George Henry Spayth

Henry Spayth was born on September 13, 1788, in Germany, not all that far from William Otterbein’s old stomping grounds. He was three years old when his parents emigrated to America, probably settling in Maryland. It is thought that he became a Christian through George Geeting, the most influential early UB after Otterbein and Martin Boehm. His name first appears on United Brethren rolls in 1812 as a minister in Maryland and Virginia. He probably knew all of those early leaders.

Spayth played a significant role in the crucial 1815 General Conference. With the founders gone, the ministers spent the first two days awash in discord and harsh words. Finally, Henry Spayth–27 years old, and wise beyond his years–stood and addressed the ministers. They halted everything and held what was described as “such a prayer meeting your humble servant never witnessed before nor since. Brethren with streaming eyes embraced and thanked God.” After that, things went fine. Like night and day.

It was written that from 1815-1845, Spayth did more than anybody else to shape how the United Brethren church operated–its polity. He had that kind of mind. He was well-read, with a broad knowledge (including medicine and history), and had a commanding presence from which he could deploy logic and eloquence to influence people. He had a way of diplomatically bringing diverging factions together.

It helped that Spayth was fluent in both German and English. The westward expansion, which Spayth joined, was almost entirely among English-speaking people. He no doubt attracted English-speaking ministers to the cause.

Spayth is remembered most for writing our first history book, a task given to him by the 1845 General Conference. The book was published in 1851, in English, under the title, “History of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.”

In 1815, Spayth married and moved to western Pennsylvania, around Pittsburgh. In 1817, he helped organized the Muskingum Conference of eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. He later moved on to Tiffin, Ohio, where he spent the remainder of his life.

The United Brethren church might have fractured at that discordant 1815 conference, if not for Henry Spayth’s intervention. Imagine what Spayth witnessed during the next 60 years–the denomination expanding from coast to coast, weathering several wars, establishing a foothold in Africa, and starting a publishing house, colleges, and a seminary. By the time Spayth died on September 2, 1873, the church had grown to over 125,000 members.

Spayth saw so much. And he lived to write about it.

Bishop Todd Fetters

On September 5, Rev. Jim Bolich (right) began serving as our denominational Director of Ministerial Licensing. He will continue pastoring the Prince Street church in Shippensburg, Pa., but will carve out 5-10 hours a week for this additional role. This person chairs the Pastoral Ministry Leadership Team, which oversees a range of responsibilities regarding the education, licensing, and stationing of United Brethren ministers.

When I was appointed Interim Bishop in 2015, one of my first staffing responsibilities was to secure a Director of Ministerial Licensing. Gary Gates had been serving in that role since 2010, while also pastoring the South Scipio UB church in Harlan, Ind. I asked Gary, who was then retiring as pastor, to continue as Director of Ministerial Licensing for another year. It turned into a second year.

On August 31, 2017, Gary Gates (right) completed his work with the United Brethren in Christ as Director of Ministerial Licensing. He did a fantastic job in that role. In addition to solidifying and simplifying our complex system for licensing, he introduced the UB Ministerial Association, the regional UB History Courses, the provisional license, and other new elements. More significantly, he helped us get a firm handle on where United Brethren men and women were in the licensing process, and shepherded them toward furthering their education and pursuing ordination.

Gary’s departure is bittersweet for me. He has been a kind, supportive mentor during these past two years. On the other hand, we will welcome a new team member whom Gary and I both believe will fulfill the role well. Jim Bolich has served at three United Brethren churches in Pennsylvania since 1995—seven years in two associate positions, and since 2002 as senior pastor of Prince Street UB church (Shippensburg, Pa.).

Thanks to Gary Gates, the licensing procedures are running efficiently and will only need tweaked from time to time. Now it’s time to focus attention on our stationing system. That’s the mission I’ve given Jim—to think through, refine, and update the process which the bishop, cluster leaders, and local church leaders use to station senior pastors. Jim has the organizational mind and the administrative skills to meet the challenge.

Join me in saying “Goodbye” to Gary (and Rebecca Gates), and saying “Hello” to Jim (and Janet) Bolich – two treasured ministry couples.

Dr. C. Stanley Peters

On September 9, 1959, the name “C. Stanley Peters” first appeared on the masthead as editor of the United Brethren magazine. And there it remained for 22 years, until December 1981, as he oversaw publication of 491 issues of the magazine.

Stan, as everyone knew him, grew up as a UB preacher’s kid. His father, J. Clair Peters, was managing a furniture plant in Hagerstown, Md., but resigned that position in 1926 to prepare for the ministry. He bundled up the family—wife and three children, Stan being the oldest—and moved to Indiana that year to attend Huntington College. Eighteen years later, Stan himself headed off to Huntington College, graduating in 1944 with majors in math and science. He then taught junior high and high school for two years.

In June 1945, Stan married Lola Lee Stites, whom he had met at college. Later that summer, Stan received his quarterly conference license to preach from the North Avenue UB church in Baltimore, Md. He received a Master of Divinity degree from Huntington College’s seminary in 1949, and was ordained in 1950 by Bishop A.M. Johnson. In 1974, Huntington College awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.

In 1948, while still a seminary student, Stan began three years as pastor of Third Street UB church in Fort Wayne, Ind. (now it’s called Anchor Community Church). The congregation, which had been meeting in a basement, erected its present sanctuary during that time. Next, he served the St. Paul-Winchester circuit of Monroe, Ind., 1951-53, and then spent a year on the Berne circuit of Monroe and Geneva.

In 1954, Stan and Lola Lee began an exciting five years starting a new church in Kettering, Ohio. Stan visited hundreds of homes in the area, forming a prospect list of over 200 names on whom he concentrated. The congregation grew steadily. In 1959, a Christian education unit was completed under Stan’s leadership.

After 10 years in the pastorate, Stan Peters accepted the editorship of the United Brethren publishing house in 1959.

Over the years, Stan had accumulated a variety of experience in many aspects of the printing business. While in high school, he worked for a local newspaper, gaining experience in nearly every aspect of the operation. He ran his own small printshop during his senior year of high school, using a small letterpress in the upper story of a bank back of their property to crank out letterhead, envelopes, calling cards, and other printing jobs. As a college student, he worked in the college printshop and later in the denominational printshop. He even worked as a pressman in Berne, Ind., while in the pastorate. So he had been around the business.

As editor, Peters wrote, edited, and designed the various publications, including the United Brethren magazine and the Sunday school materials for adults and youth. He also worked on special publications, such as the UB Discipline and the UB hymnal. He traveled throughout the US and Ontario promoting the magazine and Sunday school literature, and helped oversee construction of the new UB headquarters building in 1976.

Stan served the church with dedication and humility. He passed away at age 91 on June 9, 2014.

There has been concern that Haiti, where we have many churches, would get brushed by some of Hurricane Irma. Jeff Bleijerveld, director of UB Global,  spoke today with Rev. Oliam Richard, our superintendent in Haiti. He said they were rejoicing that the hurricane passed to the north of the country and that there was very little damage.

L-r: John Christophel, Dick Thorp, Michael Richardson, David Kisamore, Dan Maas.

John Christophel has been named pastor of Mt. Olivet and (Mt. Solon, Va.), effective May 28, 2017. He most recently pastored Brooklyn Park UB church (Baltimore, Md.) 1998-2014. Before that, he served at Fifth Street UB church (Staunton, Va.).

Richard Thorp has been appointed pastor of New Beginnings UB church (Montpelier, Ohio), effective June 11, 2017. He pastored United Brethren churches 1980-2005 in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. He retired in 2005, and has come out of retirement to meet this need in Montpelier.

Michael Richardson has been named pastor of Cream Ridge UB church (Lewiston, Idaho) effective June 8, 2017. He was granted a local church license by the congregation at the time of his assignment.

David Kisamore has been named pastor of Mill Chapel (Reedsville, W. Va.) effective June 20, 2017. He was granted a National Conference ministerial license on July 15, 2017.

Daan Maas has been appointed pastor of Findlay First UB church (Findlay, Ohio) effective July 10, 2017. He previously served at UB churches in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan until 2000. He was ordained in 1987.

Pastor Josh McKeown measuring some cuts.

Preparing to hang plywood.

The folks from our Faith UB church in Port Orange, just south of Daytona Beach, spent Thursday preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Irma this weekend. Josh McKeown, who has been on staff at the Daytona UB church, has just been appointed by Bishop Todd Fetters as senior pastor of Faith UB.

L-r: Brandon Baker, Mark Self, Holly Lutton, and Matthew Hann.

Brandon Baker has been granted a provisional license effective July 3, 2017. He is the Discipleship and Youth pastor at Praise Point UB church (Willshire, Ohio).

Mark Self was granted ordination status in the United Brethren church upon recognition of his ordination in the Wesleyan Church effective July 21, 2017. He is senior pastor of Trinity UB church (Fostoria, Ohio).

Holly Lutton has been granted a Specialized Ministry license effective September 14, 2017, after having served one year with a Provisional license. She is the youth pastor at College Park UB church (Huntington, Ind.).

Matthew Hann has been granted a Specialized Ministry license effective September 14, 2017, after having served one year with a Provisional license. He is the worship pastor at College Park UB church (Huntington, Ind.).

Left: Senior pastor Teddy Fairchild with his wife, Sarah, and children. Right: Associate pastor Jason Haupert with his wife, Tonya, and children.

CrossLife Church will launch at 10:30 a.m. this Sunday, September 10, in Columbia City, Ind. A celebratory dinner will follow the service. Crosslife is a relaunch of the former Eagle Quest UB church, which was founded in 1997.

A series of difficulties placed Eagle Quest Church in crisis status in 2016. Rev. Teddy Fairchild was stationed as interim pastor that summer to restructure and rebuild. Through twelve long months of substantial change and hard work, the congregation worked toward a spiritually, administratively, and relationally healthier future.

Preparations for the Grand Opening have included improvements to the church facility and a massive promotional campaign in the community. Says Fairchild, “We are ready and positioned to hit the ground running Saturday, September 9, with our Community Presence Day. We have permission to take over a local park and pour into our local community. Then follow that up with our Grand Opening Sunday with a lunch to follow.”

Infused with a fresh sense of life and eager to re-engage with the community, conversations of re-launch and name change began among the revitalized congregation. Fairchild was formally stationed as the senior pastor and worked in partnership with denominational leaders to prepare for a re-launch.

Fairchild shared the vision behind the re-launch. “CrossLife developed from the desire to live for more. We know life is busy and messy and hard, and a simple one-hour church service isn’t going to fix that. People need more than clichés that crumble under the pressure of real-world problems, and Christ opens the way for the kind of meaningful, purposeful living we crave. That’s the message we want to live out on a daily basis in the Columbia City community.”

Teddy and Sarah Fairchild, and their two children, are joined by associate pastor Jason Haupert and his wife Tonya and two children. Jason was among those ordained in July 2017 during the US National Conference.

Crosslife is located at 1120 N. State Rd 109, Columbia City, Ind. 46725.

Dillman UB Church in Warren, Ind.

Dillman Church in Warren, Ind., has undergone an extensive sanctuary renovation. A public dedication service and open house will be begin at 9 a.m. on Sunday, September 10. Bishop Todd Fetters will give a brief dedication message, and Pastor Matt Kennedy will then speak on the future of Dillman Church.

Following the service, at 11 am, a community Open House and Celebration begins with a hog roast lunch, bouncy house, dunk tank, and other outdoor games and activities for the whole family.

Changes to the sanctuary include expansion of the blueprint to include seating for 200+ people. Movable chairs will make the space adaptable for things like an open area for children’s programming or the inclusion of tables for small conferences. New carpet and lighting have been added, along with new audio-visual capabilities.

The sanctuary renovation is the first major renovation of the sanctuary since it was repaired after a storm in 1948. “The goal of this renovation is more than just modernization,” says Pastor Kennedy (right). “With the changes that have been made, we are equipped for future growth in order that we might meet the needs of both today’s and tomorrow’s generations and better serve the surrounding community for many years to come.”

Dillman Church was established in 1889, and the sanctuary was dedicated on December 22 of that year with Bishop Milton Wright. In 1907, the structure was remodeled and included the installation of new flooring and roof as well as the rebuilding of the pulpit platform. A dedication service for that remodeling was held on November 3, 1907. In 1955, a basement and new entrance were added to the building, as well as a new indoor restroom. An extension that included a fellowship hall, kitchen facilities, and restrooms was added in 1977. Classroom space and church offices were added on in the mid 1990s.

Dillman Church is located at 8888 S 1100 W-90 in Warren, IN 46792.

Joseph and Mary Gomer

Joseph Gomer passed away on September 6, 1892. At that point, he and his wife, Mary, had served under the United Brethren mission board in Sierra Leone for 22 years, superintending our work there the entire time. They were very, very good years. “Within United Brethren mission history,” wrote David Datema in 2016 for a college paper, “the Gomers stand out as elite missionaries.”

We established mission work in Sierra Leone in 1857, but our early efforts were frustrating and virtually fruitless. When the Gomers arrived in January 1871, we had been without missionaries for two years and had almost pulled out altogether. But almost immediately after the Gomers arrived, the work took off. Later that first year came the conversion of the powerful local chief, Thomas Stephen Caulker, who had been a thorn in the side to missionaries. Caulker and others told the Gomers, “We now see that Christianity isn’t just a white man’s religion.”

You see, the Gomers were black–the first black United Brethren missionaries.

Joseph Gomer grew up on a farm near Battle Creek, Mich., and despite the prejudice of white classmates, managed to get some schooling. He served as a cook during the Civil War. After being honorably discharged in 1865, he boarded a riverboat headed for Dayton, Ohio. On board he met a widow named Mary Green, who was also a gifted singer. After reaching Dayton, they were married. Joseph found work as a carpet layer, and later worked as a foreman in a mercantile house. He and Mary became leaders in Third United Brethren Church, a predominantly black congregation in Dayton which Miami Conference had started in 1858 as a mission project.

The Gomers applied for missionary service, but were initially rejected. Historian and former bishop William Hanby implied that their race had something to do with it, but it may have been more a case of Gomer not being a minister and lacking in education. Whatever the case, the Mission board was urged to reconsider the Gomers.

Joseph Gomer was perfect. He was a diplomat, a teacher, a peacemaker among the warring tribes. He became highly respected, and umpired many disputes among the Africans. He taught farming methods, which were applied on the mission’s 40-acre farm (produce, over 5000 coffee and cocoa trees, plus some animals). In 1875, he organized the first United Brethren church in Sierra Leone.

History writers note their abilities, their dedication to the work, and their spiritual fervor. But they also cite the Gomers’ skin color as a crucial difference-maker.

According to David Datema, the Gomers went to Africa during a window of time in the 1800s during which white Christians were open to sending blacks as missionaries–but a window which didn’t stay open long. Datema wrote, “For black Americans serving under white mission boards, signs of racism were prevalent and included lower pay, longer terms, shorter and less frequent furloughs, less promotion, and less educational benefits offered to their children.” Eventually, American mission boards reverted to preferring white missionaries.

Datema noted that the longest term served during that period by a white UB missionary was 3.5 years, compared to terms of six, six, and ten years for the Gomers. Two other African-American UB missionaries appointed during this time were sent for at least five-year terms. So there’s something there. But the Gomers’ longevity in superintending the field–over 20 years–does speak to the confidence placed in them by the UB Mission board.

By 1892, Joseph Gomer’s health was failing and he was planning to retire as mission superintendent. He and Mary had gone to Freetown with a couple who were sailing back to America. At the end of the day, wrote historian J. S. Mills, “in less than an hour Mr. Gomer was seized with apoplexy, and before medical help arrived, though delayed but a few minutes, the soul of the good man had gone to God.”

Mary Gomer stayed in Sierra Leone until 1894, and then returned to the States, where she died on December 1, 1896.

David Datema wrote of Joseph Gomer, “He was without doubt the one missionary that rescued the United Brethren mission from almost certain failure….It is doubtful whether the United Brethren have since produced a better missionary….Today in Sierra Leone, the signature work of the Gomers lives on in thousands of lives who have never heard of them.”