The 1833 General Conference provided for establishing a United Brethren publishing house. It took shape in May 1834 in Circleville, Ohio, under the sponsorship of Scioto Conference. William Rinehart, a United Brethren minister in Virginia Conference, had been publishing a paper on his own press called The Mountain Messenger. Scioto asked Rhinehart to move to Circleville to become editor of a United Brethren publication, and they even bought out his little paper.
On December 31, 1834, the first issue of The Religious Telescope was published. It was four pages long, 15-by-22 inches in size. It began as a bi-monthly publication, and started with about 1200 subscribers who paid $1.50 per year. We now had a denominational publication.
John Lawrence, who would become editor in 1852, wrote, “The paper was a very respectable sheet, well edited, yet not popular because of the extreme views which it advocated. It entered largely into the controversies of the times and earnestly and boldly, though not always prudently, marched in the front ranks of every reform.”
Most of the original United Brethren spoke German, and the German language predominated in United Brethren circles into the 1830s. Only two members of the 1821 General Conference were English. Others could preach in English, but German was their mother tongue. The 1821 Discipline was printed in both languages—German on the left, English on the right. It was an acknowledgement of what was coming.
The Germans, because of their unselfish missionary zeal, pretty much worked themselves out of a denomination. They so generously supported and promoted outreach to English people that by the 1830s, we had become (or were becoming) a predominantly English-speaking church. Most of the church’s expansion into the west–Ohio, Indiana, and elsewhere–occurred among English-speaking people.
From the beginning, The Religious Telescope was published in English. However, because of protests from some German-speaking folks that scant attention was being given to the German constituency, we launched a German-language periodical called Die Geschaftige Martha (The Busy Martha). It started in 1840, but ceased after two years. English, even in Pennsylvania, was clearly the future.
In 1885, seeing The Religious Telescope dominated by liberal voices, Milton Wright and others launched an alternative paper. They considered calling it The United Brethren, but instead settled on The Christian Conservator. When Wright’s followers split off, The Christian Conservator became the official publication of the “radical” United Brethren denomination. Its name was changed to The United Brethren in 1954. The magazine was discontinued in 1993.
The Religious Telescope continued until 1946, when the “liberal” UBs merged with the Evangelical Association, which had its own publication called The Evangelical Messenger. The new denomination, called the Evangelical United Brethren Church, merged the two periodicals under the very uncreative name The Telscope-Messenger.
Bethel Mote, one of the longest-serving UB missionaries at 22 years, passed away on December 30, 2000. She was 77 years old.
Bethel grew up on a farm near Lake Odessa, Mich., and attended the Pleasant Valley UB church. She spent six terms in Sierra Leone from 1951-1973. Initially, Bethel served as matron at the Minnie Mull Girls School, taking charge of about 100 girls ages 5-13 in a boarding home. Later, she transferred to Bumpe, where she became principal, teacher, and boarding home manager of Bumpe Girls’ School.
Bethel returned to the States in 1973, settling in Lake Odessa and attending her home church of Pleasant Valley. The cause of death was cirrhosis of the liver, which a doctor said probably resulted from malaria she contracted in Sierra Leone.
Dr. M. I. Burkholder passed away on December 29, 1987. As dean of the Huntington College Seminary for 30 years, 1942-1972, he helped educate scores of United Brethren ministers, including future bishops.
Dr. Paul Fetters, one of his students, wrote in 1967, “M. I. Burkholder, Th. D., is a man qualified for the office of bishop, but has been needed to serve our church in our Huntington Theological Seminary….The men elected to the high office of bishop for the next several quadrenniums will reflect the influence of Dr. Burkholder.”
Burkholder grew up on a farm and attended a United Brethren church near Shippensburg, Pa. He was converted in 1917 through his pastor, future bishop Ezra M. Funk. He graduated from Huntington College in 1939, completed the Bachelor of Divinity in 1940, and two years later became dean of the HC Theological Seminary. Students not only sat under his teaching, but also under his preaching, since he pastored three different churches in the Huntington area: Union Church, an independent congregation outside of town (1944-1946); College Park Church (1946-1951); and what is now New Hope UB church (1951-1958).
In 1951, Burkholder became the first UB ordained minister to earn a doctorate — the Doctor of Theology from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. Huntington College added an honorary doctorate in 1978. Dr. Burkholder retired in 1972, and Dr. Fetters took his place as dean of what became the Graduate School of Christian Ministries.
On December 26, 2004, an earthquake off the coast of Indonesia spawned a massive tsunami in the Indian Ocean. It killed a quarter-million people in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, India, and elsewhere — and left countless others homeless and with destroyed livelihoods.
In India, the tsunami hit the state of Andhra Pradesh. Our workers there (we can’t name them on the internet), upon hearing horror stories from villages along the coast, spun into action to help people with medical care, food, clothing, shelter, etc. UB Global channeled contributions from people in North America to India.
On the Sunday after the tsunami, this couple visited seven churches and distributed clothes. In one small church, the pastor and members had been making their needs known to the Lord. When they showed up with clothes, it was a direct answer to their prayers.
In one village they found a group of fisherman who were all Christians. Many had lost their nets and had boats damaged. They were overjoyed that God answered their prayer for clothes and other help. One folks reported, “We saw many who were old and seemed to have lost all hope, and they were so delighted to receive some clothes for their use and have someone inquire of their welfare.”
A 16-year-old boy flagged down their car and begged them to come to his village, which had not yet received any help. They found about 40 families, most of them Christians. They distributed clothes and promised to return later. “We felt so satisfied to know that we had gone where no one had helped; it was really the Lord’s leading to take us there.”
About 5000 tsunami victims came to their city, either because their homes were destroyed or as a precaution against follow-up waves. Many stayed in nearby schools and colleges, including the United Brethren school they operated, where they received shelter and food.
At six schools, our couple gave away over 1000 bags containing plates, glasses, and a lunch box. In eight fishing villages, they went house-to-house distributing bags containing various items useful in the home — pots and pans, spoons, towels, saris, glasses, and steel storage containers. Since drinking water was hard to get and women needed to haul water long distances, they gave out steel water pots for carrying water. They wrote in the Missions Impact newsletter:
“They were so grateful to get these items. We personally handed these items to them in their homes, along with gospel tracts. We wish you could have seen the delight in their eyes when they received this bag full of things. These people live entirely on fishing. They take out heavy loans at a very high interest rate, usually from people who take the fish from the daily catch as payment on the loan. Fishermen seem to be in a cycle of perpetual loans and poverty. It was a ray of hope to see that they are sending their children to school to enable them to escape this cycle.”
In two villages, they saw uncompleted church buildings which, because of the tsunami, would probably be left unfinished. These were the only churches in those villages (along with a Hindu temple). “We helped make sure that these buildings were completed. When we delivered relief items in these villages, we took the pastor with us to encourage villagers to come to church and know more about the compassion and love of our Lord Jesus.”
In one village, they conducted evangelistic meetings for two nights. Each night 300-350 people attended, 70% of them Hindus. They were very receptive to the Gospel, and 37 persons raised their hands to make commitments to Christ. Those who could read and write handed in decision cards. Our couple followed up by introducing them to local churches.
In each village, Hindu leaders expressed their gratitude. They appreciated the work being done by Christians.
A 6.3 magnitude earthquake shattered Managua, Nicaragua, on December 23, 1972, killing 10,000 people and leaving 300,000 homeless. Communication with the United Brethren pastors and people in Nicaragua was lost. Honduras Conference had begun ministry in Nicaragua during the mid-1960s, and we had several churches there.
On January 5, Honduras missionary Archie Cameron contacted the Missions department in Huntington, Ind., reporting that our workers in Nicaragua had escaped personal harm, but that they had relatives, friends, and neighbors who had lost a great deal. The Missions department issued an emergency appeal for relief money, and within a few months, nearly $20,000 had been raised.
Cameron and fellow UB missionary Gary Brooks arrived in Managua on March 19, 1973. As they approached the city center, they saw hundreds of refugee tents and lines of people waiting for food and medical attention. Damaged buildings stood everywhere, with people busily repairing cracks in walls.
Then they arrived at the center of Managua. Going past a barbed wire fence, they drove block after block without finding a single building still standing. There were thousands of fallen homes and stores, and not a living soul in sight. Brooks wrote:
“The overwhelming silence inside the fence prevails. One finds himself searching for signs of life, knowing there is none to be found. Over 7000 people died here–some immediately, and others after days of suffering. We could still smell the stench of rotting bodies under one fallen building. It is said that the wrecking crews find an average of 40 bodies per day….The residential areas of the city are slowly stirring back to life, but not the center of the city. The heart of Managua stopped beating that warm December morning nearly four months ago, and the city died. This week, I saw its tomb.”
Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle named himself head of the National Emergency Committee, personally directing the international relief efforts. He used the position to plunder most of the relief money and supplies, and gave reconstruction contracts to family and friends. Such reports prompted baseball star Roberto Clemente to organize and personally accompany relief flights into Nicaragua. The fourth flight crashed, killing Clemente and others aboard.
Outrage against the Somoza regime’s actions after the earthquake gave substantial support to the opposition Sandinista rebels, who overthrew Somoza in 1979.
Registration is now open for the 2018 Pastor & Spouse summits. These events are held every two years for senior pastors and spouses from UB churches. The denomination covers the cost of lodging and a few meals. Here are the dates.
Schedule of the 2018 summits
Begin Monday evening and end Thursday after breakfast.
No cost to the pastor for Monday night through check-out Thursday morning.
Travel and Meals
You are responsible for transportation to and from the Summit. The National Office will be available to assist with carpooling arrangements. Each local church is encouraged to provide travel and meal expenses for their pastor to attend the summit.
Each Pastor & Spouse Summit qualifies for 20 credit hours of continuing education.
Summit for Associate Staff
In addition, two summits will be held specifically for ministers serving in staff roles. Registration for these events will open in early 2018.
John McNamar was married December 19, 1805, in Xenia, Ohio. We can assume they said their vows in English, because McNamar is heralded as the first English-speaking United Brethren minister. Says so on his gravestone. All of the founders and early ministers spoke German. But in the early 1800s, most of the church’s westward expansion occurred among English-speaking people, and McNamar was in the forefront.
McNamar was born in Virginia in 1779, of Scottish-Irish descent. It’s not know when exactly he moved to Ohio. However, in 1811 he became a schoolteacher in Germantown, Ohio, where future bishop Andrew Zeller lived. He became a Christian during an evangelistic meeting in Zeller’s barn, and Zeller shepherded im toward the ministry. In 1814 he became a minister in Miami Conference (the Miami Valley of southwestern Ohio) and was ordained in 1816.
John Lawrence wrote, “He devoted himself to the Master’s work with a singleness of aim, and resoluteness of purpose, which have seldom been equaled. He planted the larger part of the early English United Brethren churches in southwestern Ohio and southern Indiana.” He was also successful in recruiting new ministers. By 1820, another eight English-speaking ministers had joined Miami Conference and were doing their own part in spreading the Gospel.
McNamar is described as brave, unpretentious, practical. He spoke slowly and distinctly, and used a lot of humor. He zealously expounded on and defended the fundamental Christian doctrines, like the divinity of Christ, which he often preached to “immense congregations at camp-meetings.” He was a strong theologian and could wax eloquent. But, “His object was to save men; and he had the happy faculty of following up a clear exposition and masterly defense of some great truth with a heart-searching application.”
William Weekley wrote, “Mr. McNamar had the evangelistic spirit to an intense degree, and the spread of the Redeemer’s kingdom was to him paramount to all things else. He had the zeal of the early disciples, and, regardless of the cost to himself, went everywhere in his large frontier parish preaching the gospel of the kingdom. He was a man of superb courage. To him even roads and paths seemed useless. If his horse could not carry him, he led the horse, or, leaving him behind, went on foot. He frequently slept in the wilderness, but he was never lost. His long journeys were often made extremely difficult by untoward condition of the roads and by overflowing creeks and rivers.”
Despite having to travel long distances over rough terrain, he was known for punctuality. Fellow minister George Bonebrake testified, “When the time arrived for him to start to an appointment, he was off. He would wait for no one, and listened to no excuses. Rain, snow, mud, swollen streams, and floating causeways–any of these, of all of them combined, could not change his purpose. Nothing but a physical impossibility would detain him from an appointment.”
Weekley said multitudes of people flocked to hear McNamar preach. “He was unsurpassed in his qualities to capture new communities. There must have been peculiar power in his preaching and a peculiar adaptability to the hearts and to the spiritual needs of the people.”
By all accounts, McNamar was a gifted, natural leader. He became highly respect in the denomination and helped shape important legislation. He was elected bishop in 1833 to succeed Christian Newcomer (who had died during his final term in office), but he declined for unknown reasons. However, he seemed to prefer working in the trenches. Henry Spayth wrote, “J.C. McNamar, a true son of the gospel, determined to march in the front ranks of the ministerial army. He chose the frontier country for his field of gospel labor. To forego all sorts of comfort, to range the forest, to carry the gospel to the newly-arrived inhabitants, to seek the lost and scattered of Israel, was his employment, no matter how poor or destitute they or himself were.”
McNamar toiled faithfully for over 30 years. He passed away in 1846.
On Saturday, December 16, Pastor Randy Magnus conducted the funeral for Marie Savaria, 62. He had never met Savaria, and she had never attended his church, the Roseville UB church in Ayr, Ontario. It’s quite a story.
Savaria, a former nurse and hospital manager from Kitchener, Ontario, was on her way to visit her mother in a nursing home. About a month earlier, she had blacked out while at home; she had a medical scan scheduled on December 12 to determine what might be going on. Now she blacked out while driving. As she fell unconscious, her foot pressed the accelerator. The Nissan Rogue SUV swerved into a ditch and then went airborne, crashing into the side of the church at over 60 miles per hour.
Chris McElroy, the church janitor, was standing on the church stage about five feet from where the SUV hit. He ran outside and helped pull Savaria from the smoking car, which had fallen atop his own car in the church parking lot. She died in the crash. It was about 2:00 pm.
Now for the uplifting part.
Savaria’s daughter, Kelly Henderson, flew from her home in British Columbia to Ontario. She wanted to see the crash site, so a police officer drove her to the church on December 10. The congregation was having a fellowship time after the worship service. Pastor Magnus and Wilf Witzke, who witnessed the crash, went out and spoke to them, offered comfort, and prayed with them.
Magnus said, “I told them the whole church family was hurting for them and wanted to help in any way we could, even with the funeral.”
Henderson had feared the congregation would be upset. Instead, the congregation rallied around her with support, prayer, and tears. Anderson said amidst her grief, “If it had to happen anywhere, I guess I feel blessed that it happened at a church with people who are so loving and supportive.”
Since the family had no church connections,Henderson asked Pastor Magnus if he would preside at a celebration of life service for her mother. He gladly agreed. He was able to spend time with the family, hear many stories of Marie’s life, read Scripture with them, and pray for them.
Over 200 people attended the service on Saturday, December 16. Several family members spoke about Marie, and Randy shared some stories he’d heard about her. “I was also given the opportunity to talk about heaven and share the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness and the hope that Christ came to bring us with the largely unchurched crowd. We pray that the Lord will bring fruit from seeds that were planted.”
Henderson also asked that memorial gifts for her mother be channeled to the Roseville church—a church her mother, a non-practicing Catholic, had never attended. The funeral was held on Saturday, December 16.
Said Magnus, “It’s almost like God put us together so we could be there to help each other. For a life to be lost is way bigger than bricks and mortar.”
The church started out in 1881 as a Lutheran church, was sold to Methodists, and ended up in United Brethren hands. When the crash occurred, the congregation had just completed $10,000 of renovations. The crash caused way too much structural damage. The impact transferred through the platform to affect the far wall, shifting both the north and south walls off the foundation. Construction engineers said the foundation would need to be rebuilt, but doubted that the church would gain approval to rebuild in the same spot, since it was located so close to the road.
The practical solution is to demolish the existing sanctuary and rebuild elsewhere, perhaps on the same property. Fortunately, insurance will completely cover the loss. A building committee has already been established. Said Magnus, “We have been feeling the need for a larger sanctuary for years, but felt like we couldn’t afford to build it. It feels like God is using this tragic accident to open new windows of opportunity.”
Seven churches in the area offered to share their facilities with Roseville UB, but that won’t be necessary. They set up 130 chairs in the fellowship hall, located in an undamaged Christian education wing built in 1974. They will hold services there until the new building is ready.
Magnus: “The whole church family rallied together the day after the tragic accident to move everything we could from the sanctuary to the fellowship hall and decorate for Christmas. It was very warm and cozy as the church family gathered to celebrate Christ, grieve our loss, and pray for the family of Marie Savaria, whose loss of mom/grandma is so much greater than ours. Also, we have been so blessed by our seven churches in the area offering that we could worship in their facilities, though we won’t need to.”
He added, “I’m so proud of our people and their attitude and approach to the whole situation. We believe the church is more than the building, it is a group of people who believe in Jesus living out their faith by loving each other and those around them. It’s great to see everyone pulling together, encouraging one another, and especially reaching out to total strangers with the love of our Savior.”