This Sunday, October 7, 2018, we will commemorate the 175th anniversary of the founding of our church, East Brandywine Baptist Church.
On average, local New Testament churches have a lifespan. A recent study notes that the average church plant that is able to survive the first seven years has an average lifespan of eighty years. That means that the average lifespan of a church is about the same as the average lifespan of a human. Local churches are born, live and die. This can be discouraging and confusing. While the universal church is everlasting, “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21), local New Testament churches are little outposts, or embassies that are born, live and die. (Revelation 2-3) The birth, life and even the death of a local church are according to the perfect will of our Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. In Acts 13:36, the Scriptures say of David, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers….” Like David, New Testament Local churches often serve the purpose of God in a generation, or maybe two, and then they die.
By the grace and goodness of God alone, East Brandywine Baptist Church has been blessed to fulfill the purposes of God not only to one generation; but to three! And, if the Lord wills, may we serve the purposes of God for three more generations! Amen and Amen!
Consider the Story of East Brandywine Baptist Church.
The name we have on our sign is not our technical name. The actual name of our church when it was organized and chartered by the state of Pennsylvania was The Brandywine Baptist Church of the County of Chester. It has never been officially changed. In 1692 The Brandywine Baptist Church of Chadds Ford, the second oldest Baptist Church in Pennsylvania, was founded. The name of our church was publicly referred to as “East Brandywine Baptist Church” by common consent as a way of distinguishing it from the Chadds Ford church and because it was located in the East Brandywine Township.
In 1840, Windsor Baptist Church in the Uwchland Township called a new pastor, Rev. Thomas S. Griffith. Later that year, the church experienced a spiritual revival while the community had an awakening of sinners being saved. Thirty-three adults were saved, baptized and added to the membership of Windsor. Some of those new converts lived in Guthriesville, the furthest limits of Windsor’s local church “boundaries.” Pastors were circuit-riding preachers in those days. Pastor Griffith was a circuit-riding preacher who ministered to large sections of territory by horseback with saddle bags.
On these pastoral visits, Pastor Griffith spotted an open field on Horseshoe Pike, near Guthriesville that appeared to him to be a great location for an open-air evangelistic meeting.
On July 20, 1841, Pastor Griffith opened a series of meetings in the field on Sunday afternoons. While these special meetings were in progress, many souls enquired what they should do to be saved. And being pointed to the Lamb of God, as the only way of salvation, they were soon enabled to hope in His mercy. During the meeting, which continued six weeks, 48 were saved, baptized and received into the membership of the Windsor Baptist Church.
The need for protracted meetings in the evening was obvious. James Guie owned a paper mill in Bondsville and Lord’s Day evening services were held there. William Moore gave this account of these evening meetings.
“I saw great stacks of rags on either side, and in the center some benches where on the dusty floor, penitents were kneeling and pleading for mercy.”
Because of the spiritual revival, it was decided by this group of new believers that there was a need for a permanent location for meeting. On September 10, 1842, one-half acres of land on the Horseshoe Pike, east of the village of Guthrieville, was sold to the group for $1.
On this land, the Brandywine Meeting House of Chester County was built, and it was completed late in 1842. The name for the building was "The Brandywine Baptist Meeting House." This name was a continual reminder to our EBBC family that a church is not a building. A church is the people.
Shortly after the Meeting House was built, the decision was made to organize these new believers in Guthriesville and East Brandywine Township into a separate church. Forty-nine members of the Windsor Baptist Church were released to become the charter members of East Brandywine Baptist Church. Pastor Griffith served as our first pastor leading morning services at Windsor and afternoon services at EBBC each Sunday.
Our first three deacons were Joseph Guthrie, Lewis Gray and James Guie. William D. McFarlan served as EBBC’s first Church Clerk. Many of these charter members of EBBC are buried at the East Brandywine Cemetery.
The Lord blessed the early days with disciples being added to the church. During the first 25 years the membership grew to 121. The church also began two different Sunday Schools during that time. One of the schools was held at the church building while another was a mission school.
In those early days churches erected high standards of Christian living and insisted that their membership should live up to those standards. This church was no exception and carefully watched over the spiritual development of its members, admonishing them to keep themselves clear from the contaminating influences of the world and if necessary, excluding them from the membership of the church. During the first year of the church in particular, disciplinary measures were often used which seem to us today to be severe, but the church was thus made to stand for something in the community. The church took an early stand upon large moral issues and in October 1844, permission was given to hold temperance meetings.
In 1849 mention is made of the fact that singing schools were being held in the Church. Music played a large part in the early Church, even as it does today.
In 1851 the church began to contribute to the work of the American Baptist Publication Society and in 1854 began giving to the Home Mission Society and to the State Mission Society.
In the early years, frequent mention of committees to secure finances for regular maintenance and special projects. In 1855 it was decided to rent the pews but that apparently was unsatisfactory, for the following year the action was rescinded.
Just 14 years after the building of the Meeting House, there was a fire that completely destroyed the interior on March 9, 1856. The church gathered temporarily at the Guthriesville Hall. The renovated Meeting House was re-dedicated on November 9, 1856.
In 1863, the Civil War was on and our pulpit was supplied for a short season, by Rev. Silas Livermore, a refugee from North Carolina. Our letter to the Association that year was as patriotic as it was loyal. We recognized the duty of a prompt and hearty support of the national government in its great task of crushing out the gigantic, causeless, wicked and cruel rebellion, and of restoring peace and union upon the best and surest foundations of liberty and righteousness.
In June of 1867, ten members were dismissed to become constituent members of the Coatesville Baptist Church, which was then being organized. Thus the church passed on some of its life to spread the Gospel in another field. Coatesville Baptist Church has moved, reorganized and has been renamed to Cornerstone Fellowship Church.
In 1870 additional land was purchased by EBBC surrounding the church building. There was also the purchase of a parsonage on the south side of Horseshoe Pike in the village of Guthriesville, across the street from the Hopewell Pharmacy.
A growing church is a changing church. There was a change that took place in 1873 that was 30 years past due. Men occupied the pews on one side of the Meeting House while the ladies sat in the pews across the middle aisle. In that time in American church history, it was not customary for men and women to sit together during their church services. Thankfully, action was taken in 1873 so that men and women, fathers and daughters and mothers and sons worshipped side-by-side.
Again, as the church had received its early life form the Windsor Baptist Church, it in turn was called upon to give of its life for the beginning of another church. In April of 1883 the church appointed a committee to sit in council for the purpose of constituting the Baptist Church of Downingtown. For many years the lives of these two churches were very closely associated. Downingtown grew into a strong body and much of the time, pastors from Downingtown served as pastors of East Brandywine, often only for an afternoon service. Downingtown Baptist has also moved, re-organized and has been renamed Grace Church.
James Guie, mentioned earlier, was a businessman, one of our first deacons, an evangelist and a generous donor. James Guie was officially licensed by East Brandywine Baptist Church as an Evangelist. When he died, in 1893, he willed 50 shares of Downingtown National Bank stock to East Brandywine Baptist Church. According to James’ wishes, the dividends were to be paid to EBBC for as long as East Brandywine Baptist preached the gospel. If they were ever to stop, they were to turn over the stocks to Downingtown Baptist Church.
At the turn of the 20th century, the church went through the difficult times and really struggled to survive. The Baptist Association in Philadelphia sent a supply pastor named Marple Lewis.
Marple reminisced about those days, “For at least two years prior to my being sent there by the State Secretary to re-open the church, it had been closed most of the them. It was a challenge, but the revival during the winter of 1911-12 brought a renewal of life.” Times were challenging financially for the pastors during those days as well. Pastor Lewis continued, “The State Convention paid me $40 a month until the Church could absorb it. They did, after the revival, but when I asked for a raise to $50, they refused it. I was boarding myself and a horse at Laird’s farm. It’s a great life, if you don’t weaken.
During these challenging days, months, and years of struggle that came periodically over these 175 years, there has always been a remnant of faithful women and men at EBBC that have assumed responsibility and led when there was an absence of leadership.
“I tell you beloved, this church has always had a little band of women, who evermore, were real “helpers in the Gospel,” as well as a little team of men whose hearts were hopeful, brave and true. In the midst of these conditions a mission school and religious work were carried on in adjacent nearby neighborhoods. You were a little flock, often pastorless, and your under-shepherds, here today and gone tomorrow. Yet, amidst all your trials, you seemed to hear and heed the voice of your Lord “Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” –David Spencer
To the east of the Meeting House(the old church building) a circle of trees was planted to honor our East Brandywine “local boys” who served in World War I. There was a special service honoring the men and the trees were planted. The trees still stand, a circle of love surrounding one cenrer tree planted in honor of Clarence Krauss, who was killed in action.
"The Problem we have had is with Movies.”
In 1916, the church celebrated our “Diamond Anniversary”(75 years). The three-day celebration included a hand-written history of EBBC that was presented to the church family by David Spencer.
During the first 75 years of the church, EBBC had over 40 pastors with no pastor remaining at the church for more than five years. That “revolving door” caused David Spencer to proclaim a challenge by highlighting the problem of “movies” during our first 75 years.
“What this church has needed was a man committed to this 'field,' devoting all his time to the work as a pastor as well as a preacher. There is one word prominent in our nomenclature today which in the vicinity of some churches is the explanation of some of the troubles for why they are suffering at this time. That word is “The Movies”, that has been the trouble here-the coming and constantly moving away again of Pastors. This church has certainly had the “Movies.” Many of its Preachers, using this "field" simply as a stepping stone, whence they might be moved to something more inviting. Oh, for the spirit in our pulpit which will say with the apostle Paul, “But none of these things move me.” Here I will be steadfast unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. My Dear Brother Smith, our present pastor, here is the chance of your lifetime. Do you not hear our Lord saying to you, “Occupy till I come?” It will pay you and the cause of Christ here to put your life into this field, whose next quarter of a century may be made to tell much for God and truth. My brother accept the challenge which He gives to you. Walk out on His promises. Make all needed sacrifices, remembering that sacrifice is gold in Heaven. Make full proof of your ministry here and Christ, the Head of the Church, shall say to you, “well done good and faithful servant enter into the joy of your Lord.”
In 1950, the Lord lead Pastor Richard Rusbuldt to East Brandywine Baptist Church. He ended the age of “the Movies” by pastoring us for a long time-nine years. During his pastoral ministry from 1950-1959, Pastor Dick Rusbult was youth pastor, pastor of outreach, lead pastor and administrative pastor all in one. Pastor Rusbuldt’s ministry to our church was significant and his loving shepherding is still remembered with much joy by our older members.
In 1968 Pastor Ronald Smith told our church family, “The glorious privilege of building a church does not fall to every generation. By Divine Providence this great opportunity has fallen to us, the congregation of East Brandywine Baptist Church. The church was dedicated in 1968 during our 125th Anniversary. Inscribed on the cornerstone are the words, “To God Be The Glory.”
In 1972, the Lord brought EBBC a man with a Shepherd’s heart. Pastor Charles Detwiler Jr. and his wife Grace were spiritual gifts to our church family for over two decades of pastoral ministry. Pastor “D” had been employed as a Health Physicist for General Electric for nine years. Pastor Detwiler resigned in order to go into the ministry. His first pastoral ministry was at Pughtown Baptist Church which he served while attending seminary. Grace served as our choir director for the duration of their pastorate. Pastor “D” served as our lead pastor for seventeen years. That was the longest pastoral ministry of any of our previous 50 pastors. Pastor Detwiler, in consultation with our deacons led our church to leave the American Baptist Convention. EBBC had been part of the ABC for our entire history. However, our spiritual leaders wisely discerned doctrinal shifts that were taking place within the denomination. We became an independent church in 1980 as we separated from the convention. In 1990, Pastor Detwiler was bestowed the honor of “Pastor Emeritus.” He also served as our first “Pastor to Seniors.”
On Thursday, February 28, 1991, the stillness of the cemetery was broken by the sound of the wrecking crews: the first East Brandywine Baptist Church building was demolished.
The East Brandywine Meeting House had been recently leased to a preschool. The building had been outgrown and the renovations were just too costly for our church at the time.
In 2017 an historical marker was erected by the East Brandywine Historical Society marking the location of the original church building.
In 2000, the Lord, again led a man to serve the Lord in the EBBC field for a long time. Pastor Harry Fletcher and his wife Sue faithfully served our church family for 13 years until Pastor Harry retired. During Pastor Harry’s oversight our church was led to bring Pastor Josh Park on as our youth pastor. Other blessings of Pastor Fletcher’s oversight was his leadership for us to expand our foyer, and make major enhancements and renovations to our campus.
Pastor Josh Park was our youth pastor/associate pastor for 14 years. He and his wife Jenny are legendary at EBBC because of their godly hearts and love towards others! They were released with ten other EBBC members to plant Branch Life Church in 2018.
In June of 2016, our pastors, deacons and trustees were informed of a large amount of Downingtown National Bank Stocks that were owned by EBBC. After some research, we discovered that those nearly 30,000 stocks were the multiplied family of stocks from the original 50 shares donated to EBBC by James Guie in 1853. In October of 2016, EBBC voted to liquidate those stocks and payoff their mortgage for the last renovation/expansion in 2011.
On January 22, 2017, our church voted to adopt a new EBBC Constitution and Bylaws that changed our governance to be elder-led, deacon-served and congregation-governed. Our first team of elders was also elected at that historic annual meeting.
175 years ago, East Brandywine Baptist Church was founded as a result of the clear, bold proclamation of “Jesus Saves.” May we on this momentous occasion recommit our lives to making disciples for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
To the praise of His Glory,
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