Thursday, August 11, 2016

Let there be paint ...

Wednesday was one of those hot and excessively humid days when you've got to be grateful that you're watching people work rather than doing it yourself. Thanks to the guys from Shriver painting, the facelift at Otterbein Church was on track despite challenging work conditions.

Bingham Construction was on campus a couple of weeks ago to make some minor repairs to the steeple. Earlier, Bob and Jim had worked on windows and doors. The last step will be rejuvenating the Otterbein sign and reinstalling it above the front doors.

Some of us still remember when Otterbein, a congregation of the United Brethren in Christ, was located south of Chariton along Highway 14 in Benton Township. This is an old congregation, dating from 1869, but its original building was not constructed at that site until 1889. At that time, the congregation renamed itself Otterbein, after the Rev. Philip William Otterbein, a German Reformed preacher who was one of the organizers of the denomination.

My great-great-grandparents, the John Redlingshafers, were founding members of the congregation and John led the drive that raised funds to construct that building.

Although its polity was Wesleyan, and Otterbein was a friend of Francis Asbury --- among those who participated in the latter's consecration as the first U.S. bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church during 1784 --- the denomination he founded in partnership with Martin Boehm, a Mennonite, was at first largely German-speaking. Now, the "United" in United Methodist reflects the 1968 merger of the Methodist Episcopal and United Brethren denominations.

The original Otterbein building, considerably larger than this one, was torn down during the early 1940s and a new building constructed from its pieces. That structure, dedicated in 1946, was moved to the Lucas County Historical Society grounds during 1976 as a project of the county Bicentennial Commission.

At that time, the front was remodeled to give it the appearance of the original building --- two front doors rather than one, fretwork in the gable and a steeple. The pews and other contents are original to the 1889 building.

Curiously, paint hangs on tight to the old siding on the north, west and south walls of the building, but had begun to fall off the front, rebuilt during 1976. Now, we're hoping, the whole building will be sparkling white again for many years to come.


Anonymous said...

We have to be thankful for those who proceed on no matter what the weather might be! The Shriver Painting Crew are masters of their craft and we are fortunate they work among us!
Mary Stierwalt

Steve Hanken said...

The Church of the Brethren in Christ, has some very interesting history. It is the first, truly American denomination of religion. Its tenants were such that much like the Mennonite church, any person who felt so moved could be a minister, which later had to be modified as the doctrine of the church was being altered significantly by those not as well taught. It also was an early proponent of both anti-slavery and women's rights. As early as the 1820's The Church of the Brethren in Christ told their members if they held slaves they had to free them or be excommunicated from the church. Understanding that this was a new decision in the church, and also not wanting to put a financial hardship on members who had recently acquired a slave they modified their ruling with some tenacity and suggested that if a slave had not been inherited and had been a recent purchase, the slave would become the property of the church and the church would allow the slave to work for his former owner until such time as the church felt he had paid his master sufficiently with his work to cover the purchase price. The church made the decision when the slave would be set free and in the meantime he was to be treated as a hired person not a slave. Interestingly because these folks were so dedicated to their church and to what was considered at the time to be the 2nd re-awakening, they applied themselves to the tasks at hand thinking the coming of the end times was upon them and they had full intent on doing God's work. With that, they also worked on the UGRR and were very good about keeping what they did to themselves since doing God's work was something you didn't take credit for, as that would be boasting and might send you straight to hell! Thus it is most difficult to find out if they were in fact instrumental in any area because of the tight lips of those participating! Often we have to rely on others to tell us about the Brethren, as they weren't talking! In the 1920's women suffragettes were meeting in the Brethren Churches working to get the vote, all approved by the church itself as part of their doctrine to support such efforts. It is rather unfortunate the group was swallowed up by the Methodists as far as history is concerned. This was a very dynamic and important social group in its early days which is often hidden from view by the fact they no longer exist as a separate organization from the Methodists. Steve Hanken