By Ron Keener
A play about the last few weeks in the life of martyr John Kline was an added feature in the 150th anniversary of the death of the Civil War-era Brethren leader, who was shot from ambush on June 15, 1864.
“Under the Shadow of the Almighty” was authored by Paul Roth, pastor of Linville Creek Church of the Brethren in Broadway, Va., and was one of several events of the June 13-14 observance. Historical presentations, a vesper service at the gravesite marker of Kline, tours of the Homestead and other family houses, and the John Kline Riders on their heritage ride were among events of the weekend.
Roth, president of the Homestead Foundation which purchased the site of the 1822 home four years ago, says he wrote the play to recount the final month and a half of John Kline’s life, gleaning information from local historical sources.
Roth will give a lecture on the reasons Kline was killed at the Annual Conference in Columbus in July, at an Insight session, and the Homestead will exhibit at the Conference.
“All the events mentioned in the play actually occurred,” Roth says, “and the characters were real people, cast in a conversation and settings to bring the story of John Kline to life.” Hymns of the period were sung throughout the play at intervals between scenes, adding to the dramatization.
John Kline is significant to the Brethren movement for several reasons, including his mentoring of the church during the Civil War. He has been one of the most beloved Brethren leaders. “Personally,” says Roth, “I have found Kline to be a dedicated disciple of Jesus Christ who lived with courage and conviction during the troubling times of the Civil War. He engaged community, government and military leaders to explain the Brethren beliefs, requesting they honor the commitment of the Brethren to be faithful to their calling to not take up arms against another.”
Kline took the stance of nonresistance and, says Roth, “even amid the anxiety of war, he remained centered on his faith in Jesus, believing that nothing could shake him from his appointed task as a minister of the gospel of the Prince of Peace.”
Candlelight dinners will be offered at the John Kline Homestead on Nov. 21-22 and Dec. 19-20 and reservations can be made by calling the Linville Creek Church at 540-896-5001. The dinners are family-style and seating is limited to 32 each night.
The Foundation board has an opportunity to purchase an additional five acres of land adjacent to the home and will meet July 21 to consider a capital fund campaign.
-- Ron Keener of Chambersburg, Pa., is a fourth generation Kline through his grandfather William David Kline of Manassas, Va., and Palmyra, Pa., and his mother Helen Kline. Keener also is a former member of the communications staff of the Church of the Brethren.