Rev. Ezra Palmer

Rev. Ezra Palmer was born October 15, 1833, in Michigan, but lived in Illinois from age 16 on. He became a United Brethren minister in 1859 and spent 30 years in the ministry. He deserves much credit for the development of what became Rock River Conference.

Ezra was first assigned to the Van Orin circuit in northern Illinois. Since he didn’t own a horse, he walked from one meeting place to another, preaching three times each Sunday, with a 15-mile walk between two of the charges. He would show up–perhaps tired, but never late–after having weathered heat, mud, snow, rain, or whatever else was required.

In 1863, Ezra married Elizabeth Carter, from Iowa. They struggled financially, especially after Ezra seriously injured his back while working in fields to bring in a little extra income.

One time Elizabeth borrowed some bread to make toast for her husband, and went without food for herself. She then found a place of solitude where, on her knees, she poured out her heart to God. As she prayed, a person from the church came by with food. But in addition to food, they needed money. So Elizabeth kept praying. The next day an elderly woman came by. “I have two dollars, and want to give you one.” In that way, God provided both food and money.

Ezra became a well-respected leader in Rock River Conference. William M. Weekley noted his “habitual prayerfulness,” his daily Scripture reading, his “renunciation of everything antagonistic to a holy life,” his love for books, and his unyielding faith. Weekley wrote, “When he spoke, the people believed him….His whole life was sacrificial. He gave himself for others.”

Ezra Palmer passed away in 1885. Elizabeth survived until 1922.

Jacob John Glossbrenner, Bishop 1845-1885.

Maria Glossbrenner died on October 14, 1883. She and her husband, Jacob, had been married for 50 years. For 38 of those years, he was a United Brethren bishop, with two more years to go on what would be his final term.

They had celebrated their 50th anniversary earlier that year, on February 14, 1883. Maria grew up in Churchville, Va. Her father, Christian Shuey, kept his home open to traveling preachers. Jacob Glossbrenner, as a young itinerant preacher, frequently stayed there as he made the rounds of his scattered churches.

Bishop Glossbrenner used the 50th anniversary celebration to speak about four covenants he had made during his lifetime. He described them as four “marriages.” Here are excerpts as captured by historian A. W. Drury:

“My first solemn covenant was when I embraced Christ. Then I consented to live for Him and to die for Him. From Him I have not been separated. At 18, I embraced religion, and have no cause to regret it.

“The second covenant was when I became a member of the church. I have not felt like leaving the church. The church has been faithful to me. It is better to hold on to this covenant.

“The third marriage was when I took the vows of a Christian minister–when I consecrated myself to Christ fully. The church has branches. I joined with the United Brethren in Christ as a minister. The Church was then small. It was then weak. The Church has treated me well. In the church let me live; in the church let me labor; in the church let me suffer, if need be; in the church let me die, and stand at last with the white-robed throng of the church triumphant.

“The fourth union was marriage, the anniversary of which we today celebrate. It has not been broken these 50 years. These years have been spent in love and confidence. There are not many so favored.”

The Glossbrenners had six children; one died in infancy, but five daughters grew to adulthood. Three daughters married Lutheran ministers, and one died a year after marrying Rev. D. K. Flickinger, a future bishop and missionary to Sierra Leone.

During their latter years, both Jacob and Maria were very ill. At one point, they occupied sick beds in rooms across the hall from each other. A. W. Drury wrote, “Their spirits were so bound to each other that it seemed if one should be taken, the other could not be restrained from going also. It was uncertain which would be taken first.”

Turned out to be Maria. Bishop Glossbrenner’s health returned somewhat, and he continued in ministry to a limited extent until his death on January 7, 1887.

Lizzy Kolar and Matt Asher (right) with the water packing equipment now installed at Mattru Hospital.

Matthew Asher has been serving at Mattru Hospital since February 2017. He left his engineering job to become the lead engineer for the solar and water projects at Mattru Hospital. The Sola Wata Water Packaging Center was launched in July, becoming the area’s first center for treating, packaging, and distributing water.

In September, Matt was joined by Lizzy Kolar, a fellow graduate of West Virginia University’s Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. Kolar, a mechanical engineer, is taking a three-month sabbatical from her job with General Electric to work on the business side of the water project–marketing strategies, data management, employee training, work procedures, etc. She will also help Matt install the solar-energy system at Mattru.

Here is a good article about Matt and Lizzy, published by their alma mater.

Rev. J. C. Bright

The Bright family, with connections to British statesmen and church leaders, emigrated to America in the mid-1700s. One Bright family settled in central Ohio (which became a state in 1803). There, J. C. (John Collins) Bright was born on October 13, 1818. He would become a pioneer in United Brethren missions. He could even be considered the Father of UB Missions.

Bright became a United Brethren minister in 1841, at age 23. He continued as an itinerant preacher for 12 years, holding revivals and organizing new churches.

In 1852, Bright chaired a committee for Sandusky Conference which focused on world evangelization. The conference adopted this resolution:

“The time has fully come when the United Brethren Church should unite her whole strength in a missionary society which shall include not only the home, but the frontier and foreign fields.”

This action prompted the 1853 General Conference to create the Home, Frontier, and Foreign Missionary Society. Bright served the next four years as General Secretary of this new organization–basically, as our first Missions director. He wrote that they intended to stir up “young men and women to consecrate themselves to missionary work” in a task which he described as “the conquest of the whole world for the Redeemer.”

Bright’s impassioned writing and eloquent speaking moved people to come alongside in taking the Gospel not only to the Wild Wild West, but to other countries. During those four years, missions were started in a number of states and territories–Nebraska, Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas, Oregon, Tennessee–as well as in Canada and in Sierra Leone.

But after four years of pushing himself relentlessly, Bright suffered a nervous breakdown. After recovering his health in a Cleveland sanitarium and spending some time in secular work, he finally returned to ministry in 1865. Bright became pastor of a struggling, 25-member UB church in Galion, Ohio. He would spend hours each day in prayer, asking God to bless the work. In December 1865, he began a series of meetings which continued into February, and which saw 200 people become Christians and 160 of them join the church.

Bright proved to be a pioneer in another area: church music. At the time, many United Brethren staunchly opposed using instruments and choirs in church. But Bright, noting that people liked music, bought an organ for the church and organized a choir. William Weekley says this was the first United Brethren church in the denomination to use instruments during church services.

Weekley wrote, “Mr. Bright was a prophet. Some thought him to be a dreamer, but his dreams were simply visions of the things which, in the course of years, became realities….Few men of the Church have performed a more lasting and greater work than he.”

In March 1866, Bright suffered a second nervous breakdown. His health plummeted, and he passed away on August 6.

On October 11, 1871, Union Biblical Seminary opened in Dayton, Ohio. It was the first United Brethren seminary.

During our early years, people often became ministers very quickly–converted one month, out preaching the next month, and within a year, given a ministerial license and assigned to a circuit of churches. We had no colleges. In fact, formal education for ministers was often frowned upon. Folks didn’t want future ministers going to “priest factories” for several years and having all spiritual zeal sucked out of them.

Instead, education occurred informally. Biographies of bishops and leading ministers from those days depict avid self-learners who were constantly reading and studying. Veteran ministers would shepherd younger ministers along, loaning them dog-eared books to read on horseback and by firelight.

The 1845 General Conference encouraged the opening of colleges, and the first, Otterbein University, opened two years later. That conference also required that candidates for the ministry commit themselves to diligent study about the Bible. This led, inevitably, to expectations that ministers receive formal training.

The 1869 General Conference decided we needed our own seminary. Milton Wright, then a 41-year-old minister still eight years away from being elected bishop, advanced a motion which called for launching a Bible institute. Two years later, Union Biblical Seminary opened with 11 students taking classes in the basement of a new UB church in Dayton, Ohio. In 1873, the seminary began admitting women.

By 1889, 282 people had attended the seminary. That year, General Conference approved the ordination of women. The first woman to be ordained was an 1887 graduate of Union Biblical Seminary.

In 1879, the seminary moved into a new building located on five acres of donated land. When our group split off in 1889, the seminary stayed with the other group. The school was renamed Bonebrake Theological Seminary in 1909.

Bishop Corydon Wood

On October 10, 1924, Bishop Corydon Wood passed away…in Jackson State Prison, where he had been incarcerated for over a year. It’s a sad story.

Corydon L. Wood was one of the three new bishops elected in 1905. He had been a United Brethren minister in Michigan since 1878, and was among the 14 delegates to the 1889 General Conference who walked out with Milton Wright.

In United Brethren Bishops from 1889-1997, Kevin Cherry described Wood as a “paradoxical bishop.” He was gifted in many ways — preacher, writer, parliamentarian — and became a strong advocate for many causes: pastors’ salaries, missions, Huntington College, evangelistic meetings. Bishop Clyde Meadow recalled the support and generosity he received from Wood as a ministerial student.

But Bishop Wood wrestled with some inner demons.

While presiding at White River Annual Conference (Indiana) in 1920, Bishop Wood was asked to leave the conference immediately. He had been accused of immoral acts involving young boys. He went to the house where he was staying and found his packed bags sitting on the porch. The next month, Wood’s home conference, North Michigan, suspended him for a year. Conference records said he had “confessed his faults along the line of complaints made” and had asked forgiveness. The word “faults,” of course, is a serious understatement.

Today, it seems incredible that the Church would deal internally with this criminal offense But that was a different time in American society.

In 1923, Corydon Wood was arrested for molesting boys in a park and given a sentence of up to five years for crimes against five boys who had come under his influence. A newspaper reported that if he hadn’t been arrested, he might have been lynched.

Wood entered Jackson State prison on July 24, 1923, and died there 15 months later at age 72.

Bishop Jacob Markwood

Jacob Markwood, age 16, was converted on October 9, 1832, during a revival meeting (probably Methodist). He struggled with the decision for three days, and finally found what he described as “inexpressible peace in Christ.”

Markwood and his twin brother, Conrad, were the youngest of eight children. They grew in Virginia, mostly poor, but they all turned out well. Jacob attended school, and proved to be very bright and intellectually curious. Books were his constant companion. Even while working at the loom in the woolen factory owned by his older brothers, a book was always nearby.

He became a United Brethren member in 1836, was licensed to preach a year later, and in 1838 joined Virginia Annual Conference. He remained a pastor in Virginia for nearly 25 years. Historian John Lawrence wrote, “He is never happier than when in his saddle climbing over the hills and mountains on the way to a quarterly meeting.”

Markwood was elected bishop in 1861, a month after the start of the Civil War. Though a Virginian, born and raised, he stood solidly behind the Union. Someone–a UB church member, it was suspected–reported him to Confederate officials, and he fled north with a $1000 bounty for his arrest. His responsibilities during the war years included overseeing far-flung UB work in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and other points West.

Markwood was fairly short, thin, and wiry, and was full of nervous energy. He was also known to be hotheaded and fearless, pouring down on people with what A. W. Drury described as “fiery eloquence, scathing denunciation, and relentless logic.” He never wrote out his sermons, and used only basic notes, if any. He preferred to study thoroughly, and then preach extemporaneously from what he had learned.

During one campmeeting, when some folks came onto the grounds to sell liquor, trinkets, and other items, he took a hatchet to their stands. Another time, when someone interrupted him while he was preaching, he scowled, “Sit down, you tadpole of hell!”

But he was also known to be very generous, giving away his last cent, and even his clothes, to needy preachers and the poor. Several times, he distributed to poor people all the money collected for his own support, and then borrowed money to continue his journey to wherever he was going next. Biographer Henry Adams Thomps that as a traveling pastor, “It was his custom to alway remember the servants at homes where he stopped over night.” This being Virginia, the “servants” were probably slaves.

Markwood served eight years as bishop, but experienced considerable pain during that second term. People said he was constantly on the go, and just wore himself out. He and his wife Arbeline, married in 1837, never had children. Bishop Markwood died on January 22, 1873, at the home of his father-in-law in Luray, Va. He was just 57 years old. Arbeline died in 1886.

The United Brethren National Office will discontinue its Marketing operation as of December 31, 2017. The Winter quarter will be the last quarter that the National Office will process orders for Sunday school curriculum. If you have a standing order, you will need to find a different source for your Spring quarter materials.

You can order most of your materials directly from manufacturers. Jane Seely (right), our Church Resources Manager, has sent customers a list of suppliers along with contact information.

You will still be able to order United Brethren materials–books, mugs, shirts, etc.–by calling the National Office toll-free: 888-622-3019.

For many decades, the Marketing department has ordered and shipped Sunday school materials to United Brethren churches every quarter. UB churches and pastors have also been able to order books, VBS materials, and other literature.

In the past, this department not only covered its budget but was a source of income. But times have changed. The internet, declines in Sunday school, free online resourcing, vendor-direct sales, and other factors have cut into sales. It became clear that it was time to discontinue this service.

Bishop Todd Fetters writes, “Jane Seely will leave the national office on December 22. She will be busy these next few months closing out the Sunday school literature shipping-and-receiving that we have provided to our churches for well over 50 years. I am grateful for Jane’s service to the United Brethren in Christ and to the broader evangelical church.”

In June 1985, Rev. Peter Lee, superintendent of Hong Kong Conference, and Pastor Samuel Ng came to the United States for General Conference. They used the trip to visit Hong Kong people then living in New York, Rhode Island, Boston, Toronto, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

After returning to Hong Kong, Peter Lee sent Bishop Jerry Datema a letter proposing that we start a Chinese church in New York City. He said the majority of UBs emigrating from Hong Kong were settling in New York City, where jobs were easier to find and where most already had relatives. In addition, C. C. Au Yeung, a former Hong Kong superintendent, was willing to be the founding pastor.

Bishop Clarence Kopp, Jr., traveled to Queens in August 1985 to meet with former Hong Kong members. They were enthusiastic about starting a church. They decided to begin holding services in October in the Au Yeung apartment. They even chose a name: the Church of the United Brethren in Christ in New York City.

The first service was held October 6, 1985. In January 1987, they began renting the second floor of a building in the Manhattan Chinatown. The services were held entirely in Cantonese, and they targeted first-generation immigrants from Hong Kong. Since people came so far, they shared lunch before returning to their homes in various parts of the city. The membership reached 19 during the first half of 1987. Most were professional people—a postal worker, bank official, social worker, librarian, businessman, seminary student, engineer.

Willy Ng, a native of Hong Kong who had found Christ while attending a secular university in Toronto, became the pastor in January 1989. By 1992, the congregation had grown to nearly 70 people. About 80% of them lived in Chinatown, the rest of them within an hour’s commute.

In May 1992, they purchased a six-story building in Chinatown. Ng left in 1997 to plant a church in Queens, and Rev. Au Yeung died in 2004. Soon thereafter, the struggling congregation decided to withdraw from the denomination.

Bishop John Pessima at the CCSL Camp.

L-r: Revs. Sorie Kamanda, Josephine Bankola, John Pessima, and Joseph Farma.

Bishop John Pessima at the CCSL Camp.

Jeff Bleijerveld, Director of UB Global

On August 14, catastrophic floods and mudslides hit Freetown, Sierra Leone. We’re grateful for all who responded to our call for assistance. UB Global received $18,692.75 from churches and individuals.

Initially, the government put the death toll at 450. Reverend Bishop Emeritus Arnold Temple, who leads a Methodist church near Regent, said the country is now mourning well over 1,000 victims, some of whom may never be found.

Bishop John Pessima sent these photos from the site where the Church Council of Sierra Leone, a network of Christian churches and relief partners, set up temporary camp from which supplies are being distributed.

Rev. Mrs. Josephine Bankola, Rev. Joseph Farma, and Rev. Sorie Kamanda have been representing the United Brethren at the camp. Rev. Kamanda is there every day while the other two pastors are there three days a week to provide psycho-social care and counseling to the many survivors.

Continue to pray for their efforts and the resettlement of hundreds of families.