History of the

 By John Young





Return to YCCOB Home Page


History is the essence of innumerable biographies  
-Thomas Carlyle -


Could Thomas Carlyle's quote be said of the York Center Church of the Brethren? Not entirely, if we are thinking only of those who have served as our pastors. But then, if not our pastors, could the rich mix of the souls passing through the portals of our church building be the ones who make the quotation ring with truth? It is undoubtedly a combination of both. We have been truly blessed by the diversity of our combined biographies, not only in our membership, but also with those pastors who have served us. And certainly, not to overlook the participation of the many seminary students who we were fortunate to have worship with us during their stay in this area. While much of our church history is entwined with its members and with other attendees past and present, memories are even now becoming fainter in the minds of those remaining, so they need to be captured in print or our history may be merely a wisp in the wind and lost forever.

This subject was once alluded to in a different way when a speaker was referring to Manchester College and to its long-term president, Otho Winger. The speaker glowingly stating, "This institution is but the lengthened shadow of the man." But what can we say about the York Center Church of the Brethren? How much of our church's definition has been brought into life by the eight or nine pastors who have cast their shadows among us through the years? Are they considered larger-than-life persons having stood before us, informing us from the pulpit, beseeching, educating, challenging, cajoling, suffering, sharing, all the while loving us and. our shortcomings? Are they the ones who have made us who we are today, and now, through the mists of time have become merely cherished, and fading images? One could conjecture that they were not the molders of our collective image as we see ourselves. Perhaps to the contrary, for there is, and always has been a free-ranging congregate spirit, carried forward from the original Chicago area Brethren pioneers, a defining and pervasive theme in York Center's history that both molded our pastors, as well as defining ourselves, even today as we enter the new millennium. In addition to strong pastoral leadership, our church has been blessed by having strong and thoughtful people in the pews. Early on in Bob Faus' ministry, Bob, slightly frustrated in trying to get more members involved in leadership rolls, made the perceptive observation, "York Center suffers from having too many chiefs trying to be Indians." But in the congregation's defense, there has always been a certain modesty among the membership against pushing their personal agendas; always willing to be sensitive to the will of the congregation. And a good part of our strength comes from that. However, our history would not be complete unless we outline and define those who have come among us and served as our spiritual leaders, each in their own unique way. Undoubtedly, several of them felt it a challenge, or perhaps arrived with slight feelings of trepidation, to be the pastor of the York Center Church, the home church of the denomination's seminary. One in which many of the Seminary's faculty and staff would be facing them from the pews; that combined with York Center being a church in an metropolitan setting. The subject of our pastor's sojourns and influence will be included in a separate chapter of our history.

York Center Church can be likened to a river; ever flowing, season after season, year after year. Stand on its banks and watch its history pass before your eyes. Always changing, swirling with the times, having high water periods and sometimes little eddies along its shores, but always buoying us along in its flow. The change came home to the writer a year or so ago. We, as a congregation stood encircling pews so that each of us faced the entire body, singing together a beloved hymn. It was toward the end of the Christmas Eve service in the darkened sanctuary where we each held a candle in our hand, our circle of light illuminating our faces. While it was a very moving moment, when I looked around the circle of worshipers, I was struck by the number of new faces, as well as by the few-in-number of old timers, but here we were, united in body, metaphorically stopping the river in its flow, yet knowing that the faces present on that holy evening could never again be regrouped as one, even with the passing of only a few months. Carpe diem.

Our church building, still today, unashamedly evidencing its 1950' look, has stood us well, although we have gone through periods of time that we didn't give it its proper due. This is partially because we have never thought of the building, per se, as being us. We seem more to define ourselves as a people with a spiritual agenda, meeting together for a purpose, hardly mindful of the bricks and mortar that surround us. Yet, the building's durability speaks well of those who have gone before us -- built solidly and functionally. It was constructed with meager and many willing hands. Over the last fifty years, the building has undergone several minor alterations, and only one major one -- it internal. For this major alteration, it seemed to require much deliberation in deciding what to do, mindful of the sweat and faithful commitment of our founders, hesitant to change what they had wrought. Also, there had been a common sentiment in the early and mid years at York Center, to apply resources mainly for outreach, while minimizing nurture for its members, with the then controlling theme being that the members spiritual nurture could be met in outreach and not from the church proper nor its accoutrements. This concept, too, following the pattern of the early Chicago Brethren expending most of their resources in mission to those less fortunate.

Return to Top