12 June, 2021

Help for a Fledgling Preacher

by | 13 May, 2021 | 1 comment

Twenty years or so after stepping down as editor of Christian Standard, Edwin Hayden penned this reminiscence of four gentlemen who had helped and encouraged him during his career. (Most of us probably could write something akin to this.)

_ _ _

Not Too Busy to Help

 By Edwin V. Hayden
November 22, 1998; p. 10

No fledgling preacher was ever more greatly blessed than I was with help and encouragement from older men busy in their own great ministries. They found time to be helpful as a matter of habit! They aren’t as well known in the brotherhood now as they were then, and the brotherhood can’t afford to neglect their contribution.

William Henry (W.H.) Book was known in our part of Virginia as perhaps the first in a cluster of Restoration preachers coming from rugged Craig County. He was born on the Fourth of July, 1863. the day after his father died in battle at distant Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The Civil War made him an orphan before he was born, but he was proud of his birthday! Brother Book cherished his freedom.

The brotherhood generally knew him for his fruitful ministry with the Tabernacle Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana. They also knew him as a prolific writer for Christian Standard, and as author of two widely read volumes of Tabernacle Sermons. Our modest church at Salem (Virginia) counted itself fortunate when Brother Book became available for evangelistic meetings, which were well-attended and effective.

During one of those meetings in the early 1930s Brother Book was housed in a residence near our home in the east end of town. Since the church was on West Main Street, I was able to walk and talk with him on our way home after most of the evening services. He took great interest in my budding plans for the ministry. One night he stood with me under the streetlight in front of his temporary home and showed me how a preacher should perform the baptisms he ought to expect in response to his preaching! I had lasting reason to appreciate his messages, his counsel and coaching, and his ongoing interest in my ministry.

P.H. Welshimer, of Canton, Ohio, was well-known as preacher and leader with the largest congregation in the brotherhood; also as writer of the Sunday-school lesson treatments every week in The Lookout, and author of books including Welshimer’s Sermons and Concerning the Disciples. His influence lives on through a doctrinal tract called “Facts Concerning the New Testament Church.”

My Uncle Fred was an elder in the Canton church. So in 1934 when I graduated from college in Salem I made bold to write a letter, asking Brother Welshimer’s recommendation concerning further education. By return mail I received a handwritten note on one of the short letterheads on which Brother Welshimer wrote his short letters. He recommended the Butler School of Religion, led by Dean Frederick D. Kershner, with able assistance from Bruce Kershner, Professor Dean E. Walker, Dr. Toyozo W Nakarai, and other dedicated Christian scholars, “sound in the faith.”

I was even more astonished two days later to receive a warm letter from Dean Kershner’s office in Indianapolis, with information which Brother Welshimer had asked him to send me! That included something about the Flat Rock Christian Church, which might be looking for a student minister! Flat Rock was 12 miles from W.H. Book’s place of ministry at Columbus!

I wrote to Flat Rock and secured an appointment to preach there late in July. My hitchhiking trip to Indiana took me through Cincinnati on the hottest day on record for that city—108 degrees. My sermons at Flat Rock the next day were not impressive, but the church folk there were impressed by good words put in for me by Brothers Book, Welshimer, and Kershner! They all thought Flat Rock might help me to become a decent preacher. In fact, a five-year student ministry there helped the church a little as it helped me a lot!

My second preaching appointment at Flat Rock was two weeks after the first, so I showed up at Dean Kershner’s office in Indianapolis on Monday to make plans for schooling. The Dean was most cordial in his helpfulness. Before I left I mentioned plans to spend a few days with kinfolks in northern Indiana, and wondered if there might be some place I could leave a part of the load from my suitcase while I made my way northward. There surely was, right there in the Dean’s office closet!

Professor Bruce Kershner would fetch a carton from the janitor’s area in the basement for the purpose. And he did. When I finally left, Dr. Frederick Kershner thanked me warmly for coming in to see him! That wasn’t special for me. He treated everybody that way. The School of Religion in those days was a good place to study New Testament Christianity.

One of my first teachers there was Dr. Toyozo W. Nakarai, who had learned of Christ from missionaries in his native Japan, and had pursued that acquaintance with a total enthusiasm. His commitment included biblical truth first, and then the English language in which he elected to study and teach it. His perfectionism shamed us native Americans, in faith, in practice, and in expression.

Dr. Nakarai cared genuinely for his students. As Thanksgiving Day, 1934, approached he learned that some students, including this Virginian and several from the Pacific Northwest, would not be going home for the holiday weekend. So he invited four of us to have Thanksgiving dinner with him and Mrs. Nakarai. She was an American, whom he had taught in some of the finer arts of oriental cooking. The dinner was delayed a bit in preparation, but provided a delightful blend of Japanese and American cuisine, with international warmth in Christian hospitality.

Almost thirty years later, on a business trip for Standard Publishing, I stopped in Indianapolis, needing to cash a check for expenses. It wasn’t easy. The teller at the nearest bank referred me to a vice president who seemed to enjoy making it difficult for me. I provided visual identification, but he wasn’t convinced. I named several Christian preachers in Indianapolis who could vouch for me, but he wasn’t impressed. As last resort I cited my student days at Butler, where my connections were outdated. My long-ago teachers had all departed. Who were they? The Kershners, Dr. Holmes, Dr. Walker, Dr. Nakarai . . .

“Did I know Dr. Nakarai?” The banker had known and loved him as a neighbor. The man got to his feet, laid his hand across my shoulders, and led me back to the teller’s cage. “A friend of Dr. Nakarai is a friend of mine,” he said. “Cash his check!”

W.R. Walker was known for his long and instructive ministry with the Indianola church in Columbus, Ohio. He was a close friend and associate of P.H. Welshimer at Canton, and he loved to teach and encourage university students.

So when Brother Welshimer took me on as his assistant in 1939, Brother Walker was interested. The ensuing years provided occasional contacts between him and me, and they were occasions of my learning from him—sometimes rather tartly.

He encouraged my becoming an editor. So in 1957 when Standard Publishing took me on as editor of Christian Standard, W.R. Walker expressed his pleasure in a warm letter of congratulations. It was a very properly typed letter, and worthy of its place in my permanent files. Thirty years afterward a grandson of Brother Walker gave me the handwritten original of that same letter, found in W.R. Walker’s files. Brother Walker was careful in all his ministry, and the evidence of that care will be with me until we meet again!

Did I say I had been blessed by the helpfulness of busy men who found time to assist a young fellow who needed help? May I never be too busy to do as they did, and especially as Jesus did and taught. After all, He is the reason for their having done as I found them doing.

Edwin V. Hayden is a Christian writer living in Mount Healthy, Ohio.

_ _ _

If I were to create a list of people who were “not too busy to help” by blessing me in my career, Mr. Hayden would be on it. I grew up in the church which Mr. Hayden served as an elder. Upon reaching my 30s, I was serving that church as deacon and secretary of the church board. Around that time—about a year before this article was published—the newspaper where I worked was changing to morning delivery, which meant my “normal hours” would become 3 p.m. to midnight. That meant I wouldn’t be seeing much of my two children. Unbeknownst to me, Mr. Hayden put in a good word for me with then-publisher Mark A. Taylor, which helped launch my career with Christian Standard.

 —Jim Nieman, Managing Editor

1 Comment

  1. Willard & Janice Kelley

    What an interesting article about men of great faith and some great “how-to”’suggestions. Thank you for sharing!

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