Bishop Ezra Funk (right) was known as a great teacher. Looking toward heaven, he once said, “I hope there will be someone for me to teach.” He was especially adept at teaching biblical doctrine.

While pastoring churches in Pennsylvania, Funk chalked up 28 years as an elementary public schoolteacher. A school superintendent described him as “one of the most energetic teachers I have ever known.” And creative. He was always on the lookout for visual aids to use in the classroom. He put a sandbox in his classroom; students played in it, and he used it to teach measurements–quarters, cups, etc. Standing just over 5’3”, Funk wasn’t much taller than his students.

Ezra Funk was born July 3, 1886, in Cheesetown, Pa., just north of Chambersburg. He grew up in the York Brethren, a branch of the plain-dressing River Brethren. Always small for his age, he was subject to much bullying.

At age 20, when he announced to his parents that he was joining the United Brethren to become a minister, it didn’t go over well. But he knew that’s where God wanted him. In 1906, he joined the Salem UB church near Chambersburg and was licensed to preach.

He went on to pastor various churches in Pennsylvania–in Chambersburg, Shippensburg, Orrstown, Strinestown, Waynesboro, Heidlersburg. In 1909 he and Bessie were married, and would have 11 children, two of which died as infants (Ezra assisted in nine of the births). He pastored Baptist churches 1919-1924, but then returned to the UB fold. In 1941, Funk was elected bishop, and served until 1957.

Funk was a voracious reader, and a dedicated walker. Every morning he took a brisk “devotional” walk, during which he would read the Bible and pray. He was always reading something, and was even known to take a book to read during denominational board meetings.

He read the Bible over and over. One time during a UB missions convention in Ontario, while everyone else spent the afternoon visiting Niagara Falls, Funk stayed behind to re-read the Book of Acts, on which he was preaching that night. A note in his Bible said he had already read Acts 111 times.

He was also devoted to UB missions. Two daughters served in Sierra Leone. He traveled three times to Jamaica to teach the pastors, he organized Honduras Conference in 1956, and he also visited our work in Hong Kong and Sierra Leone.

After the 1957 General Conference, Ezra and Bessie, along with daughter Erma, moved to Greencastle, Pa. Within a couple months, he was diagnosed with cancer. Bishop Ezra Funk passed away on June 10, 1958, at age 71.

(Many thanks to Nancy Hull N’Gele, who wrote the chapter about Bishop Funk in United Brethren Bishops, Volume 2.)

L-r: Lloyd and Eula Eby, Oneta Sewell, Erma Funk, Bernadine Hoffman.

L-r: Lloyd and Eula Eby, Oneta Sewell, Erma Funk, Bernadine Hoffman.

On April 9, we began following the journey of five missionaries to Sierra Leone in 1944–Lloyd and Eula Eby, Bernadine Hoffman, Oneta Sewell, and Erma Funk. On April 20, we left them in Natale, a city on the eastern tip of Brazil jutting into the Atlantic Ocean. From there, they planned to catch a plane to Africa. But it was war-time, and the missionaries found themselves stuck in Brazil for six weeks.

Planes were constantly making the flight across the Atlantic, but military people had priority. Finally, on June 4, Pan Am had a plane for them. A few seats would be filled by the wives of Firestone workers. All the rest would go to missionaries. On June 5, after a 14-hour flight, they landed in Liberia. (The next day, incidentally, the D-Day invasion occurred in Europe.)

Now the five United Brethren missionaries, along with six missionaries from other organizations, had to figure out how to get to Sierra Leone, along with all their luggage. Early one morning, they boarded a small boat for the 30-mile trip along the coast to Sierra Leone.

The rough seas and high waves left nearly everyone at least a little sick. Then, at the mouth of a river, they hit a sandbar, with high waves all around, and it became quite dangerous. The oarsmen jumped overboard and, one by one, carried the passengers ashore. When the wind subsided, they continued on to Sulimah, the southern-most village in Sierra Leone.

It was June 9, 1944. Exactly two months after leaving Indiana, they had arrived in Sierra Leone.

The next day, a doctor arrived from Pujehun on a lorry he had chartered. The missionaries were able to charter it back to Pujehun. From there, the eleven missionaries took a lorry to Bo, which was as far as the six non-UB missionaries needed to go.

The next day, the five UBs traveled by lorry to Mattru, and then took a boat to Bonthe. They had arrived.

Throughout 2017, we are recognizing significant events and stories from throughout our history. About every other day, a story is posted on UBCentral and Facebook. As of today, 100 stories have been posted this year. Number 101 will be posted on June 9. You can see them all listed here.

On that same page, you can subscribe to the UB Daily News to get each post by email. You can also see them by “liking” the United Brethren Facebook page.

You’ll find stories about UB missionaries, former bishops, significant meetings, influential people, important events, and more. “On This Day in UB History” will give you a greater appreciation for our heritage as a Church.

Three bishops influential in the history of the United Brethren Church in Canada (l-r): C. Ray Miller, John Jacob Glossbrenner, and Jacob Erb.

Three bishops influential in the history of the United Brethren Church in Canada (l-r): C. Ray Miller, John Jacob Glossbrenner, and Jacob Erb.

On June 7, 1992, Bishop C. Ray Miller officially established the United Brethren Church in Canada. For nearly 20 years, he had been bishop of the UB churches in Canada. But no more. Now they were a self-governing national conference–the first in our denomination.

Bishop Miller was, sort of, the second bishop to establish the Canadian conference.

John Jacob Glossbrenner served as bishop 1845-1885. That’s 40 years, which is longer (by 12 years) than any other United Brethren bishop. So he did a lot of things during his tenure. One of which was organizing a conference in Canada. That happened on April 19, 1856.

United Brethrenism in Canada developed in a hodgepodge sort of way, and involved an assortment of people.

A non-UB named John Cornell, from the “Cornell University” family, moved to Ontario in 1800 and spent the rest of his life as a preacher there. He started a number of churches.

Jacob Erb, a United Brethren minister from Ohio, was sent by his home conference, Pennsylvania, as a missionary to Canada around 1825. He preached and scattered a lot of seed, but didn’t organize any churches. He went back and forth, but had a continuing relationship with Canada. Erb was elected bishop in 1837 at the ripe old age of 33. He served eight years, took four years off, and then served another term, 1849-1853.

Bishop Christian Newcomer crossed into Canada in 1826 and preached at Fort Erie, right across the border from Buffalo. Some UBs had apparently immigrated to Canada, because Newcomer mentioned meeting “many acquaintances whom I had not seen for many years.”

Which brings us back to John Cornell. In 1854, Cornell, now a 72-year-old, began considering retirement. What would become of his scattered congregations? He met with Jacob Erb, liked what he heard about the United Brethren church, and brought his churches under the UB umbrella.

Two years later, Bishop Glossbrenner officially organized the Canada Mission Conference. There were eight ordained ministers—four Americans, and four Canadians (including John Cornell and his son, William)—plus one other licensed minister. The minutes from 1856 showed 152 members among 18 preaching appointments and seven organized churches. Growth came quickly. By 1863, membership had hit 1000.

What exactly did Bishop Miller do in 1992? He established the Canadian churches as a separate national conference. They had always been Ontario Conference, just another annual conference governed out of an office in Indiana. That went against Canadian laws. To retain their charitable status, our Canadian churches needed to be self-governing with their own Constitution. All UB national conferences are now set up this way.

So, Canada owns two firsts: our first conference outside of the United States, and our first national conference.

When the United Brethren denomination officially organized in 1800, we had a single conference, with churches located mostly in Pennsylvania, the Virginias, and Maryland. As the country moved west, UB people moved with it. First stop: Ohio. In 1810, Christian Newcomer (not yet a bishop) met with 15 ministers near Dayton, Ohio, and organized what became known as the Miami Conference (after the Miami Valley of western Ohio).

For several years, the Eastern Conference (sometimes called the Original Conference) and the Miami Conference held separate annual meetings. In 1813, after the death of both Martin Boehm and William Otterbein, the Eastern Conference elected Christian Newcomer to a one-year term as bishop, and in 1814 elected him for another three years. The Miami Conference was not involved in those elections. So only part of the United Brethren Church was choosing the bishop.

Delegates from the two conferences finally met together in 1815. They met at a schoolhouse in Mount Pleasant, Pa., which was kind of halfway between Dayton and Lancaster. The Ohio folks had farther to travel, but didn’t need to cross the Allegheny Mountains like the Pennsylvania folks.

This first “General Conference” convened on June 6, 1815. That was 202 years ago.

The 1815 General Conference was significant in that they adopted a Confession of Faith and Discipline. However, they profoundly felt the absence of the founders. Martin Boehm and George Geeting had died in 1812, and William Otterbein in 1813. These were men whose word was law. As it was said, somebody else could hold the office of bishop, but nobody could replace the man.

Christian Newcomer presided along with Andrew Zeller, an Ohio minister. Things didn’t start well. On the opening day, Newcomer wrote, “Instead of love and unanimity, the spirit of hatred and discord seemed to prevail.”

It got slightly better the next day. Newcomer wrote, “The heat had considerably abated and the business before us was conducted better than I expected.” And yet, “The sky was not exactly clear.” Things would go smoothly for a bit, and suddenly ministers would be throwing around sharp words.

“This could not last long,” wrote Newcomer. “The darkening clouds which hung over this conference must be cleared away.”

So, they halted everything and held “such a prayer meeting your humble servant never witnessed before nor since. Brethren with streaming eyes embraced and thanked God.”

Much, much better.

Some historians say Christian Newcomer and Andrew Zeller were elected bishops in 1815. The reality seems to be that they weren’t elected until 1817. They wanted to hold General Conference every four years, but Newcomer’s three-year term would end in 1817.

So, to get the schedules in sync, they held a second General Conference just two years later, in 1817. During that meeting, Newcomer and Zeller were elected as bishops. From then on, up until 2005, General Conference was held every four years.

On June 3, 1991, Rev. Marvin D. Price was doing one of the things he enjoyed most: fishing. He was by himself out in a boat on a lake where he had fished many times before, a lake near Warsaw, Ind. But tragedy struck this day. Pastor Price fell out of the boat and, unable to swim, he drowned. Several people watching from the shore were unable to help him in time. Some think he may have had a heart attack.

Marvin Price was known much more as a fisher of men than as a fisher of fish. While he took up fishing in the 1980s, he had developed a passion for soul-winning decades before. It was not a hobby, or something to be done occasionally or when the opportunity arose. Rather, for Marvin Price, leading people to Christ was a consuming priority.

Marvin grew up in the home of Rev. Homer and Amanda Price, who served 16 United Brethren pastorates, the longest lasting just four years. Of those, 11 were church plants. He recalled, “My father’s zealous use of spiritual gifts enabled him to establish congregations quickly where there were none. Personal evangelism and crusade evangelism were both major parts of his ministry.”

When Marvin was in second grade, the family pulled a mobile home from church to church conducting evangelistic and revival meetings. Marvin attended 17 different schools that year. “I never fought church attendance,” he wrote in the November 1993 UB newsletter. “It was central to my life.”

While still a teenager, Marvin was assisting his father on the platform and in other areas of leadership. He began preaching at age 16. While a sophomore at Huntington College, he returned to Hillsdale, Mich., to preach a crusade and 35 people accepted Christ.

Marvin pastored two different churches while attending Huntington College. There, he met Grace Ann Graham, who grew up in the Colwood UB church in Caro, Mich. They were married in 1955. Their first UB pastorate was in Topeka, Kansas. After three years there, they were assigned to the Orange Avenue congregation in San Diego, Calif., where they enjoyed a very fruitful six-year ministry.

That was followed by 14 years of exciting growth at First UB in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. During that time, he reported 1745 people who came to Christ. Many people from that church went into fulltime ministry—the pastorate, missions, parachurch organizations, Huntington College, and other areas. Marvin’s sister, Ruth Ann Price, attended First UB while teaching school in Lake Havasu City. She left in 1969 to begin a career as a Wycliffe missionary. Marvin’s oldest daughter, Debbie Price Osberg, would eventually become a missionary in Honduras.

In 1981, the Prices began an eight-and-a-half year ministry at the Morning Star church in Kokomo, Ind. After that, the Prices moved to Spencerville, Ohio, to pastor the Monticello UB church. They were there just 18 months when the fishing accident occurred—but during that time, at least 41 people accepted Christ. During Marvin’s last service at Monticello, a young man was commissioned to ministry and received his local conference license.

Marvin wrote in 1993, “I have understood my call to be a divine one, a distinct honor and privilege….I remain in awe of the high and holy calling of having been set apart by my heavenly Father as one of His under-shepherds.”

Olin Alwood (left) and Harold Mason.

Olin Alwood (left) and Harold Mason.

Two bishops passed away on June 2–Olin Alwood in 1945, and Harold Mason in 1964. Both completed their careers outside of the United Brethren Church.

Olin Alwood served 16 years as bishop, 1905-1921. However, it’s his father, Rev. J. K. Alwood, that we remember. J. K. wrote the hymn, “The Unclouded Day.”

Olin Alwood, born in 1870, attended Hartsville College, a United Brethren school in southern Indiana, and dedicated his life to Christ there in 1889. After teaching school for three years in Nebraska, he became a licensed United Brethren minister and was assigned to the Sugar Grove circuit near Camden, Mich. He went on to serve several other circuits in Ohio and Michigan, and by 1903 had become the presiding elder in North Ohio Conference.

At the time, we had four bishops, three of whom retired in 1905. Alwood, 34, was among the new bishops elected that year. After 16 years as bishop, serving a different district every four years, he became editor of the denominational paper, The Christian Conservator. He apparently found that job frustrating. He stepped down from that role in 1925 and said no to being re-elected as bishop.

In 1927, Alwood transferred into the “other” United Brethren Church. He pastored several churches with them until passing away suddenly in 1945.

Harold Mason graduated from Huntington College in 1907 (called Central College back then) and was assigned to a church circuit in Hillsdale County, Mich. It went badly. After a year, the boy preacher left the ministry for a few years. But he regained a sense of calling to the ministry and plunged back in. The result: eight very successful years at two churches–in Blissfield, Mich., and Montpelier, Ohio.

That success got him elected bishop in 1921. He served four years, and that was apparently enough. The rest of his life was devoted mostly to higher education–four years at Adrian College as a professor and academic dean, three years as superintendent of schools in Blissfield, seven years as as president of Huntington College (1932-1939), Professor of Christian Education at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, and from 1948-1961, chairman of the Department of Christian Education at Asbury Theological Seminary. He passed away on June 2, 1964.

wjshuey500-withnameOn June 1, 1854, the newly-created United Brethren mission board–the Home, Frontier, and Foreign Missionary Society–met in Westerville, Ohio. Their first action was a big one: “Resolved, That we send one or more missionaries to Africa as soon as practicable.”

They appointed Rev. W. J. Shuey, pastor of a UB church in Cincinnati, as the first missionary to Africa. As a minister in Scioto Conference (southern Ohio), Shuey had been beating the drum for mission work for some time. Scioto had formed its own Home Missionary Society on May 8, 1838, to take the Gospel to “destitute” parts of the conference. But they were also thinking about countries beyond North America. Other conferences formed similar groups.

Back then, the American frontier continually pushed westward, and there was a lot of unreached territory. So when folks raised the idea of foreign missions, people argued that we had more than enough opportunities at home. But other denominations had launched mission work in other countries, and we felt some peer pressure. Maybe, we thought, the United Brethren Church should be looking overseas, too–Africa, China, Europe, and elsewhere.

In 1841, General Conference created a denominational Missionary Society to take the Gospel not only to the American frontier, but to “the heathens in foreign lands.” Persons were appointed to a mission board, but their purpose must have been too vague, because after four years, they had done nothing. The 1845 General Conference appointed another board, but as historian William McKee wrote, “It did nothing, it undertook nothing.” Likewise in 1849.

Finally, in 1853, they got serious. General Conference not only appointed a mission board, but also adopted a constitution, elected a board, and chose officers with specific duties.

Where should they go first? Everyone agreed they should go where the need was greatest. India and China were among the countries mentioned. But they settled on Africa, and specifically Sierra Leone. That fall, Shuey and two other men set sail for Sierra Leone to spy out the land.

They found opportunities for ministry in the city of Freetown, where other groups were also ministering, but that didn’t appeal to them. McKee wrote, “They were unwilling to build on another man’s foundation. Hence, they determined to go out into some darker place and hold forth the lamp of life.” So they headed to the southern part of the country and found locations where nobody else was spreading the Gospel.

Oliver and Mahala Hadley, missionaries to Sierra Leone, 1866-1869

Oliver and Mahala Hadley, missionaries to Sierra Leone, 1866-1869

In 1938, former Sierra Leone missionaries George and Daisy Fleming visited UB churches on the West Coast. In Dayton, Wash., they met Mrs. Mary Wilson. In 1866, when she was 14 months old, Mary was left in the care of her grandmother in Indiana while her parents, Oliver and Mahala Hadley, left for Sierra Leone.

Mary hardly knew her father, because he died just a few days after returning from Africa. Nor did she know her sister Ida, who died in Sierra Leone six weeks after being born, or her infant brother, who died ten days after her father. But she had her father’s journal, written in longhand. She presented it to George Fleming because she thought the Missions department should have it.

Hadley’s first entry of 1867, written on January 3 just a few weeks after their arrival in Sierra Leone, said, “Oh, when shall I see some of these men converted? I cannot rest until I hear some of them glorify God for the salvation of their souls. The Gospel is the power of God, and I look for a manifestation of that power here.”

The journal entry for May 31, 1867, included a message for Mary. It was her second birthday.

I feel happy this morning that the Lord ever gave [Mary Elizabeth] to us. Oh that we could have her with us. I think of her more than usual since little Ida’s departure. My dear child Mary, we will roast a fowl and celebrate your birthday, though we are far away in a strange land. We may never see you again, but I hope you may read these lines if you live and know that I love you, my dear child, with a peculiar love. The Lord be merciful to you, my dear child. I have prayed that I may live with you in the everlasting Kingdom of Christ. I leave you in His hands.

Mary passed away February 5, 1942, in Dayton, Wash.

You can read more about the Hadleys here.

Dr. Elmer Becker in front of the Huntington University Administration Building.

Dr. Elmer Becker in front of the Huntington University Administration Building, which is now called Becker Hall.

During its first 40 years, Huntington College went through nine different presidents. Make that eight: Clarence Mummart held the position twice–once before he was bishop, and once after.

But during the last 75+ years, there have been just five presidents. That run started with Elmer Becker, who served 1941-1965, longer than any other president before or after. He was also the last minister to fill the role. (His son, Carlson, also became a United Brethren minister.)

Elmer Becker was born May 30, 1899, on a farm near Ayr, Ontario. He became a Christian at age 17 and felt called to the ministry. He completed his high school diploma in the Huntington Academy in 1920, and graduated from the college in 1924. In 1923, he married Inez Schad, a fellow member of the debate team who, at the time, was reportedly the only female member of a college debate team in Indiana.

Becker was licensed to preach in 1924 and pastored churches in Ontario Conference for 13 years. The 1937 General Conference elected him as the denominational Secretary of Christian Education. Four years later, he became president of Huntington College. Becker’s 24-year tenure saw the addition of the Loew Alumni Library, the J. L. Brenn Hall of Science, and the Wright Hall men’s dorm, plus the expansion of the Livingston Hall dorm for women.

In 1945, Huntington College began what became a 16-year pursuit of accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The requirements touched nearly every aspect of the school–curriculum, faculty qualifications and salaries, buildings, tuition, administration, admissions standards, endowment, library holdings, relationships with the community, and support from the denomination. It took time and a lot of work. But on June 26, 1961, North Central called to say, “You’ve been approved.”

Before long, the entire campus was celebrating. They even rang the college bell at 10:00 a.m. President Becker was out of town, but upon returning found the faculty and staff having a picnic on his lawn. With accreditation, HC was positioned to attract more donors and students, plus better faculty.

Elmer Becker retired from the presidency in 1965 and passed away four years later.