It All Started in a Barn
It was 1767, and a spiritual renewal movement—the Great Awakening—was sweeping through the colonies. Back then, Christians would gather in what they called “Great Meetings.” These were lively events. Hundreds of people from all over might spend several days hearing a string of stirring speakers.
Isaac Long hosted a Great Meeting at his big barn in Lancaster, Pa. Martin Boehm, a Mennonite preacher, told his story of becoming a Christian and a minister. It deeply moved William Otterbein, a German Reformed pastor. Otterbein left his seat, embraced Boehm, and said loud enough for everyone to hear, “Wir sind bruder.” (Oh—we spoke German back then.) Otterbein’s words meant, “We are brethren.”
Out of this revival movement came a new denomination which took its name from Otterbein’s words: United Brethren in Christ.
Tell Me More About These Guys
Boehm and Otterbein became our first two bishops. They were very different.
- Boehm was short, Otterbein tall.
- Boehm, a farmer, was described as “plain in dress and manners.” Otterbein, from a long line of distinguished ministers, was cultured and well-educated.
- Boehm lacked confidence in his speaking ability. Otterbein exuded confidence.
- Otterbein commanded attention, while Boehm could easily shrink into the background.
Otterbein and Boehm realized that, despite their many differences—in theology, background, education, personality, and even stature—they agreed on the basics of the faith.
These were the perfect guys to head a new church which united diverse people from many backgrounds around the Christian essentials.