Iowa History Project
In 1890, at the Iowa Yearly Meeting on Ministry and Oversight, a project was launched for a ministerial training school by one who felt “a concern for young ministers and workers, that they have the right kind of training, preparation and instruction for their important work.” Fully appreciating the fact that the majority of its ministers came from the common walks of life, without having had the advantages of a college education,(178) the Meeting on Ministry and Oversight at once took up the matter. A representative at once took up the matter. A representative committee was appointed to consider the subject; and in consequence a “Summer School” of four or five days duration was held for such workers at LeGrand, Iowa, in June, 1892.
From the very first the undertaking was a success. So enthusiastic were the forty or more persons who attended the school at Le Grand that plans were made for the holding of a similar school at Earlham, Iowa, the following year. This in turn proved of like benefit to the large number of ministers and workers who assembled; and that fall the movement was officially endorsed and encouraged by the Yearly Meeting. In the fall of 1895 the Yearly Meeting appointed a managing board of six of its prominent members to assume the responsibility of carrying on the work;(179) and at the same time the name “Summer School” was changed to that of “The Christian Workers’ Training School”, which it continued to bear until 1903, when it was again changed to “The Christian Workers’ Assembly.(180)
The Christian Workers’ Assembly, throughout the two decades of its development, has found its chief importance in the coming together of the active forces of the orthodox body for mutual consultation over the problems of the church before the convening of the regular sessions of the Yearly Meeting, where the press of business leaves but little time for the thorough discussion of the less tangible concerns of the Society. Here the ministers and church workers from the entire field come more intimately into touch with each other. Here the detailed problems of the ministry are taken up and threshed out in the light of the experience of the whole body. Here new friendships are formed; ministers new to the field are introduced; and a fresh interest, earnestness, and enthusiasm are almost invariably developed. Thus the gathering serves well its purpose in the onward movement of the church.
Since 1893 the “Assembly” has been held at New Providence, West Branch, Oskaloosa, Indianola, New Sharon, Lynnville, and Marshalltown—each time with a program planned to meet the urgent needs of the hour. Such subjects as “Missionary Work, Christian Endeavor, Sabbath School, Church Loyalty, Power of Prayer and Bible Study, Personal Work, Holiness, Family Religion, Call to the Ministry, Social Life, Moral Issues, Church Literature, City and Country Problems, Music and Militarism”(181) are assigned to capable members of the Iowa body for formal discussion; and usually there are in attendance upon the invitation of the Assembly prominent persons from other Yearly Meetings to lecture on subjects with which they are particularly familiar.
The stand which the ministers as a whole have taken on the tendency toward centralizing control in the hands of a Board on Recording Ministers is clearly set forth in the following resolution, adopted by the Christian Workers’ Assembly in 1912:
Resolved, That we believe the final act in recording of ministers should be in the Yearly Meeting and that we ask the Yearly Meeting to request the permanent Board to consider the proposition from Honey Creek Quarterly Meeting referred to them in 1910.
Indeed the resolution went on step further than this in recommending that there be “a clause added requiring a course of reading and an examination of the same”.(182)
In meeting the modern demand for a strong, efficient, educated, and spiritual ministry, it is unquestionably true that, aside from Penn College, the Christian Workers’ Assembly must be the chief source of supply for the future. It has made itself of vital importance in the modern program of progress outlined by the Iowa Yearly Meeting of Orthodox Friends.
178- A sketch of the Christian Workers’ Assembly by E. Howard Brown. Of the forty-eight pastors in the Iowa Yearly Meeting of Orthodox Friends devoting their whole time to the work in 1912, thirty-four were men, fourteen were women; while but seven were college graduates. See Minutes of the Five Years Meeting, 1912, p. 92.
179- The first regular board of the Christian Worker’s Assembly was made up of A. Rosenberger, Maria Dean, Charles W. Sweet, William L. Pierson, Emma Coffin, and Eli Reese.
180- For information relative to the early history of the “Assembly” the writer is indebted to E. Howard Brown, who went through the records of the “Yearly Meeting of Ministry and Oversight” to secure the data.
181- Minutes of Iowa Yearly Meeting of (Orthodox) Friends, 1911, p. 58.
182- Minutes of Iowa Yearly Meeting of (Orthodox) Friends, 1912, p. 61.