National Older Adult Conference of the Church of the Brethren
Lake Junaluska, N.C. — Sept. 7-11, 2009
Monday, Sept. 7, 2009
Quote of the Day:
“As I thought of what I would say to you this evening, I could think of only one thing: Thank you…. You have been faithful.”
— Shawn Flory Replogle, moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, bringing greetings to NOAC
|Question of the Day
What was the most interesting mile of your journey here?
Loyal and Sue Vendermeer,
(Interviews and photos by Frank Ramirez)
Overview of the Day: The first day of National Older Adult Conference 2009 began at the Lake Junaluska (N.C.) Conference and Retreat Center with afternoon registration, choir rehearsal, and dinner. The exhibit hall and Brethren Press bookstore were open in the afternoon to help welcome participants. At the opening worship service in the evening, the message was given by Chris Bowman speaking on the topic, “Find Us Faithful,” from Ezra 3:8-13 (click here for a report); singing and anthems by the NOAC choir, directed by Wil Nolen; and the sharing of legacies of faith by a number of people with worship leader Bonnie Kline Smeltzer. Each person who spoke added a band of ribbon to a large weaving that will grow throughout the week, to which each NOAC participant is invited to add a thread. An ice cream social sponsored by the Fellowship of Brethren Homes closed out the day.
2009 NOAC Bits and Pieces:
Registration total: 925 older adults
Offering received at opening worship service: $2,203.21
Story of the Day
Finding the first Brethren church in Florida
NOAC volunteers Lester and Barbara Kesselring recently took time out to find the mythic remains of the Keuka church–the first Brethren church in Florida–and were successful in their treasure hunt!
The couple have been preparing an exhibit for the 125th anniversary of the Brethren in Florida for the Atlantic Southeast District Conference in October. Armed with a battered 1953 copy of A History of the Brethren in Florida and Georgia: 1925-1950 by James B. Morris they headed 150 miles north to find the state’s first Brethren church.
The vivid descriptions in the book (and GPS) “took us back into some wooded area,” said Lester. “We drove down narrow, bumpy and muddy roads until we came out onto a paved road and saw a sign for Old Cemetery Road,” added Barbara.
They had to remove a fallen tree limb from the road and negotiate barbed wire to get to the old church cemetery, but they found many graves including that of the church’s last minister, J.N. Overhultz.
The Kesselrings soon found the church. It is owned by Debby Hoadley, whose house is across the street. When the couple explained they were members of the denomination that built the church Hoadley replied, “Oh yes, the Dunkers!”
From there the two walked down an old path, hoping to find the home of J.H. Moore, recorded as having founded the Keuka church. They met Hilda Gelhaus, who they took be more than 90 years old, standing in front of a house and told her they were looking for the old parsonage.
“Oh, it’s mine,” she said. “Reverend Moore built this house. Would you like to come in?”
According to Lester, “She took us around the house and showed us the stumps from which he had cut the trees for the foundation.” They also found the foundation to the kitchen, which had been a separate building in the back yard because in those days a kitchen could catch on fire so easily.
“She was as country as she could be,” Barbara said, emphasizing Gelhaus’ friendly nature.
The Kesselrings also found a beaten dirt track to the marshy lakefront that is still known to the neighborhood as the “baptismal path.”
Research reveals the following history of the Keuka, Fla., church:
In 1882 William Woodward moved with his wife from Iowa to a farm outside of Manatee, Fla. As was often the case, pioneering Brethren kept in touch through the Gospel Messenger, often asking others to join them, with a request to the larger denomination to send ministers.
Gospel Messenger editor J.H. Moore handled the communications and in January of 1884 he traveled to Florida from Mt. Morris, Ill., to have a look, preaching twice while he was there. His wife, suffering from tuberculosis, agreed that the change in climate might be good for her.
The Moores moved to Keuka, a little town of about 20 people. It had a post office, train depot, and a small store. They and their three children (who almost immediately all contracted the measles) took up residence in a half-finished house.
It wasn’t long before a church house was built, which served as Sunday school and sanctuary on Sunday, and the schoolhouse for the community during the week. On Nov. 27, 1884, the church was organized and on Jan. 29, 1885, the first Love Feast was held. Moore soon built his own home, and operated a sawmill to make ends meet until he could purchase a nursery. His fourth child was born later that year, the first Brethren born in Florida. The membership of the church grew to 50.
But Moore’s wife died in 1888 and and by 1891 he had remarried and moved back to Illinois to edit the Gospel Messenger. (He returned to Florida in 1916 to found the Sebring church). Killing frosts in 1895 and 1897 destroyed the orange crop and ruined the investments of several Brethren. Add to that dissension among the believers, and the church was disbanded by 1905. The building continued to serve as a community church for many years thereafter.
(References: Morris, James B., A History of the Brethren in Florida and Georgia: 1925-1950, Hartville, Mo., 1953, pp. 13-18; Moyer, Elgin S., Brethren…in Florida and Puerto Rico, Elgin, Ill.: Brethren Press, 1975, pp. 63-66)
— Frank Ramirez is pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren
The News Team for the 2009 National Older Adult Conference is coordinated by Eddie Edmonds, and includes Alice Edmonds, Frank Ramirez, Perry McCabe, and staff Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, who serves as director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.