Last week Tom and I visited the Evangelical United Brethren Heritage Center. The Center is located in Dayton, Ohio at United Theological Seminary.
For those of you who are not up on your United Methodist History, the Evangelical United Brethren united with the Methodists in 1968 to form the United Methodist Church. The Methodists started as a denomination in the United States in 1776 but the movement was founded earlier in England by John Wesley. The Evangelical United Brethren denomination was formed in 1946. It was a blend of two denominations. The Evangelical Church founded by Jacob Albright in 1800 and the United Brethren in Christ founded by Martin Boehm and Philip William Otterbein. The Evangelical Church founded Otterbein University here in Westerville in 1827.
The primary difference between the Methodists and the Evangelical United Brethren was language. The Methodists were primarily immigrants from Great Britain who spoke English. The Evangelical United Brethren were primarily immigrants from Germany. By 1946, most of the members of the Evangelical United Brethren spoke English and there was no longer a need for a German denomination. After ironing out some of the other differences, the two denominations united.
Because the Methodist Church was so much larger than the Evangelical United Brethren Church, many people in the EUB church were concerned about losing their distinctive history. The Evangelical United Brethren Center in Dayton was founded to keep that heritage alive. They collect artifacts and keep archives at United Theological Seminary which was, originally, an EUB seminary.
United Theological Seminary was formed by Bishop Milton Wright, father of Wilbur and Orville Wright, in 1871 as Union Seminary. In 1954 the Seminary merged with the Evangelical School of Theology to become United. United Theological Seminary is not what it once was. It used to be a campus with residential housing. Over the last 15 years it has become a commuter school and now it is primarily online. Because so few students come to campus, the campus was sold and the seminary is now housed in a former Jewish Community Center. The library, was recently remodeled so it can hold the historic records and display artifacts related to the history of the denomination.
Tom and I went to the Evangelical United Brethren Heritage Center because we had a couple of boxes of books that Mom wanted to donate. Most of the books were hymnals that she had been given over the years. Two of the hymnals were “Crown Him King” published by the United Brethren Publishing House in Dayton in 1914 and “Notes of Triumph” also published by the United Brethren Publishing House. Two other books in the collection were particularly interesting. One was Martin Luther’s Catechism, published in German in 1805. Another was the Methodist Episcopal Hymnal from 1855. When I sent an email to the Center asking if they would like the books, the archivist and head librarian both responded quickly and enthusiastically.
Neither man was in the building when Tom and I dropped off the books, but Mark, another librarian, received them gladly. He gave us a tour of the library/museum and even showed us where the books would be displayed. He was especially excited about the Methodist Episcopal Hymnal because they didn’t have many items related to Methodist history.
The museum had some interesting artifacts and Tom and I enjoyed looking around. We spotted the UMC coke bottle from the UMC bicentennial in 1984. We had a bottle just like it and got rid of it when we moved out of our house in Mogadore. There were lots of portraits of important people in EUB history. Mark was eager to show all of it to us and explained how they plan to expand the museum.
It was interesting to connect to this part of my family’s history. Both Mom and Dad were Evangelical United Brethren students when they met at Ohio State University. They were very active in the EUB student group. Wedgewood United Methodist Church, where I served for 21 years, was an EUB church before the merger. In fact, at one time it was the largest EUB church in East Ohio.
If you are interested in Evangelical United Brethren history, you can become a member of the EUB Heritage Center. An individual membership is only $25 per year, which supports the center. You also get a quarterly newsletter with your membership.