Martin Boehm - Unsung Heroes

Martin Boehm - Unsung Heroes

. 1 min read

By Philip J. Brooks

It all began inside a barn. German-American pastor Philip William Otterbein was attending a church service at Long’s Barn outside Lancaster, PA, when he heard the preacher give the sermon and was so moved, that he walked up to him, embraced him, and said in German “We are brothers.” That preacher was Martin Boehm, a local Mennonite bishop of Swiss-German descent. Together with Otterbein he would go on to found The United Brethren of Christ (a predecessor denomination to The United Methodist Church).[1]

Born in Lancaster in 1725 to German immigrants, Boehm was part of an Anabaptist community following the teachings of the 16th Century reformer Menno Simons.[2] The Mennonites held a number of beliefs considered radical at the time. They were strict pacifists, refused to take oaths, practiced only adult baptism and engaged in many ancient Christian practices such as the washing each other’s feet like Christ did for the disciples.[3] Boehm did not attend a seminary or receive any formal training to become a pastor, instead learning everything locally within his own community.[4]

Boehm married a Mennonite woman named Eve in 1753 with whom he had eight children. Boehm struggled at first in accepting his calling to preach and much like a young John Wesley felt a lack of assurance in his own faith. He had what some might call his own Aldersgate Experience one day while he was farming. He would later claim that “a stream of joy was poured over me.”[5]

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