The Historical Society of the Bible Fellowship Church
I have spring fever. The day I have chosen to begin my work on this edition of historical remembrance is beautifully resplendent with golden sunshine and warm temperature. It is the sort of day I have been waiting for all winter. Finally it has arrived and I can report I love it.
I love it because the colors of spring are starting to appear. Picture a scene of one hundred years ago. What do you see? Probably it is a black and white image, even if it is a spring day. That is how the past comes. I look at many pictures of the past and most of them are in black and white. Every now and then, someone subjects a picture to computer technology and is able to colorize it. It looks artificial to me, not like the past. But the past really did have color. Trees were green and flowers were yellow, red, purple and whatever God made them. And people were color, all sorts of colors and I am not talking about pigment. For the most part, we meet people of the past as words on a paper or an image in a black and white photograph. I suppose that what drives a person like me is that I am always searching for the “color” in people. That’s why I love a good biography.
I hope this edition is about color. None of the pictures will be in color because the copy process used to make this only does black and white. But, I hope the stories and memories are full of color. Enjoy.
For the last several years, I have reviewed the Annual Conference of 100 years ago and tried to summarize what was happening. I am at it again.
100 Years Ago - 1905
When the statistical report arrives, Annual Conference time is in the air. The innocent looking letter arrives in the mail. Some open the letter with a groan knowing that time will be invested in gathering and recording information. Others get a light in their eye, sharpen their pencils and go to work adding, subtracting and calculating averages.
Our denomination has always loved statistics. Very early we began keeping them. Our traveling preacher, Eusebius Hershey, reported in November, 1865, on the number of miles he traveled (1806), on the families he visited (426), and how many times he spoke in public (65). Statistics are one part measure, one part accountability, and one part story.
The statistics we recorded in 1905 covered a lot of territory. Some of the statistics are familiar to us: how many baptized, how many received into fellowship, dropped, transferred, and so on. The preachers told about what they were doing: sermons preached, pastoral visits, prayer meetings visited, Sunday Schools visited. The life of the congregation was covered: classes and new classes. And of course, the Sunday School must be considered with the numbers of officers and teachers, scholars enrolled and the average attendance. The finances were thoroughly reviewed: collected for Sunday Schools, collected for Foreign Missions in Sunday School, collected for ministers in cash, other contributions, collected for Home Missions, collected for Foreign Missions, collected for repairing church, sexton and sundry expenses, collected for Presiding Elders, collected for tabernacle work, collected for Missionary Work, collected for Camp Meeting, Poor Fund, Sunday School Conventions, Annual Conference Fund, Beneficiary Fund.... and there were even more. The statistics reports cover eight full pages of the year book.
When the Annual Conference convened on Thursday morning, October 12, 1905, at Ebenezer Church in Bethlehem, the statistics would wait. The chairman, H. B. Musselman preached on “The Unity of the Brethren,” from Psalm 133, led in prayer and the meeting was underway. The routines were followed, the roll called, the committees appointed, and the minutes reviewed.
Then they began. The pastors gave their oral reports. As usual, things were looking good. The secretary reported, “The reports show zeal on the part of the pastors which bore fruit numerically, financially and spiritually on their respective charges.” The statistics began to roll out. Suddenly a paragraph leaps out at us:
W.B. Musselman, M.P.E., and Editor and Publisher of the G.W.S. Herald, reported less halls and few more workers. They have fifty-two workers at present. Halls are hard to rent. Only 3800 meetings were held in halls, but more evangelistic work was done. 16,000 visits were made last year where the workers prayed. 3200 open air meetings were held, during fairs or shows often, in various towns where subscribers for the G.W.S. Herald were solicited. 8100 G.W.S. Heralds are published per week. They expect to have 10,000 by another year. They receive many encouraging reports from readers of the G.W.S. Herald.
The statistics had been recorded. This paragraph reminds us that numbers are not meaningless, dry calculations, and useless facts. They carry a story. Look at the facts. 3800 meetings in halls. That’s about 75 meetings each week. 16,000 contacts with people that were significant enough to include a prayer. That’s about 320 prayer encounters per week. 3200 open air meetings. That’s 64 each week. 8100 G. W. S. Herald magazines with their stories, testimonies and calls to trust Jesus - every week! The women of the Gospel Worker Society and their male counterparts in the Gospel Herald Society were on fire with the gospel. The statistics tell their story. They were committed to proclaiming the gospel whenever and wherever they could in sermon, story and magazine. These young men and women were serious about God’s command to go everywhere.
While the statistical story was thrilling and encouraging, much of the 1905 Annual Conference was routine. The new works in Pottstown and Norristown were promising. Attendance at camp meetings brought the news that “a number of souls were saved and others were cut loose.”
More than statistics were on their mind. The day before the Annual Conference began, they had gathered for the Ministerial Convention. During that convention, W. G. Gehman had been commissioned to speak on the subject of an orphanage. The seeds of what we know as Fellowship Manor were being sown. The convention proceedings reported the following:
"Suggestions and Plans concerning our Orphanage," by W. G. Gehman.
The inspired essays and discussions at previous Conventions, the Conference electing a Committee on Orphanage, investing them with the power to buy a place, which power they exercised and bought a farm of eighty-five acres of fertile soil, good buildings and many other favorable features, situated near the Allentown and Philadelphia Traction line and still nearer to P. & R. R. Station at Centre Valley, Pa. Concerning this home for orphans some plans and suggestions were given. First, The Temporal Economy; Second, Spiritual Economy.; Third, Trades Economy.
The Annual Conference had heard the call and was ready to move to this work of love in Jesus’ name. The minutes recorded on Thursday night:
Resolved, That the Conference meet in a Committee of the Whole, at 7 p.m., to consider the letter of E.W. Martin, T.E. Clewell, who is under charges, the number of Presiding Elders, the Mission work, and the Orphanage work.
On Friday morning, they were ready to proceed:
(5) Resolved, That the Conference elect a Board of Trustees consisting of six ordained ministers and three lay members, who shall be invested with full power to take possession, and order and arrange all the affairs of the Orphanage.
(6) Resolved, That the Conference request the different pastors to take subscriptions for the Orphanage, and that the Presiding Elders likewise do their utmost in assisting and urging this matter along on the various charges and missions and that all subscriptions be paid not later than March 20, 1906.
No statistic can adequately record the desire to show love and care to poor and needy orphans.
The Sunday services, as always, were a highlight of the conference.
At 10 o'clock, Sunday morning, C.H. Brunner preached the conference sermon, basing his remarks on Acts 20:28; Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood.
At 2:00 p.m. W.B. Musselman preached the ordination sermon, (selecting no special text), which indeed made the sermon not the less effective; it was full of thought for God's ministers, and was received with many amens. A real melting time prevailed. H.L. Weiss, of Chile, South America, was ordained.
At 7:30 p.m. H.B. Musselman gave us a very practical address from I Sam. 27:1;
very profitable seasons were spent during these services, the church being
filled to overflowing with eager admirers of God's truth. The reward of our
worthy leaders is a well united Conference.
The conference adjourned on Monday afternoon. They returned to their homes ready to take up the work. In only 360 days or 11 months, 3 weeks, and 5 days they would meet again at Reading in 1906.
About one year ago, the Historical Committee envisioned a publication to include the memories and stories of retired pastors. While I received a number of responses, we did not receive enough to supply our ambitious project. I did receive responses from a number of pastors and will reprint most of them starting with this edition. Here is some of the color of their experiences.
Bert N. Brosius served from 1959 until he retired as the Director of Pinebrook Bible Conference.
Spiritual Impact of our Camping ministry:
The history of my spiritual life begins in 1927, six years before my physical birth and continues today with a great emphasis on summer bible camping/conference. It was 1927 at Edgewood Park camp meeting in Shamokin, Pa. that Ethel Derck who was to be my mother came to faith in Jesus Christ as her personal Savior. It is be noted that my mother who is still living at the age of 91 years of age has attended summer camp every year since then without missing at either Edgewood, Mizpah and, more recently, Pinebrook.
As a young boy I can remember going on grandpa’s truck with my dad and other men from the Sunbury church to rake leaves and clean up the grove at Edgewood in preparation to erect the tents. Camp meeting was a great event in the life of the Sunbury church and Rev. N. H. Wolf promoted it to the extent that almost every family would attend for the week. One of the exciting events was to go with my dad on the big GMC stake body truck and pick up all the boxes, crates and other luggage to take to Shamokin. The truck was piled so high that it became necessary to have alternate routes so that the truck could get through the clearance limits.
After World War II all the camp meetings were held at Mizpah in Allentown and the ministry of Edgewood became history. I was in Junior High school in 1947 when my family first went to Mizpah. For all the years of Mizpah I was involved in the task of putting in tent floors. This began by helping my dad and then grew into something which I did single handed. During my high school, college and even ministry I would install as many as 25 to 35 floors from Thursday afternoon when the tent numbers were drawn up till Saturday afternoon when camp would begin.
It was at Mizpah Grove on a Friday night in 1951 at a "Menno Youth" service that I dedicated my life to the Lord. This decision led me to Berean Bible School and a total of six years of preparation for ministry in the Bible Fellowship Church which began in the fall of 1957.
In 1958 my camping experience took on a new dimension. I now was a home mission pastor and therefore became part of the "Committee." The "Committee" was made up of all the pastor’s that were camping for the week. The "Committee" would meet each morning for prayer and to receive instructions of duties. At the first meeting each year, the chairman would make assignments.
My first assignment was one that continued thru all years both at Mizpah and latter at Pinebrook. My wife and I were in charge of the children’s meetings. At Mizpah, it was in a big hot tent with straw on the ground. What a challenge with over 100 children and teens at the same time. This took place while the adults had their morning bible study and missionary hour. After we moved to Pinebrook the assignment continued and lasted until 1990 when I became the Director of Pinebrook Bible Conference. The first years at Pinebrook were also a tremendous challenge because we were crowded in a hot room in the years before air-conditioning. We had all the children for the first few years but then we began to departmentalize and air conditioners were installed.
Dave’s First Day as a Herald
The summer camp ministry took on a new dimension after I became Director of Pinebrook and it is still a major part of my life. My wife and I continue to spend much of our summer at Pinebrook and our son, Nate became the Director when I retired. So you can see that what God began in the life of my mother at a camp meeting in 1927 at Shamokin, Pa. continues to this day in my life and the spiritual life on my family.
David E. Thomann grew up in the Wissinoming Church and put his hand to the plow in 1943. Following the direction of Jesus, he did not look back. He too retired after serving faithfully at Pinebrook Bible Conference. Dave also submitted a word from his wife Polly who recently went home to her Lord.
I was accepted into the Gospel Herald Society, May 21,
1937 and stationed at Irvington, N. J. with E. W. Bean.
Every thing was new to me, moving from a home that
was full of love and now a single young man, living with another family in a strange
city. It was not too long before the Herald Brethren made me feel at home.
In just five months the fall Convention was held in Elizabeth, N. J. with all the men with the President, W. G. Gehman. At the beginning of the convention I was approached by the leader and asked if I would serve as the Secretary. I am not sure why I was asked being a new man, but it could be possible that the secretary was moved up to serve in an organized church, and I arrived with a portable type writer; never the less I was in. Sometime during the convention I was called to the front of the men to read the minutes of the previous meeting. I never saw the material and things were going well until I had to read the "Statistical Report". Well I was unable to pronounce the word "Statistical". I paused and tried several times to collect my thoughts, hearing some snickers from the men. This made matters worse, so our President asked me to start again. W. G. Gehman in his younger days was a school teacher, so he used his plan and told me to stand there and try again repeating the word several times. I just could not do it. Again I heard the snickers and this embarrassed me more. At last it was all over. I am sure that the Lord helped me. But I have never forgotten this experience. Every time I hear this word or read it, this experience comes back to me from 66 years ago.
And, from Pauline (Musselman) Thomann
My great, grandfather, David Musselman, was converted to the Lord, with several others during revival meetings in the Zionsville area. He and his wife, with several others organized themselves into a little congregation and built a large brick church about a mile from their home. A son was born to them who was my great grand father, Jonas Musselman. He became one of our pastors and served the Springtown congregation in 1876, then in Hatfield, Emmaus and Bethlehem. Six children were born into the family, three were sons and all of them became ministers in our denomination. They were: William Brunner, Harvey Brunner and Allen Brunner. Allen was my grand father. In 1900 he became pastor of the Reading church and served there for one year and died at the age of 27. He had one son and two daughters, his son being P. Ward Musselman, my father. After the death of my grandfather, my father had to go to work to support the family and never entered the ministry, but served as Class Leader and Sunday School Superintendent for forty years. In our Allentown church he led me to the Lord. Years later I me a young man from the Wissinoming church of Philadelphia at the Mizpath Grove Camp meeting. Sometime later he informed me that he was entering the Gospel Herald Society to train for the ministry. My father was pleased that I would continue in the line in the ministry of his father.
That young man is David E. Thomann. We were married in 1941 and served in the Gospel Herald Society, at Trenton, N. J. and were moved to our first church in Nazareth, Pa. We had three children, two daughters, Betty Lou and Beverly and David. David, who is now pastor in the Lancaster Church, still continues in the line of ministers. Our daughter Betty Lou married one of our pastors, Arthur Frable and their second son of three is now a minister in Oklahoma. So it continues---How long?
Robert W. Smock claims to be the last of the Gospel Heralds. If he is the last, he is certainly not the least. His first pastoral assignment came in 1951. He still serves in retirement on the pastoral staff at the Bible Fellowship Church of Ephrata.
REFLECTIONS ON GOSPEL HERALD DAYS
As of the time of this writing, I have completed 57 ½ years of ministry with the Bible Fellowship Church. I praise the Lord for His call and His supply to carry me thru the years of service.
At the outset, several situations occurred which could have negated that ministry had it not been for the clear call that God gave me.
A special note of thanks is due to Pastor and Mrs. Jack Dunn for their support during those difficult formative years.
I had the privilege of dating regularly the girl who would become my wife. Then, the night came when I was to go to Trenton, N J to begin my stay with the Dunns. They welcomed me and supported me in the “sudden emptiness” of not being able to see my girlfriend on a regular basis. Thanks to Pastor Dunn, I was granted two unusual exceptions to the formerly rigid pattern of the Gospel Herald Society. I was permitted to write a letter to Thelma once a day and I was permitted to see her about once a month. That helped to fill in the lonely hours of isolation for the 3 year wait until I would be permitted to plan for marriage.
In the mind of the director of the Gospel Herald Society, I was probably seen as a young upstart, though I had been known by that director for many years. He may have known me well as an individual but he continually called me “Walter” (my brother’s name). I probably was more serious at age 17 ½ than most young men of that age. In part, that may have been because I felt the call to ministry at age 11.
That director had two perceptions of me that, after all these years of ministry, I felt were wrong. I recall sitting in front of him on an interview and having him sit back and observe of me that I was just a “young sapling”. It hurt, but I was able to laugh it off. However, later at a Ministerial Meeting in Reading when this same man in his sermon preached about the awful sin of putting one’s hand to the plow and looking back and it was clear that the message was geared to myself for the “sin” of taking a leave of absence (which he opposed) to get some formal Bible training, I again received another hurt. I was doing what the Lord had directed me to do, but it was considered a sin.
One chuckles at such actions because, in this day, men are not accepted into the ministry unless they have received formal training. This leader is with the Lord now, but I wonder how he would feel knowing that the “young sapling” not only completed Bible College training but even went on to graduate from a Seminary! In all fairness to the picture, I’m sure that were he living today, he would have looked favorably on my getting further education.
But, the one that makes me chuckle even more is the fact that the same leader clearly opposed my dating the girl who would become my wife. He had selected a different girl for me and it was clear that she was his selection. Some of this likely came out of an earlier time when pastors did make recommendations and, in some cases, actually selected mates for young people.
Now, after over 50 years of happy marriage, I can only thank the Lord for providing for me the most wonderful wife any man could have. Whatever that Director did in discouraging me, my wife counterbalanced those negatives with the most wonderful positives.
The question is, “How shall I respond to the above illustrated negatives along with several others not mentioned?”
The answer is clear…..I will simply acknowledge the sovereignty of God who overruled those negatives and give praise to the Lord for providing some very special people in my life to “keep me going.” Special thanks is due here to Pastor N.H. Wolf whose encouragements were priceless.
And….what is the application of this lesson? From my experience, I know how important it is to give “positives” to men in the ministry, whether they are just starting out or have many years of experience.
At this point in my life, I am serving in the capacity of an assistant to my pastor. I thank the Lord for Pastor Dan Allen and for our Delegate, Bob Gehret, both of whom have been a great blessing to me.
James Bigley served the Bible Fellowship Church as a missionary. He later began his work in Florida.
The story of my life has been a continual story of our Lord's faithfulness and His leading in my life. I was 25 years old, discharged from the U.S. Army and about ready to make a big mistake in my life. I was in love with a young woman and about to propose to her. This was not in God's plan for my life and so He arranged for a blind date with another girl. This young lady was a born again Christian who was training to be a nurse and go to the mission field. She from the first moment that she entered my car started to tell me about her relationship with Jesus Christ. I was so shocked and curious that we had seven more dates before I asked Jesus Christ to forgive my confessed sins and take control of my life. Within five years my parents and one sister also accepted Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 10:13 has become my life's verse. Since I accepted Jesus Christ as my Personal Saviour on Nov. 15,1955, I have found the above verse to be very true. The interesting part is that in every experience God continues to prove faithful. He continues to lead and guide me in such a wonderful way and give me such unique ways to serve Him. Each skill I have learned along the way has simply prepared me for the next opportunity to serve Him. Even before I knew Him He was leading me, step by step - trade high school, business school, commercial baking and U.S. Army Quartermaster school. This was all part of His plan for my life.
The two most interesting and challenging experiences that I have had were as the administrator of Bradenton Missionary Village and as a volunteer chaplain at a local hospital. On the mission field you may have the opportunity to live and work with 5 - 65 fellow missionaries in the same and various missions, but can you imagine what it is like to live and lead 285 missionaries who are from many different missions, each one trained to lead and with various personality traits. This was a tremendous challenge for me, because I felt so very inadequate for the task. Many of the missionaries had a least one degree and quite a few had several while I had none. God continued to prove faithful. Our Lord used two displaced lady missionaries from Sudan to direct me to Mr. Rossi, the founder of Tropicana Orange Juice Co. and 21 wonderful years developing The Bradenton Missionary Village and its many outreaches in the local community for Christ. Missionary residents minister to 24 nursing homes, correctional institutes, jails, schools and hospitals. They assist the local police in translation as well as witness to seamen at the local port.
I am now retired, but continue to serve My Lord as a volunteer chaplain at a local hospital. This is a wonderful opportunity to not only witness, in many different ways, to the hospital staff, but also to the many sick patients.
One short story about Our Lord's faithfulness: One night I was called by the hospital to visit a young 26 yr. old man who had AIDS and was dying. Our Lord prepared his heart and I was just the vessel used to lead him to Jesus Christ. I prayed with him and said that I would revisit him in the morning. When I arrived there at 8:00 a.m. I found him witnessing to his visitors; his parents and sister. Praise the Lord !
I have been a volunteer chaplain for 9 yrs. now and desire to continue to serve Our Lord til He comes or calls me home. Our Lord used one faithful young lady many years ago to bring to Himself my parents, two sisters, one cousin, my four sons, five grand- children in my family plus many in Kenya and here in United States. August15th,1999, my Lord called home my wife, Renee but two years later He suppled another Christian help- mate but that’s another story. "Our God continues to be faithful."
One last submission. I came across the obituary for Timothy D. Gehret. Many will recall his memory and add the color of the memory of his face and conversations. I recall meeting him at Annual Conferences. I don’t remember what we talked about. What I remember is that he welcomed me and let me know that he was very glad that I had come to the Annual Conference. That welcome not only helped to make me feel at home but his attention to me made me feel quite important. The editor of Fellowship News, then Robert W. Smock, compiled this account with the remarks of Jansen Hartman.
Rev. T. D. Gehret passed peacefully in rest from this life on Sunday, November 21, 1971, after an illness of just over two weeks.
Though retired several years, his interest in conference activities continued keen even when pain afflicted his body during his stay at the Allentown General Hospital. A visit with him during this period almost invariably included concern for the welfare of various pastors and the program of foreign missions.
Pastor Bult gave testimony of his deep concern to hear a recorded message by Moses Chow given at our Cedar Crest Church. When the tape recorder failed. Brother Gehret immediately sent word to Harry Buchin requesting assistance so that he would be able to hear the messages. Though only two days remained for him in this life, and though his body strength was steadily weakening, he still determined to hear the good word. Thanks to the kindness of Brother Buchin, a new recorder was provided and Brother Gehret's spiritual concern fulfilled.
In our conversation with several, concern was expressed whether Brother Gehret had seen the picture and article of appreciation in last month's issue of FELLOWSHIP NEWS. Not only was he shown the article, but, in spite of his waning strength, he read a goodly portion of the latest copy.
The visits of the many pastors and friends were deeply appreciated. Of interest to our readers was Brother Gehret's appreciation for the visit of two brethren from the Emmaus Church who constituted a visitation committee. Brother Clifford Kauffman's prayer was a source of real blessing to Brother Gehret. This visitation ministry may well be duplicated by other churches.
The Memorial Service was held at Allentown (Bethel). Pastor James G. Koch ministered in the Word, reflecting on the faithfulness of Brother Gehret to the Faith. The Pastors' Quartet sang.
Following are excerpts from the reflections on the life of Brother Gehret as presented by Pastor Jansen E. Hartman at the Memorial Service:
All of us have observed the life of Brother Gehret. Each of us has received something from him.
As the servant of Jesus Christ, he was gifted of God for the benefit of the church. Whatever residue remains with us, all honor for it belongs to God. OnlyGod can regener-ate a man, anoint his lips and give him a message. Such was the story of Brother Gehret’s life and ministry. Brother Gehret had his beginnings in the parsonage at Terre Hill in 1895, the son of Rev. A. B. Gehret.
His was a life-long loyalty to the church. He was licensed to preach in 1921 and served the following churches: Harrisburg, Philadelphia (Calvary), Scranton, Sunbury, Easton , Blandon and Fleetwood. In 1945 - 54, he served in the office of Presiding Elder for the Bethlehem District and then again from 1962 to 1967 as District Superintendent of the Allentown District as well as Chairman of the Annual Conference.
For many years, he held other strategic posts of administration including many years as Secretary of Annual Conference, Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Berean Bible School and Chairman of the Board ofDirectors of the Bible Fellowship Church Home. He was Delegate to the General Conference on several occasions.
Reflecting back some years, there are those of us who remember him most intimately as a member of the Committee of Reading Course Examiners. (For the sake of our newer readers, the Reading Course was used as a Home Study Course for the preparation of the newer pastors during an intern-type of ministry in the Gospel Herald Society. -Editor) Here is where the young minister had his first relationship with Brother Gehret.
I asked one minister what he remembered most about Brother Gehret. He said, "He had a heart for pastors. " There is an element of completeness to his ministry which was allowed to continue into his period of retirement.
In his dealing with others, he was always direct and forthright. It was not difficult to know where he stood on issues. Although men differed with him on positions, I never knew him to be bitter. He was a man of integrity.
If there was a pronounced theme in his ministry that revealed the interests of Brother Gehret, it was detected in his preaching and selection of hymns. Predominant were, "I Don't Have to Cross Jordan Alone", "It Will Be Worth It All", "Like A River Glorious" and "My Saviour First of All".
A visit to his study revealed an unfinished article entitled, "God's After". His heart was ever centered on the soon return of our Saviour! I can still hear him as, at Mizpah, he would drive home the truth of Isaiah 21:11-12: "Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said. The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come."
Thanks for your interest. Thanks to all who contributed to this issue. Remember, your memories and questions are always welcome to me.
723 South Providence Road
Wallingford, PA 19086
Telephone and Fax - 610-876-8725
Email - RETaylor@GraceBFC.org