A TRIBUTE TO MY FATHER,

PASTOR RUDY H. GEHMAN

by Richard J. Gehman

June 2007

 

On a hot summer’s day on August 17, 1961, I was “trapped” in the suffocating oven of the Wheaton College library. The previous year I had completed my course work for the MA in New Testament. During the summer of 1961, I was diligently researching and writing my MA thesis. The library had been built for air-conditioning so none of the windows could be opened. But that summer the air-conditioning malfunctioned. As a result, I was completing my thesis in an undershirt and feeling most uncomfortable at my carousel on the second floor.

Late on the afternoon of 17th August the librarian notified me that someone was on the phone, wanting to speak to me. When I answered, I heard my mother’s voice speaking from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The sound of her voice indicated some problem. She then informed me that my father had just died in his “study” at home!

What a bomb shell. “My father is dead?” I asked in unbelief. Yes, he had just fallen over and was gone to glory. Instantly, my studies were dropped immediately and I returned immediately by airplane to Lancaster.  Horace Kauffman and Dick Matthews, both elders in the Lancaster Bible Fellowship Church, picked me up at the airport.

That last week my father was conducting Vacation Bible School in the Lancaster Bible Fellowship Church. The theme of the Vacation Bible School was, “Living by God’s Time.” Clocks were the motif throughout the week with topics of study including: “The great timekeeper,” “The gift of time,” “Now is the time,” “Wasted time,” “Prayer time,” and “The test of time.” The theme Bible verse for the week was Psalm 31:15, “My times are in Thy hands.” Another verse to be memorized was Psalm 90:12, “So teach us to number of our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” This biblical truth was God’s Word for me at that time of grieving, to remind me that God makes no mistakes and that his hand was in this time of sorrow.   

The night of the 17th was the closing exercises for Vacation Bible School. My mother was upstairs in the bedroom, preparing for the big occasion when many parents of the children would join together for the recitations and presentations of the closing night. My father was down stairs in his “study” also preparing. He had gathered many clocks from a jeweler to display as a visual object lesson of the theme for Vacation Bible School.

Suddenly, my mother heard a thump on the floor downstairs, so she called down to my dad; but there was no answer. She went downstairs to see what had happened. To her dismay, she found him lying on the floor dead. Shortly thereafter my mother’s brother, Allen G. Woodring, retired pastor of the BFC, and his wife, Hilda, arrived at our parsonage from their home in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, unaware of my dad’s sudden death. They were coming to attend the closing exercises in our church in Lancaster. My cousin, Leonard Woodring, a medical doctor from Wyomissing, was then called. For my father there was no suffering, no hospitalization, no anticipation of death, only a sudden translation from this life to glory. But for my mother and her son, there was the shock of disbelief and sorrow.

I had always loved, admired and respected my dad who was my great role model in childhood and youth. However, we soon moved on after his death, finishing my education, getting married, and serving the Lord in Kenya for thirty-six years. My mother moved to Reading to be near her brother, A.G. Woodring; and after his death, she went to live with Hilda Woodring, until she moved several years later into the Bible Fellowship Church Home in Nazareth, then to Fellowship Manor in Whitehall. Though not forgotten, we might say that my dad was in the back of my mind without much studied thought given to him.

Now in retirement, forty-five years later, I wish to offer a tribute to my dad.

When reviewing the last sermons that my dad preached, I found a separate piece of paper, tucked between the sermons, with an “Epitaph” which he copied with his own hand writing, presumably to be used in his last sermon.

“Pause here my friend as you go by,                                                                                                                                    As you are now so once was I.                                                                                                                                              As I am now, you soon shall be,                                                                                                                                           So prepare my friend to follow me.”                                                                                                                                      A passerby added this:                                                                                                                                                         “To follow you I’ll not be content until I know which way you went.”

To know “which way” he went, this tribute will point to his life and ministry so that we might be prepared to follow him. To understand my father one must understand his roots, his life and ministry, his preaching and teaching and his character.

 

 

 

MY FATHER’S ROOTS

Family Background of my Dad

Who was my father? What was he like? To understand him better we must understand his parents and his childhood rearing. Because my grandfather Gehman died when I was eight years old and my grandmother Gehman died when I was twelve, I do not remember many things about them, since we visited them only once a year. But my older cousins, who had lived near my grandparents in earlier years, knew them very well. On several visits with them in 2006, they were able to share many memories they recalled. Much of the following is attributed to them.[1]

My grandparents: My dad’s father, Joseph (“Joe”) H. Gehman, also known in the family as “Pappy Gehman,” was born August 19, 1866. He was tall and thin. Whenever people shook hands with him his hands were cold, but he would say, “Cold hands but a warm heart.” Pappy was of Swiss German stock and a descendant from Mennonite immigrants. He married Barbara Hollinger who was born on February 26, 1863. Both Pappy and Mammy Gehman were quiet but Pappy was the dominant figure in the home.

Mammy Gehman was “very quiet” in the words of my cousins. She did not talk much. In her old age she sat on a rocking chair in the front room in Denver with her head down.[2] She was more quiet, reserved and less assertive. Earlier on she had spent time quilting and made a patched quilt for each of her 37 grandchildren. Though quiet, she could be forthright and fearless when younger. To prepare a meal, she would go to the pen with chickens, pick one out, then grasp it and swing it around to make it dizzy. Then she would put the hen on a block of wood and cut off the head. After a meal with the guests, she would say, “Isn’t it time to wash the dishes?”[3] Following a custom, all of her children were given her maiden name, Hollinger. So my father was named, “Rudy Hollinger Gehman,” known in our church circles as “R.H. Gehman.”

My grandfather as an entrepreneur: Pappy Gehman was preeminently a business man of the first order. He was a “go getter.” Whenever he tried something, it worked. He was engaged in many things; he was a business man who pushed ahead. Pappy was always on his heels. “Let’s go to the garden,” he said to his grandson. He scratched around in the hole where he had buried apples in the ground over the winter and had the apples ready to eat in the spring.

At first Pappy and Mammy Gehman lived on his father’s farm near Adamstown, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, living with his parents where their first child, Lizzie, was born. When Mammy was about to deliver, Pappy quickly ran across the field barefoot in the month of September to call a doctor because Lizzie was about to be born; but in the process he froze his feet. Pappy was quick to do things.

Later he moved to a farm near Bowmansville in Lancaster County and worked as a farmer on “The Brossman Farm.”

But Pappy had a vision and was an entrepreneur. He saved enough money to buy a large farm of 120 acres nearby with a farmhouse and a barn. When Lizzie, his first born, got married, Lizzie and Peter lived together with her parents in the farmhouse for one year, while Pappy Gehman built another house and barn nearby within sight and calling distance. When completed, the Gehman family moved to the new house where my dad lived for twelve years. Pappy then rented the old farmhouse and barn to his son-in-law, Peter Martin, for 15-20 years. After many years, when Pappy got older, he subdivided the farm into two and sold the two properties. 

After selling the farm, he operated a shirt factory at Bowmansville from 1916-1921. There were 21 employees, including Pappy, a daughter and my dad. In 1921 Pappy Gehman moved to Adamstown for one year where he and my dad operated a feed mill.

Then in 1922 Pappy bought a red brick building with two stories in Denver, PA. On the ground floor he developed and managed a flour mill for 25-30 years. The flour mill was located alongside of the railroad tracks so that the flour could be easily shipped far and wide by train. This “Gehman Flour Mill” still thrives today, enlarged and prospering with the original red brick building still visible today alongside of the railroad track. Today there are large silos to store the flour and nearly a dozen tanker trucks into which the flour is poured instead of filling the sacks by hand. In Pappy Gehman’s day, they put the flour into sacks; and my uncle, Wayne Gehman, would throw these 100 pound sacks around quite easily. Not today. They use labor saving devices.

As Pappy began to age, he could not tolerate the dusty air in the flour mill, so he moved to the second floor of the mill and built furniture for sale. He took a great interest in different kinds of wood. He cut walnut wood, stacked it to dry, and made furniture from it. Across the street from the flour mill, he had a store to sell furniture and the picture frames he made. In my office in Florida I have two well crafted pieces of furniture that come from his hand.

Wayne Gehman, his son, first managed the business. The other two brothers, Monroe and my dad, also worked there. But one day Wayne fell backwards during work and fractured his back. He failed to get proper medical help. They tried to nurse him at home for a year. Eventually, when he returned to the doctor, he was sent to the hospital where they discovered that he had cancer. He died at the age of 39.

As my cousin said, “Pappy was no dumb head. He was not afraid to grab hold of things. He watched carefully. He was a businessman who pushed ahead.” He was also a keen observer. When Wayne, the manager of the flour mill, suddenly passed away at the age of 39, his brother, Monroe, took over. Pappy watched carefully. He said to Ervin, my cousin, “This thing won’t last very long because Wayne is not here. Monroe is not doing as well.”

Pappy also had initiative. He dealt with problems. Mammy used to bake pies and set them on the window sill in the farm house in order to cool off; but then they began to disappear. So Pappy went to the barn below, called the workers together and warned them never to steal again. The pies never disappeared after that.

But he was also a friendly person. Everybody in Denver knew Pappy Gehman. “Hello, Joe,” people would say. All my cousins agreed that Pappy was a friendly and likeable person.

My grandfather as a Christian: Pappy Gehman was a devout Mennonite Christian.  At first he and his family were members of the Lancaster Conference Mennonite Church, eventually worshipping in the Bowmansville Mennonite Church.[4] But Pappy would often say, “You got to have revival meetings.” He later left the Lancaster County Mennonite Church (the “Old” Mennonites) for reasons not clear and joined the “New” Mennonite Church which was also in Bowmansville, and which was known as the “Pine Grove Mennonite Church.” My cousin said that Joe Gehman with others “began” the Pine Grove Mennonite Church. In what sense he “began” the church in the 1920s is not clear.  In contrast to the “Old” Mennonite Church, the Pine Grove Mennonite Church was a congregation of the General Conference of Mennonites of North America which had been founded in 1847 when John Oberholtzer was scorned and rejected by the bishops of the Franconia (PA) Conference of Mennonites because he did not want to wear the clerical collar; and because he pushed for a written constitution and written minutes. The conservative bishops objected, saying, “We never did this before and there is no reason to change now.” So Oberholtzer formed the “New Mennonites” which were far more open to change.

Some have observed that Mennonites often divided over legalistic questions of whether a Christian should wear shirts with collars and buttons, or whether they should use cars, radios or have Sunday School in church. Most people are prone to tradition and Mennonites are no exception. My cousin, Lester, remembers that when something new developed, such as a car, the radio or TV, they would ask, “What next?” “What else?”

Pine Grove Mennonite Church was first founded in 1854 over a dispute about schooling.[5] When Pappy Gehman joined the Pine Grove Mennonite church, it may have been in decline, my cousins suggested. The Bowmansville Mennonite Church had no Sunday School. Perhaps Pappy wanted Sunday School. Charles Martin says that possibly the Pine Grove Mennonite Church was about to fold up and Pappy with a group of Mennonites gave new life to it. Charles said, “That is what I think happened. Knowing Pappy, it would not surprise me that Pappy would do that.”  In various ways Pappy Gehman had a hand in developing the New Mennonite Church in Bowmansville.

In 1924 the Henry Unruh family moved to a farm near Bowmansville. One Sunday he attended the Pine Grove Mennonite Church when Rev. Allen Fretz was scheduled to conduct worship services. At that time worship services were held once a month. When some friends encouraged him to begin attending that church, he declined because it had no Sunday School and he had determined that his children should attend Sunday School. Permission was then granted to Henry Unruh to begin a Sunday School. The members of the Pine Grove Mennonite Church who gave their “full support” to this effort were the Groff family, the Musser family and the Gehman family. When the Sunday School was organized, Katie Gehman, my dad’s sister, became the teacher for the young people’s class; she was also chosen as the Sunday School Secretary.[6] One year later my dad served in this church as the pastor and was ordained to the ministry by Rev. Fretz.

These New Mennonites laid aside many of the traditions or customs of the Old Mennonites. Lizzie learned to play the piano and was the first one to play the piano in the Pine Grove Mennonite Church. Pappy Gehman wanted Revival Meetings and was not happy with the required dress code of the Old Mennonites. As one cousin said, “He was not exactly a one-church person. He was instrumental in starting other churches.” But the New Mennonites were not as “new” as people are today. Jacob Weber, a second cousin, remembers attending the Pine Grove Mennonite Church with Pappy Gehman. There were two entrances: one for men and the other for women. Girls and women went in one side and sat on that one side, while the men sat on the opposite side.[7]

Some years later when they moved to Denver, Pennsylvania, where he developed the flour mill, Pappy and some of his adult children attended the Trinity United Brethren Church founded in 1900 (now the United Methodist Church). Pastor Brenamen was a very fundamental preacher and loved the people. But the next pastor had a problem with adultery so the Gehmans decided to move to the Bible Church in Denver along with my Aunt Katie and Uncle Harry Wealand and Aunt Anna Gehman.   The Bible Church in Denver was founded in 1937 and Pappy Gehman and his family played a part in its founding. In order to buy a building they needed landowners to sign for the church mortgage. Anna Gehman, an unmarried daughter who cooked for some wealthy people and was the secretary in the Gehman Flour Mill, was one of those landowners who signed.

Following German Mennonite customs, they would bow their heads and quietly pray before the meals without anyone praying aloud. But unlike others, he read the Bible with his family and taught them while they were seated in a circle.[8] When they prayed they would get on their knees to pray. My dad would recall that one of the songs Pappy liked to sing was, “Will the circle be unbroken when we meet in the sky?”

My cousins remember staying with Pappy. When they visited my grandparents at Christmas time, they would have a service. They had an organ in the house and they would sing hymns and read the Scripture. They would have Scripture reading and prayer before going to church service. My cousin, Ervin, observed that Pappy Gehman was “a quiet man except on religion. Then he had strong convictions. He was not quiet about his religious faith.” Another cousin remembers him standing in the Bible Church to give a testimony. He seemed a bit nervous, was a little shaky because he was not used to speaking in public.[9]

In many ways Pappy was a growing Christian, moving from the Old Mennonites to the New Mennonites, then to the United Brethren Church and finally to the Bible Church. Living faith was evident in their home.

My grandfather’s Christian legacy: The faith born in the home of Pappy Gehman became evident in the life of his children. They distinguished between tradition and true faith. When Lester, my cousin, saw some women without a prayer head covering, he asked his mom, “Are they Christians?” My Aunt Tillie turned around and firmly said, “Yes!” In the home of my Aunt Tillie and Noah Martin, they bowed their heads in silent prayer before the meal but never prayed aloud. This was the German Mennonite tradition. Although Lester does not remember them reading the Bible or praying together in family worship, he does remember his mother reading the Bible many times. When Lester turned twelve years of age, his mother said it was time to join the church. All Lester could think of was wearing plain clothes. He asked, “Does that mean I must wear plain clothes?” She turned toward him and said firmly, “No!” So he agreed to join the church. But he didn’t know the Bible; neither did he know the Lord. He married at the age of 20 and soon thereafter began auditing the evening classes of Lancaster Bible College. Through that instruction he was converted and was assured of his salvation.

In a remarkable way this Christian legacy of Pappy and Mammy Gehman carried over to the next generation. All their children knew and served the Lord. In this paper we shall not develop the Gehman legacy further except to say that nearly fifteen of Pappy and Mammy Gehmans children, grandchildren and great children became ordained ministers, career missionaries, or trained Bible College teachers. Many others served in the churches in various capacities of lay leadership. My loved and esteemed Aunt Katie was a remarkably intelligent and devoted woman who conducted Good News Clubs, and taught the Bible lesson to the children and youth for 34 years in Camp Lou San. Vital Christian faith permeated all the families.

Pappy spoke in Pennsylvania Dutch (Low German) most of the time. As a boy he could speak in High German. One cousin remembers him singing the following in German, “My brothers are already there in Jerusalem; my sisters are already there in Jerusalem.”

The character of my grandfather: “Pappy Gehman was a quiet man. Mennonites were quiet people of the land.” Every year my father would take me and my mother to visit his one living brother and four living sisters. Aunt Lizzie, as long as I knew her, was an invalid who was either in bed or seated on a wheel chair with blankets wrapped around her legs. Her daughters, Anna, Ruth and Irene, cared for their mother ever so faithfully until Irene and Ruth were married. Anna remained unmarried and continued the dedicated care for her mother until her end. The home of Uncle Peter and Aunt Lizzie was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. When talking with Aunt Lizzie there would be moments of total silence before anything more was said. The same was true in the home of my Aunt Tillie. She was very quiet and markedly slow in all her mannerisms. Boisterous or loud talking was unheard. Quiet peace prevailed.

But the picture formed of Pappy Gehman in the mind of Anna Wivell is of a strong willed and decisive person. He was rather serious minded with no joking. His word was to be followed. On one occasion he said to his grandson, Ervin, who was ten years old, “You Ervin, follow me.” He took tobacco from a box and put it in his pocket. He said, “Don’t you ever start this.” Apparently, Pappy was addicted to the chewing of tobacco and believed it was wrong but could not stop.

On another occasion Pappy wanted one of his daughters, Hettie, to sing in church but she did not want to. Pappy was always forceful and with strong convictions. Hettie did sing in church.

He ruled the roost in the home; he was in control. Pappy would tell Mammy what to do. When they were in old age, Clayton Gehman, my cousin, visited them for a meal. Pappy got up for the meal but Mammy could not get around so well. So Pappy called her and told her to move faster.[10]

Pappy did not believe in higher education. His last born, Katie, loved school and did well in elementary. So she determined as a child that she would grow up to be a teacher. To her dismay, when someone in the shirt factory had to leave, Pappy Gehman pulled her out of school and asked her to work in the factory. Several times she wanted to return to high school but that never came to pass. She then decided to go to Moody Bible Institute, but Pappy did not want her to go. He did not believe in higher education. Eventually, she was able to take correspondence courses from Moody.

But Pappy was also a kind man. Jacob (Jack) Weber worked for his uncle, Pappy Gehman, during one summer. He was ten or twelve years old at the time. In return for his work that summer he received one silver dollar. “I have nothing but good to say about Joe,” he commented. “He was a man of few words. He was a quiet man, not very outgoing. But he was kind and never lost his temper.” Pappy Gehman would hold his grandchildren in his lap and try to teach them German. He had white and pink mints and would give these to his grandchildren whenever they came. On occasions Pappy would get up and offer pieces of candy to his grandchildren.   He would give it, and then pull it back in order to tease them. Other cousins remember the same thing; Pappy always had candy.

On one occasion, his own little eleven year old granddaughter (Anna Martin) got her hand in a meat grinder and lost three fingers. When she ran into the house she did not cry, but Pappy did. They wrapped the hand in a handkerchief and went to the hospital. He drove so fast that the speedometer never worked after that.

Later on he took Anna Mary Eckenrode into their home and cared for her. She was a ten or twelve year old girl from a broken home and he took her under his wings and provided a place of love and refuge for her. He cared for her many years. When the biological mother eventually wanted her back after many years later, he took the matter to court. Someone said, “He will win because he has the money.” He was well set financially.

Pappy was an honest man. Jack Weber, who is now 101 years old and knew Pappy Gehman as a boy, said, “He was as honest as one could be.” Another cousin remembers when he was eighteen years old and needed some money. He went to borrow money from Pappy to set up business in the Reading Farmers Market. After Pappy withdrew the money from the bank and gave it to Charles, Pappy said, “Now I want to say this! You must always remember that sixteen ounces is a pound, not fifteen ounces. Always remember that pennies make the dollars.” This became a help for him to get into the meat business.

Other memories include the time a grandson, by the name of Clyde, came running and said, “Look what I found!” It was a Copperhead snake that had bitten Clyde. Pappy ran and threw a stone at a chicken, got it, then cut off its head and put Clyde’s hand inside the chicken. This sucked out the venom.

The area in which Pappy Gehman lived and worked was in a small circumference of the northeastern part of Lancaster County, next to Berks County. He was born on a farm near Adamstown and lived there until his early married life. He then bought the 120 acre farm near Bowmansville where they also attended church. The shirt factor was located in Adamstown. Bowmansville was just eight miles from Denver where they moved to develop the flour mill and where Pappy and Mammy retired. As we shall see, this is the same area where “The Lancaster County Christian Gehman” settled when he emigrated from the old country. 

Different traits: The different personalities and appearances of the parents were reflected in the children. Emma (Gehman) Martin was like her father, a little emotional and quick. She was “fiery.” Instead of walking across the room, she would literally run. When she ironed, she did it fast with quick movements. In contrast, Tillie Gehman, who married Noah Martin when Emma died, was slow. Tillie was a “Hollinger” while Emma was a “Gehman.” Wayne, who died at the age of 39 from Hodgkins’s disease, was six foot tall and a strong person. Wayne was very much like his father with a good business sense. He had bought more than eight burial plots in the cemetery before his sudden death. But his brother, Monroe, lacked business acumen and was a bit dour and reserved. Whereas Pappy was more outgoing and friendly, Monroe was shyer. Hollingers were very easy going while Gehmans were more emotional and fast. Pappy was a “go-getter.”  

Into this home my father was born, sharing characteristics of both parents. His face was more like a Gehman with his nose and forehead, while the Hollingers had a small chin. He was more on the quiet side and somewhat reserved and shy like the Hollingers.    

Relationship of Rudy H. Gehman and “Father” William Gehman

“Gehman,” of course, is a legendary name in the history of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church (MBC). The Zionsville (MBC) Bible Fellowship Church cemetery is filled with Gehmans. William Gehman, a pastor who was excommunicated by the Mennonite Church because of his enthusiasm after his conversion, his desire for Sunday Schools, Revival Meetings and Prayer Meetings, founded the Evangelical Mennonite Church which ultimately became the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church through various unions of other like-minded Mennonites; and later evolved into the Bible Fellowship Church. William Gehman’s son, W.G. Gehman, became a prominent leader as a Presiding Elder and the leader of the Gospel Herald Society for many years. Another son of “Father” William Gehman was Allen M. Gehman who was a prominent layman in the MBC, serving as the Treasurer of the MBC conference. Allen M. Gehman also happens to be the father of Ruth N. (Gehman) Hilbert, the mother of my dear wife, Florence A. Gehman. Flo and I are not only related by marriage on July 25, 1964, but are also related by blood through one common ancestor more than four hundred years ago.[11]  

In summary we lay out the first four known generations of the Gehmans:[12]

      Martin Gouman (born about 1555; married to Anni Berger)

                Nicholas Gouman (born 9 June 1588; married to Catherina Gouman)[13]

                         Hans Gouman (born 3 March 1616; married to Barbli Gfeller)[14]

                                      Christian Gouman (“the elder”) (born 20 April 1643; married to Madlena Keller)[15]

 

Christian Gouman “the elder” became the first known Gehman to make a public confession of Anabaptist faith. He was called a ‘hardneck” because of his refusal to give up his Anabaptist faith and was imprisoned with his son, Christian “the younger,” on 29 September 1710 in Bern, Switzerland.  Later they were imprisoned together on the island in Bern because of their Anabaptist faith.

Christian Gouman “the elder,” four-hundred years ago, is the first common forefather of Rudy H. Gehman and “Father” William Gehman.

Christian Gouman “the elder” had two sons pertinent for our genealogies:

          Christian Gouman, born 1 March 1678, the forefather of William Gehman;

          and Benedict Gauman, born 7 January 1687, the forefather of Rudy H. Gehman. 

In outline form the succeeding generations are as follows:

      Christian Gouman “the younger” (born 1 March 1678; married to Catherina Streit)

                Christian Gauman (born 28 November 1706; married to Magdalena)

                      Jacob Gehman (born 19 October 1753; married to Anna Maria Fretz)

                                 George Gehman (born 30 July 1788; married to Sara Swartz)

                                        William Gehman (born 22 January 1827; married to Anna Musselman)

                                                    Allen M. Gehman (born 30 September 1866; married to Permelia Snyder)

                                                         Ruth N. Gehman (born 23 December 1904; married to Kyron Hilbert)

                                                                 Florence A. (Hilbert) Gehman (born 11 April 1940; married to R. J. Gehman)

 

        Benedict Gauman (born 7 January 1687; married to Anna Giessbuhler)[16]

            Christian Gauman (born 3 February 1707; married to Anna/Anne Berger)

                   Daniel Gehman (born about 1741; married to Veronica/Franica Gehman)

                         Daniel Gehman (born about February 1779; married to Elizabeth Bowman)

                                Joseph Gehman (born 10 June 1810; married to Esther Bowman)

                                    Henry Gehman (born 29 May 1844; married to Fanny Horning)

                                        Joseph H. Gehman (born 19 August 1866; married to Barbara H. Hollinger)

                                                Rudy H. Gehman (born 19 November 1898; married to Dora N. Woodring)

                                                      Richard J. Gehman (born 24 December 1935; married to Florence A. Hilbert)

 

Forefathers of “Father” William Gehman: Christian Gouman “the younger” (born 1 March 1678) was from Oberthal, Grosshochstetten, Canton of Bern, Switzerland. He was called an Anabaptist at the baptisms of their children in 1706, 1708 and 1710. He was called “Christian Gauman the younger of Signau district” when he was imprisoned in the city of Bern on 27 July 1710 together with his father. He was led out of Switzerland in 1711 with his wife and four children. He probably lived in Germany in the Hasselbach area.  

Christian Gauman, born 28 November 1706 in Grosshochestetten, Canton of Bern, Switzerland, was the son of Christian Gouman “the younger.” He became known as “The Berks County Christian Gehman.” He is the forefather of “Father” William Gehman and Flo (Hilbert) Gehman.  He first immigrated to the Netherlands and then settled in the Palatinate area of Germany. He with other German and Swiss immigrants from the Palatinate area of Germany left Rotterdam on the ship Samuel and arrived in Philadelphia, 11 August 1732. He acquired 300 acres near the headwaters of Perkiomen Creek in Hereford Township in Berks County, PA.  About 1767 he built a substantial house that became known as “The Christian Gehman Homestead.” Since there is no record of any indentured labor on his part, it is assumed that he had accumulated money during his stay in Germany to purchase this large piece of land of 300 acres.  

Forefathers of Rudy H. Gehman: Benedict Gauman, born 7 January 1687, had a son by the name Christian Gauman.

Christian Gauman, born 3 February 1707, was born in Grosshochstetten, Canton of Bern, Switzerland. He became known as “The Lancaster County Christian Gehman.” He emigrated directly from Switzerland from the Jura Mountains out of the bishopric of Basel, to the United States, landing in Philadelphia 1 October 1754 on the ship Phoenix.[17] He settled in Brecknock Township, Berks County. Though he originally settled in Berks County, close to the border of Lancaster County, he later moved to Adamstown in Brecknock Township, Lancaster County and most of his descendants live in Lancaster County, so he became known as “The Lancaster County Christian Gehman.” He is the forefather of my dad, R.H. Gehman.

It is of interest that Pappy Gehman, my dad’s father, lived and worked in areas surrounding Adamstown, Bowmansville, and Denver, very close to the area where “The Lancaster County Christian Gehman” lived. Christian Gauman, born on 3 February 1707, fled with his family from the bishopric of Bern to the bishopric of Basil because of persecution, where they rented little farms and worked on estates of noblemen. From there they immigrated directly to the United States in 1754. Hence “The Lancaster County Christian Gehman” was probably poorer than “The Berks County Christian Gehman” who emigrated from the Palatinate in Germany in 1732.

While William Gehman and W.G. Gehman were “movers and shakers” in the MBC, my father was a quiet servant of the Lord, ministering faithfully in the places of God’s appointment. One older ministering brother, David Thoman, observed that my dad was “a very quiet man. I cannot remember him speaking at Conference.” Then he added, “Of course in the early years no one expressed their own opinions at Conference because H. B. Musselman and W.G. Gehman were the dominant voices.”   My father and mother were humble and submissive; they both had deep respect for H.B. Musselman and the MBC leadership. Never once in my memory do I ever remember a word of criticism or complaining about the denominational leadership. Perhaps a bonding relationship grew earlier on when R.L. Woodring, my mother’s father, began serving as a young pastor under the care of H.B. Musselman. Who knows what words were spoken by H.B. Musselman that led a young Gospel Herald by the name of Rudy H. Gehman to date the daughter of R.L. Woodring? Though that is speculation, we do know that matchmaking did take place and there was mutual respect. For some reason I found in our family possessions an old Bible which had belonged to H.B. Musselman. How my parents received it, I do not know. I can only assume that this gift was an indication of the mutual respect that both H.B. and my father had for each other.

What is apparent is that God had granted the gift of denominational leadership to “Father” William Gehman and his son, W.G. Gehman; and to my father God granted the gift of pastor-teacher as the pastoral leader of particular churches.

MY FATHER’S LIFE AND MINISTRY

Early Years of Formation for Ministry

My dad was born on 19 November 1898 “in an old-fashioned Mennonite home”[18] on a farm near Bowmansville, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The farm was known as “The Brossman Farm” because of the owner, Rudy Brossman. Rudy Gehman, my dad, was named after him along with another young man by the name of Rudy Oberholtzer. The Brossmans had no children of their own. When Mr. Brossman died, both Rudy’s were remembered in his will, each receiving $50.00 which at that time was a sizable sum.[19]

Rudy was one of nine children; there were three boys and six girls. Lizzie, the first born, was nine years older. My dad was the second youngest and always seemed closest to his younger sister, Katie, born on 27 March 1905, seven years later. Pappy was “very strict in disciplining the children.”

When my dad was six years old, Pappy Gehman bought a 120 acre farm nearby where my dad lived for twelve years. In my dad’s picture album, showing the farm where he grew up, he wrote the caption, “The place where I got my start.” He grew up very close to his sister Lizzie, her husband, Peter Martin, and their children (my dad’s cousins) who lived in shouting distance from the place where my dad lived.    

Dad was a real boy. One evening after supper, so the story goes according to Aunt Katie, “while his sisters were doing the dishes, Rudy was also in the kitchen, shoeing a horse. Who or what represented the horse [Katie] does not know. But it seems the horse kicked. Rudy quickly stepped back right in the path of his sister who was carrying a stack of plates. Neither boy nor horse suffered from the collision, but the plates didn’t do so good. I think only two survived unbroken. Mother wasn’t exactly pleased, you may be sure.”

Dad loved climbing trees of which many could be found on the farm including apple and cherry trees. Aunt Katie wrote,  “Now if trees weren’t made to climb, what are they for? Anyway, this was one of Rudy’s games. One tree had, several feet from the ground, a broken branch, part of which was protruding with a sharp, jagged point. When Rudy came down, he slipped, catching his knee on the branch, resulting in a severe cut.”

Aunt Katie continues, “Now in those days one did not consult a doctor for every ‘little scratch.’ So, very likely, the wound was thoroughly cleansed with cold water, several lily leaves applied as bandages… and that was that. This however left a permanent scar. The lily leaves? That was one of our home remedies. The petals of the Madoma lily were placed in a small jar, filled with whisky and kept on the medicine shelf. There must have been medicinal value, for this remedy for cuts was widely used.”[20]

Dad attended White Oak, a one room school house. Schools were not graded as now. Students advanced by Readers, beginning with a Primer, then First Reader on through Fifth. The latter would compare today to eighth grade. He was probably 13 or 14 when he quit school.  Katie writes, “We walked to school of course, down a long lane or during winter months we could cut across the fields. Once, when there was a deep snow with a hard crust, Rudy, Tillie and I were on the way to school. I in first grade had difficulty breaking through the crust. The other two took longer steps than I could manage, so I was fussing. After awhile Rudy said, ‘We’ll fix you tomorrow morning. We’ll put you on the sled.’ So taking our homemade sled, which was against the school’s rules, we started off. At first it was fine where the field was level. But then there was a slope. The sled was coming faster. Rudy couldn’t run fast enough and he fell. The sled went to one side over the snow and I went the other way, ending up with multiple scratches on my face and hands. I had to go back home.”[21]

“Life on the farm was, by today’s standards, not very exciting. There was, to be sure, plenty of work of all sorts. There was the care of the animals – cows to be milked and fed, feeding and grooming of the horses. There was work in the fields, planting, cultivating and harvesting. Rudy of course was part of all this.”[22]  There were many chores associated with the care of hundreds of chickens and many pigs. When Jacob Weber was at the farm one summer, he remembers that Tillie and Anna used to milk the cows.

Pappy Gehman went to the Reading Farmer’s Market twice weekly, on Tuesdays and Saturdays. “Consequently, Monday and Friday were ‘getting ready’ days. Immediately after breakfast, father and boys would go to the truck patch, gathering radishes, beets and whatever was ready. These were brought by wheelbarrow to the ‘shanty,’ a large room adjoining the summer house. The floor was concrete with running water available and two large wooden wash tubs set on boxes. Here the vegetables were washed. Two of us would be working in one tub. It wasn’t difficult to ‘happen’ to splash your partner. Depending on his mood, it was either fun or a fight. We had great times, believe me. Following the scrubbing, the ‘stuff’ would go to the cutting-bunching table, then packed in crates and stacked, ready for the truck. Sometimes we sang, sometimes we fought, but by late afternoon, all was finished.”[23]

There was a day when the young Gehmans were weeding the garden. Their subject of conversation was their ambitions of what they would be when they would become adults. Each one expressed their opinion. Aunt Katie says, “It would be interesting to know what they were but I don’t remember because I was not yet born. Rudy was only seven years of age. However, after the others were thru, Rudy pulled himself up, standing straight and tall and announced, ‘I am going to be a preacher.’ They probably laughed, never dreaming it would come true.”

However, life on the farm was not all work. One form of diversion in the evening, especially during the winter, was singing. Aunt Katie writes, “We gathered around the little organ, singing hymns and gospel songs. We sang until the rafters rattled almost. Loving music, Rudy must really have enjoyed all of this. There were games – checkers and fig-mill cards, that is, Flinch and Old Maid. These were all home-made. The checker board was the design drawn on the back of a calendar. After playing, the calendar was placed on the wall. The ‘men’ were corn kernels – one whole and one half kernels.” Katie wrote, “I definitely remember playing these games with Rudy. He was usually the winner.”

After Pappy Gehman left the farm, he operated a shirt factory in Bowmansville from 1916-1921. Various members of the family joined their helping hands. As a young man my dad began working in the shirt factory with his brothers Wayne and Monroe. In 1921 Pappy Gehman moved to Adamstown where for one year he and my dad operated a feed mill. Then in 1922 they moved to Denver where Pappy bought and managed his own business which became known as “The Gehman Feed Mill.”

During that time Aunt Katie led my dad to the Lord in her bedroom when he was 21 or 22 years of age. He told Kathryn Dietz how he was saved in his sister’s bedroom. “I felt so light,” he said. ‘Ichvesis, ichvesis,’ meaning ‘I know it, I know it.’ He knew that he was saved.”[24]  

Soon after this my dad left the work with his father and went for training for the Christian ministry, first to Bluffton College Academy, then to Moody Bible Institute. Under a picture with the shirt factory employees, he wrote, “Them days are gone forever.” This was written no doubt after he had decided to leave and go into the ministry. 

Preparation for Ministry

My dad went off to Bluffton College Academy for approximately two years, presumably to supplement his elementary schooling gained in the one-room schoolhouse.[25] The day he set off for Bluffton, Ohio, must have been a great day for this Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonite young man who knew only the Pennsylvania counties of Lancaster and Berks. My dad wrote just before he left for Bluffton, “What a day!”    

In the summer of 1924 he painted “the new farm buildings” Pappy Gehman had built. The first sermon that he preached is dated January 4, 1925 when he spoke in Denver, PA. He then set off on his safari to acquire some biblical studies by attending Moody Bible Institute, January through April of 1925.[26]  He took many pictures of his friends at Moody including one captioned, “A good looking group of Mennonite students at Moody Bible Institute.”

Although we know little of his studies at Moody, we did find among his sermon notes a four page paper that appears to be a talk that he had given at Moody Bible Institute, based on II Timothy 2:15. He begins the talk by saying that II Timothy 2:15 is “a good motto of the M.B.I. and for every Christian worker.” Under the point of “Study” (“Study to show thyself approved unto God…”), he comments: “The teacher in school or the minister has to study hardest. People and children soon can tell. It requires our best effort.” Under the third point (“A workman that needeth not to be ashamed”), he comments, “This reference is to mental labor, study about God and his Word. It is to become our delight…It requires effort. It is easier to keep at physical labor than mental. It requires more will power. It is easy to have day dreams but it’s hard to think, so mental suffering is harder than physical.” The purpose of this study is so that we might not be ashamed at Christ’s coming. Prayer is needed to “rightly divide the word of truth.” “To know to what people the writing refers, by whom it was written, why it was written, when it was written. These will help us to divide it. It will not help by reading a chapter here and there. We ought to study earnestly and systematically. It is good to have a concordance or look up many references in the Bible.” We gather from this that he developed the foundations of disciplined study for sermon preparation at Moody Bible Institute.

Why he limited his Bible studies to one four-month term is unknown. With Pappy Gehman’s opposition to higher education, he may have lacked courage or conviction to pursue a diploma at Moody over his dad’s displeasure.  Pappy had opposed Katie’s desire to attend high school and then prevented her from attending Moody Bible Institute. She only achieved her dreams through Moody Bible Institute correspondence courses. But his thirst for knowledge and his desire to prepare for ministry drove him to do some study. Aunt Katie also suggested that he may have taken Moody Correspondence courses like she had. She further commented, “Although his education was limited, he was a student and read a lot.”  Years later, Mildred Musselman, one of his parishioners and a Steward in Coopersburg in the 1950s, wrote, “Rudy Gehman was a great student of the Bible and a good preacher and friend.”[27]    

Preacher in the Pine Grove Mennonite Church  

Following his brief training he began to preach in the “Pine Grove Mennonite Church” in Bowmansville from mid July 1925 through October 2, 1927, the very same “New Mennonite Church” which his dad was so instrumental in helping to build up. The picture of that church from 1925 is totally different from its appearance today. The building was originally made of stones, cemented together and with two windows with shutters on the outer sides and two separate doors in the front where the men and women entered separately. Today those doors have disappeared and the building is plastered over and painted white with a very large church sanctuary built onto the rear of the old church; it is also graced with a church steeple. It is no longer the “Pine Grove Mennonite Church” but “The Pine Grove Church.” The cemetery in the rear contains some very old stones that are illegible.

He was first ordained to the Gospel ministry by Rev. A.M. Fretz of Perkasie, PA, on January 24, 1926. The very next Sunday he preached as the pastor of the Pine Grove Mennonite Church. The very first sermon registered in his ledger of sermons is dated February 7, 1926. It would appear, therefore, that in his mind this was the beginning of his official Gospel ministry.

Since the services in the Pine Grove Mennonite Church were bi-monthly on Sunday mornings only, he would visit  other Mennonite churches, often preaching in evangelistic services. According to his preaching diary, he preached in Denver, Mechanic’s Grove, Greenville, Ephrata, Adamstown and Allentown. On July 27, 1925, he conducted a funeral. Aunt Katie frequently accompanied him on those trips. Often people thought she was his wife. Katie writes, “It was probably during those years that we became closely associated. He was definitely closer to me than either of my other brothers.”

In February, 1915, Menno Myers was sent by Rev. A.M. Fretz, the elder/pastor of “The General Conference of Mennonites,” to hold evangelistic services at the New Mennonite Church at Bowmansville. There he met the Gehman family and eventually married my dad’s sister, Hettie H. Gehman. Soon after their marriage they began calling her “Esther” instead of “Hettie.” Menno Myers later entered the ministry with the Gospel Herald Society.  

Preacher in the Gospel Heralds

My dad was then led from the “New Mennonites” of Oberholtzer’s Church, namely, the General Conference of Mennonites, to the Gospel Herald Society and the other “New Mennonites” of William Gehman’s Church, namely, the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church. He began serving in Jersey City, New Jersey in October 1927 with his first recorded sermon dated October 14, 1927.

Presumably, my dad became connected with the Gospel Heralds through his brother-in-law, Menno Myers, and his sister, Hettie. In the fall of 1921 M.M. Myers and Hettie (Esther) were sent to Lebanon, Pennsylvania to take charge of the work there.[28] Lebanon was known as a “hard field of labor,” but they labored together for eleven years and laid the foundation for the MBC/Bible Fellowship Church in Lebanon. My dad has a picture of Menno Myers dressed in a Gospel Herald uniform, “selling colportage books” in Lebanon in 1926.

Hettie shared the ministry with the Gospel Herald mission in Lebanon. “On a Saturday morning she took the Gospel Herald paper through one farmers’ market, and in the afternoon, through another. Then many times in the evening she went up and down the main streets in the business section and in stores and saloons to sell the Gospel Herald, a very wonderful religious paper. She also witnessed for Christ every opportunity she had.”[29]

In November, 1932, Menno and Hettie Myers were transferred to Camden, New Jersey, to serve in the Gospel Herald Mission. So we may assume that through this connection my dad found his way to the Mennonite Brethren in Christ.

In October, 1928, the MBC Annual Conference considered the question of recognizing my father for ministry. Upon examination, they recommended that he be granted an Annual Conference License.[30]

And thus my dad became officially recognized in the ministry of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church. Thereafter, he served as a “Probationer” for seven years before ordination. His Gospel Herald Society appointments are as follows, according to the dates in his sermon diary. 

                Jersey City, New Jersey                      14 October 1927 to October 1929

                Camden, New Jersey                          28 November 1929 to 29 October 1932

                Chester, Pennsylvania                        1 December 1932 to 11 October 1935    

The Gospel Heralds with whom he worked and who are pictured in his album include: Paul E. Baer, C.L. Miller, Eugene George, Wilbur Hartman, Herbert Hartman, E.B. Hartman, E.W. Bean, “Brother Wieand,” and Arthur Sprock. These were all single, young men who cared for all their personal needs. Pictures show them washing and hanging up their clothes on the top of flat roofs within urban settings with the captions, “Washday” and “Housework.” As young men we may assume they joked and played around. There is a picture of Herbert Hartman on the top of a flat roof with a rope tied around his neck and with the appearance of being hung. Another picture shows C.L. Miller lying down precariously with his arms flung up in the air at the edge of a precipice eight hundred feet high overlooking the Hudson River and acting as if he were falling over the cliff. A classic picture was made with my dad’s sister, Katie, superimposed on a picture with Paul E. Baer, made to look as though the picture was taken of them both together as a couple. 

Throughout my dad’s picture album he made comments full of dry humor. A group of six men got on their hands and knees to form a pyramid, three on the bottom, two above them and my dad on the top. The inscription reads: “How light I feel! What happened in the evening?” We will never know. On the next page is a picture of “The Bluffton College Girls Glee Club” with the words, “How they did sing!” He obviously enjoyed himself at Bluffton. Under a picture of “The Lincoln Hall, Bluffton,” he wrote, “The girls envy us now. 1923-24.” In the same series of pictures he shows four young men including himself with the caption, “Happy? Well some!” Right next to that is a picture of a young girl and the caption, “Adeline, she sent a cake, but too late.” What does this imply? A picture of my dad dressed in his Gospel Herald uniform has the caption, “When I was a priest.”

But most of the pictures are of Gospel Herald ministries. They had many tent meetings. Mending the large tents, assembling and erecting the large canvas “tabernacles” were all part of their work. Large gatherings of people are pictured with the tents in the background. Groups of fifty children appear in front of a tent for their photograph. Pictures show the Gospel Heralds with their congregants and friends.

A major part of the week’s ministry was devoted to the selling of the Gospel Herald magazine. Every morning, for five days a week, they were required to do colportage ministry. David E. Thomann would introduce himself as a Mennonite missionary. Many Gospel Heralds did not like this aspect of ministry. It not only was a means of distributing Gospel literature and opening doors for witness; it was a source of income.[31] My father sold anywhere between 12 and 30 Gospel Heralds daily, according to his scanty records.

Many baptisms of new converts are also shown in the pictures.  According to his records he baptized 45 by immersion in the Delaware River during his three year ministry in Camden. Of these, 19 were between 20 and 50 years of age; and another 9 people who were between the ages of 14-19.

During his three year ministry in Chester, PA, he baptized nineteen, including ten who were over 23 years of age, one being 60.

Life was not easy on the side of finance. The MBC appropriated $15 to $20 monthly for each couple. The offerings from the small missions were added, together with the little profit earned from the sale of the Gospel Heralds. From this the expenses of the mission were first paid. Whatever was left over was distributed to the Gospel Heralds. W.G. Gehman would come every month for ministry and a report.

Menno Myers describes his experience when serving in the Gospel Heralds in the Camden, New Jersey mission. “Here our faith was often severely tested. We received no salary, only free-will offerings and a small profit from the sale of Bibles and literature. It was during the years of depression. Our cupboards were very often empty, but God supplied our needs.”

On one occasion, “when we had nothing in the house to set on the table for the evening meal, except maybe a crust of bread, Esther was cheerful and I believe she had faith that God would supply the need in time. She set the plates, etc. on the table. Esther, myself and the three boys sat down around the table with nothing before us to eat. We returned thanks to God, and when we had done that, thanks to God the doorbell rang. One of the boys ran to the door, and believe it or not, there was a large box full of all kinds of groceries, a great deal more than could be used up in one day.”[32]

Before becoming a Gospel Herald, my father had life-insurance. This he surrendered when joining the MBC because of the church’s stand against life insurance. In 1896 the MBC conference passed a resolution, recognizing the “great evils around us of life insurance,” and recommended that instead of life insurance churches should care for the poor of their classes through “some benevolent principles, such as supporting and visiting the sick” and the use of deacons to look after the “poor of their class.” “Whenever a class is unable to support their own poor, the deacon shall apply to the Poor Committee for assistance. In case the treasury is empty, the Poor Committee shall collect for this purpose from the various circuits.” It is of interest that in 1960 the BFC sought ways to provide insurance for pastors.

My dad was truly a humble man, full of patience and forbearance which enabled him to endure such deprivation. Pastor R.C. Reichenbach said to me, “Your father was one of the gentlest people I know. He would never lord it over you but was gentle. Whatever he said to you was very fatherly, gentle and kind. Your mother was also very sweet and quiet. She never spoke much. In the Gospel Herald Society your dad was a very sweet person to be around. His attitude was one of graciousness. He was not outspoken. He was one of the quiet men. Even in the Annual Conference he was a quiet individual. But he was faithful in serving his people.”[33]

In October 1931, after serving in the Gospel Heralds since October 1927 and being a probationer for three years and having completed his three years’ Reading Course “creditably,” and believed to be a “sincere, conscientious and promising young man,” the MBC delayed his ordination, along with E.W. Bean and A.M. Sprock, for more experience to prove himself.[34]      

My dad continued to serve faithfully and patiently.

Marriage of Rudy H. Gehman and Dora N. Woodring

Some time during my dad’s service in Jersey City or Camden a friendship developed with my mother, Dora Naomi Woodring, daughter of the Rev. R. L. Woodring of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church in Nazareth. Mildred Musselman was driving home with her parents from Easton where the MBC held a conference. They soon discovered that they car in front of them belonged to R.L. Woodring. They saw two people sitting in the back seat and one of them was Rudy Gehman alongside of Dora Woodring. Mildred’s parents said, “Oh, oh! It looks like Rudy is going home with the Woodrings. Must be something is going on with those two. We’ll be having a wedding soon we believe. And so it was.”[35] On 6th August 1931, Pastor R. L. Woodring married my father and mother in the Nazareth parsonage where my grandparents lived at the time. My dad was living in Camden. This beautiful Marriage Certificate of my parents, measuring 12 inches by 18 inches, is beautifully framed and graces my office in full view as I write this.

R. L. Woodring became a pastor in the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church in 1896 when he was listed in the MBC Annual Conference minutes as an Assistant to H. B. Musselman serving in the Weissport and Lehighton Mission. R. L. Woodring had established a blacksmith business in Weissport where he was converted to Christ through the ministry of Dora Rote, a Gospel Worker in the MBC. In 1917 his son, Allen G. Woodring, was examined by the committee of C. H. Brunner, W. S. Hottel and W. G. Gehman who found him satisfactory and recommended he be granted the Annual Conference License. Thereafter in 1918 A.G. Woodring became a Probationer and ordained to the ministry in 1920.

So when my dad married, his father-in-law and brother-in-law were already seasoned ministers in the MBC. One year after marriage, my parents moved to Chester for a three year ministry before being transferred out of the Gospel Heralds and graduating into the Pennsylvania Conference of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church. My parents often spoke fondly of their time in Chester and the many faithful believers there.

Ordination

As we have seen, my father had previously been ordained on January 24, 1926, in the General Conference of Mennonites. The time for his ordination in the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church came in October, 1935, when he was admitted into the Conference Bar.  The Report of the Committee on Ordination, comprising of B. Bryan Musselman, P. T. Stengele, E. N. Cassel, stated,

We have examined Probationers R. H. Gehman and A. M. Sprock and have ascertained that they have passed the reading course with credit and have had charge of Gospel Herald Society Missions for a number of years, and have showed themselves consecrated, devoted and obedient workers, adhering to the teachings of the Scriptures and being sound in Faith, we therefore recommend that they be ordained on Sunday afternoon.

Unfortunately, his father-in-law, R. L. Woodring, had suddenly passed away on June 10, 1934, so he did not have the privilege of witnessing the ordination of his son-in-law. Both of his children were now in the ministry.

Delayed ordination in order to be proven in ministry was traditional MBC/BFC discipline. Some could not bear the test of extended probation. M.M. Myers, the husband of my father’s sister, Hettie, began in the Gospel Heralds in 1921 and was a probationer for three years, 1933-1935, according to the Annual Conference records. But he gave up after that and disappeared from the MBC. Perhaps he also became discouraged with the lack of financial income for Gospel Herald workers. Or perhaps there was a combination of reasons for his departure from the MBC. He later became the pastor of “The Non-Sectarian Gospel Tabernacle” in Camden, NJ.[36]

First Church Appointment: Graterford and Harleysville, Pennsylvania, 1935-1945

My dad was assigned to the Graterford/Harleysville circuit in October 1935. The first sermon he prepared for Graterford was December 21.[37] Being conceived in Chester, Richard Joseph Gehman was born three days after that sermon on the day before Christmas at 12:30 A.M. in the River-view Hospital in Norristown, PA in the dead of winter with snow on the ground; it was a white Christmas with much joy.  My names relate me to both my grandparents: Richard L. Woodring and Joseph H. Gehman.   

Circuits of churches: In those days there were many circuits. They were convenient for two reasons. Many churches were too small to support one pastor. When combined, they could give adequate support. Furthermore, the pastors to shepherd the congregations were few. My uncle, A. G. Woodring, pastored a circuit of three churches for twenty years (Fleetwood, Blandon and Terre Hill) and even had surplus energy to commence a fourth meeting point in Kutztown. When Berean Bible School was founded in 1950, it began to provide greater numbers of candidates for ministry. Thereafter, the circuits began to dwindle in number and eventually disappeared.

Members of the churches: The ministry in Graterford and Harleysville was a happy experience for my parents. Though Graterford was a small town, most of the members were farmers who drove in from the rural area surrounding the town. Abraham (brother of Pastor E.W. Bean) and Sarah Bean and Chris Wismer and family were farmers across the Perkiomen River near the State Prison. Raymond W. Rawn, father of Olive Rawn, had a farm nearby. Elmer and Ella Detweiler were farmers several miles away. Other mainstays in Graterford included Isaiah and Lizzie Copenhafer, Bill and Sarah Gaugler; also the Hartzel’s, Bergey’s and Hoffman’s.

M. M. Ziegler was a farmer in the Harleysville area and a frequent MBC conference delegate. His large family with their spouses became a sizable core of this growing congregation. Robert Ziegler and his wife, Earnest Ziegler who married Eleanor Detweiler from Graterford, Earl and Clara Ziegler, Elva (Ziegler) and Lloyd Gepard,  Mabel (Ziegler) and Norman Apple, Pearl (Ziegler) and Stan Hackman, Jean (Ziegler) and Roger Deitweiler (from Graterford) and Homer Ziegler – all became the backbone for the Harleysville MBC Church.

Other members of the Harleysville congregation that we recall were: Kathryn and Clayton Dietz, Moyers, Noah Tyson, “Rose Jelly” Jake and Arlene Moyer and his parents, Joseph Shueck, May Swartley with her husband and son, Gerald, whose clothes were passed on to me as he grew out of them.  

Continuing attachment after many years: Over the years much of the support that has come to us as missionaries has come through those whose lives were touched by my dad, even beginning in this first church appointment. Kathryn and Clayton Dietz, whom my father married, followed our ministry at Scott Theological College faithfully. Many times Kathryn, as the President of the Women’s Missionary Society, directed a sizeable contribution for student scholarships at Scott.

Earl Ziegler, a son of M. M. Ziegler, was not the most faithful Christian. In fact, he had a drinking problem. His wife, Clara, was deeply troubled by his drinking. My father frequently counseled her and tried to help them in their marriage. Clara Ziegler continued to follow us in our ministry when she moved with her daughter to Walnutport, PA. She would frequently send us contributions through the A.I.M. When she died, we were surprised to be included in her last will and testament. I am certain that this was directly related to my dad’s touch on her life during the years of 1935-1945.

Chris Wismer, a farmer and the delegate from the Graterford/Harleysville circuit, was present in the MBC Conference held in Bethlehem, PA, where my dad was assigned to Graterford and Harleysville. Seventy years later his daughter, Perma, and her husband, Stanley Hipszer, whom my father had married, still live and send occasional gifts to us.

Mennonite aspects of our churches: In many ways the MBC could be characterized as “New Mennonites.” MBC members bought cars and used radios. Men and women blended into society with their clothes, not following the Old Mennonite dress styles. Nevertheless, the MBC eschewed the fancy and clung to the plain. Our two churches in Graterford and Harleysville were small and plain with simple straight back pews. No steeples adorned the building. No crosses or other Christian symbols were found inside. Nothing fancy adorned the walls; stained glass windows did not “distract” from their simplicity. At first no piano accompanied congregational singing. Then, during my dad’s ministry, they bought a piano. It was gradually introduced, sometimes being used; other Sundays the piano set silent.

The Graterford MBC Church was located by the side of railroad tracks and at the end of a dead-end street without easy access. Because of its location, you needed to search for it if you were to worship there. The Harleysville MBC was perched on top of a steep embankment along a major road. Though we ate in the basements of these churches every quarter, when the Presiding Elder visited our churches for communion, the washing of the saints’ feet and the quarterly business meeting, those basements were not plastered, finished or furnished.

The pastors in those days, unlike the former custom, wore a coat and tie without a turned collar. Likewise the weddings were simple, almost always conducted in the parsonage with only a best man and bridesmaid. No traditional wedding gown was worn except for Perma Wismer. Many couples, mostly from Harleysville, were married by my dad during those years.[38]  He also married his sister, Katie, and Harry Wealand.

Pastoral support: During the first half of my dad’s stay in Graterford, we were still feeling the effects of the depression. Most of the members were farmers. Others were blue collar laborers in factories; for example, Isaiah Copenhafer worked in the flag factory. No white collar, professional men could be found in the congregation. The members were basically lower middle class farmers and laborers.

We always had enough to eat with a limited diet. Every fall the churches would celebrate a Harvest Home festival for the pastor, meeting at the parsonage. The members brought all kinds of food stuffs, canned as well as perishable. During those years I came to love Pennsylvania Dutch foods which my mother or Aunt Estella would prepare. (Estella was the younger sister of my maternal grandmother, very close to the family, who would often come to stay with us for a time.) Sausages, scrapple, schnitz and gnep, sour kraut with pork were always favorites. Beef was a rarity, chicken more common. Going to the farms and picking apples, peaches, cherries and various berries was always a treat. But our income was limited.

Whether as an avocation, or as a means of supplementing the food, my dad always had a large “truck patch” in Graterford where he grew tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, turnips, corn and other vegetables. We also had fruit bearing trees. We stored certain foods in an underground cellar in the backyard during the winter.

In 1935, when my dad went to Graterford and Harleysville, there were 62 and 60 members respectively. The yearly pastoral income from the churches was $472 and $420 respectively. Other ministerial contributions totaled $213. That was a total of $1,105.00 for the year or $92.00 per month.[39] MBC pastors were supported not through a budget but through voluntary contributions given each month to the “Steward,” one in each of the churches. So the monthly support was not uniform or guaranteed. (To jump ahead two decades, one Steward in another church confided to my dad in that particular church that one well-to-do member chose not to contribute that month. His explanation was that my dad, who loved to do woodwork in the basement as a hobby, had come to pick up some cuttings and scraps of wood which he had from his construction business. Since my dad had received those odds and ends of wood, that was this contractor’s contribution to my dad’s monthly support. So many factors went into the monthly contributions.) Many years later I realized that my parents often waited until they were moving to another church to buy new furniture. By purchasing some large item between pastorates, they avoided the possibility of members deducing that they were rolling in cash which might lead them to reduce their contributions to the Steward.

Ministry of my father: My dad had a Plymouth which he used to visit members and travel to the Harleysville church, paying for its purchase and maintenance from his monthly income. There was a mid-week prayer meeting in Graterford and one in Harleysville. So we attended two prayer meetings in the week. One church arranged to have Sunday School before the morning service and the other church had Sunday School afterwards. That would enable my dad to drive from one church service where he led and preached to the next where he also led and preached. In those days the pastor led the entire service, reading the Scripture, praying, leading the singing and preaching. Alternating joint evening services were held in each church.

My dad, like all pastors in that era, served the people as their shepherd. Visitation was paramount. He made 391 visits on average per year for ten years. Preaching was also a primary responsibility. The highest number of sermons he preached in a year was 167, the average being 127.

Prayer meetings in those days were quite a contrast to these days. They were conducted by Class Leaders who led in singing, prayer, the reading of the Word with appropriate remarks, followed by “a season of prayer” and concluding with testimonies. During the prayer, we all got on our knees and began to pray audibly but quietly all at the same time. Some led in prayer more loudly. The length of time for prayer depended on when the last one finished. The praying began with a gradual crescendo with some leaders praying quite loudly. When I prayed as a child I would pray softly enough so that no one else could hear me. Prayer ended when there was silence.

Some people have thought this manner of praying was a strange babble – everyone praying audibly at the same time. But history offers many examples and I have heard first hand reports in Africa of the Holy Spirit falling upon a people during times of revival when the believers feel constrained to pray at the same time and with audible voices. The MBC grew out of the Great Awakening of the mid nineteenth century. It is very possible that this phenomenon was known and experienced in the early days of the MBC. My own opinion is that our way of praying was a relic left over from those days of revival. The days of revival had passed but several forms and practices that had their roots in the Great Awakenings continued as forms without necessarily the spiritual power.  

Testimonies were opportunities to tell of something new that happened, some answer to prayer, some spiritual struggle with eventual victory, some problem or need for which prayer was requested, or some witnessing experience. A few testimonies were stereotypical but most were not. One young lady I well remember in a later church used to testify without variation each week, “I’m glad that Jesus saves, keeps and satisfies and I want to live and shine for him until he comes.” However, most prayer meetings had some fresh and encouraging word from the believers.

These testimonies were punctuated with “Amen” and interspersed with the singing of choruses. Choruses were lively and experiential of the living reality of the Lord. Recently I tried to list the various choruses that we sang in Graterford and Harleysville. Many were taken from the MBC Rose of Sharon hymnbook. I cannot remember using that hymn book in Graterford but we did sing choruses of various hymns taken from the Rose of Sharon hymnbook. In my possession is a copy of the hymnal with my dad’s signature in it. For the record sake, these memorable choruses, which made our prayer meetings so enjoyable, are placed in the endnotes.[40]     

These choruses are highly experiential and not very theological. But a Christianity that has no heart or personal relationship is a religion not worth living or preserving. Sung from the heart, these choruses were a rich contribution to the time of personal testimony.

My dad’s impact on my life: Those years in Graterford were my own formative years, 1935-1945, ages 1-10. My parents presented the gospel to me in family worship at a tender age of five years when I expressed a desire to receive Christ as my Lord and Savior.  For some reason my dad wanted me to wait until Sunday night in church to receive Christ. Later in life this seemed like a strange thing to me, but I suspect that he wanted this event to be memorable in my mind. If so, his desire was accomplished. That Sunday night in the Graterford MBC Church on February 2, 1941, at the age of five, he gave the invitation. Another girl and I went forward to the altar. After dealing with the other little girl, he came to me on his knees and asked if I had received Christ as my Savior. I replied that I had not, that I had no idea what to do. He then proceeded to explain the gospel message and asked me to pray. I remember very clearly that I sincerely spoke with the Lord, confessed my sins and asked Christ to be my Savior. Since that day I have never doubted my salvation.

Then for another strange reason he did not baptize me right after my conversion. He wanted me to wait for some years. Once again I suspect that he wanted me to be old enough to understand the meaning of baptism and what I was doing. According to his own diary account, he baptized me in the Perkiomen River by the Loux Bridge on July 8, 1945, when I was nine years of age. According to the record, I was the only person who was baptized on that occasion. I well remember that day as the pictures help remind me of that occasion.

My dad conducted Daily Vacation Bible School for two weeks during each summer. In those days one had to do a lot of the work in preparation, like pasting the flannel on the back of cut out figures for the flannel graph board. I remember going to members’ houses, like the Bill Gaugler’s, and working together with other church members to prepare instructional materials. Nothing do I remember about those DVBS meetings except one thing. During one such summer we were taught the following song: “Pray, pray, pray, the Bible says to pray…; Give, give, give, the Bible says to give…Go, go, go, the Bible says to go to every land that every man and boy and girl should know, that Jesus died on Calvary’s tree to bring to all salvation free. Oh who will go? Oh will you go?” Strange, isn’t it, that I cannot remember the full verse for the “Pray, pray, pray” or the “Give, give, give.” But I can remember clearly the one on “Go, go, go.” Though I do not have any recollection of a desire or call to “go,” I believe the seed was planted that was watered in the years to come. 

Flat growth during the decade: But the Graterford and Harleysville MBC churches did not grow over that period of ten years. Membership remained essentially flat.  During those ten years 40 were baptized and 34 taken into fellowship. But for various reasons there was also a similar exodus of members. Total Sunday School average attendance rose from 143 to 149 in ten years. This disappointed me when my research was done, though it is not contrary to my impression.

But then I compared the growth rate in the MBC conference. I discovered that maintaining a plateau during the decade was the norm. The Annual Year Book shows the MBC growth rate for that decade was only 293 members for the entire conference, which is a 7% increase.

A closer look is a bit more shocking. Numerous churches lost significant numbers over the ten year period. Bethel in Allentown lost 44 members, falling from 419 to 375. Reading lost 19. Nazareth dropped from 84 to 49, Philadelphia, Salem dropped from 271 to 217. Many held their same level of membership, while others dropped slightly with only a few gaining. Most of the 293 additional members in that decade came from four new churches which grew out of the Gospel Herald Society, namely, Lebanon, PA, Chester, PA, Newark, NJ., and Staten Island, NY.

Sunday School attendance also was mixed. In Bethel, Allentown, average Sunday School attendance declined from 376 to 285; in Bethlehem from 443 to 337. Average Sunday School attendance throughout the 33 conference churches in 1936 was 4663. By 1945 the average declined in the 38 churches to 4360.

What could the explanation be for this lack of growth? Was it because of the years of depression and economic hard times, or World War II which sapped their energies? Was it the aging MBC leadership and their inability to adjust and adapt and grow during the changing culture? Had the fire gone out of earlier evangelistic fervor? Could it be that the educational level of the pastors was adequate for a rural settings and a lower middle class laity but was unable to attract an increasingly better trained laity in their communities?

The circuit system of pastoring more than one church surely did not help. While it may have been financially feasible, dividing one’s attention between two or three congregations would certainly inhibit. In 1936 there were eight circuits with a total of 32 churches. Two circuits had three churches each. By 1946 the number of churches had increased to 37 but the number of circuits had increased to nine. One pastor cared for Staten Island in New York City together with Scranton in Pennsylvania. My dear uncle Allen, (A.G. Woodring) pastored Fleetwood, Terre Hill and Blandon during that decade. In 1935 the membership for all three congregations was 218. One decade latter the membership was 222 – essentially flat. Circuit riding, however, seemed necessary because of the size of the churches and because of inadequate numbers of pastors.

During those first ten years, when my dad was stationed in a conference church, he also served in various capacities at the conference level. He was an active member, attending every one of the Annual Conferences. For seven years, 1936 to 1942, he was a member of the Finance Committee. In 1943 they placed him on the Committee on Examination of Presiding Elders and he remained on that committee for many years thereafter. He was also a member of the Committee on the Examination of Local Preachers, Evangelists and Missionaries in 1943. He offered the benediction several times, and opened and closed the business meetings with prayer. In 1936 he gave a twenty minute address Friday evening. So my dad was active in the annual conference, though not on the powerful boards and committees.

Second Church Appointment: Newark, New Jersey, 1945-1948

The first half of the 1940s marked momentous times for the MBC with the changing of the leadership. W. G. Gehman, the Presiding Elder for the Easton District for thirty-seven consecutive years and the influential head of the Gospel Heralds, had unexpectedly fallen asleep in Christ in 1941. By 1945 B. B. Musselman, the influential pastor in Bethel, Allentown, and the son of H. B. Musselman, had left the MBC pastorate in a cloud and devoted himself to the radio station he had started. In 1945, when H. B. Musselman stepped down as Presiding Elder, T. D. Gehret and P.T. Stengele were elected as Presiding Elders. After 43 years of “faithful and efficient service” as Presiding Elder, H. B. Musselman was elected Presiding Elder Emeritus.  

Neither the church nor pastor had any determining voice about the posting of pastors in the MBC. Each church did send a lay delegate and they were consulted, but the final determination of appointments rested with the Presiding Elders.

During the early years of the twentieth century, when they called the roll of the pastors, they responded whether or not they “submitted themselves unconditionally to the conference.” Most responded “unconditionally,” but a surprising number responded “conditionally,” including C. H. Brunner and William Gehman. However, after H. B. Musselman became well established as the Presiding Elder, we find that everyone “submitted to the conference unconditionally.”

On that basis the Stationing, Boundary and Appropriating Committee was read aloud. At that moment each pastor, seated in the pew, learned where he would be serving the following year. That moment was one of high drama during each Annual Conference. In 1945 they resolved to determine, “Who are the preachers who are willing to minister this year, according to the direction of the Conference and our Discipline, and what is their number.” Thirty-one men answered, “Yea,” and no one answered “Nay.”.

When the Stationing and Boundary Committee was read, R. H. Gehman was sent to Newark, New Jersey and T. E. Turnbull, the pastor of the Newark congregation, was assigned to Graterford and Harleysville. From the Pennsylvania Dutch rural area of Graterford and Harlesyville, my dad was sent to a newly established conference church in the heart of the New York metropolitan area. He was being transferred from a circuit of two churches with a total membership of 115 to a small “mission” church with a membership of 40. Newark was first admitted into the conference in 1942. Numbers of older pastors at various times have expressed to me surprise and dilemma over this assignment, but to my knowledge, whatever were his thoughts, my dad never expressed anything but positive acceptance.  

Over a period of ten years in Graterford, we had accumulated many things. All our possessions in our Graterford two story house with an attic and basement, accumulated over a ten year period, together with all our things in a barn to the rear of the house were squeezed into this enormous moving van with pieces of furniture hanging onto the rear exterior and held secure with ropes. The truck driver expressed doubt whether all those things could possibly fit into the second floor apartment in Newark. Amazingly, they did. My grandmother had one bedroom, parents another and mine was in the front of the house where the buses continually stopped and started on the busy Avon Avenue. Instead of quiet darkness outside my window at night, there were street lights with the noise of traffic. One room was my dad’s office. Altogether, a large pantry, kitchen, dining room and living room, storage room plus four bedrooms provided spacious living quarters. During Christmas we removed the dining room table and placed a large platform for my Lionel train. One Christmas my aunt and uncle Woodring came for a visit along with my cousin, Leonard and Frances with their little daughter, Jo Ann.  We were crowded to say the least with one sleeping in the bathtub, I believe? Probably not. But the apartment accommodated all our needs. It was just a major change from the world of Graterford.   

It was city-life, living in an apartment. Noise easily carried downstairs to our neighbors below us. On one occasion I was helping my father by stamping some tracts. With one hand I pounded the stamp on the ink pad, then stamped the tract, back and forth as fast as I could. “Stop bouncing that ball” came a voice from downstairs.” “We’re not bouncing a ball,” we replied. “Stop bouncing that ball,” she persisted. Obviously, there were restrictions we faced living in an apartment. Neither did we have a front porch or land to cultivate. I’ll always remember some time after moving to Newark that we took a “pleasure ride” to the countryside. It took about thirty minutes to leave the concrete jungle and reach the farm pastures. When I saw a cow, my heart leaped for joy. I never had any dealings with cows but somehow the sight of a cow made me feel at home. How much more must my parents have felt that way? Moving to Newark, New Jersey, was indeed a culture shock, at least for me.

Fortunately, there was a small piece of empty land fenced in behind the church which we could see from the kitchen window. My parents utilized that to the full with flowers and vegetables planted.

The church building was purchased by the MBC in 1942 and was not a traditional Mennonite meeting house. It was a beautiful little church structure with a steeple, stained glass windows, a pipe organ and cushioned seats – all on the older side but nevertheless quite attractive and un-Mennonite. My mother loved to play the pipe organ, including sheet music with Handel’s compositions. When my dad officiated the marriage of four Italian sisters they were dressed in elegant wedding attire. Rachel Yacovelli’s veil was six and a half yards long.[41] My mother played “Indian Love Call” and “I Love You Truly” on the pipe organ. The MBC was metamorphosing.

We had faithful members who supported the ministry quite well. In 1936 the 40 members contributed a total offering of $4,950.99 compared to the $7,110.34 contributed by the 115 members in the Graterford/Harleysville circuit.[42] However, my dad’s total annual support in 1946 was only $1,282.25 or $106.85 per month. From the vantage point of 2006, it is difficult to imagine how they survived in the New York metropolitan area. My dad actually went out doing colportage ministry again on the streets of Newark, near our church, selling the Gospel Herald. No doubt this was a throwback to the Gospel Herald days when Gospel Herald magazines were sold both for ministry and income.

Camp Meetings in Shamokin and Allentown before World War II left an indelible mark on my mind and heart, even as a small child. I well remember the remorse I felt when Camp Meetings were canceled during World War II because of gas rationing. How thrilled I was when the MBC Annual Conference in October 1946, decided to conduct two Camp Meetings in July 1947. All pastors were required to set up the tents the week before Camp Meeting began and then to dismantle the tents during the three days following the last camp and store everything away for the winter. Pastors were also given administrative responsibilities to manage the camps. It was during our days in Newark, New Jersey, that Camp Meeting began with two weeks, each week extending over two weekends, and five days in between for people to vacate their tents and others to occupy their tents. Because of popular demand, these two weeks were extended to three weeks of Camp Meetings with 300 tents occupied. For me this was the highlight of the year, for I spent nearly seven weeks at Mizpah Grove each summer. To connect with other youth from the Conference was inspirational, especially since the churches my father pastored were small with few youth my age who attended Sunday evening services and prayer meetings. We heard from every pastor in the MBC when they preached. Mizpah Grove Camp Meeting was a unifier for the MBC because we connected with people from every church in the denomination. Through the nightly youth meetings conducted in the large “circus” tent, strewn with straw on the ground; and the hour of missions which was held every morning, and the Friday evening service directed toward the youth, I was profoundly impacted toward missions.  My parents made all this possible by arranging for me to stay for the whole summer camp season.

My father labored faithfully during those three years in Newark. He preached an average of 123 sermons each year and visited an average of 382 each year. He baptized ten and took into membership six. Apparently, there were inactive members in Newark when my dad came in 1945. Because he dropped twelve members from the membership roll, by the end of three years the membership had dropped from 40 to 39. However, the attendance increased. The Sunday School attendance increased from 33 in 1945 (prior to my dad’s arrival) to 51 in 1947. Contributing to the loss was the transfer of members to the suburbs. When we lived in Newark, our neighborhood was all Caucasoid with numerous Jews. But as African Americans moved in and the neighborhoods became unsafe, the whites moved out to the suburbs. By 1958 the Newark church ceased to exist. At least five Newark families moved to Denville and formed the nucleus for the BFC in that place today.

Third Church Appointment: Mt. Carmel, Pennsylvania, 1948-1954

In 1948 my dad was assigned to Mt. Carmel, Pennsylvania, in the anthracite coal regions with a large majority of Eastern European immigrants who attended Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Churches. My parents loved this appointment. The same Plymouth we had in Graterford carried our family from Newark to Mt. Carmel in October, 1948, for our first Sunday there. Our three story row house, next to the church, was narrow. My parent’s bedroom overlooked the church sanctuary. With an open window in the summer I could hear the singing when I was sick in bed on one occasion. My grandmother’s bedroom was in the front with my dad’s office in the middle of the second floor. My bedroom was in the attic with plenty of space where I could erect my Christmas platform with the train.

My parents thrived in this environment and the church grew. We had many fine families who formed the solid core of the church.[43] In addition to the MBC conference church, my dad pastored the Bear Gap Gospel Tabernacle over the picturesque mountains in a rural setting. The Mt. Carmel area had previously been a health resort, prior to the coal mining. It is a beautiful, mountainous area. Because of the strip coalmines, the landscape around Mt. Carmel appeared like a bombed out area with large, gaping holes, mounds of dirt and smoke pouring from coalmine fires. But Bear Gap was away from all that and provided a beautiful contrast. Sunday morning was Sunday School and Morning Worship in Mt. Carmel. Sunday afternoon was Sunday School and Worship Service in Bear Gap. Sunday evening was Menno Youth, the evening service followed by choir practice. Normally, we did not attend the Bear Gap Sunday School but during times of Sunday School contests we did. That was a full Sunday schedule for my dad, as well as his teenage son.

During the six year ministry in Mt. Carmel my dad preached 144 sermons every year on average, and made an average of 460 pastoral visits every year. Two classes of members were organized in Mt. Carmel so that every week our family attended two prayer meetings in the church, plus I believe prayer meetings in Bear Gap. On average my dad attended 121 prayer meetings in the year.

He baptized 64 people, including some 13 from Bear Gap in 1949. The Sunday School average attendance grew from 88 in 1948 to 121 in 1954. Those were the days when Sunday School was attended by many who did not attend the church service. Church membership was smaller, but grew from 81 to 92 in 1951. But then the membership began to decline to 85 due to coal mine closures. How well I remember those gloomy days in the early 1950’s when the men would exit after the Sunday evening service and stand a long time outside discussing the closing of the mines. Jobs were lost. People sought work outside the anthracite region. As a result, we lost many solid, core families through transfer to other churches. Even men who were not coal miners suffered because of the depressed economic conditions.

As a parenthetical observation, we should note, that when Herbert Hartman succeeded my dad in Mt. Carmel in 1954, it was decided to merge the Bear Gap Tabernacle with the Mt. Carmel congregation. This was precipitated in part by Pastor Hartman’s sudden and serious bout with cancer. As a result, the membership in Mt. Carmel in the two succeeding years increased dramatically. On September 9, 1957, nearly three years after his appointment to Mt. Carmel, Brother Herbert Hartman passed away.

Though we had a number of unionized coal miners in the congregation, we also had a number of men who owned businesses and others who were white collar executives and tellers in banks and business executives. These included the owners of two Dairies with their families. As a result, our members contributed much more than in the sister church of Shamokin. While they had 161 members they contributed $8,023 in 1951 while the 92 members in Mt. Carmel contributed $9,195 in the same year. In my eyes, our Mt. Carmel church was small. But when you eliminate the five largest giving churches in the MBC in 1949, (Bethel Allentown, Reading, Bethlehem, Chester and Emmaus), Mt. Carmel gave slightly more than the average of all the other churches.

Missions Conferences were a highlight in Mt. Carmel. We participated in a round-robin missionary conference with various other churches so that many different missionaries would circulate to all the churches throughout the week over two weekends and throughout the weekday evenings. My parents hosted the visiting missionaries who ate with us and slept in our home. This left an indelible impression on my mind. Their curio tables and missionary talks and challenges contributed to my own missionary call. The people were also generous in giving. Mt. Carmel gave $1,009 to foreign missions in total in 1951 while Shamokin, 40% larger than Mt. Carmel, gave $707. Mt. Carmel had a unique way of giving for missions in Sunday School. They conducted a “dollar stretch.” The various Sunday School classes competed in giving. Their contributions were then exchanged for one-dollar bills which were pinned together. When each Sunday School class was called, the teacher would announce their total giving and hand over the rolled dollars that were pinned together. These were then pinned to the other collections. The “dollar stretch” would extend all around the church with people holding up the chain of dollars in the isles. This provided excitement and enthusiasm for missions giving.

A major renovation project was undertaken to upgrade our church building. In 1949 the church property was valued at $20,000. It was a wooden frame building with an alley separating it from the Episcopal Church which had an end property on another street. The renovations included: placing shingles on the outside, plastering the inside, carpeting the whole floor, refurnishing the pews, hanging new light chandlers, buying new pulpit furniture and renovating the basement.

In our community my dad was active in various capacities. We participated with the evangelical Protestant churches in Youth for Christ. During my Commencement from High School in 1954, my dad offered the Invocation and Benediction. (The pastor of the Greek Catholic Church gave the Baccalaureate Address.)

At the conference level my dad continued to serve in his usual places of ministry. He was a member of the Committee on Examination of Local Conference Records, the Committee on the Examination of Presiding Elders (then District Superintendents when the name changed), and a member of the Board of Examiners. He prayed at the opening of the 1950 conference and offered the benediction at others. He served as a Teller on one occasion and was the Secretary of the Ministerial Convention Committee on the Program in 1952. In April 1951 he prepared and delivered an eight page typewritten paper at the Ministerial Convention on “Menno Simons and the Mennonites.”[44]

Fourth Church Appointment: South Allentown and Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, 1954-1958

Hurricane Hazel swept through the Lehigh Valley the third week of October 1954 when the Forty-Second Annual Conference of the MBC was convened in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Rev. F. B. Hertzog was the Chairman. The hurricane blew with gale force winds and knocked out the electricity the evening of Friday, October 15th. So with candlelight, all the delegates listened with expectation to the stationing report. As if it were with a loud thunder clap, the announcement was made that my father was exchanging pulpits with Herbert Hartman who had served in the circuit of South Allentown and Coopersburg. If the 1945 stationing report of my dad being stationed to Newark, New Jersey, was a shocker, even more shocking was this new assignment for Herbert Hartman who was the Vice District Superintendent. He was moving from a circuit with a combined membership of 250 members to Mt. Carmel with 85 members. As obedient servants of the Lord in the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church, these pastors moved.

The reasoning behind the assignment is unknown. What is known is that H. L. Shelly from Coopersburg was the delegate for the circuit. As far back as 1918, H. L. Shelly was the delegate from Coopersburg. And my mother’s dad, R. L. Woodring, was the pastor in Coopersburg 1918-1925. H. L. Shelly knew and respected my grandfather and my mother from those days, even as numerous other members of Coopersburg remembered the Woodrings. Incidentally, R. L. Woodring also preceded my dad in Graterford and Harleysville (1905-1908) and Mt. Carmel (1902-1905).

The fall of 1954, after my high school graduation in Mt. Carmel, I enrolled as a resident student in Berean Bible School in South Allentown.  On October 15 my dad was assigned to the Salem, South Allentown Church, the MBC church which was closest to Berean. The parsonage for Salem, South Allentown, was a mere twenty-minute walk away, down a hill, across a river and up the hill to South Hall Street. Consequently, I moved home and became a day student. Every Sunday I was busy for three years, visiting all the MBC churches on the Berean Gospel Team with President Jansen E. Hartman. During the summers of 1955 and 1956 I was engaged in Home Missions in such church planting efforts as Paradise, Millersville, and Trenton. Therefore, my involvement in Salem, South Allentown and Coopersburg was minimal, limited to Christmas and Easter holidays and a few other similar occasions.

Back in 1925 Coopersburg MBC was a separate charge with H. L. Shelly the delegate; and Salem, South Allentown MBC was separate with G. Louis Baumgartner the delegate. Both laymen remained prominent leaders in their respective churches in 1954. Eventually, these two churches were brought together as a circuit. Under the twelve year ministry of F. B. Hertzog, 1930-1942, Salem grew from 68 to 82 members, and Coopersburg grew from 98 members to 120. They continued to grow during the two year pastorate of Walter Frank. Under Herbert Hartman, 1947-1954, Salem grew from 95 to 113 members and Coopersburg grew from 131 to 137 members.

It is of interest that in 1954, the same year that my dad was assigned to South Allentown and Coopersburg circuit, the South Allentown, Salem Church, had petitioned Annual Conference that “in the event that if it is possible, that Salem Mennonite Brethren in Christ, Allentown, Penna., be recognized as a separate charge to be supplied with its own pastor.” In response the Stationing, Boundary and Appropriating Committee acknowledged that: “There is a growing feeling among many of the constituents of our Churches, that there is a definite need for a more vigorous program of evangelism and church expansion” and that “the existence of circuits do not contribute to the best interests of this need.” Therefore, they encouraged “Churches presently constituting circuits, to arrive toward a goal of becoming stations with pastors assigned to each appointment.” With the graduates of Berean Bible School ready to pastor, the days of circuit riding were numbered.

Therefore, high on the agenda for each of these churches was to become so well established that they could support their own pastor. In 1954 the total contribution of Coopersburg was $11,530 (with 137 members), South Allentown was $10,130 (with 113 members) and Mt. Carmel was $11,806 (with 85 members in an economically depressed environment). More important was the support of the ministers. The total support from Coopersburg in 1954 was $2,639 and from South Allentown was $2,003 (compared to $3,791 in Mt. Carmel).

By 1956 pastoral support was sufficient in South Allentown and Coopersburg. Final arrangements were made so that by the October 1956 the Annual Conference assigned Carl Cassel to Coopersburg and my dad remained in South Allentown for two more years.

This new assignment was quite different from Mt. Carmel and presented a new set of challenges to my dad.  Although the membership of Salem was nearly 30% higher than Mt. Carmel, many of the members were less stable. Carnality and spiritual immaturity afflicted numbers of people in the congregation evidenced by conflict. There was a succession of disturbances of one sort or another. After one such episode, an elder told my dad, “You can now see that in our church, when one problem passes, another is around the corner.” Whenever I read of or speak on the Corinthian Church, my mind always snaps back to Salem.  My dad’s previous ministry in Mt. Carmel and his succeeding ministry in Lancaster were so peaceful. Not so with Salem. This led to some kind of physical and emotional breakdown so that my dad needed a few weeks of respite before he continued in ministry at Salem.  At the time I was a student in Wheaton College and cannot remember the details.

There were some stable and well established families and individuals in Salem but many were aging. An indication of the spiritual instability and immaturity of the congregation was a steady decline in the church with members transferring out, and within four decades the church withered away and closed. But well before that time, my dad moved on to another pastorate.

Fifth Church Assignment: Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1958-1961

When the stationing report was read in October, 1958, I was in Wheaton College, and can only speculate about my parents’ reaction. Though a smaller church with 39 members and newly established in 1950, the congregation had mature, well established families who had transferred from several other MBC churches, including some five families from Mt. Carmel. For my dad who was now beginning to feel his age, it was a pleasant and rewarding three years of ministry before his translation into glory.

Once again, I had very little contact with the church in actual fact because of being in Wheaton College. During the summer of 1961 I was in Wheaton doing my research for the MA. During the summers of 1958 and 1959 I did stay in Lancaster to work and earn money for college. I was able to develop personal relationships built on former acquaintances and personal knowledge of people through Camp Meetings.

The church responded well to my dad’s ministry.  He continued to engage in a vigorous visitation ministry with an average of 460 visits each year. My cousin, Rev. Wayne Gehman and his wife, Beth, had visited my parents in August 1959 when he preached in our church. Wayne Gehman commented in a letter to my mother, “Rudy was gifted in the ministry of visitation.” My mother then responded in a letter dated 1973, “Yes, he was; the Lord seemed to use him especially along these lines. He befriended everyone, even such who were poor, or illiterate, or may have been shunned by society in general.”

Generally, his preaching was confined to Sunday mornings and evenings, so he preached an average of 84 times each year. During those two years and nine months my dad baptized 18 people, so that the Lancaster BFC grew from 39 to 50 members and the Sunday School average attendance was 103.

My mother mentioned that my dad frequently spoke of retirement. I suspect that he was beginning to feel his age. However, he was not sickly. F.B. Hertzog had inquired whether he would be willing to oversee the Home for the Aging. But my dad felt that his sympathetic personality would succumb if his ministry focused on the sickly and aging people in a Home. The Lancaster BFC was moving along well; harmony prevailed with a good spirit of unity. Presumably, he would have served there an additional number of years.

But God in his sovereign wisdom took him home painlessly and instantaneously on August 17, 1961, at the age of 62 years and nine months. “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” Writing in 1973 to my cousin, Wayne and Beth Gehman, my mother reflected on his sudden and unexpected death. “God never makes a mistake, even though at that particular time, we may wonder. We best to accept His perfect will; we need not understand. It would be pure selfishness to wish him back, futile as that may be; Rudy has fought his last battle and we know he is safe with the Lord. In this world system, there is nothing good. But the future for the Christian is very BRIGHT. Rudy used to say that he did not want his reward on this earth, that he wanted to lay up treasures in Heaven. He was referring especially to receiving the ‘praise of men.’ He wished God’s, ‘Well Done,’ which I am sure is or shall be his portion.”

MY FATHER’S PREACHING/TEACHING

Affirmation of My Dad’s Spiritual Gifts

The spiritual gifts manifested by my father include “the pastor-teacher.” That he excelled as the pastor-teacher was evidenced by the deep love and respect the members had for him. F. B. Hertzog, his Presiding Elder when my dad passed away in 1961, took notice of the numerous members from former churches where my father had served and who attended the memorial service in the Grace Bible Fellowship Church in Reading. Pastor Hertzog felt that this was an affirmation of their love and respect for him.

The remarks of my dad’s sister, Katie, portray the marks of a pastor, one who could shepherd the flock with love and care. “As a whole, I recall him as a rather quiet young man, not hasty in making decisions, never in a hurry. In fact, I recall telling him one time, ‘If you ever get married, be sure you get a wife who has lots of patience.’ He was always kind, sympathetic, the kind of person one could talk to. These very things were some of the reasons his life was such a blessing to so many.”[45]

On May 30, 1999, the Lancaster Bible Fellowship Church invited me to speak on our Home Assignment as one of their missionaries. They had been one of our big supporters as BFC missionaries. They totally surprised me by presenting to me “The Rudy H. Gehman Leadership Award.” This now hangs over my computer as I write this tribute. For me the greatest pleasure and reward was not receiving it for myself but recognizing that the last church where my father had had served was honoring my father in this way. The elders had discussed the need to acknowledge and recognize lay members of their congregation who had served so faithfully down through the years. In fact there were many. Numerous mature Christian leaders moved to Lancaster from MBC churches and became the pool of church leadership there. So Pastor David A. Thomann desired to offer awards of recognition for faithful lay leadership in the church. What should they call this award? They decided to name the award after my father. No greater testimony can be given that they did love and respect him as their pastor-teacher.

Before I was born, both my dad and mother served in Chester (now Wallingford). This endearing relationship with some of the old timers no doubt contributed to Wallingford taking on our full missionary support in 1966 when we first went to Kenya. Dick Hartzel,[46] whose mother was a dear friend of my parents, said recently of my dad, “He was a lovely pastor. I loved him. He was polite and nice. I liked his manners. Unlike W. G. Gehman, I was not afraid of your dad.”

Olive Rawn,[47] who was a young girl in Graterford when I was born, commented that, “Your dad was steadfast and always faithful. I looked up to him as one of the preachers.” Perma (Wismer) Hipszer,[48] who is today ninety-three years old, and was married to Stanley Hipszer sixty-three years ago in Graterford by my father, said this: “Your mother had a beautiful voice for singing. She was wonderful and so was your dad. They were kind, nice and sociable. Your dad was wonderful.”

In Mt. Carmel two good friends are still living today,  Shirley Estock, now 82; and Emma Aurand, now 85.[49] We always had so much fun with them with laughter and good humor. Shirley said, “I have a lot of pleasant memories of your parents. Your father liked to eat fat with meat, an old German trait. They stayed with us when they moved from Newark, New Jersey to Mt. Carmel. Your mother would give milk and homemade bread in the parsonage when we visited. We have many pleasant memories of the Christmas parties they would have in the parsonages for all ages. I liked your parents very much. I was too young – cannot remember his sermons. But he was friendly and easy to talk with. We always liked him.” Emma was always boisterous. When she began attending church, on one occasion, she blurted out quite loudly, “Oh my aching heart!” My dad then spoke with her later, “Now Emma, you don’t say that. We’re in the house of the Lord.”  

When we returned from Kenya to the States for retirement, I spoke in the Ebenezer Bible Fellowship Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, as one of their supported missionaries. Pastor Frank L. Herb was present. He asked, “Do you know what they used to say about your father’s preaching?” I did not. Apparently the ministering brethren would say, “Brother Gehman is like Lehigh Valley Milk – Never flashy but always good.” Indeed, this is on the mark. R. C. Reichenbach observed that my dad was more of a teacher than a preacher. He was not charismatic or oratorical in delivery. He never brought down the roof with jokes or light humor. But he provided meat for thought. He was a good teacher.

Material Remains of His “Study”

Memories of my father are inseparable from his office where he studied and prepared his sermons for ministry. The same pieces of furniture and wall hangings were found in his “study” in the various parsonages where we lived, in Graterford, PA; Newark, NJ; Mt. Carmel, PA; South Allentown, PA; and Lancaster, PA.  There hung a plaster-of-pares motto with II Timothy 2:15 written,

Study to show thyself approved unto God,

 a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,

Rightly dividing the Word of Truth.”

That motto we took to Kenya in 1966 and it hung in my office for 36 years in Africa. Today as I sit in my own office in our retirement home in the Retirement Center for the Africa Inland Mission in Central Florida, this same motto hangs above my desk along with portraits of my parents and grandparents. Above my computer are two water color pictures which my mother painted in 1916, one of a horse with her father in mind. Before R. L Woodring became a pastor in the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church, he was a blacksmith and loved horses. These paintings used to hang in my father’s “study.” 

Included in his office was a desk with a roll-down top. We disposed of that when my mother had to leave the parsonage for a smaller apartment. However, his three antique sectional bookcases which contained all his books are now gracing my office here in Florida.

Also found in his office was a custom designed, home made “filing cabinet” which his father, Joe Gehman, had made for his son. With a flowery decal on the front door, shellacked with a dark varnish, it stood approximately five feet high, three feet wide and two feet deep. Inside were many shelves with vertical pieces of plywood to make little cubicles in which he placed brown colored accordion-like folding envelopes with a string attached to tie the folders together. In these folders he filed all his illustrations he would clip. On one shelf lay the hundreds of typed sermons, duly numbered and held together with metal rings, together with a ledger book recording the date and place of preaching each sermon with the text and title. Because of problems of storage I decided to discard the filing cabinet and all the many folders with illustrations, but I preserved all his sermons in a small wooden box which he himself had made. For forty-five years these sermons were stored in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, while we served in Kenya, East Africa. In this Tribute we will examine those sermons.

We now want to turn our attention to the hundreds of sermons which he prepared and preached during his years of ministry.

Examination of His Sermons

My dad’s sermons for Sunday services are all typed on three-ringed notebook paper, measuring 7 ¼ by 4 ¼ inches. The sermons are divided into six separate collections, each being held together by two metal rings. The sermons as they were developed and first preached are all recorded in a ledger book with the date preached, the number of the sermon, title of the sermon, biblical text, occasion of the sermon, and the place of preaching. The occasion and place of preaching refers to the initial place of preaching. Whenever the sermon was preached again, a notation is found at the end of the sermon, but not in the ledger book.    Beginning with the 62nd sermon (May 1927) found at the beginning of the second collection of sermons, all the following sermons through the 753rd (July 7th 1961) are neatly typed on the front and back of the three-ringed notebook paper.

The first collection of sermons is mostly handwritten and prepared in ways that were obviously in the initial period of learning how to preach. These sermons are not all in order. The first one preached, dated April 5th 1924, is in the back of the first collection. These sermons in the first collection extend to March 21, 1927. In this first collection he indicated the main points and sub-points by various means – Roman numerals, Arabic numerals and letters of the alphabet. Occasionally, he would simply underline a word to indicate a new thought. The sermons for the year 1924 usually have no homiletical outline at all.

In addition to these well organized, typewritten sermons which number 753 altogether, he spoke on Sunday nights and many other occasions. These talks are handwritten on many sizes of paper and tied together in six bundles. They are recorded in the ledger book as “Sermons, Talks, Speeches etc.” They number 468 with the title and text recorded in the ledger book. In this paper we shall not consider this set of talks and speeches but will focus on the main collection of sermons.

Instead of giving any detailed analysis of all the sermons, we shall make various observations. In particular, we shall consider the content of what he preached, especially issues of law and grace, faith and good works, keeping the moral law of God and observing a “separation” from the world. My interest in this arises from my own memory and impression that he had a biblical view of these subjects, without falling into a legalistic approach of separation from the world. What do the sermons indicate?

For this study we shall divide the sermons into four time periods: 1924 – 1927 (his first sermons preached among the Mennonites) found in the first collection of sermons; 1927 – 1935 (his preaching in the Gospel Herald Society); 1935-1945 (preaching in Graterford and Harleysville, his first MBC conference appointment); 1946-1961 (the remainder of his ministry in Newark, NJ, Mt. Carmel and Bear Gap, PA, South Allentown and Coopersburg, PA, and Lancaster, PA).

Sermons for 1924 – 1927

Initial Sermons in 1924: The first collection of sermons contains 91 sermons, all handwritten and many without numbering. One-third of them was preached before he began as the assigned preacher in the Pine Grove Mennonite Church in Bowmansville, PA, on February 7, 1926 and are therefore neither numbered nor recorded in the preaching ledger.

The church where my grandparents worshipped was the Pine Grove Mennonite Church.  After his study at Bluffton College Academy, but before his training at Moody Bible Institute, my dad began to preach there and elsewhere.

The first sermon found in this first collection of sermons is dated Feb 21, 1924. This “sermon” (a talk without any outline) was based on Judges 4:1-3 with the title, “Where Shall We Go?” It is a brief talk on sin without any exposition from Scripture. He states, “Sin is in the world today, no matter what our theory about reformation is,” possibly alluding to the Anabaptists who advanced the Reformation beyond the Reformers – yet even they were sinners. None of these early sermons developed in 1924 have any homiletical structure or outline. He preached most of these sermons in Bowmansville, but also in Denver, Quarryville and Mechanic’s Grove.[50]

In a sermon entitled, “No Room for Jesus,” based on Luke 2:7 (December 28, 1924), he speaks of Herod and the Jews having no room for Jesus. Then applying this to believers today, he mentions the many things that people do to create no room for Jesus, like making a living, pleasures, forgetting to pray and being holy…and “character, especially in women, fault of men dresses [his short hand is not clear], amusements, manners, knickerbockers, painted cheeks, low necks, naked arms, short skirts, movies, beauty parades and foxtrot but lack of earnestness. No room for Christ.”

Sermons in Moody Bible Institute and Later in 1925: Found among these early sermons are a few that he preached when he was a student at Moody, including one he preached in the First Mennonite Church of Chicago on April 19, 1925. Later in 1925, after his brief study at Moody, we find sermons that we assume reflect something of his study at Moody. “Inspiration of the Bible,” based on II Peter 1:21 and preached in Bowmansville on August 23, 1925, is the kind of topic that reflects some biblical training. The homiletical structure, though uneven and inconsistent, is nevertheless a new development in his sermon preparation.[51]

For Christmas 1925 (Dec 20) he spoke from Luke 2:11, “Our Saviour Christ and Lord,” with the main points taken from the text. This sermon is better formed and obviously derived from his reading. Quoting Gray he asks, “Do we ask, does it harmonize with modern science and theology, advanced thought, new conceptions of God, or modern theories of man? ‘The only Jesus that I know is he who died for me.’” 

First Sermon as Ordained Minister: The very first sermon listed in his ledger of sermons was preached on February 7, 1926 in Bowmansville (Pine Grove Mennonite Church). This was immediately after he was first ordained to the Gospel ministry by Rev. A. M. Fretz of Perkasie, Pennsylvania, on January 24, 1926. The title of this first sermon was, “The Relation of Pastor and People.” The sermon speaks of the task and responsibility of the pastor to “Feed my sheep” (John 21) and serve as “The watchman” (Ezekiel 33). The emphasis is on the need for love, a love that forgives, that trusts, that is longsuffering, patient and that serves.

Sermons on Salvation: Many of these early sermons focus on salvation. The titles reflect this emphasis: “Redemption through Blood,” “Redemption Wholly of God,” “Redemption by Power,” “Ye Must be Born Again,” “Repentance” and “Coming to Jesus.”

On January 4, 1925, my dad preached a sermon in Denver on the topic, “Ye Must Be Born Again.” This sermon was repeated at the SeaMission, New York in 1929, Trenton Mission, in Harleysville revival in 1937 and in Bear Gap in 1950. He divides the sermon into two parts: “The Calamity of the Human Family” and “The Plan of Salvation.” He describes the human heart as full of pride, sloth, envy, covetousness, impatience, wrath, jealousy, hatred, revenge and hypocrisy. A hypocrite is one who “borrows the cloak of religion, attends at the sacred altars to make a show of devotion and then raises her affected zeal in proportion to the number of spectators, calling on God to get the praise of men.” He then describes the “Plan of Salvation” involving the death of Christ and the need for grace. Repentance includes a knowledge of one’s sinfulness, conviction of sin, confession of sin and forsaking of sin. He says, “Through the fall, man’s spiritual senses have been impaired in a great stupor, unconscious of his real condition, asleep. Paul says, ‘Awake thou that sleepeth, arise from it.’”

He preached another sermon in Bowmansville in October, 1925, entitled, “The Nature and Necessity of the New Birth.” He observes that this is not Reformation, “like painting an old ford or cleaning a drunkard. The inside has to be changed, like a broken clock.”

Another time in February, 1926, in Bowmansville, he preached “Redemption Wholly of God,” based on Exodus 3:7,8 and Acts 7:17-34. Having explained what “redemption” is, he uses the deliverance of Israel from Egypt as an analogy of our own redemption. As slaves in Egypt, Israel could not deliver themselves. Redemption was wholly of God. Then he speaks of the danger of ‘working out salvation before we have it.” Who fights for us, who delivers the sinner? he asks. “Christ did it all on the cross, unconditionally.” He then warns of the danger of trying “to work out salvation before we have it; the danger of trying to conquer the enemy ourselves.” We need to let go and let God; he urges men to die to self and live unto God. He warns of the danger of seeking to save ourselves.

On March 21, 1926, he preached in Bowmansville, “Redemption Through Blood,” based on Exodus 12:13. After dealing with (1) The lamb must be without spot, and (2) The lamb must be slain, he deals with (3) The blood must be applied. He speaks of the need for “heart faith.” “Not when I see the good works, prayer, tears but blood I will pass over you. Good works are consequences of true faith, not true faith the result of good works.”

In a sermon preached in Denver on November 28, 1926, he preached on “The Brazen Altar” with typological applications to Christians. He taught that “the believer comes to worship without sacrifice, nothing we bring simply to the cross we cling…The tabernacle has been removed since Christ was offered and the believer can come into the presence of God.”

Sermons on Grace: A number of sermons may be classified as doctrinal homilies on grace. Soon after his studies at Moody Bible Institute on July 26, 1925, he preached on “Salvation by Grace through Faith,” based on Ephesians 2:1-10 in Bowmansville. It is a full presentation of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith and not by works. Quoting the Scripture he writes,

‘To will is present with me, but how to perform that which I would I find not.’ This is the experience of many people. They have a longing for salvation but cannot reach it. Of what avail is food or the living water if we cannot reach it. We are without strength and know hardly what to do. The city of refuge may be within sight yet out of reach. There is no ‘good spark’ or ‘better self’ within man. The text says, ‘not of our selves.’ Human nature bears the same evidence. Sin and moral weakness trouble people. They have no strength. They feel helpless, powerless, lifeless, their bones are broken and can do nothing, they cannot control their thoughts, overcome temptation, cannot repent, they have no feeling. But Christ died for the ungodly, not for the good, the strong or the mighty but for the ungodly. God comes to where we are. He does not ask us to become better before we accept Christ but says come and he comes to where we are.

Another example of a doctrinal sermon on grace is the one entitled, “Justification,” which he preached on April 12, 1927. He defines the word, “to justify,” meaning “to pronounce free from guilt or blame.” After teaching from Romans 3:9-20, that “The verdict of guilty rests upon the whole world,” he states: “We are justified because Christ has been made unto us righteousness (I Cor. 1:30). Christ has met every demand of God’s righteous law. Our own will can not pass. He is our righteousness.” “We are justified by God’s grace.” “We are justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” “We are justified by faith and not by works.” All these points are supported by numerous Scriptures. He then illustrates justification by faith with Romans 4:1-4 and the results of justification with Romans 5:1-11. He closes with this question, “Does the Spirit witness with your spirit?”

Other Subjects: Several sermons urge people to evangelize. One sermon, preached on March 6, 1927, urges people  to go into the highways and compel people to come in. Entitled, “Go and Do Thou Likewise,” based on Luke 10:37, he concludes by saying, “If we would be busy doing, going and pulling we would not have time to kick and to hold back, find fault with methods and messages. Said one, ‘I’ve been in this church for 22 years.’ ‘Yes,’ said another, ‘and in all that time you’ve worn out 15 holding-back straps and only one collar.’”

Another sermon on witnessing on July 13, 1924, based on Acts 1:8, closes by asking, “How much witnessing are we doing in the community?” Then he observes, “We are to witness to the utter most part of the earth. How much missionary work are we doing in the way of prayer and giving? How many pocketbooks are closed? Why is it? Because the Holy Spirit is not given place in the life, there is no entire consecration. Folks just drift along the shore and do not trust to venture out into the deep of God’s promises [emphases added].”

Many sermons are devoted to the deepening of believers’ faith, taking the believers deeper in their relationship of devotion and obedience to God. He spoke on prayer, love, humility, obedience and perseverance. In a sermon on “Leaven and Honey” given in Adamstown, he writes, “Honey is that which tastes so sweet, appeals to the appetetite, the eyes and flesh. The consequences are a shallow Christian life. We justify ourselves by resting on some experience…and indulge in the pleasures of the world, that honey which is unrecognized sin.”

In a sermon on “The Two Prayers of the Prodigal and their Result” (preached December 12, 1926), he urges the life of giving. Our prayer should be, “Make me a servant, saved to serve.” On June 28, 1925, he preached a sermon in Bowmansville, repeated in Adamstown and Graterford, entitled, “Giving the Dearest and Best” based on Genesis 22:15-18. Applying the principle of Abraham giving his best, he asks, “Can we give our children for missionaries, pastors, Christian workers or whatever God calls for?” He emphasizes the law of life that blessings come from giving to our limit.

On November 14, 1926, he preached a sermon in Denver on “The Tabernacle.” Seventeen years later I remember him preaching on the Tabernacle in Graterford using a visual display of the Tabernacle and making typological application to Christians today. He speaks of the Church and the individual being the temple today in “this dispensation.”

Among the first 91 sermons preached between 1924 and 1927, we found only one on eschatology, dated June 13, 1926, and preached in Bowmansville. That is purely dispensational with emphasis on the personal return of Christ, the pre-millennial coming before a thousand years of Christ reigning and reference to the two-fold coming – the rapture, the tribulation and the coming in power as king with his saints.

Question of Legalism: In a very early, unstructured, unnumbered and undated sermon which he delivered in Adamstown he refers to D.L. Moody. Let me give an extensive quote from that homily since it speaks to the issue of legalism.

A good rule to follow is this, ‘Whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God.’ Moody spoke of an experience with a young lady who wanted to be a Christian, with tears rolling down her cheeks. Her father and her family went to the theatre and she wondered whether she could continue going to the theater if she became a Christian. Moody said, ‘Did I ever say anything about theaters in my sermons? Why do you bring them up?’ ‘I supposed that you did not believe in them,’ she said. Moody had something better. He preached Christ. She didn’t want to give up the theater. ‘Please don’t mention the theater,’ she said. ‘Can I go to the theater if I become a Christian?’ ‘Yes,’ Moody replied, ‘you can go if you are a real, true Christian and can go with God’s blessing.’ She felt relieved and accepted Christ and left with the idea of going to the theater for the glory of God. A few days later she returned and understood the place seemed horrible. Our prayer should be given without a question. The Christian must keep clean to have fellowship with God.

In a topical sermon on “Hindrances to Prayer,” dated March 9, 1927, his main points, which are supported by Scripture, mention the following hindrances to prayer: sin, idols, stinginess, an unforgiving spirit and selfishness. His explanation of “idols” is worthwhile quoting. “An idol is anything that is the supreme object of our affection. It may be a person, friend, wife, husband or children; it may be money, business, an automobile or jewelry. When these get more attention and love than God, they stand in God’s way in answering our prayer.” Under stinginess he says, “$1.00 per year per member for foreign missions is too little. No wonder that God does not hear our prayers.”

In a sermon entitled, Little Things, based on I Thessalonians 4:1-10 and preached on July 11, 1926, he speaks of little foxes that destroy the vineyard. Under the first point of “The Fox of Improper Companionship” he notes:

 A person is known by the company he keeps. Company influences our lives the same as reading does. Practices, habits, desires of a Christian are opposite to an unsaved person…The Christian life must separate from the gambler, drunkard, profane, and lovers of gay and fashionable society. Under the point of ‘The Fox of Pride’ he notes: Pride is common among rich and poor Christian professors, more common among women; men are also guilty. It is possible to be proud in plain dress, but costly, extravagant dressing nourishes pride.

Structure of Sermons: The structure of the sermons in these early years is quite diverse. Every sermon has a text but the main points are not necessarily an exposition of the biblical text. The text serves as a focal point of divine truth to be taught, and then the main points, derived elsewhere, develop that main thought. So in that sense these sermons could be called topical.  Yet many sermons are not really topical sermons, as I understand the meaning, since some main points make no mention of particular Scriptures supporting the points. Some sermons have been gleaned from books, we assume, so that they are structured quite well; others are without a homiletical structure. Occasional references are made to Gray, Scofield, Dr. Torrey and “Outline by D.J. Umruh.” It is common to find main points without any reference to biblical support, without citing Scripture. Other sermons are rooted in the text with main points derived from the biblical text. A few may even be described as expository sermons, though the text is not really developed as we might expect today.  There is no effort made to analyze and interpret the text.

 

Sermons for 1927-1935

During an eight year period, my dad served in the Gospel Herald Society in the cities of Jersey City, NJ, Camden, NJ, and Chester, PA. During that period he prepared 246 new sermons. These will now be examined.

Jersey City, New Jersey (July 3, 1927 – September 30, 1928): During this fifteen month period, with approximately sixty-five weeks, my dad prepared eighty sermons. The homiletical structure and format of the sermons have become more standardized than in the previous two years. Each sermon is typed on front and back of one unlined notebook paper, 4 ¼ by 7 ¼ inches. The main points of each sermon are underlined and enumerated with Roman numerals. Sub-points, whenever given, are either small letters or Arabic numbers.

Structure of sermons: The sermons are all rooted in the Scripture with main points taken from the Scripture in most cases. This is a significant development over the first sermons he preached. The typical sermon is the Textual Sermon with main points derived from 1-3 verses of the text. Several examples of this are given in the endnotes.[52]  

A surprising number are Expository Sermons in the formal sense of the word. The sermon is derived from a text of more than three verses and each main point is derived from that one text. However, there is no evidence of any exegetical handling of the text with exposition. Rather, the preaching points are self-evident from the essential thoughts expressed by the English text. Examples of such sermons in the endnotes will convey how these sermons are developed.[53]

A majority of sermons, albeit, not an overwhelming majority, are Topical Sermons. Most topical sermons have a theme text-verse beneath the title of the sermon. So the main points are rooted in the theme found in the text-verse. Various examples given in the endnotes illustrate such outlines.[54] Every “Mother’s Day” he preached on “mothers.” In May 1929 he preached on A Mother’s Place which provides a beautiful example of a topical sermon.[55]

Sermon helps: Various sermon outlines suggest that my dad used books to develop his sermons, as is commonly done with preachers, but only a few references to those helps are found at the end of the sermons. Reference is made to Philosophy of Salvation and All About the Bible which were textbooks for the Gospel Herald Society’s Reading Course. The Scofield Notes are mentioned once. Three sermons have a notation at the end, stating that they were derived from certain books: “Sermon from Neighbor’s books, Volume 12”; and “Sermon from Riley’s (Genesis).” One sermon outline said, “Sermon from Riley’s (Genesis). Look it up before you preach it.” Obviously, he did study to prepare the sermons and that help even extended to some extent to the very sermon outlines.   

It is of interest that on several occasions he alludes to a few individuals in his sermons, either as examples of certain truths or as the source of some illustration. These individuals include: C.H. Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, R.A. Torrey who was an associate of D.L. Moody, J. Hudson Taylor, Mueller, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, and Fanny Crosby; but never once does he allude to Menno Simons or any other Mennonite hero. This does not mean that my father was not a Mennonite at heart; but his biblical training and study books were   from non-Mennonite sources. He was influenced by the conservative, Dispensational Protestant movement represented in the Moody Bible Institute. This is an indication that the MBC was both Mennonite and Revivalist; and since he drank weekly from the fountains of the non-Mennonite conservative, Dispensational Protestantism, one might expect that his thinking would be most heavily influenced by them.

Towards the end of this period he begins to gather “clippings” with some illustration or poem. References to illustrations in his sermon notes were found earlier, but clipping and filing apparently developed at this time. The extensive collection of illustrations was all kept in the wooden filing cabinet built by his father.

Content of sermons: Sermon titles are rather prosaic without any captivating hook to attract curiosity.  But they serve functionally to convey the topic of the sermon. A list of some sermon titles found in the endnotes is illustrative of the contents of the sermons preached.[56] Some messages are on salvation, but most are on topics for the edification of believers such as prayer, love, faith and witnessing.  He preached on How to Make a Success of the Christian Life in September 1928, without any hint of legalism.[57]

Since most sermons do not have a written conclusion, many sermons can be tweaked in the end to edify believers or call sinners to repentance and trust in Christ. The sermons that are specifically on the topic of salvation indicate a clear understanding of biblical teaching. In a sermon preached in October 1927, and entitled, “What is man that thou art mindful of him,” (Ps 8:4) he states: “Man’s whole head is sick. Many know not the difference between baptism and regeneration, between form and power of godliness. Our minds are often like a roving butterfly in services. Our imagination builds air-castles of vanity and lewdness. We remember the frivolous conversation, the party, evil pictures, but forget the invitation to come to Christ.” As I recall, my father most always gave an public invitation at the close of his sermon.

In a sermon preached in June 1928, entitled, Things that Differ: Professors and Possessors of Salvation, he states, “The difference between believers and professors is that the first work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). The professors work for their salvation instead of trusting in the finished work of Christ.” In another sermon entitled, Things that Differ: The Old Nature and the New Nature, he accurately describes the “old nature.”[58]

Numbers of sermons are typological in nature, drawing lessons from Old Testament teaching or historical narratives in the New Testament to apply to Christians today. A sermon on the Kinsman-Redeemer, taken from Leviticus 25:25-48, is then illustrated by Ruth and applied to Christ. “The Two Goats” of Leviticus 16:7-10 are shown to be fulfilled in Christ who shed his blood for our sins (Romans 3:24-26) and who bore our sins away (Isaiah 53:6). “The Ark of the Covenant” from Exodus 25:10-23 is used to teach the Gospel. 

In various sermons he refers to the sovereignty of God. In Lessons from God’s Call of Paul and Barnabas, preached in July, 1927, he observes that “they did not call themselves” and “others did not call them.” In a successive sermon on “Serving in His Will,” he states at the beginning, “Jesus’ Sovereign Will. He directs whom He will and where service shall be rendered. He appoints the time and manner of the death of his apostles.” In January 1928 he preached on Man’s Most Foolish Question, based on Malachi 1:2. He states, “God is almighty and Satan can go no further in his work of destruction than God permits. We have Job as an example (Job 1:11). God often changes the purposes of Satan into good for his children (Numb 22). God will not permit us to be tempted above that which we are able to bear (I Cor 10:13). God causes all things to work together for good to them that love Him to them that are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28).” He continues, “We are proud of the things we make, so is God. Whom he did foreknow them he also did predestinate. Romans 8:29. He foreknew us yet made us. This fact does not take away man’s free moral agency.”

Although there is one brief statement that indicates he took a Dispensational approach to the interpretation of Scripture, not one of the eighty sermons developed in Jersey City dealt with anything eschatological. This total absence is striking because of my vivid impressions in my younger years of the imminent coming of Christ.

Sermons on godliness and separation from the world: Only a few sermons dealt with this subject, but some extended quotations will be helpful to highlight his thinking.

In May 1929 he preached on Self-Control. He wrote,

The Successful life is the controlled life. It is more necessary than power. Power in a steam engine must be under control. The only useful machinery is controlled machinery. I. It is essential to our highest development. We are not to be slaves to things such as tobacco, drink, opium etc. Neither to circumstances. We are to be in the world but not of the world. We are to live above the world right where we are. We must have control of our actions. Control of what we do and how we do it! The way we carry things helps in weighing us down. Control of words! Here are three golden gates through which our words should pass. ‘Is it true?’ ‘Is it useful?’ ‘Is it kind?’ Control of thoughts! These control our words and actions. Think as Paul commands in Philippians 4:8.

The following month in June, 1929, he preached a textual sermon from Numbers 11:4-6 on The Flesh-pots of Egypt.  Under the second point he writes:

II. Israel wept, longed for Egypt. They forgot the taskmasters and their cruelty. Egypt is a type of the world and typical of sinful pleasures. Here are some similar pleasures practiced by many young people today. (a) Discontent at home… (b) Puppy love. It often results in unhappy marriages. (c) Amusements. Movies. Theatre. Dancing. All recreation should build up physically and mentally. There are many good books, music, ball games, rowing, walking, swimming, visiting church and the world of nature to enjoy.

A sermon preached in January, 1928, on The Separate People, conveys his understanding on the subject so we will present it fully in the endnote.[59] One comment we will give here:  

Anything that is in opposition to God we should leave. Any pleasures or amusements which weaken mankind, physically, mentally or spiritually are wrong. Or anything that causes a brother or sister in Christ to fall should not be indulged in. We can enjoy games, music, literature and the beauties of nature. These uplift mankind rather than weaken them. The greatest joy for the people of God comes through worship and helping others. God intends to live in us and make known to the world His love and goodness through us.

In a sermon preached in April, 1928, entitled, Does Godliness Pay? (I Tim 4:8), he observed:

The opposite of a godly life is a sinful life. Does it pay? A young man paid a few cents for a drink. It seemed cheap and profitable but he lost his health, happiness, character, and love; he became ragged, poor, wretched and outcast. All hope was gone. Did it pay? … “The way of the transgressor is hard.”

When speaking of God providing a robe of righteousness in January, 1928, he commented: “Christ is our righteousness (I Cor 1:30). We have put on Christ (Gal. 3:27). We are to be clothed with a beautiful spirit (Col 3:12). The body is not to be adorned lest men fail to see Christ in us.” (italics added)

When preaching on The Wounds of Jesus in March, 1929, he asks the question, “To what do they call us?”

Your hand soft and fair, or rough and strong, or white and weak is Christ’s. Can it hold cards or books or anything which would mislead? I think of those weary feet, pierced and bleeding, how they trod the wine press alone, and what of my feet? Do they carry me to worldly places? There is plenty of water to carry from the wells of salvation…Our bodies are wanted, not only our intellects. Let us run errands for Jesus. As the steam engine needs steam, so we need the Spirit.

With his great concern for godly character, we conclude that his approach to separation from the world was generally biblical, though we may take exception with one or two things he said. He gave several biblical reasons for separation, though he did not develop the biblical basis very extensively.

Camden, New Jersey (October 1930 – October 1932): During this twenty-four month period of ministry in Camden, NJ, my dad prepared sixty-three new sermons, compared to eighty sermons prepared in Jersey City over a period of fifteen months. Perhaps he was assisted in the pulpit with another Gospel Herald. No doubt he could also draw upon his sermon barrel instead of preparing a new sermon for each service. The last sermon prepared for Jersey City was September 30, 1930 and the first sermon prepared for Camden was November 28. We assume that he transferred to Camden sometime in October and used sermons from his repertoire until he became settled and could prepare.

Sermon development: When he typed his first sermon for Camden, his typewriter had a crisp new bluish ribbon and the sermon notes look cleaner and brighter, though the ribbon soon became lighter as it was used. He also begins to type the main points with red ink. Becoming more pronounced now, he makes notations at the end of the sermons as to the source of his sermon helps, including: Riley’s book, Volume 1, page 103; A sermon by Dr. Neighbor, Volume twelve, page 105; From Blackstone and Neighbor, V. 4, p. 237; Handfuls on Purpose; Evan. Sermons, p. 9-20; Taken from Bible Expositor and Evan. [Sermons] V.6; Taken from A Quest for Souls;  “Sermon taken from the book, The Nightingale of the Psalms. Not every sermon has such notation but many do.

It appears that he began to use more illustrations during this period; at least, references to illustrations in his sermon notes are more frequent. A new development is the notation of the source for the illustration. Sometimes they are taken from books of illustrations. Especially significant are the notations made in this fashion, “F:1;37.” These notations most assuredly refer to his own personal filing system for clippings with illustrations.

Significant are the typed notes on “Preparation of a Sermon” which were tucked between the sermons. This is significant because the notes are sound and basic and would contribute much to his sermon making whenever followed.[60] Like most of us who preach, he did not always follow the instructions of his “teacher.”

Once again we observe that all the sermon helps are from non-Mennonite sources. In one sermon he wrote, “Note the influence of Jesus, Paul, Luther, Wesleys, Moody etc.” He referred to Andrew Murray who wrote many books which were found in my father’s library. But never once does he refer to Menno Simons or any other Mennonite.

Content of sermons:  This period marks some striking changes. Whereas, during his ministry in Jersey City he preached not one sermon on eschatology, during his ministry in Camden he preached seven sermons. Clearly, he was under dispensational influence. The sermon titles are: The Millennium, Pre-Millennialism, The Church and the Millennium, The Rapture and Revelation, Resurrection and Judgement, and one main point in another sermon which referred to the return of Christ.

For the first time he preached several series of sermons: six sermons on various characters in the Book of Esther, five sermons on the Tabernacle with typological application, and a five-part series on The Purpose of the Incarnation – to reveal the invisible God, to provide a sacrifice, to give the redeemed a High Priest, to show believers how to live, and to fulfill the Davidic Covenant.

Another new topic was Divine Healing which he develops by citing Christ’s compassion and references to healing in Scripture. Under his last point, “How to appropriate,” he mentions three steps: (1) “Faith you must have, same as for salvation. Not that God can but that He will.” (2) “Be right with God. Blessings are conditional. Text. Confess your faults, regard not iniquity…Elbow your way through the crowd of selfishness, pride, ambition, lust, worldliness etc.”

A wide spectrum of topics was preached. See endnotes for titles.[61] He had several sermons on evangelism, one on Faith and Baptism, and one on the doctrine of Scripture. A sermon was devoted to The Christian as a Missionary. The main points were Bible based[62] but the sermon is developed largely through illustrations. An interesting sermon for Mother’s Day was preached on May 8, 1932. Based on Isaiah 66:13, he taught about The Motherliness of God. His main points were that the Motherliness of God is, First, Manifested in motherly instincts, Second, Motherly methods, Third, Gentleness, Fourth,  Patience, Fifth, Anxiety for Children, Sixth, Partiality for the weak, and Seventh, Self-effacement.

An observation of the sermon topics will indicate a striking absence of theological discourse. Moreover, during this two year period there is no single sermon on worldliness or separation from the world. When he speaks of laying aside every weight from Hebrews 12:1-2, he asks the question: “What are the weights? Pride, temper, jealousy, hatred, malice, anger, the works of dishonesty and the flesh.” Nothing is said of movies, dancing, card playing, or lipstick. Under the fourth point on his sermon of Fellowship with God (1 John 1,2), he writes: “‘Be separated from the world.’ 2:15-17. He does not mean the material world of flowers and trees but that love of the world which is contrary to the love of the Father, the pleasures, the fame, the spirit of the world, the desires and gratifications of our fallen nature. Compare the ‘Lust of the flesh,’ ‘lust of the eyes,’ ‘the pride of life.’ This is the full extent of his preaching on worldliness and separation from what I could find during those two years in Camden.

Chester, Pennsylvania (October 1932 – October 1935): This three-year assignment in Chester was the longest, deepest and most enduring ministry my father had in the Gospel Herald Society and prepared him for his first conference appointment in October 1935. During this period he prepared ninety-eight new sermons.

The sermons continue the same pattern as in the previous two years in terms of structure and content. A wide range of topics are taught. See the endnotes for titles of sermons.[63] But no sermon is developed on separation from the world except for one preached in April 1934 on the topic, The Believer Crucified to the World. He observes that, “Companionship of worldlings [sic] is harmful to the Christian life. Read Prov. 4:14,15…It is hard to conceive how those who claim to have a renewed heart can possibly love those who hate Him and will have nothing to do with Him.” Further he adds, “We too often think that an increase in pay means more happiness. We base our happiness on things rather than on the things of God. To obey the Lord in all things is the surest way to happiness. To look above, to set our affection on things above, to place value on heavenly things brings satisfaction.”

No doubt, however, underneath and understood by all was the assumption that certain practices were not becoming to a Christian. This can be illustrated by the sermon on Stewardship of Time and Tithing. He emphasized that time should be redeemed and spent in the fear of God. “We cannot kill time without destroying opportunity.” He continued, “One man insisted that he liked work, but did not like to work between meals. A student said, ‘What shall we do tonight?’ ‘I’ll spin a coin and see. If it comes heads, we’ll go to the movies, if tails dance, if on the edge, study.” Without any explicit teaching, the assumption is clear.

He does have a biblical understanding of the Law. In August of 1934 he preached on Christ the End of the Law (Rom. 10:4). He observes that, “By the law is the knowledge of sin (Rom 3:20)” and “Where there is no law, there is no transgression (Rom 4:15).” Another purpose of the Law is “That every mouth may be stopped (Rom. 3:19).” Then he observes that “The Law cannot save.” It cannot save from the guilt of sin. “Can the law give a guilty conscience peace? Can good works atone for a sinful past? Can the commandments wash away the stains of sin? No, only Christ can do this.” Neither can the Law save from the power of sin (Rom 7:15-25). “‘Your rope’s not long enough,’ shouted a woman after listening to a good-works preacher for awhile.”

Instead of focusing on the Law, he focused on abiding in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. His view of sanctification was biblical. In his sermon on More than Conquerors preached in January, 1934, he speaks of the believers’ victory over sin: First, Victory over the guilt of sin. (“No condemnation. He bore our sins and penalty…”); Second, Victory over the present dominion of sin.  (“‘Christ in you’ is the secret. See II Cor. 2:14. We are told, walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, yield to God, look to Christ, feed on the Word, walk after the Spirit, love not the world, make no provision for the flesh. Again we are told to mortify the deeds of the body, which means to reckon ourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God. Rom 6:11). To walk in the Spirit is to seek hourly to live in utter obedience to the Word of God, looking to Jesus moment by moment in restful faith, depending on His faithfulness.”  Third, Salvation from the presence of sin. “After the resurrection every ache, pain and weakness are gone. We will be WITH Him, LIKE Him and SEE Him. He shall change our vile bodies that it may be fashioned like His glorious body…”

There is a striking emphasis on the Holy Spirit. From the beginning of his sermons, but never mentioned in this paper, are  many scattered references to the Holy Spirit. During this three year period he preached ten sermons on the Holy Spirit, including a three-part series on the Holy Spirit in the Life of Christ, in the Book of Acts and in Galatians. He preached on The Great Helper (Jn 16:7-15), The Dove as a Symbol of the Holy Spirit, Rain as a Type of the Spirit, Emblems of the Holy Spirit, and The Transforming Power of the Holy Spirit.

Certain sermons epitomize in my mind what his focus of preaching was. Preaching on the Locks and Razors, drawn from the life of Samson (Judg 16:19), he speaks of the “seven locks of consecration” that must be preserved to retain spiritual strength. “(a) The lock of faith. (b) Daily feeding on the Word of God. (c) Prayer, a life of prayer. (d) The Holy Spirit of God dominating the life. He makes our prayer effectual. (e) A passion for souls. (g) A heart filled with joy and praise. Then he speaks of the danger of being shorn of those locks by the razor. “(a) Let us fear the razor of worldliness. (b) The razor of selfishness. (c) The razor of self-sufficiency. Our sufficiency is of God. (d) Let us hate the razor of pride. (e) Let us not be overcome by the razor of compromise.”

Another interesting sermon, entitled When Winter Comes, is based on Paul’s request in II Timothy 4:9-21 in view of the coming of winter. “Paul is in prison awaiting a long, cold winter. He desires his cloak, books, a friend and his Bible be brought to him. These are winter necessities. His surroundings are discouraging but he cries, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He learned the secret of a true life, abundant life. He was delivered from fear and worry and whining. We need to learn that too.” Then he develops the main points as follows. First, The cloak for the body. We say, ‘It is getting cold. I must get my overcoat.’ There is a part we must do. The preacher commends the ants in Proverbs 30:25 for they are wise and prepare for winter. We must keep these bodies well by eating, drinking, exercising, dressing and sleeping right. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost. Let us be wise in this respect. Second, The mind must be instructed. Books worthwhile are character forming. Tell me what you read, and I’ll tell you what you are. Good, wholesome books are needed in every Christian home. This request of Paul is a standing rebuke of such who think they can get along without getting help from others. ‘He who refuses the thoughts of other men’s brains proves that he has none of his own.’ Paul studied under Gamaliel. He knew of the writings of the Athenians as we learn from Acts 17:28.” Third, The heart needs a friend. ‘Demas has forsaken me having loved this present evil world.’ Ease, safety, worldly advantage overpowered this ‘fair-weather friend.’ We need friends to whom we can go in all kinds of trouble and triumphs.” Fourth, The Bible is needed for the soul. Especially.’ “John Wesley said, ‘I am a man of one book.’ It is the preeminent, incomparable, unchanging book. To sit alone with a misspent life is miserable company.”

Another striking feature is the increased number of sermons on eschatological themes with a Dispensational slant. Seven sermons are on end-time events including a five-sermon series on “Age-End” topics: Fear, Famine, Wrath, Delusions and Apostasy. A sermon on The Coming of the Lord and the Resurrection of the Saints are also given. In addition there is a ten-sermon series on the Book of Daniel with obvious Dispensational emphases including the Seventy-Weeks prophecy of Daniel 9.

Sermons for 1935-1945

The ten year period of ministry in Graterford and Harleysville marked a watershed in many ways. It was the longest place of ministry in his life. Those ten years also covered the first ten years of my life, being born in December 1935 following his transfer from Chester in October.   

By the time my dad arrived in Graterford and Harleysville, he had been preaching for ten years. By then he had prepared 310 sermons which were available for preaching if he so felt led. During those ten years of preaching he would prepare anywhere from two to eight sermons in a month, more usually three or four. This meant that he would tap some of his older sermons for preaching so that he could preach an average of 127 sermons each year in his first circuit of ministry. Though he preached approximately 1,270 sermons during that period, he prepared only 234 sermons from scratch. However, that figure of 1,270 sermons preached includes preaching in two churches each Sunday of the year. No doubt he preached the same sermon in each church. Furthermore, he also prepared other talks each month which were handwritten on different sizes of paper, duly numbered but not dated. These he preached Sunday nights and on other occasions. These are not included in our study. 

However, I have checked over them because I realized that an important series of messages, that I keenly remember him delivering in Graterford, is not found in his sermon notes. I vividly remember him having a display of the Tabernacle placed on the communion table in front of the pulpit and behind the altar railing. There were tents and the Tabernacle with the veil and the furnishings of the Tabernacle. This is a demonstration of the importance of visual presentations because I keenly remember being impressed by this series of messages. Upon checking the list of “Sermons, Talks, Speeches etc.,” I found twelve titles of these Sunday evening messages on the Tabernacle, including the brazen altar, the laver, the door and Holy Place, the beautiful tent covering, the golden candle stick, the inner veil, the ark, and the mercy seat.

These “Sermons, Talks, and Speeches” are not dated so there is no indication of when they were delivered. But upon examination, I am struck how similar the topics are with the Sunday morning services. There is no noticeable difference in the kind of sermons, except that the Sunday evening services and other events were not typed or included with the Sunday morning sermons.

Content of sermons: The pattern of sermon topics during the period of 1935 to 1945 is basically the same as in previous periods. At first glance there appears to be no systematic scheme of teaching. However, upon closer examination one finds a pattern and an emphasis.

Each year he preached sermons pertaining to significant days in the Calendar year: Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Thanksgiving or Harvest Home.  Messages given at funerals are also found. Comparing these to the undated and unnumbered “Sermons, Talks and Speeches” reveals that similar sermons are listed in that list as well. Numerous sermons are found on each of these events mentioned above.

Those topics which are repeated quite frequently include Christ, the cross (and communion), the Holy Spirit, salvation, the Gospel, prayer, faith, love, victory over sin, missions, marriage and family, witnessing, soul winning and eschatology.  

Sermon titles on Christ include: Our Indispensable Christ; When Jesus Stood in the Sinner’s Place; Christ our Advocate; Christ the Door, Christ Better than Moses; Christ the High Priest.  Once again there are numbers of sermons on the Holy Spirit, but upon reflection it is stunning that not one sermon was found in his numbered and dated sermons on God and his attributes or work of creation; nothing was preached on the Trinity, though I did find one entitled, Seven Attributes of God, in his undated sermons and talks. Nothing was preached from Genesis 1 or 2 as I recall.

My father was a man devoted to prayer, so it is not surprising that he preached frequently on prayer. For example, in April 1937, he preached on The Life of Prayer.[64] In November 1938 he preached on the Seven Great Wonders of Prayer.[65] These are topical sermons. He preached other sermons on prayer which were “expository” in the sense that the points are drawn from the same passage of more than three verses, such as Elijah as a Man of Prayer.[66] Lord Teach us to Pray, based on Luke 11, is also an “expository sermon.”[67]

Among the most preached topics was Missions. Titles included, The Compelling Force of Missions; The First Missionaries; Missionary Work is not in Vain; Giving for Missions and The Early Church and Missions. But equally significant is that many illustrations were given of missionaries throughout his other sermons. He referred to the foreign lands of India and Africa and mentioned by names the missionaries supported by the MBC. In a sermon entitled, A Missionary Message based on Acts 17:22-34, delivered in January, 1938, he has an extensive discussion of Africa and its needs and the religion of Africa. He also names all the missionaries supported by the MBC in Africa,[68] after which he  tells the story of the elephant dinner told by Mary Miller and found in the MBC yearbook. He then begins to speak of China and French Indo-China by showing a Buddha given by Rev. Snyder (the Buddha I still have in our possession), and then mentions the six missionaries supported by the MBC.[69] He concludes by telling of the work being done by the Cressman’s which is found in the “year book.”

Though eschatological topics are preached, they do not number as many as I would have thought. During the ten year period he prepared sermons on Two Women of Revelation, The Marriage of the Lamb, The First Resurrection, God’s Plan for this Age and Bring Back the King. It is also possible that he preached his previously prepared sermons on eschatology. In April 1944 he preached on Bringing Back the King based on II Samuel 19:10.[70]  In August 1942 he preached on Signs of His Coming. Among the signs mentioned are: Delusions (I Tim. 4:1-3), Apostasy (II Tim 3:1-5), and Fear at the things coming upon the earth (Lk 21:25,26); obviously, a topical sermon. He concludes with an invitation, “Are you saved, ready for his coming? Seek the Lord while He may be found.”[71] I also found a few sermons on the Second Coming of Christ in the undated, unnumbered “Sermons, Talks and Speeches.”

My dad believed in divine healing. Whenever he went on visitation to the sick, he carried a vial of anointing oil. Anointing the sick and praying for the healing of the sick were part of his ministry. In fact, I myself was healed of appendicitis after he spent a night in prayer. For many weeks I suffered from the pain of appendicitis. I lacked an appetite and just laid around. Finally, the doctor said that if I were not better by the following day, I would need surgery in the hospital. So my father prayed into the night until he had assurance that I was healed. He never anointed me with oil. After hours of praying with assurance of my healing, he approached the following day without any inquiry whether I felt better, believing that God had healed me and there was no need to inquire. The next morning I awoke and felt hungry and asked for something to eat. For weeks I had had no appetite. To this day I still have my appendix.

With this knowledge, it is interesting that he only prepared two sermons on divine healing, one in May 1943 which could very well be the period when I was healed. He then preached this same sermon in Newark, NJ, Mt. Carmel, Bear Gap, South Allentown, Coopersburg and Lancaster. Prayer for Healing, based on James 5, shows that he was balanced on this subject. He states in the introduction that it is biblical to pray for healing. In fact, one should seek prayer for healing before one goes to the doctor. However, he states, “I don’t know of any Bible verse teaching it to be wrong to use medicine.” He believed that healing is in the atonement since “every good thing God gives us was purchased for us by Jesus on the cross, but we do not receive all that was purchased right away. At His coming glasses, false teeth, canes, bald-heads, dandruff all will be thrown away. These things are bought for us and will be delivered when He comes.” “Lazarus was raised, but died again…There is a tendency toward death and disease in every human body. No one living has perfect health as the angels or Adam had before the fall…” But he goes on to say that divine healing is proper for this age based on James 5. “The prayer of faith heals the sick, not the oil. There is no medicinal value in oil; it is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.” 

He did preach various series of sermons. He preached a five-part series on the book of Colossians. In the sermon on 2:13-23, he stresses grace and warns of dependence on works. “As with circumcision, so it is with all the other ordinances, those of eating and drinking, and those connected with the observances of sacred times, all these things are but a shadow of things to come.” He goes on to say, “If any New Testament ordinances are counted upon for salvation then they are used in a wrong way. This includes baptismal regeneration, transubstantiation.”

He preached an eight-part series on the book of Ruth; and a seven-part series on the Seven Words of Jesus on the Cross. He preached a series of five sermons preparing for Good Friday (Christ’s Last Passover, Gethsemane, Calvary, Pilate and Christ, and Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem). Love is a common theme in many sermons. Included was a four-part series on   I Corinthians 13. He preached three sermons on the Beatitudes, four on Caleb, three on Christ, and two on Eagle Christians.

Separation from the world: Not many sermons have “separation from the world” as the main theme, though numerous ones allude to it. The only one that directly addresses the topic is entitled, Separation, based on Revelations 18:4 and preached in September, 1943. The first main point is “Come out of her.” “‘Her’ refers to a system of evil, a city called Babylon. It stands for sin, wrong, evil, against God…The purpose is ‘that ye be not partakers of her sins.’ Her sins are fornication, drunkenness, martyrdom v. 6… (18:3) ‘Decked with’ makes us think of some women today with their jewelry and clothes. Every sin may be included. The call is come out of every sin, sins of the flesh, out of systems, clubs, organizations whose purpose is religious or for the self, carnal life. Lodges do not use the name of Jesus. It does not mean being a hermit, not out of the world but kept from the evil one, from the evil in the world.” The second point states, The call is to ‘my people.’” “Separation means and helps nothing to the unconverted. Yet many are proud of the fact that they are not like other men, proud that they do not go to places frequented by some professing Christians. Separation from the world is not enough; it must be unto God as those who are alive. God looks at the heart. He can see as we cannot. His judgments are right. The call is to saved ones. Are you saved? Then the voice of the angel speaks to you.” The third point is “That ye receive not …” “Think of our day, how we must fight to raise crops, worms, beetles, bugs of all sorts and descriptions, some thing are difficult to keep from rotting and spoiling in one way or another. War, crime etc. rages all over the world. One is reminded of Rev. 3:10. We are now at liberty to fish and see the movies on Sunday, to play baseball on Sunday. We work on Sunday and think nothing of it. Judgment comes not all at once…”

In May, 1937, he preached on ways of Limiting God. The fifth way mentioned is  The Lack of Separation.  “If you hunger after the things of Egypt the world you help to tie the hands of God on his back. He cannot do much with a worldly minded Christian. The preacher whose secretary got angry when the visiting evangelist spoke about Movies. Mixed affections limit God.”

In November, 1937, he preached on Why Men Reject God. The third reason why men reject God is Because of their love for sinful pleasures. “The Christian life is a battle but also of joy and peace. ‘In His presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore.’ Then there are pleasures that are earthly, sensual, devilish. Many indulge in these at the expense of loosing their souls.”

In a sermon on “Lot,” he says the reason Lot made his choice was “worldly. It had no thought of God in it. How many people move with no thought of God, how will it affect their children spiritually and myself. Lot was influenced by what his eyes saw and his heart craved.”

In a sermon on The Second Coming in January, 1945, he writes this: “The world knoweth us not. They know not the source of our joy, meat. ‘I have meat to eat that ye know not of.’ Why we don’t go with them to their ungodly shows and listen to their ungodly music and indulge in their ungodly drinks and smoke, why we don’t read their ‘comics’ and radio programs. They don’t know us because they knew Jesus not. They rejected Him, the most religious, had they known Him they would not have crucified Him. We are a strange and peculiar people to the world. The preaching of the Gospel is foolishness to them but power to us.”

In July, 1945, he preached on Fellowship with God and How Maintained, based on I John 1:2. To keep fellowship one must perceive and confess sin, keep God’s commandments, love the brethren, be separate from false teachers and be separate from the world (v. 15-17). “Not the material world, not our loved ones in the flesh, but the world in its opposition to God. The pleasures, the fame, the spirit of the world as opposed to God and His Son…One cannot live in fellowship with God if he is not separated from the world.”

Although he takes a strong stand against certain practices, he does have a biblical approach. He does not believe salvation depends on keeping the law. In a sermon entitled, The Way to the City, preached in March, 1936, he speaks of wrong ways to heaven. The first wrong road is Legality Lane. “A hard stone road, Mt. Sinai in view with its fearful sight of a dark cloud… ‘Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things.’ The second wrong road is Reformation Alley. “Put away my bad habits, cultivate new ones…It is sometimes called morality road. It might be called self-righteousness boulevard. Scribes, Pharisees and church dignitaries walk here. One says, ‘I thank God that I am not as other men, drunkard, blasphemer, adulterer, I fast, I give tithes.’ Surely, if one gets there, I will. But all our righteousness are as filthy rags.” The Ritualistic Avenue is also a wrong road for church membership and ordinances can never save. Elsewhere he preaches on The Devices of the Devil where he says that “substituting ‘dead works’ for living faith, a form of Godliness without its power (Heb 6:1; 9:14) is the device of Deadness used by the devil.

Mennonite themes in the sermons: Over a period of ten years I found only one sermon with a distinctly Mennonite emphasis. In March, 1939, he preached on the Saint’s Feetwashing [sic] based on John 13 to prepare members for the following Sunday. The sermon is a forceful explanation of the practice with the following thoughts. First, It was not custom feetwashing. “Custom feetwashing was done at the door and for cleansing; this took place at the table after supper. “Ye are clean but not all” would not have been true if it was custom feetwashing, their feet would have been dirty. Judas remained unclean for Jesus knew who would betray him. Physically, Judas was as clean as the rest. The uncleanness of which Jesus spoke was spiritual, not physical.” Second, Our duty as brethren in the Lord is seen, to serve one another. He then refers to the disciples’ desire to be first and the greatest. Jesus knew what was in the heart of Peter, Judas, Thomas, James and John and therefore taught them to wash one another’s feet. “None of you are too big, so much above the others, you wash one another’s feet. I have done it…” Third, The washing of the soul in the blood of Christ is seen. “In the Mennonite confession of faith known as the Dortrecht Confession of 1632 we read, ‘a sign to remind us of the true washing, the washing and purification of the soul in the blood of Christ.’ The Church of the Brethren says, ‘the washing of the saint’s feet symbolizes cleansing from the sins committed after baptism. Baptism means or symbolizes the new birth with a complete cleansing. Feetwashing is a partial cleansing. See John 13:10. ‘Washed’ is translated ‘bathed’ in the Revised Version. The continuous application of the blood of Christ is needed. The feet represent our contact with the earth. In our daily contacts we hear and see things which tend to mar our souls.” Fourth, The authority of the custom as an ordinance. “A great portion of the Church has not understood it so, but we have. It is a command more so then the Lord’s Supper. Jesus gave the example. He said, ye ‘ought.’ We ought to obey God rather than man. ‘Happy are ye’ is a blessing promised. No other ordinance is attended by this promise. There is no Scripture to conflict with it.”

While this is a full explanation of foot washing, this teaching was given only once in ten years and that sermon was never preached anywhere else again. This period of ten years included World War II and the five years leading up to the World War. Yet there is not one sermon on Mennonite teaching of pacifism. Various men in the congregations became ‘Conscientious Objectors’ with one young man in Graterford, Ray Detweiler, who enlisted in the Air Force. In December of 1942 he preached a sermon entitled, There is Peace on Earth, based on Luke 2:14. His introduction alludes to the time of war. “That there is peace on earth today sounds a bit queer. Some of course think the statement is sentimental, not really true. But there is peace on earth today as a result of the first Christmas. He did not fail nor is His purpose postponed. Jesus finished the work the Father gave Him to do. Peace is here, not between nations but between God and the sinner, or God and the one saved. There is coming a time when nations shall not war any more but not till Jesus comes again. The peace the Saviour gives is to be had in the midst of conflict, trials etc. which comes in every life.” He then speaks of Peace with God (Rom 5:1), Peace in believing (Rom 15:13), and The peace of prayer (Phil 4:6,7).

Fear is a common human emotion, but I believe that during World War II there was heightened fear. I well remember singing choruses about not fearing, and about trusting in God. In April, 1943, he spoke on Faith in God, but he never relates it to the World War. Neither does he ever address the issue of war between nations or the place of non-resistant Christians in times of international conflict. Though he preached on the Beatitudes, he did not preach on those portions of the Sermon on the Mount which contain Mennonite distinctives, namely pacifism, turning the other cheek, and opposition to swearing by  oath.

He did preach two sermons on The Head Covering of Women, based on I Corinthians 11:1-16. In the first sermon he teaches the reasons for the subjection of women and the use of the head covering in order to demonstrate this in the early church. But in the second sermon he gives reasons for not insisting on wearing the veil today. He concludes that, “Today it is impossible to teach woman’s subjection by a covered head. So we hold on to the truth and let the form drop. The custom of wearing a veil to teach woman’s subjection to man has grown obsolete. Not one in a 1000 would know what it stood for, but the great truth of the chapter lives on.”[72]

Core emphases of the many sermons:    In July, 1942, he preached a sermon that captures the frequent emphases of his ministry. In the sermon entitled, How May We Know Jesus Better, based on Philippians 3:10, he gives five ways: First, We must make much of God’s book; Second, We must pray in secret; Third, We must watch over sin; Fourth, We must have the right kind of friends; Fifth, If you want to know Christ better, work for Him. The recurring emphases are on the new birth, experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit, finding victory over sin as we abide in Christ through prayer, the reading of the Word of God, being separate from the world and serving the Lord by witnessing.

As I have read over the sermons for this decade of ministry in Graterford and Harlesville, I was reminded that the Keswick Bible Conference and the Keswick teaching of the Deeper Life made a deep impact on my dad. We used to attend Keswick Bible Conference for several years as our vacation (no other vacations were given the pastors at that time).[73]   Therefore, in addition to those themes mentioned above, there is a repetitive emphasis on certain key aspects of victory in Christ.

In April, 1942, he preached on Signposts Along the Way of Salvation. In this simple topical sermon he mentions the signposts: Believe, Confess, Yield, and Grow. Salvation is through faith (believe) alone and assurance of salvation is based not on feelings but on biblical teaching. Confess (or witness to) your faith in Christ. Yielding to God is important. “God has provided victory through yielding to the Lord day by day. We often try by fighting and struggling…The Holy Spirit in the believer gives us victory as we yield to Him. Growing as Christians is important. There is great joy at the birth of a baby but there is great sadness when the child does not grow. Envying, strife and divisions are indications of failure to grow.

In October, 1943, he preached on The Ideal Life based on II Corinthians 4:7-11. First, It was a life from God (Lk 1:35). Even as God was manifest in the flesh, “So we must be born from above…Christ must live in us if He is to be manifested in us.” Second, It was entirely yielded to God (Jn 5:19). Jesus is our example of submitting to the will of God. “What an example to us. So we seek to live His life and do His work. Paul says, ‘Yield yourselves to God as those that are alive from the dead.’ Rom 6:13.” Third, It was a life empowered by the Spirit (Acts 10:38). Speaking of the Spirit of the Lord being upon Jesus he writes, “He knew His disciples needed this power so He told them to wait till it would come upon them. How can we expect to live the Jesus life without it. There is no substitute for it. No excuse to be without it. The promise is to you and all.” Fourth, It was a life of unwavering faith in God. After speaking of Jesus’ faith that God was His Father, even when He suffered at the hands of men, he applies this to Christians. “How ready are we to shrink from the testing and sufferings and doubt God’s love? Who is sufficient for these things? ‘Our sufficiency is of God’ (II Cor 3:5).” Fifth, It was a life of activity (Lk 2:49). He applies Jesus’ delight in doing the Father’s will to the Christian who should put on “His yoke and in meekness and lowliness of heart serve our fellowmen, being a friend to man.” Sixth, It was a life crowned with victory. “His miracles were all victories over human weakness, His dying was victory over the world’s sin, it broke down the barrier between God and man, His resurrection was victory over mortality, death and the grave. He knew no defeat. We may expect victory too. God always causeth us to triumph.”

Notice the frequent reference to victory which is only possible with identification with Christ. The motif of “victory” is mentioned in many sermons. In March, 1941, he preached on Crucifixion with Christ, based on Galatians 2:20. Preparing for Good Friday he says, that unless we apply the cross of Christ to ourselves, then “self is the dominating factor in life instead of Christ.” First, he considered the text and the context. “Paul says I am crucified and therefore not trying to be declared righteous by the works of the law; have ceased from my own works and trust instead. What a blessed life. A farmer remarked of George Mueller, he is a gentleman of leisure, without a care, so quietly did he walk so peacefully and stately his demeanor.” Second, Consider the first personal pronoun, the ‘I’ or self which Paul says was crucified with Christ. “The ‘I’ or self life, as John Wesley said, is touchy like wearing all the nerves of the body on the skin, if it is not honored where it thinks it ought to be, it takes on spells…All my pride – pride of person, my possessions, my profession, my preaching, my praying, my praising, my religious practicing – all my pride. ‘Forbid it Lord that I should boast, save in the death of Christ my God’ Gal. 6:14.” Then finally, Consider some testimonies.  A.B. Simpson. “‘I found sin overcame me, and my temptations were too strong for me. I came to Him a second time and he whispered to me, ‘Christ in you.’ I have had victory and blessing ever since.’ Then he wrote, ‘Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow thee; Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou from hence my all shall be. If God has been pleased to use me in any fuller measure, it has been because of that hour and will be in the measure in which it is made the keystone of a consecrated, crucified, Christ devoted life.’ This he speaks of as the time when he was sanctified, a definite crisis in his life.” My father then gave another testimony of A.C. Gabelien [sic. Gaebelein] who said, “In the death of Christ I died, all nailed to the cross reckon it thus and live it out in the power of the indwelling Christ. In the life of Christ I live.”

In January and March of 1944 he preached sermons which represent a similar Keswick emphasis. He speaks of The Reign of the Old Man and the Co-Resurrection Brings us into Christ. “Our old man not only died with Christ but we also are raised with him.” He speaks of “The Impartation of a New Life,” “The Impartation of a New Nature,” “The Holy Spirit is the Author of Regeneration,” and “A New Creation is the Result.” Many other topics were preached including two on divine healing. But the core emphases given above summarize his burden in preaching.

Sources of influence for sermons: The books which my father used to develop his sermons were of a distinct kind. A.B. Simpson and his teaching played a prominent role. In addition to my dad’s notation of A.B. Simpson in his sermons, at the funeral of Sister Hackman he commented, “She trusted Jesus as her Saviour and sanctifier and coming king and often trusted Him for her bodily needs or physical needs.” This brings to mind the slogan used in the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, “Jesus Christ, our Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King.” Christian and Missionary Alliance teaching made an impact on the MBC through A.B. Simpson.

Why did my dad focus on the sermon topics he did and omit so much that were from the Anabaptist heritage? I believe the reason for this strange lacuna of omitting Mennonite teaching in his preaching is due to several reasons: first, he grew up in a home where the father rejected the Old Mennonite emphasis on certain legalistic “do’s” and “don’ts” such as dress. Secondly, he was led down the road of theological understanding through the teaching of Moody Bible Institute. Whether his sister, Katie, first became interested in Moody Bible Institute where she eventually took correspondence courses, or whether she was influenced to attend Moody through my dad, we do not know. But the Moody emphasis is very clear. Furthermore, there must not have been any directive from the top MBC leadership to teach on the Mennonite topics; otherwise, I am sure my dad would have.

But more importantly, my father’s sources of sermon helps, which he chose to use, were not Mennonite but of the Moody type – Dispensational and Fundamentalist. Here and there throughout his sermons he mentions that help was taken from Peloubets Notes, Handfuls on Purpose, Neighbor’s, F. B. Myer, Lockyer’s booklet, and various other books or articles written by Ironside, Ledgters, Philpott, N.B. Harrison and others.

References in his sermons can be found of A.J. Gordon, author of The Ministry of the Spirit; Charles Blanchard, author of Getting Things from God. Frequent reference is made to A Quest for Souls. Checking the Internet I find that this book, A Quest for Souls: Comprising all the sermons preached and prayers offered in a series of gospel meetings in Fort Worth, Texas, was written by George W. Truett; J.B. Cranfill and published in 1917 by Harper.  Books by Neighbor and references to C.H. Spurgeon are numerous.

So the primary influences for on my dad were definitely not Mennonite; instead, they were the conservative, Protestant, Dispensational, Keswick, what one might today call, the Fundamentalist stream of thought in the early and mid 1900s.   

Sermons for 1945-1961

Scanning the sermons he prepared during the last sixteen years of his ministry, we find similar thematic emphases as in earlier years. During this last period of ministry he depended more on his previously prepared sermons. During his three years in Newark, New Jersey he prepared only 11 new sermons. In Mount Carmel he did prepare 102 sermons but only 59 in South Allentown and 47 in Lancaster, making a total of 219 additionally prepared sermons in sixteen years. For these reasons we find no need to examine the last 219 sermons in detail.      

A Concluding Critique of My Dad’s Sermons

In the words of Paul, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep…” Even so my dad served God’s purpose well in his own generation. He was faithful in all of his service to God. Growing up in a Mennonite tradition that disparaged education, having a father who frowned on education, even preventing my dad’s sister from attending high school and forbidding her from attending Moody Bible Institute; and then entering the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church which frowned on higher education for its clergy, my dad was fortunate to have pursued high school studies at Bluffton College Academy and attending one term at Moody Bible Institute. His preaching was greatly enhanced by that. However, the sermons also reflect the limitations that stem from a limited education. He depended heavily on sermon helps and outlines from various books. There is no evidence of any exegetical study of the text, a skill he never learned in school. Neither did he exposit a text as we are accustomed to today. But he served his generation well and used the gifts that God had entrusted to him.

When evaluating the sermons one must also remember that in his day there was only one pastor to do everything. My father made twice as many pastoral visits as most pastors do today in the BFC; in fact he visited five times more than some do. Because he preached both Sunday morning and evening, and because he preached in circuits of two churches, he preached twice as many sermons as many do today. [74]  He did all the pastoral counseling, supervised the Christian Education in the church, worked with the youth, conducted the Vacation Bible Schools, as well as the other normal pastoral duties weddings and funerals and chairing committee meetings. In most churches today there are at least two pastors, many churches with three or more assistants. My uncle, A.G. Woodring who pastored some large churches, did the work of four pastors in today’s BFC. So when you compare the quality of preaching today with the days of my father, one is comparing apples with oranges.

My dad’s theology was mainstream evangelical Protestantism with a clear understanding of justification by grace through faith alone and sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit. His understanding of the relationship between grace and law, and salvation and works is very biblical. This teaching of justification by grace alone through faith alone through Christ alone and apart from good works may have echoed my dad’s experience of conversion when he declared, “I felt so light.” He exclaimed, “Ichvesis, ichvesis,” meaning “I know it, I know it.” He knew that he was saved through his repentance and faith in Christ alone apart from any good works. His understanding surely was enhanced through his studies at Moody Bible Institute. His clear preaching on justification very soon after his studies at Moody would seem to point to Moody’s influence on his thinking. Furthermore, the books he used for sermon preparation were all from this same evangelical stripe.

He had a great concern for total dedication to God, a complete surrender to God’s will. He reflected the Keswick teaching of the Deeper Life with its emphasis on being united with Christ, dying to self, and living the resurrected life in Christ. He believed that many Christians lack this total devotion to God. He further taught that total consecration will lead one to eschew the temptations of this world. Total consecration to God involves a life of faith, love and prayer.

His messages are Christ centered, preaching more on Christ and his death than on any other one topic. In contrast, he  avoided almost completely any preaching on the distinctives of Mennonite theology of pacifism, non-resistance, affirming and not swearing by oath, and foot washing. He did believe in divine healing and preached at least once on the topic in each church where he ministered.

He is clearly dispensational in his eschatology. The only references to authors in these sermons are dispensational scholars. All the traditional marks of Dispensational teaching of the end times are found in my father’s sermons. But he did not harp on the topic, although as I indicated above, his strong belief in the imminent return of Christ made an indelible imprint on my mind.

Though I am not sure that he had a full understanding of Perseverance of the Saints as we understand it, nevertheless he made some surprising statements concerning assurance of salvation. Never once do I remember reading of the possibility of loosing one’s salvation. He taught in one message that the believer is secure and concluded the message by singing “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.”[75] Elsewhere he says that, “If we truly confess and are willing to forsake sin we will have assurance of salvation.” During one funeral he spoke of the deceased by saying, “A know-so present salvation was the experience and testimony of our sister.” But in all probability he received greater clarity on the subject during his ministry in Mt. Carmel.

I found no evidence of legalism or an unbiblical approach to the separation from the world. Legalism is the belief that one earns and merits salvation by doing good works and obeying the law. Pharisaism elevates “the traditions of the elders” so that they must be kept equally with the law of God in order to merit salvation. “This religion of merit [Pharisaism] based on works led to a sense of self-righteousness and necessitated ‘separation’ from all who failed to live accordingly to avoid temptation and defilement. Consequently, this life style came to be one of rigorous, legalistic separatism.”[76]

Quite the contrary! My father emphasized salvation by grace alone through faith alone in the redemption provided by Christ on the Cross. Salvation for him was not a works-righteousness. His teaching on Ephesians 2:1-10 and Romans 3:9-20 clearly anchored him in the theology of the Protestant Reformers who taught justification by grace through faith alone. As early as 1926 he preached from Ephesians 2: “The text says, ‘not of ourselves.’ Human nature bears the same evidence. Sin and moral weakness trouble people. They have no strength. They feel helpless, powerless, lifeless, their bones are broken and can do nothing, they cannot control their thoughts, overcome temptation, cannot repent, they have no feeling. But Christ died for the ungodly, not for the good, the strong or he mighty but for the ungodly. God comes to where we are. He does not ask us to become better before we accept Christ but says come and he comes to where we are.”

He did maintain an emphasis on separation from the world from the beginning to the end of his ministry, but his emphasis is on the separation from the impurity and sinful lust of the world that are manifest in certain practices. His understanding was that certain “worldly” practices were unacceptable for Christians because of their impurity.  His earlier references to jewelry dissipated over the years. One might fault him for believing that women are more prone to pride than men. This seems to be rooted in his association of pride with dress, jewelry and cosmetic make-up, though he also taught that  one can be proud in his plain dress. However, this teaching is found only in the very early days of his ministry before he ever entered the Gospel Herald Society and the MBC. He does not teach any second degree separation which was so common among the Fundamentalists.

Today I have very few remnants left of my Mennonite heritage. Theologically, I believe in “just war” but emotionally I could not carry a gun and kill. I would be a chaplain or a non-combatant. If I were a child again, I would love to play with a water pistil. Though I have never felt guilty of breaking Christ’s command when we ceased “washing the saint’s feet” in the Bible Fellowship Church, I feel the lapse of that tradition has impoverished our church. It was a rich tradition with many spiritual benefits – if done in a proper way. I well remember when Willard Mauer in our Mt. Carmel Church served as a Class Leader. For months on end (my parents commented, “Will he ever conclude the series?”), he taught Eternal Security. I do believe that this made a deep impression on my parents. My mother often suffered from lack of assurance of her salvation and she was concerned that I would be assured of my salvation as a teenager. But somehow, by God’s grace, I never doubted my salvation. And today I am a firm believer in sovereign grace. Taking an oath in court would not bother me, though I respect those who would “affirm” instead of “swearing.” So I say that very little remains of my Mennonite teaching, although I do firmly believe in believer’s baptism and can find no biblical basis for infant baptism under the guise of Covenant Theology. In this I stand firmly in the Anabaptist tradition.

But I do embrace the Mennonite and Fundamentalist concern for separation from the world. I find myself at odds with contemporary Christians who seem to delight in entertainment that exalts sensuality, violence and self. I am appalled that Christians should find enjoyment when watching those things that God hates and listening to music that is so unbiblical. If God hates fornication, adultery, violence, pride, and greed, why should Christians find enjoyment in such things? I am disturbed that pastors do not preach concerning these issues!

Therefore, I can say that one major contribution of my Mennonite heritage is this deep conviction that the Church must be “separate” from the world. We are “in the world but not of it.” I am concerned that instead of the Church being salt and light in this world today, the Church has imbibed the values of this world by indulging in its entertainment to the extent that the Church has lost her saltiness and her light is diminished. There seems to be so little difference between so-called “born again Christians” and non-believers according to statistical studies. This I find appalling. In this area, the faith of my fathers remains strong.

However, I do regret that my dad did not teach more on the biblical principles that should guide one when confronting the issues of worldliness. Though he alluded to some biblical teaching of purity, he did not develop it. In particular, I am thinking of movies and dancing. I don’t even recall much teaching on drinking of alcohol and drunkenness. Neither does he ever preach from I John 2:15-18. In his sermons he assumes that that we all know these things are wrong and Christians should not engage in them, but nowhere are biblical principles taught with any clarity that would inform the congregants on why certain practices should be avoided. Abstaining from certain “worldly” practices is more of a tradition which is understood and accepted rather than a belief supported by biblical study. This I find both strange and regrettable because I recall reading small booklets found in his library that taught biblical principles that should guide a Christian in his choice of entertainment. If this pattern was followed by all the pastors in the M.B.C., this may have contributed in part to the present day’s perilous situation where people have plunged into “worldly entertainment” without any biblical foundation to discern its dangers.

While this is, I believe, a weakness in my dad’s approach to “worldliness,” I do not believe the present generation of pastors in the BFC is any more balanced. Carl F. H. Henry in the mid-1940s lamented that evangelicals only preached on personal salvation and did not address social-economic issues of culture; instead of engaging the culture with biblical teaching, they withdrew from it. Evangelicals, or Fundamentalists as they were called then, separated from the culture and did not address the bigger social issues of the day. My dad’s preaching surely falls into this category.

Because of the influence of the “new Evangelical” movement, evangelical Christians are addressing social issues of the day and are engaging the contemporary culture. They seek to participate in it so as to transform the culture. But they have now neglected to address the questions of entertainment that are so pervasive. Pastors today simply assume that we are “in the world” but not “of it” because no one preaches on the perils of worldliness.

What is the result? The Bible Fellowship Church, which mirrors all other evangelical churches, reflects today’s culture. Mark Noll asks a thought provoking question, “[H]ave evangelicals today moved too far? Has an overemphasis on preserving tradition been replaced by an overemphasis on connecting with culture?” George Barna’s research suggests that evangelicals today are neither more influential in society as a leavening influence nor are they spiritually revived. “According to Barna, our Christian lifestyle on matters like divorce, materialism, sexual sin, racism and abuse within marriage is not noticeably different than the lifestyle of those who make no profession of faith.” Why is this true? I believe it is because pastors are not teaching the believers on the biblical principles of holiness and what this means when living in a fallen culture. Because uninstructed believers imbibe the values and mores of contemporary culture through every media imaginable, they have lost a biblical worldview of the holiness of God and God’s mandate that his people should likewise be holy. Whatever happened to holiness?

Pastors and members in the Bible Fellowship Church, instead of distancing themselves from their forebears on this issue of worldliness, need to ask some serious questions. “What would Jesus do if he were here?” Would He be entertained by the TV, movies and music that entertain us or would he be horrified?” Would he love to listen to the garbage that is thrown at us as music and fun? Does entertainment that promotes sensuality, violence, materialism and greed glorify God? Why does sin entertain believers? Does God enjoy it? What happens to believers when they consume this Hollywood fare?

Andy Crouch observes, “Is Hollywood’s Oscar an achievement to be pursued or an image of gold to be defied? Is Burger King just fast food, or is it the king’s rations? The fundamentalists of 100 years ago had firm opinions on such questions; their grandchildren seem to have adopted a posture of nearly universal consumption of American culture at its best and worst.”[77]

We need to give some serious thought to this legacy from our past and where we have gone astray.

MY FATHER’S CHARACTER

Personal Memories of My Dad

The features, traits and characteristics of my father’s personality were shaped during his formative years of early life. Knowing my dad’s parents can help one understand my father better. As they say, “Like father, like son.” My father grew up on a farm and he loved farming. As the saying goes, “You can take a farmer out of the farm, but you cannot take the farm out of the farmer.” During my first twenty years, we always had a “truck patch,” sometimes big and sometimes small. In Graterford we had a big “truck patch” with potatoes, tomatoes, corn, radishes, turnips and other vegetables; we also had many flowers.  Giving color to the yard and somewhat hiding the farm, my parents planted xenias, marigolds and other colorful flowers in a wide sweeping row at the upper end of the “truck patch.” Other flowers giving color to our large yard were tulips, daffodils, peonies and other perennials.   

When we moved to Newark, New Jersey, deep inside that concrete jungle where nothing could be found but apartment buildings and loud, smoke belching buses and vehicles, we lived on the second floor apartment overlooking the church. Just behind the church was a fenced piece of land where we planted vegetables and flowers. It was a place of respite from city life.

My dad loved to do carpentry, though nothing big or fancy like his father had made. Neither did he have large woodworking machines. In my corner of the basement in Mount Carmel I had a jigsaw where I cut out scores of plywood pieces in the shape of a maple leaf to hang on the wall for use as a knickknack shelf. I well remember Bertha Miller, a sister of C.L. Miller and a missionary to the Congo, asking me to make her a few things for her to take back with her. How could my little contribution help her in the Congo? I often wondered. Perhaps she was just encouraging me. My father made many wooden boxes, some which we still have. He made a box for hanging file folders which we used in Kenya. In both woodworking and farming he followed in the footsteps of his father.

He also loved to go hunting. Most every hunting season in my earlier years he would take his gun and go out into the country for a day to shoot rabbits and small game. For some unknown reason he never took me along. Nor did he involve me in the farming of the “truck patches.” Today neither hunting nor farming can be counted as any interest of mine.  

By nature he tended to be more like his mother than his father. He was quiet, a bit slow, very kind and gentle. I could not think of a kinder, gentler person than my dad. He was most patient and would not discipline harshly. He did not shout at me when disobeying. On one occasion, I remember that he took me into the basement in Graterford for some discipline. He talked to me and tried to explain what he would do to me if I continued to disobey, and in the process slapped his face in order to demonstrate what he would do. By so doing, he broke his own glasses accidentally. On another occasion he took me down into the basement for discipline. Whatever he was doing, I do not remember. But I do remember my mother calling down from upstairs, “Spank him harder.”

We were Mennonites but my mother frequently reminded me that we were not “Old Mennonites.” She had the highest respect and admiration for my dad’s sisters and families who were Lancaster County Mennonites, but in our church we were not “Old Mennonites.” Nevertheless we were Mennonites. During World War II, I cannot remember our family listening to any news about the war. In contrast, when I visited our neighbor’s house, I remember hearing the radio broadcasts about the war. During my childhood they came out with water pistils. I thought they were neat, but my parents would not allow me to have any. My parents never voted in elections until 1960 when John Kennedy ran for the Presidency. We never had TV in our house until we lived in South Allentown, 1954-1958. But when we lived in Mt. Carmel (1948-1954), I would occasionally go to a member’s house and watch boxing or “I Love Lucy.” Our family was good friends with Harry and Katie Shutt where I watched TV. Sometimes my parents would also go. I never was aware of this, but some years back Katie told me that whenever my parents came to visit and they were watching, “I Love Lucy,” my dad would sit sideways and not look at the TV.  

So in many ways my dad reflected his parents and his childhood rearing in ways that we all do. His character was not only shaped by his personal godliness but by his genetic makeup from his parents and his rearing at home. His concern for godly living not only reflected his personal prayer life and study of the Scriptures but his Mennonite background. And in so many ways I find myself influenced by those same factors – and I think for the good.

A Final Tribute

Several years after my father passed away, I composed a tribute to him which was published in the Fellowship News in June, 1966. I will repeat this as a concluding Tribute, for it describes the kind of person I knew him to be.

 “My rich heritage is the godly example of my Christian parents. In thinking of my dad several adjectives come to mind.

 “He was a patient man. Nothing seemed to disturb or ruffle his temperament. In my youthful restlessness I occasionally became impatient over his constant control of self. When traffic moved slower than usual, when circumstances did not move rapidly, when people became irritable, he remained supremely patient. Never once do I remember him loosing his temper.

 “Never rude or brusque, he was always courteous and considerate. He was truly a gentleman. When treated roughly by others, he responded gently, for he never returned evil for evil. This courtesy sprang from a deep humility. He never paraded himself, spoke arrogantly or boastfully. At times he felt inadequate, but he never presumed upon others. He spoke sparingly and always with humility.

 “Never do I remember him envious. He was content with his lot in life. When circumstances were unpleasant, he never chafed at the secondary causes but accepted his lot as the will of God. He did not complain or become embittered. He had learned the lesson of accepting the unpleasant turns of life as well as the pleasant ones as the perfect will of God. He never took matters into his own hand to shape and direct so as to bring personal gain.

 “Above all, I remember my father as a man of prayer. He was faithful in maintaining a close walk with the Lord. He loved God above all else. My mother tells of many times he spent in long prayer on behalf of the unsaved, the church and his family. Days of fasting were not uncommon. During the years he prayed with great concern that God would lead his son in His perfect will.

 “His interests were varied. Our yards were always colorful with flowers and usually marked by a garden with lush vegetables which he carefully tended. He enjoyed relaxing in the basement with some wood-working tools. Always with a desire to learn, he read much and took many correspondence courses.

 “The key to my dad’s influence in my life was his accessibility. He was available so that I could know him. He took me into his confidence on many things that many fathers would not. When visiting members, he frequently took me along. While preparing for Daily Vacation Bible School and other special events, he gave me opportunity to join in the preparation. He never was too busy for his son.

 “For this rich heritage I am eternally indebted to the God of my father.”

 

ENDNOTES



[1] Anna (Gehman) Wivell – my cousin, daughter of Wayne Gehman; Interview 20 July 2006.

Clayton Gehman – my cousin, son of Wayne Gehman; Interview 19 July 2006

Erwin Martin – my cousin, son of Emma (Gehman) and Noah Martin; Interview 18 July 2006.

Alvin Martin – my cousin, son of Tillie (Gehman)  and Noah Martin; Interview 18 July 2006.

Lester Martin – my cousin, son of Tillie (Gehman) and Noah Martin; Interviews 18-20 July 2006.

Charles Martin – my cousin, son of Lizzie (Gehman) and Peter Martin; Interview 20 July 2006.

Wayne Martin – my cousin, son of Lizzie (Gehman) and Peter Martin; Interview 20 July 2006.

Ruth Martin – my cousin, daughter of Lizzie (Gehman) and Peter Martin; Interview 20 July 2006.

Irene Martin – my cousin, daughter of Lizzie (Gehman) and Peter Martin; Interview 20, July 2006

[2] Recalled by my cousin, Lester Martin; Interview 18-20 July 2006.

[3] Anna Wivell; Interview 20 July 2006.

[4] My cousin, Charles Martin, said Pappy “belonged to our church.” Interview: July 20, 2006.

[5] On April 11, 1848, by an act of the Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the “common school system” was forced upon several districts of the State. This was not well received in Lancaster County. When the new school system was introduced into the school of Bowmansville in  Brecknock Township, Lancaster County, the old “keeper” was relieved of his duties and a new “teacher” installed. This stirred great controversy. On January 8, 1950, some anti-schoolmen joined hands and ejected the teacher from the school, locking the door and taking the key. This ended up in a court case which these anti-schoolmen lost. The repercussions were felt in the Mennonite Church of Bowmansville where a deep division occurred, even dividing families. Those who were in favor of the free school system, which was introduced by the State, were disciplined and finally “excommunicated” from the denomination. These former Mennonite members then began to meet in various homes for worship. Eventually in 1852, a Congregation of the General Conference of Mennonites was organized in Bowmansville and a new meeting house was erected a few hundred yards south of the village of Bowmansville in a “fine grove of pine trees.” Hence, the new church was known as the “Pine Grove New Mennonite Meeting House.”

[6] Information on the Pine Grove Mennonite Church was taken from the program for the “Services of Dedication of the New Church Sanctuary,” May 15-20, 1973; and from the 100th Anniversary program of 1954.

[7] Personal interview with Jacob (Jack) Weber, age 99, on June 11, 2003.

[8]  This was inferred by comments my dad made and was confirmed Erwin Martin who had a close relationship with Pappy Gehman. However, Anna Wivell does not remember anything of this.

[9] Anna Wivell; Interview July 20, 2006.

[10] Jacob Weber and Clayton Weber are second cousins of mine; both were active laymen in the MBC. Clayton Weber was an active member in the MBC in Fleetwood and Oley and was the builder of many churches, including the Christian Education extension of Fleetwood BFC and the church building of Oley; Interview with Jack (99 years old) and Clayton (92 years old) was on 11 June 2003.

[11] The Genealogical information on the Gehman History is derived from the following books:

                The Gehman-Gayman Family History by Anna M. Gehman. (Mohnton, PA: by the author, 1954).

                 The Gayman/Gehman/Gahman Family History compiled by Richard L. Miller (Morgantown, PA: Masthof Press, 2003).

                 Particular attention was given to pages 10-18 of Richard Miller’s book which contains research by Richard Warren Davis on the early Gehman history in Switzerland, and taken from Davis’ book entitled, Emigrants, Refugees and Prisoners, Volume II by Richard Warren Davis (Provo, Utah: by the author, 1997).

                Gehman Family Directory, Part III: The Descendants of Jacob and Anna Maria (Fretz) Gehman by Paul F. Gehman (Morgantown, PA: Masthoff Press, 2002).

[12]   The name, “Gehman,” has been recorded in registries and documents in many different forms. They include such spellings as: Gayman, Gahman, Gaymon, Geman, Geaghman, Geeman, Geaman, Geiman, Gemon, Gauman, Gaumann, Geuman, Geyman, Gouman and Goumann. The most popular spelling for the surname in English is “Gayman. The “Pennsylvania Dutch” preferred version is “Gehman.”

    But in Switzerland, from where the Gehmans emigrated, the surname is spelled Gauman or Gouman with an “umlaut” (two dots) placed over the first “a” and “o” of those names (page 1 The Gayman/Gehman/Gahman Family History, compiled by Richard Miller).

   The name, Gehman, means “the man who walks” in German, so I am told. This is an appropriate name for the author of this paper who walks four miles daily and has been jogging or aerobic walking for well over thirty years.

[13] The earliest known Gehman was Martin Gouman who was born in Grosshochstetten, Canton of Bern, Switzerland about AD 1555. His wife, Anni Berger, gave birth to Nicholas Gouman.

[14] The wife of Nicolas Gouman, Catherina Gouman, gave birth to Hans Gouman on 3 March 1616, also in Grosshochstetten, Canton of Bern, Switzerland.

[15] The wife of Hans Gouman, Barbli Gfeller, gave birth to Christian Gouman on 20 April 1643, also in Switzerland. Christian Gouman (born 20 April 1643) is known as “Christian Gouman the elder” to distinguish him from his son who was born on 1 March 1678, Christian Gouman the younger.

[16] Benedict Gauman was an Anabaptist living at Corgemont, Jura (Switzerland) in 1738. He was living at Sombeval and Sonceboz in the Jura (the Basil area of Switzerland) on 22 February 1745 when living on a dairy farm with his wife and six children.

[17] This information, that Christian Gauman emigrated to the United States, landing in Philadelphia 1 October 1754 on the ship Phoenix is derived from The Gehman-Gayman Family History by Anna M. Gehman (page 6), which is then repeated by Richard Miller in The Gayman/Gehman/Gahman Family (page 15). However, when checking the “original lists of arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia,” specifically for the ship, Phoenix which landed in Philadelphia 1 October 1754, in the book on Pennsylvania German Pioneers by Strassburger, no reference could be found of any Gehman or Gauman or Gouman or Gayman or any other such spelling. Instead, we found reference to a “Primary Immigrant: Gehman, Christian” in 1757 from Genealogical Data Relating to the German Settlers of Pennsylvania by Edward W. Hocker, published in 1981. Hence, the information from these Family Histories is suspect but the exact date and means of arrival are not known at this time.

[18] Life and Experiences of Mrs. Esther H. Myers by M.M. Myers. Privately published about 1950.

[19] Aunt Katie (Gehman) Wealand, sister of my dad, wrote a letter on Mach 16, 1972 at my request on the early life of Rudy H. Gehman. Many of these comments are from that letter.

[20] Aunt Katie (Gehman) Wealand, Letter dated Mach 16, 1972.

[21] Aunt Katie (Gehman) Wealand, Letter dated Mach 16, 1972.

[22] Aunt Katie (Gehman) Wealand, Letter dated Mach 16, 1972.

[23] Aunt Katie (Gehman) Wealand, Letter dated Mach 16, 1972.

[24] Kathryn Dietz, Interview on 3 August 2003.

[25] My aunt, Katie, states in a letter dated March 16, 1972, that he studied at “Bluffton College Academy for two years.” However, his photo album creates some uncertainty. He wrote a caption of a picture thus: “The above is taken in Bowmansville in the fall of 1919, just before I left for Bluffton. What a day!” A few pages later he has pictures of Bluffton dormitory which he dated, “1923-1924.” Also a picture of the First Mennonite Church, Bluffton, “decorated for Christmas, 1924.” If he went to Bluffton in January 1920 (after “the fall of 1919) and stayed until the Christmas of 1924, that would mean four years. Were his plans of 1919 delayed until two years later? Did he go to Bluffton after “the fall of 1919” for a short period, returning to Pennsylvania for a time before returning to Bluffton to complete his two years? We may never know. It is difficult to believe that he did stay in Bluffton for four years. We shall assume that my Aunt Katie’s time period of “two years” is approximately correct and that certain unknown things transpired which create an apparent conflict in his photo album.

[26] Confirmed by a telephone conversation with the Registrar at Moody Bible Institute in December 2006.

[27] Letter from Mildred Musselman, dated June 3, 2007.

[28] The information on Menno and Hettie Myers is largely derived from a small booklet that he published in memory of his deceased wife, Hettie (Esther), entitled,  Life and Experiences of Mrs. Esther H. Myers by M.M. Myers. Privately published about 1950

[29] Life and Experiences of Mrs. Esther H. Myers by M.M. Myers. Privately published about 1950, page 22.          

[30] The minutes read, “W.G. Gehman, President of the Gospel Herald Society, presented the names of A.M. Sprock, E.W. Bean, R.H. Gehman, C.L. Miller and C.O. Reed as Applicants for Annual Conference License. Resolved, That these brethren be referred to the Committee on Examination of Applicants for Annual Conference License.”

    Some time later during the conference the report of the Committee on Examination of Applicants for Annual Conference License was submitted.

    “We, the Committee on Examination of Applicants for Annual Conference License, beg leave to report that we have examined the brethren A.M. Sprock, E.W. Bean, R.H. Gehman, C.L. Miller and C.O. Reed and recommend them to this Conference for Annual Conference License.

     B. Bryan Musselman, C.H. Brunner, F.M. Hottel, Committee.

[31] David E. Thomann; Interview on 8 July 2006.

[32] Life and Experiences of Mrs. Esther H. Myers by M.M. Myers. Privately published about 1950,                            

    page 28.

[33] Interview with R.C. Reichenbach, retired MBC pastor and former Gospel Herald, 3 Aug. 2003.

[34] The minutes of the 1931 Annual Conference Year Book read: “We beg leave to report that we have interviewed E. W. Bean, A. M. Sprock and R. H. Gehman, who have completed their three years' Reading Course creditably and have labored acceptably in the Gospel Herald Society for a number of years. We believe them to be sincere, conscientious and promising young men of good character but owing to the fact that they have not had the opportunity to labor in the Church, we recommend that their ordination be deferred for the present. B. Bryan Musselman, E. N. Cassel, C. H. Brunner, Committee.”

[35] Letter from Mildred Musselman, dated June 13, 2007.

[36] Life and Experiences of Mrs. Esther H. Myers by M.M. Myers. Privately published about 1950, page 6. 

[37] We may assume that he began preaching at his first charge in Graterford and Harleysville two months earlier. But now as a seasoned preacher, he was able to use sermons from his “sermon barrel” while settling down in his new home and responsibilities.

[38] Pictures in the photo album include: Perma (Wismer) and Stanley Hipzer, Evelyn (Detweiler) and Donald Bechtel, Robert Zieglers, Kathryn and Clayton Dietz, Stan and Pearl (Ziegler) Hackman, Norman and Mabel (Ziegler) Apple, Lloyd and Elva (Ziegler) Gebert, Arlene and Jake Moyer.

[39]  All the following statistics and conference data were obtained from the Annual Conference Yearbooks of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church and the Bible Fellowship Church.

[40] “Jesus never fails, Jesus never fails. Heaven and earth may pass away. But Jesus never fails.” (George Palmer used to start his radio program with this chorus during World War II.)

    “Cheer up ye saints of God, there’s nothing to worry about; Nothing to make you feel afraid, nothing to make you doubt. Remember Jesus never fails so why not trust him and shout. You’ll be sorry you worried at all tomorrow morning.”

    “No, never alone, no never alone; He promised never to leave you, never to leave you alone. No, never alone, no never alone; He promised never to leave you, never to leave you alone.”

    “Jesus is good to me, Jesus is good to me, so good, so good; Jesus is good to my soul.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 628)

    “Oh there’s honey in the rock my brother, there’s honey in the rock for you. Leave your sins for the blood to cover. There’s honey in the rock for you.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 194)

    “Singing makes the burden lighter, singing drives the care away; With a pray’r and song the path is lighter, Keep singing all the day; Singing in the early morning, Singing as the moments fly. And others who hear you, Will answer by and by.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 438)

    “Have faith in God, the sun will shine, Though dark the clouds may be today. The Lord has planned your path and mine. Have faith in God, have faith always.”  

    “Down in the dumps I’ll never go. That’s where the devil keeps me low.

“So I’ll sing with all my might and I’ll keep my armor bright. But down in the dumps I’ll never go.”

    “Wide, wide as the ocean, High as the heavens above; Deep, deep as the deepest sea, Is my Saviour’s love. I, tho’ so unworthy, Still am a child of His care. For His word teaches me that His love reaches me ev-‘ry-where.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 454)

    “A little talk with Jesus makes it right, alright. A little talk with Jesus makes it right, alright. With trials of every kind, praise God I always find, a little talk with Jesus makes it right, alright.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 722)

    “Oh our Lord is coming back to earth again, Yes, our Lord is coming back to earth again. Satan will be bound a thousand years, we’ll have no tempter then, After Jesus shall come back to earth again.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 78)

    “His yoke is easy, his burden is light, I found it so, I found it so. He leadeth me by day and by night where living waters flow.”

    “O what He’s done for me! O what He’s done for me! If I tried, to eternity, I never could tell all He’s done for me.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 487)

    “Coming again, yes, coming again; Jesus, my Saviour, He’s coming again. Heavenly Bridegroom, down from the sky, Coming to take us with Him on high.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 633)

    “I’ll be present when the roll is called, Pure and spotless thro’ the crimson flood; I will answer when they call my name; Sav’d thro’ Jesus blood.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 529)

    “And when the battle’s over we shall wear a crown! Yes, we shall wear a crown! Yes, we shall wear a crown! And when the battle’s over, we shall wear a crown In the new Jerusalem. Wear a crown, wear a crown, Wear a bright and shining crown. And when the battle’s over, we shall wear a crown In the new Jerusalem.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 373)

    “He careth for you, He careth for you. Through sunshine or shadow, He careth for you.”

    Interestingly enough, I have a little motto given to me in 1940 by my Sunday School teacher in Graterford, Miss Bean, which says, “He careth for you.” This must have been a popular chorus sung at that time. It was during the European war leading up to World War II and this was a comforting chorus.

[41] My dad had the unusual opportunity of officiating the marriage of four sisters by the Italian name of Yacovelli, including Dorothy Yacovelli who married Harold Wagner; and Ann Yacovelli who married Fred Wagner; Norma who married Alfred Henry Topolinski and Rachel who married Metz, a Mennonite from Pennsylvania.

[42] Stalwart members included the families of Edward J. Weber, Fred and Ann Wagner, John and Alice Hendricks, the Gogels, the senior Moran family which included  their younger boys, George and Robert who were my age mates, and John and Edna Moran and Alva Moran, Alfred and Norma Topolinski.

[43] Some of the core families whom I remember include: John Boehmer’s, Lewis Mauer’s, Willard and Mary Mauer, Roy and Faye Williams, Martha Galliger, Harold Snyder’s, Monroe Kreisher’s, Harry and Katie Shutt, Ken and Sarah Malik, Mrs. Estock and Shirley Estock, the Minnig’s, Dietrick’s, Lee’s and Klinger’s.

[44] That he gave the paper is definite. It is in my possession. The place of delivery is not certain.

[45] Aunt Katie (Gehman) Wealand, Letter dated Mach 16, 1972.

[46]  Richard (Dick) Hartzel; Interview on July 5, 2006.

[47]  Olive Rawn, retired missionary; Interview on 6 September 2006.

[48]  Perma (Wismer) (90 years old) and Stanley Hipszer (88 years old); Interview 17 June 2003.

[49]  Shirley Estock and Emma Aurand; Interview on 14 June 2003.

[50] The titles of these sermons are: “The Scarlet Line” (based on the account of Rahab in Joshua 2:8-21 and dated April 5, 1924); “Gideon as a Man” preached in Chapel Prayer Meeting on May 5, 1924); “Psalm 128:1” (June 15, 1924); “Witnessing for Christ” (July 13, 1924); “The Temptation of Christ” (August 10, 1924); “The Conversion of Paul” (August 3, 1924); “Worshipping the True God” (August 31, 1924); “The Believer’s Oneness with Christ” (October 5, 1924); “Power and Authority” (October 19, 1924); “Thanksgiving to God” (November 30, 1924).    

[51] Sermons on “Leaven: Sin-Sincerity” (May 30, 1925), “What Hath Man Wrought” (June 14, 1925) and “Wages of Sin and the Gift” (July 11, 1925) all contain a homiletical outlines though not consistently the same.

[52]  Several examples of outlines for Textual Sermons are here given:

    Conditions for a Successful Revival based on II Chronicles 7:14.

                I. My People;

                II. Shall Humble Themselves;

                III. And Pray;

                IV. And Seek my Face;

                V. And Turn from Their Wicked Ways;

                VI. Then Will I Hear from Heaven.

     Does Godliness Pay? based on I Timothy 4:8.

                I. “For the Life that Now Is”

                    (a) It pays from a business standpoint.

                    (b) It pays in peace of mind.

                    (c) It pays in joy.

                    (d) It pays in hope.

                II. “For the Life which is to Come”

     The Seven Clauses of the New Covenant based on Hebrews 8:10-12

                I. “I will put my law into their minds

                II. “and write them in their hearts.”

                III. “I will be to them a God.”

                IV. “They shall be my people.”

                V.  “All shall know me.”

                VI. “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness.”

                VII. “I will remember their sins and iniquities no more.”

     Seeking the Lord based on Isaiah 55:6

                I. The Lord is Near

                II. He is to be Found

     The Glory that Excelleth based on II Corinthians 3:9

                I. The Ministration of Condemnation was Glorious.

                II. The Ministration of Righteousness or of the Spirit was more Glorious.

[53]  Several examples of outlines for Expository Sermons are here given:

     The Spirit Filled Life based on Ephesians 5:18-21

                I. A Melodious Heart. v. 19

                II. A Thankful Heart. v 20

                III. A Humble Heart. v 21

     Philemon based on the epistle to Philemon

                I. The Apostolic Greeting. vv 1-3

                II. The Character of Philemon. vv 4-7

                III. Intercession for Onesimus. vv 8ff

     The Resurrection based on I Corinthians 15:13-20

                I. “If there is no resurrection, then Christ is not risen and the apostles are false witnesses.”

                II. “Then our preaching is vain.”

                III. “Then your faith is vain and ye are yet in your sins.”

                IV. “Then they also which are fallen asleep in Jesus are perished.”

                V. “But now is Christ risen from the dead.”

     Six Things Accomplished Through the Cross of Christ based on Hebrews 9:12-26

                I. Eternal redemption. v 12

                II. Pure your conscience from dead works. v 14

                III. Put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. v 26

                IV. By which will we are sanctified. v 10

                V. By one offering he hath perfected.

                VI. Boldness to enter into the Holies. v 19

     Seven Christian Graces based on II Peter 1:1-4

                I. Add, add, add Virtue to Faith

                II. Knowledge. Add, add.

                III. Add Temperance

                IV. Add Patience

                V. Add Godliness

                VI. Add Brotherly-Kindness

                VII. Add Charity or Love

[54]  Several examples of outlines for Topical Sermons are here given:

     Man’s and God’s Thoughts and Ways with the text-verse taken from Isaiah 55:8,9

                I. Man’s Thoughts

                II. God’s Thoughts

                III. Man’s Ways

                IV. God’s Ways

     Acquaintance with God with text-verse from Job 22:21

                I. The Nature of Acquaintance with God

                II. The Means of Acquaintance with God

                III. The Season for Getting Acquainted with God

                IV. Results of being Acquainted with God

                V. The Reason why you should get Acquainted with God

     The Story of the Blood in the Old Testament with the text-verse from Hebrews 9:22

                I. The Story of God and Man

                II. The Story of a Substitute

                III. The Story of the Blood in the Old Testament

     Symbols or Figures of the Bible

                I. A Critic. Hebrews 4:12

                II. A Lamp or Light. Psalm 119:105, 130

                III. A Mirror. II Corinthians 3:18; James 1:25

                IV. A Laver. Ephesians 5:26

                V. Food. Job 23:12

     The Life of Prayer

                I. The Avenue of Prayer. John 14:13

                II. Prayer and Fellowship. John 14:23

                III. Prayer and Petition. Philippians 4:6

                V. Prayer is a Cure for Worry. Philippians 4:7

                V. Prayer – Preparation for Service. Acts 13:2

                VI. Prayer – the Source of Power. Matthew 6:6

                VII. Calls to Prayer. Hebrews 4:16

     Repentance

                I. The Importance of Repentance

                II. Its Necessity

                III. What it is

                IV. How is Repentance Shown

                V. How Repentance is Effected or Produced

[55]  A Mother’s Place preached on May 12, 1929

                I. Her place in the home (Tit 2:5)

                II. Her place is that of obedience and love for her children (Tit 2:4,5)

                III. Her place is that of exaltation (Eph 5:21-23)

                IV. Her place is that of honor (Ex 20:12)

[56] “Walking by Faith”; “Prayer”; “Worship”; “Repentance”; “The Resurrection”; “The Story of the Blood in the Old Testament”; “The Three Tenses of the Christian”; “Conditions of a Successful Revival”; “The Report of the Spies”; Serving God with What We Have”; “The Report of the Spies”; “Serving God with What we Have”; “Walking by Faith”; “The Kinsman-Redeemer”; “They Sins are Forgiven Thee”; “Spiritual Gifts”; “Procrastination”; “Does Godliness Pay?”; “The Strength of Quietness and Confidence”; “The Man God Uses”; “The Two Ways”; “Christ Better than Angels and Moses”; “The Seven Clauses of the New Covenant”; “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself”; “How to Know the Lord’s Will”; “Six Things Accomplished though the Cross of Christ”; “Seven Christian Graces.”

[57]  The outline and content of the sermon entitled, How to Make a Success of the Christian Life:

                I. Begin right (2 Cor 5:21). “Do not mix good works and Christ.”

                II. Confess Christ Openly Before Men (Mt 10:32). “Seize every opportunity to confess Him, not only when you join church.”

                III. Study the Word (1 Pet 2:2). “Read it for food and on your knees evening, morning and noon out loud.”

                IV. Pray Without Ceasing (1 Thess 5:17). “Begin the day, stop work to pray and close the day with prayer. Pray specially in times of temptations. Keep the Devil trembling. Pray for wisdom, strength and the Spirit.”

                V. Go to Work for Christ (Mt 25:29). “Give tracts, invite people, speak for.”

                VI. Give Freely (Prov 11:25). “Give systematically; a tenth is a good start.”

            VII. Keep pushing on (Phil 3:13). “Don’t brood over sin; ask forgiveness and go on. Forget the victories of the past and be not proud but go on. Don’t belittle yourself. Christ is in you.”

[58]  Under the first point, I. “The Old Nature,” he states the following based on Scripture: “Shapen and born in iniquity (Ps 51:5); “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts. Did you ever see a tree growing without roots? Sin comes from a sinful nature (Mt 15:18-20); “The old man is corrupt” (Eph 4:22).

     Supporting the second point, II. “The New Nature,” he states the following based on Scripture: “Born of God, yet not like God in every respect” (Jn 1:13); “A new creature. With it comes power to overcome the Devil (II Cor 5:17); “Renewed in knowledge (Col 3:10); Christ our life. The new creature is Christ in us” (Col 3:4); “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).

    Finally, in the third point, III. “The Secret of Victory” he states the following based on Scripture: Romans 7 is the picture of  a man in whom the two natures are striving, and who has not learned the secret of victory, but Romans 8 gives the secret of conquest, showing a life in the power of the Spirit and victory.” “Crucified with him” (Rom 6:6,7); “Reckon yourselves to be dead unto sin’ (Rom 6:11); “Spirit of Jesus makes us free. No longer in bondage like Israel in Egypt (Rom 8:2); “Walk in the Spirit. Yield your members as instruments unto righteousness” (Gal 5:16). Don’t live in a low marshy place where you are subject to disease…Christ came to deliver us from the power of sin. Refuse to live on Satan’s grounds.”

[59] “This is an unpopular doctrine. The church and the world are walking arm in arm.”

     I.The Separate people have a divine nature. They are born of God. The are ‘not of the world,’ even as Jesus was not of the world. Their motives and desires are different. The natures of fish, birds, dogs are different, so the natures of Christians and worldly people are different. They serve God because they love God. God cannot compel anyone to serve him.”

     II. “Bible Illustrations. Abraham called to live in Canaan, not in Egypt where he denied his wife. Isaac told not to go into Egypt in the time of famine. The exodus of the children and the compromises refused is typical of Christian experience. They had to leave the land – taking everything along to worship God in the wilderness. Make plain II Cor. 6:14-18. The Christian is not to be yoked with unbelievers in marriage nor secret organizations.”

    III. “The Attitude of the Separate People Toward the World. The command in the text. Anything that is in opposition to God we should leave. Any pleasures or amusements which weaken mankind, physically, mentally or spiritually are wrong. Or anything that causes a brother or sister in Christ to fall should not be indulged in. We can enjoy games, music, literature and the beauties of nature. These uplift mankind rather than weaken them. The greatest joy for the people of God comes through worship and helping others. God intends to live in us and make known to the world His love and goodness through us. If we refused to live for God as Christians we become unhappy, dry, songless, cheerless etc. Like a river whose steady stream was held back for a time by means of a dam which had been built. We must let God live in us and we shall be a happy, peculiar people zealous of good works.”

[60] Following are a sample of the notes taken from the “Preparation of a Sermon.” “Each one must learn from experience.”

                Prayer and waiting in prayer.

                Choosing the text, and theme. Remember the audience. Jowett remembered 12 of rich and poor, learned and ignorant. We learn needs through visits. Remember what you did preach. Measure up to the ‘Whole council of God.’ Choose simple texts rather than hard ones or odd ones.

                Gathering sermon material. The preacher has eyes to see and ears to hear; if he fails to use them, it is just too bad. We may gather a lot of material by observation, from nature and experience. Carry a notebook. But if one depends on this he will soon become stale. One needs to read history, biographies, lives of preachers, and missionaries, books and sermons, articles. Systematic filing is essential. One should have a lot more material than can be used.

                Arrangement of material. Pick out the best and arrange it in logical order…Begin with the known and lead to what is unknown. Leading to a climax. Leaving the best for the last. Arrangement is necessary so that people may remember. Stick to one theme, and not to half a dozen. A preacher said, “I did not know what I was going to preach when I entered the pulpit.’ An elderly man replied, ‘And no one knows what you have preached about after you came down.’

                Content. A preacher should know the historical setting of a text, geography of the Bible, customs, the author, and to whom written and the time all these add to the explanation and understanding of a text. An introduction to arouse attention and lead to the theme is often needed.

                Divisions. There should be 3 or 4 points. Not too many. Not too prominent. Illustrations should illustrate, give light like window in a house.

[61] “Jacob’s Character,” “Christ Better than Prophets and Angels,” Jehovah’s Vineyard,” “The Apostles’ First Miracle,” “Redemption,” “Redemption and Experience,” “The Christian Race,” “Ascension Promises,” “Faith,” “God our Highest Goal,” “Manifesting the Life of Christ,” “God’s Indwelling,” “Psalm 23,” “The Secret of a Great Life,” “Price and Provision of Sin,” “The Believer’s Standing and State,” “The Way of Life,” “Studies on the Holy Spirit,” “Thankfulness of Jesus,” “Why Men are not Saved,” “Fruitfulness,” “The Prodigal’s Father,” “Life’s Most Important Question,” “A Quest for Souls,” “Preparation for Meeting God,” “Even as He,” “Defeating a Man-Made Program,” “Answered Prayer,” “God of Patience, Hope and Peace,” “Bible Study on Trees,” “Christian Unity,” “Stoning Jesus,” “What Following Christ Means,” “The Secret of a Shining Face,” “Fellowship with God,” “True Worshippers,” “God’s Care for His Own,” “Compassion.”

[62] I. ‘For none of us liveth to himself,’ II. ‘Therefore present your bodies,’ and III. Pray and God Luke 10:1-3; Matt 10:16 explain texts.”

[63] “The Ideal Life,” “Mary, the Mother of Jesus,” “The Star of Bethlehem,” “Christian Giving,” “The More Excellent Way,” “The Church as the Body of Christ,” “The Call of God,” “The Greatest Business,” “The Attitude of Jesus as the Crucifixion Drew Near,” “Branches, Disciples, Friends,” “Lame Feet Under the King’s Table,” “A Careless Church,” “Foreign Missions,” “Reconciliation,” “The Christian’s Walk,” “Repentance and Confession,” “The Rock of Ages,” “When Winter Comes,” “Jesus, the World’s Saviour,” “The Preeminent Name,” God’s Supply for Us,” “When Fire did not Burn,” “Joseph, a Type of Christ,” “Stewardship,” “Stewardship Time and Tithing,” “Parable of the Husbandman,” “The Gospel Express,” “The Uplift of the Cross,” “Believing is Seeing,” “Faith,” “The Vision and Voice of the Resurrected Lord,” “The Power of the Resurrection,” “Beauty for Ashes,” “The Believer Crucified,” and many more.

[64] The Life of Prayer

   I. The Avenue of Prayer; II. Prayer and Fellowship; III. Prayer and Petetion; IV. Prayer, a Cure for Worry; V. Calls to Prayer.

[65]  Seven Great Wonders of Prayer

    I. The Wonder that we may pray; II. That we may pray naturally and simply; III. That we may pray definitely; IV. That we may pray everywhere; V. That we may pray about everything; VI. That we may pray all the time; VII. That we may pray boldly.

 

[66]  Elijah as a Man of Prayer

   I. The prayers of the false prophets; II. The first prayer of Elijah; III. The prayer for rain. It was (a) A humble prayer; (b) A definite prayer; (c) A persistent prayer.

 

 

[67] Lord, Teach us to Pray

   I. Grade School praying; II. Christ’s College course in prayer; III. Confession before importunity; IV. Expect rebuff;     VI. God will not give bad gifts. Each point is drawn or inferred from the text, though much of their development is from elsewhere in Scripture.

[68] He mentions “eleven missionaries in this dark country [Africa is a continent, not a country]. Rev. and Mrs. E.E. Christ, Rev. E.R. Hess, Rev. & Mrs. Harry Stam, Paul and Joseph Ummel, Mrs. Fred Whale, Miss Mary A. Miller, Rev. & Mrs. C.L. Miller.”  Harry and Elma Stam, missionaries with the Africa Inland Mission, were close family friends who always visited us during their furloughs. Mary and Bertha Miller also came to our home and churches during their furlough. C.L. Miller had been a fellow Gospel Herald in the earlier days. So it would seem to me, that this interest shown in foreign missions by my father, together with the personal association with these missionaries from Africa, made an indelible impression on my mind, so that when I felt called to be a missionary I never thought twice where it might be: It was always to Africa and with the Africa Inland Mission.

[69] Rev. & Mrs. Snyder, Rev. & Mrs. Cadman, Rev. & Mrs. Cressman.

[70] Bringing Back the King is based on II Samuel 19:10. The introduction begins, “This verse reminds us of our King Jesus who is coming back again” and the introduction ends with the words, “This poor troubled, tired, sin cursed world needs Him so badly to return.” His three main points are: I. What will it mean to the Jew? He refers to Jewish need for Jesus and how “He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob…” II. What will it mean to the world? “A writer states that only one-tenth of the world’s population has been won for Christ. Apostasy is reigning, so few are truly spiritual. The newspapers are full of the broken laws of God and man, the world is at war… Nothing will stop the march of crime, sin and war except the coming back of the King.” III. What will it mean to us individuals? “There is a sense in which the king is here now in a spiritual sense. He is King, Lord, Master of those who let Him…” He then goes on to speak of the second coming of Christ for the individual and how we need to be ready.

[71] Some of my earliest memories as a child are the living reality of Christ’s near return. Once I dreamed that Jesus returned and was sitting on our wooden bench on our front porch, a bench I vividly remember to this day. Once I was at our neighbor’s house and saw in the sky a white silver streak which I now know is made by the jets flying at a high altitude and emitting a stream of exhaust. I quickly ran to my mother and said, “Jesus is coming back! Jesus is coming back!” How would such a reaction occur unless my mind was saturated with this belief of Christ’s near return? My mother noted some of my earliest sayings when I was only three and a half years old. “If Jesus comes for me then Richard can’t go to school and Richard wants to go to school and campmeeting. Does Jesus have a red school house up there? How Jesus get down? On a step-ladder? Jesus fall in grass. If Jesus take Richard up, then Richard does not know where mama is.” I can only conclude that my parents taught me at home about the second coming of Christ, because my father’s sermons do not reflect the persistent emphasis that I would have thought was necessary to make such a vivid impression on my mind.

[72] Because of the interest in this subject as former Mennonites, we shall provide a full record of this second sermon on the head covering.

“IV. Nature teaches the same truth [of women being in subjection]. The law does not demand short hair for the man and long hair for the woman but there is something that tells us that such is right, it is nature. The law does not forbid a woman to work with pick and shovel but we know it is not right. Such a sight is revolting. Long hair takes the woman from the machine shop, the threshing machine and the mines, nature tells us that work belongs to those having short hair. Ignore this distinction with it goes woman subjection, sent her to the plow, to the mines to the ditch. Educate the man for manhood and the woman for womanhood.

    Reasons for not insisting on wearing the veil. Aside from the veil there was little or nothing to distinguish the man from the woman in the dress they wore. The custom of wearing the veil was local and limited because nothing, nothing is mentioned in any other epistle. It was more pagan than Christian. The people at Corinth worshipped idols and in doing so the veil was worn to show their subjection. Paul preached a number were converted, they wanted to know whether they should continue to wear the veil, not to do so would show that Paul’s teaching did not require a woman’s subjection so he said yes. Suppose in India custom is to take off a coat as a mark of reverence some are saved would ask them to continue or not. To take off their coat, surely it is right to be reverent. But would you force such a custom in America where it would have no meaning as in India? See v. 16. ‘We have no such custom.’ Etc. It referred only to those who prayed or prophesied. V. 5. So probably it was not worn by the younger ones or the unmarried and not on the street or at work, only in church by those who took part in public worship. So while they occupied man’s position as teachers they at the same time confesses they were in subjection to man.

    Today when a citizen enters the presence of a ruler, he lifts his hat as a sign of subjection; when youth stands before adults, he lifts the hat. The uncovered head is a sign of subjection. Thus today it is impossible to teach woman’s subjection by a covered head. So we hold on to the truth and let the form drop. The custom of wearing a veil to teach woman’s subjection to man has grown obsolete. Not one in a 1000 would know what it stood for, but the great truth of the chapter lives on.”

[73] We attended Keswick until they forbad children from attending the pastors’ week. Thereafter, we began attending the Harvey Cedars Bible Conference on the Atlantic coast of New Jersey.

[74]  According to the MBC yearbooks, for example, my dad made an average of 391 visits during his ten year ministry in Graterford and Harleysville and preached an average of 127 sermons per year.  During his three year ministry in Newark, New Jersey he made an average of 382 visits per year and preached an average of 123 sermons. During his six years in Mt. Carmel he averaged 460 pastoral visits per year and preached an average of 144 sermons. This compares to the 2004 BFC Annual Conference report of an average of 217 pastoral visits per year with eleven pastors reporting fewer than 105 visits per year.

[75] In this sermon on April 14, 1942, he also says this: “So the believer is secure, but believing implies receiving, it is the same and this implies living for Him. Show me your faith without your works, says James.”

[76] Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Ethics by Carl F.H. Henry editor (Baker Book House Company, 1973), page 385.

[77] “The Importance of Knowing What’s Important” by Andy Crouch in Christianity Today, December 2006, page 38.