Brethren Historical Library and Archives
Ken Morse: Brethren Hymnist with a Message
by Keith S. Morphew
Even if you don’t recognize his name, you’ve probably sung Ken Morse’s Move in our Midst. Kenneth Ivan Morse was the son of Herman V. and Sadie Bennett Morse, born 1913 in Altoona, PA. He grew up in the Altoona congregation and graduated from Juniata College and Pennsylvania State University with a Masters in English Literature. In 1941, Morse married Marjorie L. Hanawalt and taught public school until 1943 when he began a thirty-five year tenure with the denominational staff of the Church of the Brethren General Board, editing youth publications (1943-50). In 1950 he succeeded Desmond W. Bittinger as editor of The Gospel Messenger.
The magazine continued under Morse for fifteen years until Ken and his staff made significant alterations to its appearance and added new features, as well as shifting from a weekly to bi-weekly publication schedule, shortening the name to Messenger. In 1971 he moved to edition books for the Brethren Press, while continuing to act as an associate editor for Messenger until his retirement in 1978. Morse was a prolific writer and hymnist whose works include the aforementioned Move in our Midst as well as a book on worship and New Windsor Center. He died March 23, 1999.
The Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren is holding a celebration of the centennial of his birth in a special service Sunday May 19th where they will be honoring him as well as several other Brethren hymnists. Similarly, the Ohio District Offices are holding a celebration of Brethren Hymnists April 21st, honoring Ken as well as many others.