The Historical Society of the
Bible Fellowship Church
Enclosed is another edition of our newsletter periodical. Probably we should call the newsletter a periodical because it appears periodically making it by definition a periodical. If I were to assign publication dates, it would make for deadlines and require that at certain times I meet that deadline. I will make a confession to you. I do this because it is fun for me. While others are running to tennis courts and getting frustrated on the golf course, I poke about in old magazines and documents. The moment a deadline is assigned, it is no longer fun. So if a stretch goes by and you don’t get a mailing, assume I am busy and don’t have time.
This issue is a hodge podge. The letter from Katie Weaver is from our files. Ralph Stickler was a dear brother who I remember had one of the greatest servant’s heart that I know. The letter is a joy to me because it indicates the depth of feeling that we don’t always understand. The reprint of the camp meeting article is another contribution of Charles Henry Brunner, a man who understood the need to remember long before anyone else understood that need. Our series on the Gospel Heralds continues. Retired pastor and former Gospel Herald R. C. Reichenbach has followed up on his first article with a second. [A third follows next time.] Bob Smock who claims to be the last of Gospel Heralds adds his thoughts. From Grace Reed and her memories of her mother, Ida Hottel, I learned that Pastor Smock has the historical distinction of being not only the last Gospel Herald but the first baby added to the cradle roll at Bethlehem. It surprises me that someone could remember when Bob Smock was a baby. I met him years ago and he was already older than dirt. I was surprised to know that cradles had been invented at that time. In reality, Pastor Smock will never grow old and, as a retired pastor, is probably busier about the Lord’s work than some of us who are full time. He is serving on the pastoral staff at the Ephrata Church.
I am glad to report that our new video has been distributed and received well. I do not think I have heard a single negative comment. Many churches have purchased the video and will be using it to introduce new members to our story. I appreciated the opportunity to work with Jay Ruth of Branch Valley Productions as he prepared it for us and feel he did a wonderful job. We have 50 videos left to be sold. I believe they will go quickly and want to let you know in order that you may get a copy. After the 50 are sold, we will have to duplicate them individually which is much more expensive. Copies will probably cost $30-35 apiece.
I am also glad to report that we have finished work on the preparation of the Gospel Workers Manual. Those who remember these godly ladies will enjoy seeing this behind the scenes look at their activity. Those who know little about them with get a new appreciation for their discipline and dedication.
I am including a sheet that you can use to order our publications. As you see, the list is growing. Because of the financial demands on the Annual Conference, the Historical Committee did not receive an allowance this year. Our only income is from the sale of our publications. If you need an excuse to buy what we have, take it now. Every penny you spend on books goes right back into the preservation of our heritage.
I hope you will enjoy reading these selections as much as I enjoyed putting it together.
Don’t forget to send me your comments and questions. If you have a story, send it. I will see if I can include it. Like the contributions of brothers Reichenbach and Smock, your additions make special reading.
723 South Providence Road
Wallingford PA 19086
[I received the following letter from Mr. Ralph Stickler. I was Ralph’s pastor in Spring City for 9 years. He gave me this letter with the following explanation - “This letter was sent to my mother, Katie Musselman Weaver Stickler (8/10/83-9/14/1950) while she was a maid for a ‘Smith’ family on Penn Street, Reading, Pa. She was a maid from about 1895 to 1903.” I share it because it is a delight to hear the encouragements of the godly writer. Ralph did not identify the writer and unfortunately I can’t ask Ralph who is now in glory. The initials of the writer are clearly L. B. M. If you know the author, write to me.]
Dillinger, May 26th
My Dear Grandgild Katie
May the blissings of the Holy Gost raist upon you and gide you evry moment that you may Shine and live for God in your corrner evry day, is the praiar from your Grandmother Anna.
Well, I am well and happi in Him and can say this morning prais the Lord O my Sohl and all that was in me prais his Holy name - Hallilua. I was so glad for your letter that you well and comming so nicely along with Mrs. Smith and that you like your meatings too. Yess Katie be a good Girl and Serve the Lord with Gladniss and be radi for the Lords comming I beleve is neirly at hand.
I must close with my pure riding and spilling
and give my best love to you -----
I hope you will parden us for not riding Sooner we are bissie.
ride Soon are come.
Grandmother L. B. M.
C. H. Brunner
1941 Yearbook Pages 28-29
Some time ago a friend presented the writer with a copy of Rev. B. W. Gordham's "Camp Meeting Manual" published in 1854. According to this book, the first Camp Meetings held in the United States were held on the banks of the Red River in Tennessee in by two ministers, brothers, William and John McGee, the former a Presbyterian and the latter a Methodist. These two devoted preachers, travelling together through Kentucky and Tennessee, arrived at a Presbyterian Church and tarried for a communion service. John was asked to preach.. There came such an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that the meetings were continued. People from all the surrounding country came, supplying themselves with provisions, lodging in covered wagons, huts and booths.
Similar meetings started up far and wide till congregations were so large that it was impossible for any voice to reach them all. At first these meetings were held near the churches. The congregations being so immense the preaching was done from a window or from a platform outside of the Church. People from a distance camped around the meeting place. From these humble beginnings the Camp Meetings started and soon became a powerful means to promote the work of God. From the beginning until the present time the object of these great outdoor services has been to reach the unchurched with the Gospel, to bring the messages of Salvation to the unregenerated and to prepare a people for the glorious appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Although the first church of the Pennsylvania Conference was organized in 1858, it was more than twenty years before we held our first Camp Meeting. The writer well remembers August 1879 [1881 - ed.] when the congregations of Zionsville, then called Upper Milford, Fleetwood, Coopersburg, Springtown and Quakertown held several Grove Meetings on Chestnut Hill near Limeport. These services were largely attended so that by the following summer several families made and erected canvas tents of their own.
A small temporary pulpit was erected in the rear of which some of the invited preachers slept. Seats made of rough unplaned hemlock boards without backs were constructed. A large tent forty by sixty feet and several hundred camp stools were purchased to be used on rainy days. Soon the number of tents came up to thirty and more. Thus began the annual Chestnut Hill Camp Meetings. Even in those horse and buggy days people came from quite a distance. As many as five hundred vehicles of every description were reported present on Sundays parked along the road and in the fields. These gatherings soon became annual events known far and near. Ministers from Ohio, Indiana, Canada and New York City were among the guest speakers.
From the beginning the water supply was a serious problem. Water was hauled there in barrels by one of the neighboring farmers. Then the Camp Meeting Committee composed of laymen decided to dig a well in which the writer assisted. After digging down seventy feet with no signs of water the project was abandoned. Thus for eighteen [years] all the water for cooking and drinking purposes for more than thirty families had to be hauled.
During all these years there had never been a cafeteria, restaurant, nor provision store allowed in the grove. There were no refrigerators and no ice. As the tents had no floors, some buried a box in the ground in a corner of their tent to keep their butter and milk. A butcher and a baker came in a few times a week. For a stove some families secured the top of an old cook stove or range and with a few bricks or stones made a fireplace under it.
Practically all of the campers of these pioneer Camp Meeting days were farmers. Some members of these families had to go home every day to do the milking and feeding. Some of the women had to go home to do some baking and bring provisions back to camp. As there was no restaurant within two miles of camp, visitors coming for the day brought their lunch along while these good generous, hospitable Pennsylvania German campers always entertained alternately those preachers and visitors from Canada, Ohio, Indiana and other places. Such were the good old days of our early Camp Meetings.
The Pennsylvania Conference soon began to hold similar Camp Meetings in other communities as is seen under the heading of "Camp Meetings” near the end of this Year Book. There you will also see that since 1892 the Conference held Camp Meetings at twenty-five other places. including Shamokin where they have been held in 1907, 1908, 1911 and annually ever since.
All these Camp Meetings had been held in rented groves. Very often suitable locations were hard to get. Then they usually meant much labor to get them ready and the expenses quite high. In 1910 the Executive Board of the Conference purchased a wild, undeveloped tract of woodland of about six acres, now in the fourteenth Ward of the City of Allentown on the south side of Lawrence Street at Dauphin Street from John F. Saeger and. Andrew S. Keck and held its first Camp Meeting in it in that year. More land was purchased at different times until the grove included more than thirty acres. Here then from two to three largely attended religious gatherings every summer.
In 1936 the City of Allentown built a large reservoir using about thirteen acres of our property, thus leaving us about seventeen acres as the present “Mizpah Grove."
The original grove contained many large chestnut trees. These were frequently damaged by people injuring them with large rocks. The Board put up signs, "Bumping Trees Forbidden." These were not needed very long for soon came the Chestnut Blight destroying every one of them. These were replaced by planting a large number of Carolina poplars, oriental pines and others which are now furnishing excellent shade.
In 1912 a large wooden auditorium 72 by 102 feet was erected. In 1925 this was replaced by the present steel auditorium, 80 by 98 feet with a nine foot projection, seating about 2,000 people. Often on Sundays many extra seats have to be provided on the outside. Added to the lower end of this and under the same roof is a large two story and basement brick addition for office and storage purposes. Here also is located a broadcasting room from which, during Camp Meetings, there are daily broadcasts over stations WCBA and WSAN. This building and auditorium alone cost more than $21,000.00.
Other improvements are two two-story brick storage houses, one large brick cafeteria and three brick lavatories. Three artesian wells of clear cold water free from limestone furnish running water for all these buildings and for the many families of tenters. All the buildings are connected with the city sewerage system. The Grove, owned and controlled by the Pennsylvania Conference, is valued at $80,000.00. We heartily thank the Lord [for] it!
From R. C. Reichenbach
Concerning the picture on Page 5 [ of our last issue]: You make the observation that all of these servants are in glory. To my knowledge, C. L. Miller is still living, residing with his son in California at present. I understand he is 90 years of age.
Concerning the picture on Page 6: Tommy Thompson is still living and I believe he is residing in Connecticut. He just buried his wife who was also a minister for many years.
You mention on Page 9 some G. H. Missions that never became churches. Let me bring you up to date on this.
You did not mention Trenton, N.J. which was started in 1937 by yours truly. You mention Port Richmond and I will fill you in on that below.
In 1932 to 1935 I was stationed with W. W. Hartman and A.M. Sprock in Elizabeth, N.J. Tommy Thompson came, I believe, in 1933 to Elizabeth from the Jersey City Mission. In 1934 a Pentecostal evangelist held tent meetings in Staten Island in the Port Richmond area, meetings that were quite successful and were backed by the El Bethel Pentecostal Church.
We had been doing colportage work on the island for some time. In the winter of 1934-35 we held cottage prayer meetings in the Fort Wadsworth section of Staten Island. This came about through a young lady who had previous contact with our mission in Irvington, N.J. and who was living with her father in Ft. Wadsworth. A group of people (perhaps 10 to 15) gathered together for a Bible Study in various homes.
In the summer of l935 I was directed to open a mission work in the Port Richmond area, Tommy Thompson to assist me. We put up a tent on Richmond Ave. and started meetings. Some of the Pentecostal people attended at first believing that we were connected with the same group but soon learned that we were not and then they left. Tommy and I lived for two months in a Mizpah Grove tent in back of the main meeting tent. We did colportage work during the day and held services at night. One of the families that came and stood by us was the Cole Family. Ralph was the delegate from Staten Island for many years after his father died. David is married and attends the Emmaus Bible Fellowship Church with his family. Another family was the Donelly family. Mary married Elmer Rauscher and is now a member of Cedar Crest in Allentown.
Tommy and I were fed "by the ravens." There was a deli across the street from the tent. They would save the ends of their cheeses and baloneys and at times they would give us bread. We survived on these and some periodic invitations from the attenders at the meetings.
When it got cold we rented a store front on Richmond Avenue and the apartment above, a railroad flat type apartment. G. C. Watson was brought into the Gospel Heralds at that time and became my assistant. He was married with two children. I had contacted him during colportage work in Elizabeth and by God's grace led him to a confession of Christ as Saviour and Lord. His wife made confession as well.
For two years we held forth in this little Mission Hall and God added a goodly number of people to our assembly. In 1937,even though I was still not a member of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church, I received a number of these people into membership and the work was organized as a Mission charge of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ.
I was single and could move more easily and so I left the work in Port Richmond and went down to Trenton to open up a work there. G. C. Watson became the pastor of the newly organized mission charge in Port Richmond. Later, about 1938, they purchased the present property and renovated it. It had been a Catholic school at one time and then a furniture warehouse. The main floor provided a nice sanctuary and the second floor housed a 6 room apartment and bath, plus a large storage room in the rear.
John E. Golla joined me in opening up the work in Trenton, N.J. in 1937. We erected a tent and prayed for some folks to come into the tent so that we could have a service since we knew no one in the area. The Lord sent some folks in and we began our meetings in August of that year. We rented a store front and apartment on State Street in Trenton. It was not long before we had a nice group of folks attending and interested in the work. The next year we held tent meetings on State Street and some other folks were attracted and made profession of faith, among whom was the future wife of John E. Golla. Mrs. Ann Galusha (married a second time after the death of John) is still living. Her son works for Bob Jones University. When the nights got too cold for tent meetings in that first year, we moved into the store front. I continued as Mission Leader there till I was married in Sept. 1940.
Fifteen minutes before the marriage ceremony, I was told to get back to Staten Island by the next day due to difficulties that came to pass in the work there. I could not get back there the next day but 5 days later I took my bride and our possessions to Staten Island.
From Robert Smock
Dear Pastor Taylor
I fully appreciated the recent historical report that included a personal testimony of Pastor Reichenbach, one of our most famous Gospel Heralds. I have fond recollections of the various stories shared by the men of a most dedicated ministry. It probably became even more meaningful when I married Thelma Wolf and was privileged to hear some of Pastor N.H. Wolf's stories as we sat around the table.
For what it's worth, I consider myself to be the last of the Gospel Heralds. The next man in line, Arlington Seifert, became the first of the Home Missionary Brethren, but he was not privileged to wear the famous "Gospel Herald Pin". By the time I became a Herald, that, along with the wearing of a black suit, was our only uniform.
I consider it an honor to have been part of a great heritage in our denomination. The road was not necessarily an easy one and had I not had a firm call from the Lord, I may well have "called it quits". But, at the age of eleven, God called me to the ministry. In the years that followed, I had dreams of becoming a civil engineer and later, I was offered training to be a carpenter. However, that call kept coming back and on completion of high school, I committed myself to the Gospel Herald Society.
My introduction to the ministry took place on a summer evening in 1946 when B. Bryan Musselman picked me up at my home with my two suitcases, and transported me to Trenton, NJ where he handed me over to Pastor Jack Dunn to make a "man" out of me.
I needed Pastor Dunn much more than I realized that first night. My first weeks were filled with homesickness. For a few months, I had dated Thelma Wolf practically nightly and now, my role in life was to spend my days selling Gospel Heralds and my nights studying books. Thanks to the intercession of Pastor Dunn, I was granted the right to see my sweetheart once a month and I was permitted to write a letter to her daily.
For only a few months, B. Bryan Musselman was the Director of the Society. Then at the Annual Conference, leadership was transferred to two men, P. T. Stengele and T. D. Gehret. They headed up the newly named "Home Missionary Society." In reality, the only change that took place was that I no longer wore my Gospel Herald pin. The strict regulations continued and in my case, with a touch of irony. Prior to my entering the Gospel Herald Society, I spent quite a bit of time at the home of my friend, Royce Stengele and often traveled with P. T. Stengele in his car or enjoyed some of his humor. Now, P. T. Stengele was the Director of my half of the Home Missionary Society. All previous social identifications were buried in the past. I well recall his first visit to the Trenton mission. He was sitting in Pastor Dunn's living room and I was called down from the third floor for an interview. We talked briefly about my call to the ministry and my willingness to continue in service. Then, he sat back and observed my status with the words, "Ah, just a young sapling." I suppose he thought such words would challenge me, but we are all of different make-ups.
Special thanks is due to John Dunn who saw in my life a potential which P. T. seemingly failed to see. Pastor Dunn patiently worked with me giving me words of caution as well as words of encouragement. Had it not been for his support, I wonder what would have been my status.
But, enough of that. Let me move on to a factor that I felt was very important in my life. I don't know all the ramifications of the Gospel Herald Society and its relationship to the denomination, but it appears to me that a major change took place with the ending of the Gospel Herald Society and the stronger incorporation of our home missionary program into the denomination. Probably the most significant factor in this transition was the election of Daniel G. Ziegler to the Church Extension Department. From my perspective, he was used of God to make the change from the “we” / “they” of the Gospel Herald Society to the "us" of Church Extension. Our missions and their pastors in the Church Extension Department are truly "one with us". It is no longer the kind of spirit that once existed in which probably every Gospel Herald dreamed of the day that he would leave the department and then be a REAL preacher.
Whatever the future of the Church Extension Department holds for us as far as the Strategic Planning Committee is concerned, one thing stands firm for the present. I know I speak for many many people when I express appreciation for the pastors of our missions and their dedication to the local ministry. It has paid off in spiritual dividends.
I deeply appreciated the April 1999 letter and Pastor Taylor’s research on the opening of new churches. I noted that there were about 30 church starts via the Church Extension Department since 1978. That's an average of about one-and-a-half per year. Most commendable! While some of those 30 starts ended with the closing of the work, the fact remains that we have seen a mighty moving of the Spirit over these years in which Brother Ziegler has been our Director. Many thanks, Dan, for your spiritual fervor!
Pastor Robert Smock