committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

CHAPTER IX.
PUBLISHING INTERESTS.


      Church papers have long since been considered indispensable in the successful prosecution of church work, and the number of such periodicals is more numerous than the religious bodies which they are intended to serve.

      But this was not the case a hundred years ago and even later. Then there were only a few religious papers in the United States and these were difficult to maintain.

      This, considered in connection with the fact that Winebrenner already had numerous and heavy burdens of responsibility in "the care of all the churches," enables us to better appreciate his foresight and zeal in establishing a creditable church paper at any early period of our history.

      Winebrenner evidently recognized the need of a church paper very soon after the organization of the first Eldership, in 1830, for as early as 1833 this project was considered and indorsed by the Eldership. There were some unavoidable delays, but on June 5, 1835, the first issue of the paper appeared, under the name of The Gospel Publisher. It consisted of four pages, about fifteen by ten inches in size, and was published weekly at the price of one dollar and fifty cents a year.

      The life of the paper under this name covered a little more than a decade. The subscription list during this period probably averaged about five hundred. Winebrenner, after serving as editor for nearly five years, was succeeded by Rev. J. F. Weishampel, a versatile writer and energetic worker, who continued in this position for three years and eight months. Rev. George McCartney succeeded Weishampel in January, 1844, and continued as editor until the paper suspended publication, in August, 1845.

 

THE CHURCH ADVOCATE

      The failure of this first attempt to establish a church paper on a permanent basis did not discourage the more thoughtful and forward looking members of the churches. They felt that the project was both possible and desirable, and they were ready to try again. Accordingly they turned to Winebrenner, who, although he had no inclinations in the direction of editorial work, was always willing to subordinate his personal preferences to the good of the cause, especially in supplying what seemed to be an imperative need. But little time was spent in preliminaries, for in June, 1846, the paper was revived under the name which it has borne ever since?The Church Advocate. For six years it was published semi-monthly, and then became a weekly. Winebrenner remained at the helm for eleven years, and then sought to relieve himself of the "toils and perplexities of editorial life" by transferring the paper to his son-in-law, Rev. James Colder.

      It should be remembered that while The Church Advocate was, in a sense, the official organ of the Church of God, and while Eldership and General Eldership actions were taken and a Publishing Committee and a Board of Publication were provided from time to time, the work of conducting and financing the paper was practically the individual responsibility of the editor. And the greater weight of responsibility was always the financial burden. For obvious reasons Winebrenner held a unique place in the confidence and affections of the brotherhood, which many times enabled him to succeed where others failed. And so it turned out again, for in less than two years Colder abandoned the project "because of embarassment for want of funds."

      Rev. E. H. Thomas became the next editor of The Church Advocate, and for once the mantle of Winebrenner fell on the shoulders of the right man. Thomas resembled Winebrenner in many respects, and was better adapted to and more capable of filling Winebrenner's place, not only in the editorial chair but also in other positions shall any one who had so far been tried. For ten years, although in failing health part of the time, he devoted himself with unsparing energy and marked ability to his important task, and was rewarded with results which placed the church paper's standard of success, financially and otherwise, higher than it had ever been before. The subscription list had increased to approximately three thousand.

      On the death of Thomas, September 11, 1869, Rev. C. H. Forney, the assistant editor, succeeded to the editorship, a position which he filled continuously until 1909?a period of forty years. Forney brought to the position the optimism of a young man of thirty years, combined with the persistent purpose which is essential to the successful promotion of a difficult enterprise. His natural and acquired abilities as a journalist were good and were judiciously developed by study and practice. His editorial discussions were thorough and comprehensive. The fundamental and distinctive doctrines of the Churches of God were frequently and clearly taught. The enterprises of the General Eldership were loyally supported. Current events and their religious bearing received discriminating comment. Pastors and churches were guided and encouraged in their work by editorial counsel. His economic management of the affairs of The Church Advocate was particularly notable. Under his direction the paper became self-sustaining, and also accumulated a small surplus from year to year, which, in the aggregate, aided materially in establishing a publishing house.

      On the retirement of Dr. Forney, at the General Eldership of 1909, Rev. S. G. Yahn, D. D., of the West Pennsylvania Eldership, was elected editor and has been continued in this position since then by successive re-elections. The arrangement of The Church Advocate has been almost entirely changed, in keeping with the most desirable features of modern religious journalism. The subscription list has increased from about two thousand in 1909, to nearly six thousand in 1925. An endowment fund was started in 1917 with a surplus of $8,500 on hand at that time. This was increased annually during the next eight years by the addition of a certain percentage from the Forward Movement fund, making a total endowment of approximately $65,000. This has placed the paper on a substantial basis financially, notwithstanding the fact that its cost of production during the World War and since has been practically twice what it was before. It has also made possible a reduction in the subscription price below that of any other paper of similar size and quality.

      All of the editors of The Church Advocate except the present one were from the East Pennsylvania Eldership.

 

SUNDAY SCHOOL LITERATURE

      The effort to supply literature for the Sunday-schools dates from 1867. The Sunday School Gem made its appearance in that year, having been authorized and provided for by the General Eldership of 1866. It was successfully established under the direction of E. H. Thomas, editor of The Church Advocate, who laid a good foundation for the work of subsequent years. In January, 1869, Thomas was succeeded in the editorship by J. H. Redsecker, an East Pennsylvania layman of good ability as a writer and well qualified for work of this kind. His service continued for nine years, when Rev. George Sigler, of the East Pennsylvania Eldership, became his successor. Sigler was an able preacher and an efficient and faithful pastor. And his influence, which was always of special value in the Sunday-school, now extended to the Sunday-schools everywhere. W. A. Laverty, a good writer and a very active and efficient layman of the First Church in Harrisburg succeeded Sigler as editor in 1896 and filled the position in an acceptable manner for twenty years. J. B. Martin, of Middletown, Pennsylvania, another layman of prominence in Sunday-school work became the editor of The Sunday School Gem in 1916 and continued to serve acceptably in that position until 1921, when all of the Sunday-school periodicals were placed under one editorship.

      For seventeen years The Sunday School Gem was published monthly, from 1884 to 1906 semi-monthly, and since then weekly. It has been successful from the beginning, and by 1925 had reached a weekly circulation of over nine thousand copies.

      The first attempt to supply helps in the study of the Sunday-school lesson was made in 1879, when The Sunday School Workman, a monthly publication was issued with Rev. Peter Loucks, a leading minister of the West Pennsylvania Eldership as editor. At the end of two years and a half, Loucks was succeeded by J. H. Redsecker, who, in turn, was succeeded, in 1886, by Rev. J. M. Carvell, a prominent minister of the East Pennsylvania Eldership. In 1890 Rev. D. S. Shoop, another well-known preacher of the East Pennsylvania Eldership became the editor of this periodical, which, from that time has been known as The Workman Quarterly. Shoop's editorship continued for twenty-three years and received the merited approval of the general brotherhood. He was succeeded, in 1913, by Rev. C. H. Grove, of the East Pennsylvania Eldership, who brought to the position the benefit of his experience as a pastor and Sunday-school worker, as well as his exceptional ability as a Bible student and writer. He also became the editor of The Junior-lntermediate Quarterly, authorized by the General Eldership of 1913 for the use of the boys and girls.

      Efforts to provide the little folks with literature resulted in the appearance, January 1, 1885, of a small weekly paper called The Sunbeam. This was followed, in 1896, by the Primary Quarterly. The success of these efforts was due largely to the admirable work of Miss Lydia A. Forney, of Harrisburg. She became the second editor of The Sunbeam (succeeding Sadie R. Hemperly, of Middletown, Pennsylvania, who had served with efficiency for a little less than two years) and the first editor of the Primary Quarterly. She continued to edit the Quarterly until it was discontinued by the General Eldership of 1913, on the adoption of plans for the Junior-lntermediate Quarterly. Her editorship of The Sunbeam was terminated by her resignation in 1914. The vacancy was filled by the election of Miss Edith Myers, of Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, who served until 1920, and was succeeded by Rev. C. H. Grove, D. D.

      The General Eldership of 1921 made effective a plan which had been contemplated for a number of years, that of putting all of our Sunday-school literature under one editorial and business management, and elected Dr. C. H. Grove to this important position. The following periodicals were thus placed under his direction: The Sunday School Gem, The Sunbeam, The Workmen Quarterly, The Home Department Quarterly, The Lesson Leaves, and The Junior-lntermediate Quarterly. This literature has been edited with marked ability, and its growing popularity among the Sunday-schools is evidenced by an increasing circulation from year to year.

 

THE PRINTING PLANT

      Harrisburg has been our publication headquarters from the beginning of this enterprise, in 1835, until the present time, with the exception of three years when The Church Advocate was located in Shiremanstown, two months in Mount Joy and fifteen years in Lancaster.

      The principal difficulty was encountered in establishing and maintaining a printing plant. Naturally it was limited and crude compared with such establishments of today, but it served its purpose. Yet the equipment, materials and wages most of the time involved more expense shall could be provided for by the relatively small list of subscribers and the uncertainty as to the payment of their subscriptions. Contributions were solicited from time to time to meet the ever-present debts. Those in official responsibility as members of the publishing board or committee were obliged to bear a good deal of the financial burden and to suffer considerable loss.

      These financial struggles in connection with the printing establishment, whether owned by the General Eldership or the editor, continued until about 1870. During the next thirty-one years the printing was done by contract with other establishments. And this change, combined with other more favorable conditions, placed the Church paper on a self-sustaining basis. [81]

      In 1901 another effort was made to establish our own publishing house, under conditions and with accumulated means which insured success. As a preliminary step a book store had been opened in a rented room at 335 Market street, Harrisburg, in 1885. This was followed, in 1899, by the purchase of the property at 329 Market street, Harrisburg, and the transfer of the book store to that location in 1900. And a year later the necessary machinery was purchased and installed in the same building and the issue of The Church Advocate of July 3, 1901, was printed and mailed from our own Publishing House. Since that time our publishing interests have been handled more conveniently and satisfactorily than was possible while depending on other establishments, and they have been increasingly successful.

      In 1914, in order to provide more room and better facilities for the printing department, a brick building of three stories was erected on the rear of the Market street property at a cost of approximately $10,000, and some new equipment was added. The business continued to prosper.

      From time to time the Publishing House has printed one or more periodicals for other religious bodies and has done considerable job work. The printing of our Church and Sunday-school literature requires about three-fourths of the time. About one-fourth of the annual product is for outside customers.

      In 1920 the Market street property was sold for $135,000. A new site was purchased on the corner of Thirteenth and Walnut streets, where a fine building was erected, into which the publishing business was transferred in the fall of 1922. This gave the Churches of God a much larger and better publishing house, with twice as much machinery, and $53,000 left for endowment. This endowment has enabled the Board of Directors to lower the prices of our Sunday-school literature and will make possible the circulation of much-needed promotional literature. At the time this change was made it was decided to eliminate the book store and devote the entire plant to the printing and publishing business.

      In addition to what has been said about our periodical literature, it should be added that the books published during the century make a creditable list. More than fifty of our ministers have been the authors of from one to several books and pamphlets. In this, as in other matters, Winebrenner takes the lead. Considering the conditions of those early years and the financial and other difficulties which operated as hindrances to such efforts, the number of religious books, hymn-books and pamphlets which he published is rather remarkable.

 
 
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