Photo Friday: The Brethren in Christ in the Pacific Northwest

The Redwood Country Church -- the first Brethren in Christ congregation established in the Pacific Northwest -- circa 1948. Courtesy of Mark Chamberlain.

The Redwood Country Church — the first Brethren in Christ congregation established in the Pacific Northwest — circa 1948. Courtesy of Mark Chamberlain.

Readers of The Search for Piety and Obedience know I took a bit of a vacation back at the end of July. My wife and I spent some time traveling in the Pacific Northwest, visiting Seattle, WA; Portland, OR; and some of the rural area just south of Portland near Mt. Hood. It was a great time of much-needed rest and relaxation.

But traveling in the Pacific Northwest got me thinking about the forthcoming August 2014 issue of Brethren in Christ History and Life, the journal of the Brethren in Christ Historical Society. (Regular readers know that I serve as Assistant Editor for this publication.) In that issue, we include a full-length biography of Benjamin and Priscilla Books, a mid-twentieth century pastoral couple in the Brethren in Christ Church. Their life story — lovingly written by their grandson, Mark Chamberlain — is important for a number of reasons, showcasing mid-century Brethren in Christ life, education, and ministry.

But the Books’ life and ministry is also important because they were pioneering church planters in the denomination, literally taking the Brethren in Christ message to place it had never been before: the Pacific Northwest. Today’s Photo Friday commemorates their ministry with an image of the church they established, the Redwood Country Church.

After the jump: More about the first Brethren in Christ congregation in the Pacific Northwest.

According to Chamberlain’s biography, the idea for a congregation in Oregon germinated after the migration of several Brethren in Christ families from Upland, California, to Grants Pass, Oregon, in the mid-1940s. Their reason: better, more affordable land and a better market for dairy farming. The Books followed these intrepid Brethren in Christ migrants in 1944. Like the Brethren in Christ of earlier years, these transplanted believers held monthly services in one another’s homes. (On the off-weeks, many worshiped with a local established Nazarene congregation.)

But this arrangement proved unsatisfactory for a number of reasons, and the California District’s Church Extension Board permitted the small group to band together and establish a small mission congregation with its own meeting place. Construction on the new church began in 1945. According to Chamberlain:

They were able to complete the church and the first services were held on July 1, 1945, with more than fifty in attendance and five Sunday School classes. That initial service included three Civilian Public Service (CPS) Smokejumpers and Dr. and Mrs. Sheets, who belonged to another church but wanted to give their support for this new church in their neighborhood. By July 16, the new place of worship named Redwood Country Church needed only $150 for equipment. The dedication service was scheduled for August 19, 1945, and donors to the cause were listed, giving from $2 to $313. . . . Nearly all of the labor was donated in its construction. The 1945 Handbook of Missions stated that $1,604 had been contributed for the construction of the church and the 1946 Handbook contained a statement recommending the confirmation of Ben Books as the pastor of the Grants Pass mission church.

To read the whole story of the Redwood Country Church, including its evolution in recent years, check out Chamberlain’s biography in the forthcoming issue of Brethren in Christ History and Life. (Not a subscriber? Contact me for details on how to become one!)

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About Devin Manzullo-Thomas

Father to Lucas. Husband to Katie. Prof and administrator at Messiah College. PhD student at Temple University. Member of Grantham BIC.
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