The Spire - December 2019
A monthly column by Senior
Minister J. Douglas Patterson
From the Archives
The Story of Smithfield, Part 7
by Donn Neal
From the President's Pen
Endings & Beginnings
by Jeanette Thomas
Sean, our office manager and Spire editor, asked me to keep in mind that this issue is devoted to “looking back” over the past year, acknowledging all the good things that happened in our faith community. Upon reflection, it occurs to me that most of the happy events in the previous twelve months, and there have been many, were unplanned and unforeseen. They came our way because we put ourselves into a position to receive them and then respond in compassionate, faithful ways.
Many folks think of the year ahead, 2020, as a maze, filled with wrong turns and dead ends. That only leads to anxiety, hopelessness and depression. Faith requires constant movement, not knowing where you’ll end up. Unlike a maze, life is rather like a labyrinth. The labyrinth looks like a maze, but there is nothing to keep you from where you are going – unless you stop moving. The Bible is filled with stories about God’s call to journey to a “promised land,” or a “land you do not know.” The call of Jesus was, and is, to “come, follow me.” There are no resolutions, five year plans, or story boards in the Bible. But the biblical imperative is to keep moving. Just keep moving!
J. Douglas Patterson
Our Church Family
Ke’Juan Cae-Davell Hall, daughter of Sean O’Donnell and Todd Collar, who was adopted on December 19.
The congregation voted in new officers at the December congregational meeting: Jon Colburn (President), Zarina Zhao Rowland (Secretary), Rachel Cole-Turner (Treasurer); and our council: Arthur Chileshe, Jeff Gibbons, Dawn Lorincy, Donn Neal, Mitzi Pynos, and Jack Wepler.
When Ruoff returns to the main theme of his essay, he explains that in 1840 Kammerer was forced to retire from his work owing to an inflammation of his throat. Yet again, Smithfield would be seeking a new minister. Ruoff does not mention how Smithfield’s next pastor, Johann Christian Jehle, was selected and called on May 11, 1840, but he remarks that Jehle was the fortunate recipient of a thriving church that welcomed his arrival. At the age of fifteen, the new pastor had arrived in America with his parents from Nurtigen. After his theological studies with a senior preacher in Philadelphia named Demmet, young Jehle also studied with a Professor Schmidt in Columbus, Ohio. Jehle had served a church first in Stark County, Ohio, and then another in Canton, Ohio, before accepting his call to Pittsburgh. Ruoff states that Jehle had a “brilliant eloquence” and a good deportment that won him many friends.
Regrettably, Ruoff sadly also writes, the talented Jehle fell in with some “wrong friends and improper acquaintances” and received a warning from the church’s council for this conduct. But Jehle did not heed the warning, Ruoff says, and so the church discharged him in the fall of 1845. (Discharged, too, was the church’s teacher, Philipp Diehl, who was released after charges of similar behavior.) Ruoff expresses here his personal sorrow at this outcome, the result of what Ruoff more than once insists was Jehle’s “one weakness.” Jehle was then hired by a religious community, called the First German Evangelical Protestant Community, located in the Southside area of Pittsburgh,. This situation, Ruoff writes, gave Jehle the support he needed to change his ways.
When Pittsburgh was struck with a cholera epidemic in 1846, Jehle distinguished himself by his heroism in visiting and treating victims and burying those who had succumbed to the disease. Later, after he was forced to give up his position on the Southside, he worked in the Orphans Court and the Post Office in Pittsburgh, then taught in Beaver County before his death in 1862. Ruoff laments that Jehle was not able to overcome his weaknesses (note his use of plural here) and states that he had no enemies but was both pitied and deplored by all.
Ruoff now turns to another landmark event in Pittsburgh’s history, the Great Fire on April 10, 1845. This disaster consumed at least 1,100 houses and their contents. Disease (mainly cholera) and hunger followed the conflagration; business was weak and money was scarce. Here, the charity that Jehle had put in place proved to be invaluable in dealing with these problems and needs.
It is hard to believe that another year has come to an end. I know I have heard many people say this, but as you get older the time seems to fly by even more quickly than it ever did before. So many special things happened at our church over this past year that it is hard for me to name just a few. But here are some of the things I think are the highlights.
No doubt the memory that first sprung to mind was the time we spent with members of the Tree of Life Synagogue. I was glad we welcomed Mike and Laurie Eisenberg to our church and learn about how they have been dealing with the aftermath of the shooting in their synagogue. But I especially enjoyed when some of our members went to their facility and participated in a Friday night service. It felt good to be able let them know that we are here for them and we are all a part of the bigger community.
Our lunches…need I say more. I think our after service community lunches have been outstanding this year. My favorite for sure was pie day, but I really do love them all. I know it takes a lot of work and effort, but the time we spend together outside of worship is priceless. I encourage everyone to get involved more with these lunches and attend them if you can. You won’t be sorry.
Writing this column, I am feeling a little bittersweet. This is my last column as President of the congregation. I have very much enjoyed working with so many people during the three years that I have been President and before that in other positions. But it is always good to get new blood in leadership positions…and I am not going anywhere! I will still be active in the Spirit and Hospitality committee. So here’s to a great 2020 and the new leadership team at Smithfield United Church of Christ!