement and Naas withdrew and eventually came to America.

While in Krefeld, Naas would make evangelistic tours of the surrounding area. According to the stories shared, it was on one such journey that a Naas - a big, strong man - was approached by a recruiter for the King of Prussia to be a part of the army or as a personal bodyguard to the king.

The story goes on to suggest that when Naas refused, he was captured and tortured - even to being hung by a toe and thumb. Still he refused to enlist. When taken before the king, Naas explained that he had already enlisted in the service of the Prince of Peace.

Whether the story of John Naas refusal to serve the King of Prussia is legend or reality, Naas was certainly a leader in the service of his king.

Doesn't it make you wonder what stories, or legends, might be told of you in another 300 years?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Christian Liebe

Date: January 6, 1714

Place: Bern, Switzerland

Christian Liebe was a young man and an active Pietist in October 1708 when he and his mother settled in the Marienborn area of Germany and joined the Brethren. Liebe traveled in early January of 1714 to Bern, Switzerland to minister to Brethren who were living there. The timing of his visit, however, was not good. The Bern City Council was involved in an active suppression of Anabaptists.

When Liebe was arrested, he admitted that his purpose was to minister, to give comfort, and to baptize even though these activities were expressly forbidden. The council decided to make an example of Liebe and some other Anabaptist ministers by sentancing them to life imprisonment on the galleys.

Liebe was sentanced on this day, January 6, 1714 for practicing his beliefs.

Because of winter conditions, Liebe was kept in a prison with 90 other criminals through the winter until it became feasible to transport them to a ship flying the flag of Sicily. Two of the Swiss Brethren who were also sentanced died during the winter months in prison.

Finally, after a harrowing ordeal lasting two years, in which two of the five ministers died, Liebe and the others were released in the spring of 1716. After his release, Liebe made his way to Krefeld where he shared leadership of the congregation with John Naas until they had a sharp disagreement and Nass withdrew. Liebe, who took a more rigorous position on church discipline, tried unsuccessfully to continue leadership to the once flourishing congregation.

We learn from Christian Liebe that conflict exists, both between the church and state and between church leaders. On this January 6, 2008 may we remember one who was sentanced to prison and life on the galleys. May we pray for wisdom as we provide leadership in the church that disagreements might be reconciled without destroying the congregation.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Reuel Pritchett

Reuel Pritchett was born in Tennessee in 1884 and elected to the ministry in 1908, the year the Church of the Brethren changed its name from German Baptist Brethren in its 200th year. Pritchett would serve in ministry in Tennessee his whole life until his death shortly before his 90th birthday. By his own confession, he was a unique person: God makes each of us individual if we don't stifle it, and I've tried not to.

Pritchett was a storyteller and collected many of his observations and remembrances in a book titled, Ground Floor of Heaven. Among his observations are these:

On preaching: Your message should be fundamental, historical, philosophical, and biblical. Begin. Be brief. Be seated.

On enjoying life: A man who's a Christian isn't dragging his face; he enjoys all the cinnamon, pepper, and syrup of life.

Pritchett was a member of the Knob Creek Church of the Brethren where he was baptized, elected a deacon, minister, and elder. He describes the Knob Creek church as the hub of the whole county with the largest crowds in the area. He describes many outstanding preachers at Knob Creek during his boyhood, including H. C. Early who preached a revival when Reuel was eight years old. He describes a day book in which he set down the scriptures he preached on and some of the subjects.

Baptism, however, came later. Pritchett writes: It went along until C.H. Diehl, a Tennessean, a good man but not a big preacher, was holding a revival. On the night of January 5, I was strangely moved. He preached a powerful sermon, I thought; it went through me. ... It raised me. I walked down the aisle and gave an old saint my hand, and six others with me did the same. That was in the old log church on Knob Creek in 1900.

January 5, 1900. Reuel Pritchett was strangely moved. May God's spirit move in and through you wherever you are on this night, January 5, 2008.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Christopher Sauer, Sr.

Often times we can learn a lot about an individual from something they have written or spoken.

Soon after coming to America Christopher Sauer, Sr. wrote to his friends in Schwarzenau about life in the new world. To those who desired to undertake the long voyage to America he had some words of advise.

If, as it seems, some of you plan to migrate here, it is hard for me to advise you. The country is very good, to be sure, but if a person is discontented he is badly off no matter where he is. Whenever one communes within himself, and seeks heaven in himself, he has made the right move. On the other hand, when he retains the world within himself and seeks still more outside himself, he loses God and Christ, heaven and salvation. If I had known the goodness and love of God before, and about the world, myself, and what all lives within me and is capable of living there, I would not have moved one step away in order to have a better life, until I was persecuted. I do not regret, nevertheless, that I migrated here, now that I am here. (Durnbaugh, European Origins of the Brethren, pp. 35-36)

Source: A Self-Instruction Guide Through Brethren History, Donald E. Miller

In these days of immigration debate, let us give thanks for ancestors in the faith who immigrated to this land many years ago, and remember that if we cannot be content we who we are, wherever we are, we may not be content with who we are someplace else.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Mary Brumbaugh

When the early Brethren settled on the frontier of a New Land, life was difficult. Many of the stories that have been passed on to us record the struggles of life from the perspective of the male/husband/father in the family. One of my favorite books of "Brethren" stories includes some stories that are not often told: She Hath Done What She Could by Pamela Brubaker.

The following brief account of Mary Brumbaugh in Morrison's Cove, Pennsylvania is one example.

It seems that while going for the cows one evening, Mary became lost in the woods. Wolves approached as night fell. Mary climbed a tree to escape them and spent the night there. The next morning she found her way home to her family, which included a nursing baby.

It seems that Mary represents countless numbers of women in the early days of the church who were partners with their husbands and families in building homes on the new frontier. They faced daily challenges while providing a home and raising a family.

May we always remember to give thanks for the sisters among the Brethren.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Ernest Christoph Hochman von Hochenau

Among the most influential individuals in the early formation of the group that came to be known as Brethren was Ernest Christoph Hochman von Hochenau who became the most virulent spokesman for the Separtist wing of the Pietist movement in the early 1700s. Influenced by Gottried Arnold and Hermann Franke, Hochman gave up a promising law career to become an itinerant preacher traveling the European countryside. He was a persuasive preacher who roamed the countryside preaching to both nobleman and commoner alike the power of the Gospel. His message that the only true church was a spiritual one that was separated from the organized church and governmental influence was one that resulted in his frequent arrest and expulsion by the three state churches.

Hochman had a powerful influence on both Alexander Mack and Peter Becker, early Brethren leaders. Mack invited Hochman in 1706 to visit Schriesheim, Germany and the mill he operated to meet with a small group of friends for bible study and prayer. Local officials broke up the meeting threatening to have them arrested. Mack in turned moved to the village of Schwarzenau where he found more freedom to worship outside the established state churches.

Mack also joined Hochman briefly in 1707 for a preaching tour to encourage the Pietists that took them near Switzerland. When Hockman was arrested and imprisoned, the Pietists in Schwarzenau looked to Mack for leadership. In 1708 when a small group led by Mack decided to be rebaptized in violation of state law, they turned to Hochman for counsel who suggested that they "count well the cost."

As a condition for release from the prison of Detmold Castle, Hochman was required to state in writing his religious beliefs. This Detmold Confession provides us a clearer understanding of many of the beliefs of the early Brethren. It shows his belief in an almighty omnipresent God to whom we must humbly submit ourselves. He speaks clearly that baptism is for adults and not for children, that Christ is the head of the church and that we must follow in deed and truth.

However, Mack and Hochman differed on one major belief. Hochman did not believe it necessary to have an organized church while Mack and his followers chose to follow a New Testament model of an organized church.

Hochman spent the latter years of his life in quiet retreat in Schwarenau, living in a simple hut and visiting those seeking spiritual counsel. He died in early January 1721. In the months before his death Mack and the Schwarzenau congregation numbering about 200 moved to Holland on their way eventually to the New Land in America, where Peter Becker had led an earlier emigration the previous year.

Ernest Christoph Hochman von Hochenau, a spiritual counselor to the early Brethren.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Christian Hope

What a name for a church leader: Christian Hope.

On January 1, 1876, at the age of 31, Christian Hope became the first Brethren sent by the church in the United States as a missionary to another country, sent by the district of Northern Illinois to Denmark.

Christian Hope was born in Denmark where he was educated for ministry in the Lutheran Church. However when he became outspoken in his opposition to the state church and joined the Baptists, he suffered persecution and imprisonment in Denmark. At the age of 25 he immigrated to the United States, seeking a church that practiced what the Bible taught. A few years later he found the Brethren in Illinois where he was baptized in 1874 and elected to the ministry in 1875.

While still a young man, married with a growing family that would eventually number twelve children, he returned to Denmark to establish a Brethren mission point. He spent ten years in mission work in Denmark, including a brief effort in southern Sweden, before returning to the United States in 1886.

He spent time working with Scandinavian immigrants in Kansas and traveled extensively, including three return trips to Brethren mission churches in Scandinavia, promoting Brethren mission before his death at the age of 54 while on a mission tour of Texas.

Christian Hope was the first Brethren missionary and became a tireless worker for the kingdom of God, remembered for his humility, optimism, and abiding confidence in God.

Christian Hope remembered on January 1, the anniversary of the 1st Brethren Missionary Journey. May the optimism and hope of Christian Hope become our hope through out this year.

Reference: The Brethren Encyclopedia