The Historical Society of the Bible Fellowship Church
Another issue of the newsletter of our Historical Society has found its way to your eyes. It dawned on me after all these years that this is not a newsletter. A newsletter would presumably bring you some sort of news. What this brings you is certainly not news of the current events sort. Rather, it brings you a collection of memories and information about what is old news. Maybe we should call this the old news letter.
This wandering thought brings me to some information which I would like to share. I want to welcome some of our new members. Dan Erb (son of Pastor and Mrs. Ron Erb of Mt Pocono), Allen and Dorothy Gehman of Whitehall, Andrew Geissinger (Andrew is a returning member), Lillian Stortz (mother of Pastor Dean Stortz), and Howard Wells (pastor at Hatfield). We are glad you are receiving our publication.
A couple of you responded to my invitation to use your computer and skills to do some projects for us. We will be preparing some of our early minutes to put up on our website. If you would like to help, get in touch with me. There are tons of projects to be done. Our website makes sharing information easy. You can get in touch with me at 75613.1017@Compuserve.com.
Having a website and having people use it are two different things. I am taking every opportunity I can to remind people about the website. If you know anyone in your church who has interest in our story, invite them to check it out. If you have not visited the website, remember the address is www.bfchistory.org.
Our Executive Committee met at the home of Ardella and Bryan Bray on February 17. Our plans for the fall meeting are in place. You can mark your calendar now for October 27, 2001. We will meet at the Lebanon Church. We will hear about the history of the church. They are celebrating their anniversary and have invited us to come to be a part of that celebration. Our second presentation will focus on preacher George Campbell. He was a Civil War veteran who suffered with a wound he received while a prisoner at ... Wait a minute. I am not going to tell you the story now. You will have to come to Lebanon to hear his story.
My last words are the normal invitation to you to send me your stories, questions, or comments. You are holding out on me. Among the readers of this publication are so many stories that could be shared. Who was your favorite preacher and why? What did you like about your Sunday School teachers? Is there an event that made an impact on you? Don’t let me down. I will wait patiently for your response.
Remember, you can get to me by snail mail at 723 South Providence Road, Wallingford PA 19086. (All of the computer people know that snail mail is the faithful postal service.) You can send me your story by email (I actually prefer it because I don’t have to retype it) at email@example.com. I am even equipped with a fax where you can send a copy at 610-876-8725.
My first offering of this issue is more information from the history of the Emmaus Church. This brief history is from a souvenir booklet prepared by the community in 1909. The picture which accompanied it is reprinted on the back page of this issue. Thanks to Kathlyne Stortz for sharing it with us.
Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church
[From Souvenir Program, Golden Jubilee, Borough of Emaus Penna, 1859-1909]
The two-story frame church on Chestnut Street was built by Moses Wieand and used by the Free Methodists for a number of years. The membership of this congregation became less and less, and finally ceased to exist as a congregation in Emaus.
In 1884 the Mennonite Brethren in Christ, who had prior to this time held services in private houses, purchased the church for $1,240, and established a regular appointment in the same. The Rev. Jonas Musselman was the first preacher in charge. The church was served in connection with appointments at other places. The following pastors served the charge: Revs. Abel Strawn, Samuel Frey, L. B. Taylor, W. Steinmetz, L. Frank Haas, R. Bergstresser, and the present pastor, Rev. H. K Kratz.
The present Board of Trustees consists of Harvey Thompson, President; R. T. Laudenslager, Secretary; and William Yeakel, Treasurer.
At the last session ofthe Annual Conference of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ, the Emaus Church and the Macungie Church were made a separate charge, which seems to give general satisfaction to all concerned.
The following is the list of preachers who have served at Emmaus. I have been computerizing the list of pastoral assignments. This computerization allows us to quickly access this information. I have completed assignments up to the year 1929. The Emmaus list is correct and complete as far as I know. If you see errors, send them to me. How many of them did you know and remember?
1883 Jonas Musselman
1884-85 A Strawn
1886 S H Frey
1887-88 O Bitting
1889-90 A B Gehret
1891-93 J E Fidler
1894-96 L B Taylor
1897-98 A B Gehret
1899 J E Fidler
1900-02 W Steinmetz
1903-04 L F Haas
1905-07 R Bergstresser
1908-10 H K Kratz
1911-14 E E Kublic
1915-22 J C Roth
1923-32 G F Yost
1933-41 C H Brunner
1942-50 F B Hertzog
1951-58 W W Hartman
1959-65 E Hosler
1966-81 H Fritz
1983-94 D Weller
1995 D Schoen
1996- D Schoen, R Soper
The following is a father / son tandem. R. C. Reichenbach has not been terrorized by the computer age. He has joined it and begun to turn out some of his memories. His son Allan has joined him in sharing memories of camp meeting. I enjoyed reading this material and think you will enjoy it as well.
SOME REFLECTIONS ABOUT EARLY DAYS
OF MIZPAH GROVE CAMPMEETING
R. C. Reichenbach
The name "Mizpah" first appears in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, when Jacob and Laban met as Jacob was fleeing with his family and cattle from his father-in-law. Laban was angry that Jacob fled from his presence, taking his two daughters, leaving without saying good bye. But Jacob had a good reason for leaving as he did. After Laban searched the tents of Jacob seeking to find his household gods, they sat down to a meal together. Jacob up a pillar of stone and then instructed his brethren to gather a heap of stones and there they sat and ate. Jacob called the place, "Galeed", the heap of witness but Laban added the name "Mizpah", meaning
"watchtower." This was not a benediction by any means but a malediction as neither man trusted the other. Laban was saying in essence, God, you watch him because I cannot.
The name "Mizpah" became an important word in the life of the members of the Mennonite Brethren In Christ Church. It stood for the place where members and friends of the denomination brought their families each year for spiritual development in worship, for a week of blessed fellowship with God's people and for a week of separation from the secular world. They came not only with their families but with their furniture and many with their cook
stoves, pots, pans and dishes. Mizpah was not a place of entertainment; no swimming pool as at Pinebrook, no tennis courts or volley ball court, no shuffle board court to play on, and no baseball field. Meetings were held every morning, afternoon and evening Everyone was expected to attend as many meetings as possible. As some of the mothers had to do some cooking, some were not able to attend all but most meetings were very well attended.
Mizpah also became an important place as literally hundreds through the years made their way to the altar to make important life decisions that affected the life of the denomination through the years. Many came to know Christ as their Savior and Lord. Many came to the place where their lives were committed to a life of service for the Lord Jesus Christ. Many young people found their life’s partner and many others made friends that became part of their lives for many years. God's people became acquainted with the many pastors of the denomination, heard them preach, became friends of their families. God's people got to know the preachers of the denomination in a personal way. They got to know people from the other churches in the denomination as they lived close to each other for that week. This brought unity in the Mennonite Brethren in Christ, a sense of oneness in the life of the Church, a spirit of prayer and concern not only for those in their own Church but for the whole body of Christ.
But there was another side to Mizpah that sometimes is overlooked - the load that was carried by the ministering brethren, the pastors. Before Campmeeting time, pastors were sometimes called to report to Mizpah to aid in the cutting down of trees and other maintenance work. The week before camp opened the Pastors gathered with the Gospel Heralds to erect the camp. Approximately 300 twelve by twelve four foot wall tents were set up. Teams were formed to set out the bags of tents, open them and unfold them and put the tent lumber inside. Then teams of lifters raised them, a team of stake drivers drove the stakes and others teamed up to fasten the guide ropes. There was a special way to fasten those ropes. Then there was a special team that tied the tents together in the rows. Not every one knew how to do this. E.B. Hartman and R.H. Gehman generally were the gifted workers that performed this task.
My particular work, once tents were erected, was to inspect them for holes and tears in the canvas and to see that there were ropes available to tie them up. T.D. Gehret was director of this endeavor for years and he enlisted some very fine ladies who volunteered to sew up the larger tears. The smaller tears were left for me to sew and fix in the best way that I could. For holes in the tent we used patches and applied the patches with a waterproof glue. Sometimes I had to put on a patch and also sew the patch to the canvass. If anyone has sewed canvass, you know it is hard on the fingers. Sad to say, some people were careless with their furniture and poked holes in the tops and then complained when the tent leaked. One day as I was going down to the cafeteria I could not help but notice that an occupant of a tent at the very end of a row had nailed the bottom of the tent wall to every board in the tent. Of course this did not make me or W.G. Gehman, the owner of the tents, very happy. One day a storm caused a large rip in the tent that was used for morning prayer meetings and for young people's meetings. That tear was approximately ten feet long. It was decided to put a patch over this tear on the outside using the waterproof glue and then to sew the patch to the tent canvass. We lowered the top so that I could get under it along with John E. Golla who was assigned to aid me inside the tent. We held a board flat up against the canvass of the tent while some of the men on the outside applied the patch. This gave some support as they pressed the patch on to the canvas to cover the tear. Then it was my job to push the needle and thread up through the canvass and then one of the men on the outside was to push it back. This we did for a long long time till we had sewed the entire patch on to the canvas top. It was proceeding well for a little while and then I took a glance at my brother beside me, John Golla. He was white. The ether in the glue along with little air under the tent was putting him out, unconscious. We hastily got him out of that situation and then arranged for more air for those inside the tent.
All of the lumber for the flooring had to be transported from the lumber piles and placed in front of the tents along with the blocking and scantling, timber used to support the flooring. In my early days the floors of all the tents were put in by the Pastors and some laymen who came to help, but later on the renters of the tents had to put their own floors in or pay some one to do it. Many of the young lads were anxious to do this. My boys loved to put floors in for it gave them some spending money.
Then there were the rest rooms that had to be cleaned and made ready for the campers. E.W. Bean was the director of this enterprise for many years as well as seeing to the water supply for the spigots around the grove. Electric lights throughout the grove and parking area had to be gone over, wires replaced and lines checked. The auditorium had to be cleaned, benches washed and placed in order. Straw had to be gotten and scattered in the big tent and in the front of the auditorium at the "mourner’s benches." Later, wood chips were used in place of the straw. Trees were inspected for dead limbs that could fall and tear tents or injure campers.
This was the work that our pastors and some kind laymen did before Campmeeting could be held. Can you picture your pastor today using a sledgehammer and driving stakes for 300 tents? Then, throughout the Camp time, each Pastor was assigned to a particular job to keep the camp moving along: cleaning rest rooms (later some lay folks were hired to do this), unplugging
toilets, replacing burned out light bulbs, repairing tents, waterproofing tents, cleaning the auditorium (and again later on young lads were hired to help do this job), tending to the sound system, etc. I have not even mentioned the cafeteria and all the work that was there., a place where hundreds of campers and visitors were fed three wonderful meals a day. A Pastor was in charge but it was staffed by a dedicated group of ladies. When you realize that over a thousand people attended the Sunday services, then you have some idea of how many people the Cafeteria served. On a Sunday the lines formed very quickly at the door to the Cafeteria. It was surprising how fast some people could get there when the service was over. They were
Olympic possibilities for the hundred yard dash. Often the crowd outside would be singing: "Here we stand like birds in the wilderness, birds in the wilderness, birds in the wilderness, Here we stand like birds in the wilderness, waiting to be fed."
Pastors had another job patrolling the grove each night at curfew time which was 11 P.M. This job was not one that was desired by any of the brethren because many of the younger people, and even some of the older ones, did not like to retire at curfew time. We often experienced some who were a little rowdy at times and rebellious to the rules and regulations.
Further, some nights we experienced some problems with gangs from the outside. Due to the fact that all pastors were required to sit on the platform for all the services, this became rather difficult for those who had been up late and also when the days were hot and muggy. But our pastors were to be "super-men" in those days, impervious to the heat, work exhaustion or
whatever else presented itself.
But then came the day when Camp was over and everything had to be put away. We prayed for good dry weather as the tents had to be perfectly dry before they could be taken down, folded in a prescribed manner, and rolled to fit into the tent bags. All the boards, scantlings and blocking had to be collected. The boards and scantlings were stacked in big lumber piles.
Stakes had to be collected and put away, light bulbs removed, benches stacked on the platform of the auditorium and countless other details taken care of. The work force? Oh yes, the pastors and some gracious laymen who faithfully came to help us. I can remember driving home after all the work was done and wondering if I could stay awake long enough to get home. Yes, I was that tired.
Pastors were not always used to manual labor such as I have described. Often this work had to be done in very hot weather. Could it be done today? I think not but there was a deep commitment in those days of the necessity of Campmeeting, a full realization of the glorious results that came to pass in the denomination among the people of the Lord. Yes, lives were transformed, young people were challenged, mates were secured, people were healed, harmony and fellowship in the denomination was enhanced. We who lived in that day and experienced Mizpah can never forget what God did in those meetings and in so many lives.
Personally, my sons looked forward each year for Campmeeting time. It was a high light in their lives as they went with their Dad, helped get blocking to distribute to the tents, put in floors and enjoyed the fellowship of their friends, many of them sons of other pastors. I came home many times dead tired but thankful for what God brought to pass in countless lives, in the lives of my children, in the lives of my congregation; yea, for the privilege that was mine to kneel at the altar with countless ones and pray with them and counsel with those who desired to make decisions for Christ. Oh what a joy it was to meet with my fellow pastors, work with them, fellowship with them, join in Bible discussions with them and realize what a wonderful and precious group of beloved brethren were part of the Mennonite Brethren In Christ Church.
MIZPAH! Nothing will take its place. The memories are great and wonderful. The lives touched are numerous and only Heaven will reveal what victories were won there. But times have changed and Mizpah had its day. We must move on and look to Pinebrook for another place for God to move upon hearts and lives.
[The following remarks are from Brother Reichenbach’s son, Allan. Allan teaches math at the Mercer Academy, a Christian School near Trenton, NJ. He taught for over 30 years in the public school system. He and his wife attend Calvary Baptist Church in Bristol, Pennsylvania. His thoughts represent a “kid’s” perspective.]
After reading my father's writing about Mizpah, I could not help to think back to those days and the many wonderful remembrances. Over the years since the property was sold I have thought back to those times with fond memories of the place where I dedicated my life to the Lord.
There are so many things that rush through my mind as I recall those days. As Dad mentioned, we loved to go and sent up the camp. We always hoped we would be assigned to the "good" jobs which were riding in the trucks and loading them with the blocking and then throwing out the blocks at each site. Yes, my brother and I put in a lot of floors and enjoyed the money that we made. I don't remember anymore how much, but I'm sure it wasn't a whole lot. The most difficult floors were the ones on the upper section where the front was quite a bit higher than the rear and you had to make sure the blocking was steady. We learned much about carpentry that I believe led to my love of building things today in my home. We would set the boards on the scantling with the two center boards overlapping, nail the end boards, set the those two center boards up to form a peak and then jump on that peak to make a solid floor. We did not want to hammer in many nails since this had to all be torn up in a few weeks.
Furniture moving was also a fun job. We had to get the furniture that was stored in the small building, the name of which I cannot remember. Also on top of the cafeteria things were stored. One year I remember falling down those steps and having my first experience of having the breath knocked out of me. Injuries to us kids were a common experience. I can remember playing tag on one of the big trucks as it was parked in the empty auditorium. Jumping off the end of the truck, I did not look where I was going and ran smack into one of the iron pillars. Although the skin never broke, I can still feel to this day the indent in the center of my forehead.
Who could not forget the snack shack where the preachers purchased Moxie-"Preacher's beer"? I would purchase a red cream soda. I still savor that wonderful taste. We loved going to the store after evening services and getting creamsicles--(don't even know how to spell it)--and other ice cream treats. The book store was also a highlight.
The prayer meeting tent brings back great memories of sitting on the camp stools and trying to find some kernels of wheat in the straw on the floor. The old wooden benches were not the most comfortable, but somehow we endured them also. I can remember the many services when people had to sit outside on lawn chairs because of the crowd. Other times I remember the vicious storms when the side curtains had to be lowered to keep the congregation dry.
The music was another vivid memory; the organ playing, the Ohmans and the trumpets. Although I never played one, maybe somehow that passed through me to my son who is studying trumpet at this moment. The special music by people from many different churches was tremendous. I can remember one particularly talented family that came and sang. The singing of the congregation was unbelievable. I wish our congregations sang like that today.
It was wonderful meeting so many different people from other churches and especially meeting so many of the "old time" pastors to whom we looked up to as people very special. We enjoyed the friendships with the other PK's. We played many a game of Monopoly with them.
Mizpah Grove also had the best raspberry patches this side of heaven down below the lower road and also back in the woods beyond the prayer tent. I don't know if it is my imagination, but I can remember one spot where you could enter a center area and there were bushes all around you.
Sports were another vivid memory. The shuffleboard courts up the reservoir were frequented by us kids. To this day every time I play shuffleboard I think back to those courts. Softball on the school macadam was truly a highlight. Although sometimes it was a sad time when I was not chosen to play since I was slight of built and not the best athlete. I can remember to this day and can still visualize some of the pastors who were tremendous athletes. The Kirkwoods, Bert Brosius, Leroy Heller, Dean Stortz. (These are just some of the names that I remember.) They were some of our heroes and I know I dreamed of playing like some of them. They would hit the ball out to the woods and up onto the road in right field. It was always fun watching the city fellows challenge the camp team. Tether ball was another game that we played frequently at camp. Latter as adults we bought what was then called Zim Zam based on the old tether ball.
Dorney Park, before it became famous, was always a fun place to go for an evening with the other teens. I don't remember where, but there was also a fantastic steak shop somewhere near the camp.
We enjoyed hiking in the woods up past the reservoir, but can remember as a young boy being frightened since there was to be a mental hospital in that area. At least that is what I remember about those walks.
Yes, we were some of that Olympic material that Dad talked about when the morning service was over. We rushed over to get in line. Of course, being PK's we had the privilege of being able to go in the side door and be fed first. I remarked to Dad a couple weeks ago that I can remember the soft boiled eggs for breakfast. It was always a hit or miss situation in picking them and hoping you would get one that was not hard. Other foods I vividly remember were the cooked prunes and shoofly pie. Yes, I have a weird memory.
Another remembrance as a young boy is one maybe I should not relate. The auditorium was built on a slope and during offering time many people dropped coins and they would roll down under the benches. Of course they would be stopped by the feet of the benches or would land in the sawdust in the front. We had the job of sweeping the rows. I can vividly remember leaning one bench up and the other back in order to clear a path to sweep. Of course we were overjoyed to find the loose change. Thinking back it was probably the Lord's money, but as a child it was a find to us. That's why cleaning up the sawdust at the end of camp was always a "good" job as much of the money made it all the way to the front.
I still look back at old pictures that my parents have of us as babies and small children around the tents. I can remember Mom heating water to bathe us in the basin. I even have a picture of my future wife as I took her to a camp meeting service at Mizpah.
A few years ago when my oldest son was in a bicycle road race in the Allentown area, I decided to try and find Mizpah and let him see the area. I was surprised that I was able to find the area and, although everything is overgrown, I could still make out many of the areas I knew. We found the foundation of the auditorium and the base of the steel pillars. I could make out the main "drag" and we even trekked up the hill and found the overgrown shuffleboard courts. It was raining and we didn't spend a lot of time, but it was a trip back.
There are many more wonderful memories of Mizpah that have been clouded over by time. I have written here mainly what I remember as a child and the great experiences. But on the spiritual side, I can remember the many men of God that we were able to hear. The evangelists and missionaries were exceptional. As a child, at the time, we probably did not realize the foundation that was being laid down for our lives. I know that something like that would probably not be possible in this day and age, but for the time that it was in existence during my life, Mizpah had a great influence on me.
Take a look at the page of pictures which follow. Thanks for your interest and I hope you enjoyed this issue. I will encourage you by reminding you that spring is around the corner. We are almost there. I will also remind that our gracious and loving God is near.