Ohio – A State with a Rich Spiritual History

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

While many think of Ohio, they think of a Midwestern state that decides presidential elections. Some go on the mention Ohio’s contributions throughout history. More US presidents, inventers, and astronauts came for Ohio than any other state. All of that is true, but what many people don’t know about is Ohio’s rich spiritual history.

Schoenbrunn Village

Ohio was a part of the First Great Awakening. Ohio’s first white settlement was in the 1770s by the Moravians. A band of Moravians moved to Schoenbrunn to become missionaries to the Lenape Indians. The Moravians started the First Great Awakening with a hundred year, round-the-clock, prayer meeting that launched the modern missionary movement. Moravian leaders were also responsible for the salvation of the Wesley Brothers.

The great camp meeting revivals of first decade of the 1800s swept through Ohio as well as Kentucky and West Virginia. Revival broke out in Cane Ridge, Kentucky in 1801. It soon spread. In June, 1801, a large camp meeting was held at Eagle Creek in Ohio. Before 1804, revival had broken out in the following Ohio cities: Turtle Creek, Eagle Creek, Springdale, Orangedale, Clear Creek, Beaver Creek and Salem. The people at these revivals reported many strange spiritual manifestations such as falling out, jerking, and laughing.

Ohio played a major role in the Second Great Awakening. In the 1830s, two Presbyterian ministers started Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. From the start, this college was the first college to accept women and blacks as students and allowed them to earn regular college degrees. A few years later, Charles Finney, Second Great Awakening preacher, became the president of Oberlin College. There he started a church that became the largest congregation at the time, draw 6,000 to 8,000 members. Before the Civil War, Oberlin became known for its abolitionist activities, and during the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue when students rescued a fugitive slave, the college was almost responsible for Ohio separating from the US over slavery.

Ohio was also instrumental in the American Missionary Movement. It started with the missionaries in Schoenbrunn and continued throughout Ohio history. Between 1860 and 1900, 90% of all American missionaries sent forth by the American missionary society were graduates of Oberlin College. Latter in the early 1900s, many missionaries were called in Pentecostal camp meetings held in northern Ohio and traveled overseas.

The Second Great Awakening spurred on various social movement in the last half of the 1800s, and Ohio was a part of all of them. Ohio was a state that was prominent in the Christian feminist movement of the 1800s. Frances Dana Gage organized Women’s Suffrage Conventions all over Ohio in the 1850s. Ohio had strong ties to the abolitionist movement as well. Lucy Stone and Harriet Beecher Stowe, both Ohioans, were strong abolitionists. Sojourner Truth gave her famous ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ speech in Ohio. At a Woman’s Rights convention in Massillon, Ohio. People in Ohio also fought for prohibition. The Ohio Women’s Temperance Society, organized in 1853, was one of the first temperance organizations.

The Azuza Street Pentecostal revival in Los Angeles in 1906 quickly moved to Ohio. Ivey Campbell, a native Ohioan had heard about the meetings and traveled to Los Angeles to attend She was soon baptized in the Holy Spirit. In November, she returned to Akron, Ohio to hold meetings there. Soon everyone heard of her meetings. Revival flourished, and a Pentecostal camp meeting was held in Alliance, Ohio.

There have also been some strange spiritual movements that were birthed in Ohio Mormonism in Kirtland, and they still have the first Mormon church there. Shakers arrived in Ohio in 1805 and established many communities there. The largest was Lebanon.

Billy Sunday leaving Portsmith, Ohio.

Through the 1900s, many famous revivalists and evangelists preached in Ohio including Billy Sunday, Kathryn Kuhlman, and Billy Graham. Large churches such as Rex Humbard’s Cathedral of Tomorrow were established in Ohio. During the Jesus Movement of the 1970s, revival broke out at Ravenna Assembly of God. Also the great theologian AW Tozar was raised in Akron, Ohio and is buried at a cemetery there. Ohio has a rich spiritual heritage. I don’t believe God is done with Ohio. The next Great Awakening might just come from this midwestern state.

Advertisements

Oberlin – A College Ahead of Its Time

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Oberlin College, founded in 1833 in Northern Ohio, was a college ahead of its time in many ways. In 1835, it became the first college in the United States to regularly admit African Americans. It’s also the oldest co-educational college in the US. In 1837, it admitted four women, three of whom graduated and earned a college degree. Mary Jane Patterson, another Obeberlin graduate, became the first African American woman in 1862 to earn a Bachelor of Arts college degree.

One of Oberlin’s founders once bragged that “Oberlin is peculiar in that which is good”. Oberlin was peculiar in many ways in advancing the causes of the time. Charles Finney, the second president of the college, helped it earn it’s controversial reputation. He was the founder of the Second Great Awakening, a Christian revivalist movement in the early and mid 1800s.

Oberlin College was the hotbed of abolitionist activity and a stop for the Underground Railroad before the Civil War. It was once called “the town that started the Civil War” because of its participation in the Oberlin Wellington Rescue in 1858. Slave catchers came to Oberlin to capture an escaped slave and return him to Kentucky. Most of the town came to the slave’s aid and rescued him. For their trouble, over twenty were arrested and put on trial for violating the Fugitive Slave Act. During the raid on Harper’s Ferry by John Brown, three men from Oberlin participated.

Oberlin College was also well known for the women who graduated from the college and participated in the suffrage and prohibition movements. My new novel Red Sky over America is about a college student there who is involved in the abolitionist movement. Lucy Stone, considered a pioneer for the women’s movement, graduated from Oberlin College in 1847.

Oberlin was also very well known in the missionary movement of the late 1800s. Between 1860 and 1900, 90% of missionaries sent overseas by the American Missionary Society were graduates of Oberlin College. Between 1899 and 1901, thirteen missionaries from Oberlin were martyred during the Boxer Rebellion of China. An arch in Tappan Square at the center of Oberlin pays honor to their sacrifices.

Oberlin is featured in my Ladies of Oberlin Series. Book 1, Red Sky Over America is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Red Sky over America

Ladies of Oberlin, Book 1

William and America confront evil, but will it costs them everything?

 

In 1857, America, the daughter of a slave owner, is an abolitionist and a student at Oberlin College, a school known for its radical ideas. America goes home to Kentucky during school break to confront her father about freeing his slaves.

 

America’s classmate, William, goes to Kentucky to preach abolition to churches that condone slavery. America and William find themselves in the center of the approaching storm sweeping the nation and may not make it home to Ohio or live through the struggle.

 

Red Sky Over America tackles the most turbulent time in history with thorough research and fascinating characters. Tamera Lynn Kraft has woven a tale about the evils of slavery that should never be forgotten. — Mary Ellis, author of The Quaker and the Rebel, The Lady and the Officer, and The Last Heiress.

The Story of the Real Santa Claus

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Santa Claus is a legend loved by millions of children throughout the centuries. While the story of Santa Claus is a myth told to illustrate the spirit of giving at Christmastime, there was a real man named Saint Nicholas.

Nicholas was born in the third century in the village of Patara. When he was born, Patara was a part of Greece. Now it’s located in Turkey. His parents were rich and raised him to be a Christian, but they died when he was young.

He used up his inheritance caring for the needy, the sick, and the suffering. When he was a little still a young man, he was appointed as bishop of Myra and became well known for his generosity to the needy, his love of children, and his care for sailors.

One story tells about three dowerless girls. In that time, girls whose fathers were too poor to provide dowries often had to be sold into slavery. On these three occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home providing enough for the dowries. People suspected Saint Nicholas of leaving the gifts. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas.

The Roman Emperor, Diocletian, persecuted the church. Nicholas was exiled and imprisoned in a prison that was so full of Christians, it didn’t have room for criminals. Eventually he was released and returned to Myra and attended the council of Nicaea in 625.

Nicholas died on December 6, 643. A substance grew on his grave called manna that was reported to heal people. Since then, December 6 has been known as Saint Nicholas Day.

Moravian Missionaries in Colonial Ohio

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Schoenbrunn Village

In the 1770s, Moravian missionaries moved to Ohio from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to settle a village called Schoenbrunn which means Beautiful Spring. Their goal was to bring the Gospel to the Delaware Indians. Delaware Native Americans who converted to Christianity moved into Schoenbrunn to be a part of the Christian community. Within a year, the village grew so large, they started another settlement called Gnadenhutten.

Schoenbrunn, in many ways, was ahead of its time. The settlers of the village, including the Delaware, created their own code of conduct and opened a school. The school taught both boys and girls when other colonial schools at the time only accepted boys. The students learned to read both English and Lenape out of a Bible that was translated in the Lenape language.

The Moravians built a church there with paintings on the walls depicting Biblical scenes. They used these painting to teach about the Bible. They had church every morning and twice on Sunday. On special occasions they would have Lovefeasts where they served coffee, juice, and sweet buns. The Christmas Eve Lovefeasts were the most special and became the forerunner of Christmas Eve candlelight services popular in the US.

The settlement only lasted a few years. When the Revolutionary War broke out, British troops suspected the Moravians of giving information to the colonial army. These charges against them were true. In 1781, Native Americans supporting the British forced the Moravians to relocate to the Sandusky area to protect themselves from reprisals. The British arrested the two leaders of the villages, took them to Detroit, and tried them for treason.

When a group of Christian Lenape went back to Gnadenhutten to harvest their crops, a company of Continental military from Pennsylvania accused them of raiding farms in Pennsylvania. and massacred them. The militia the militia murdered and scalped 28 men, 29 women, and 39 children and burned down the village.

Settlers were outraged by the massacre, but the men were never brought to trial. In 1810, Tecumseh reminded future President William Henry Harrison, “You recall the time when the Jesus Indians of the Delawares lived near the Americans, and had confidence in their promises of friendship, and thought they were secure, yet the Americans murdered all the men, women, and children, even as they prayed to Jesus?”

Schoenbrunn Village is still open today for visitors and tourists to learn about Christian Native Americans and some of the earliest missionaries in America. A Christmas Promise was set in Schoenbrunn Village.

 

The Real History of the Pilgrims

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Thanksgiving is coming soon. There are many facts about America’s spiritual heritage ingrained in the Pilgrims and Puritans. These are some of the facts that children are not taught in school.

Most children are taught that pilgrims came to America to flee religious persecution. That’s not exactly true. Pilgrims and Puritans were persecuted for believing that Christians could have a personal relationship with Jesus separate from the Church of England. But they traveled to Holland to flee the persecution, not America.

So why did they travel to America? There were many reasons, but the main reason is they felt compelled by God to come to America and establish a colony of people that honored God. Many called this colony, New Jerusalem, believing that God had established this new land to spread the gospel to the world. William Bradford wrote in his journal that the motivation came from “a great hope for advancing the kingdom of Christ.”

Pilgrims and Puritans were not the same. Pilgrims were separatists who believed they should separate themselves for the Church of England and the world systems. Puritans believed in working within the system. When they came to America, Puritans wished to set up the government so that religious freedom of expression would be established. Pilgrims wanted freedom of religion so they were free to worship without fear of persecution. Both Pilgrims and Puritans wanted freedom of religion to protect the church from the government, not to protect the government from the church.

Many schools teach that Thanksgiving was a secular celebration. But letters written by the Pilgrims tell a different story. God was such a part of their everyday life that they included God in everything. One such letter states that Thanksgiving was a celebration called so that “God be praised” for what He had brought them through. John Winthrop called New England a City on a Hill in one of his sermon. He, as well as many other Puritans and Pilgrims, believed they had made a covenant with God to be a new nation that was a model of Christianity to the world.

William Bradford believed that America was called to spread the gospel to the world. Since the Pilgrims and Puritans came to America, the United States of America has sent missionaries to more nations and more remote places in the world than any other nation on Earth. Could it be they were right?

The Birth of the Protestant Reformation

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

The 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is tomorrow. On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis entitled Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the church wall and sent a copy to his bishop. In these thesis, Martin Luther challenged the authority of the Pope when he conflicted with Scripture. He also challenged the church’s policy of selling indulgences. An indulgence was a absolution from sin given by a priest. Luther stood on the Scripture in Ephesians 2:8-9. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it isthe gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Many people today don’t understand the courage it took for Martin Luther to make his stand. He risked excommunication and could have been executed. A meeting was held at the Diet of Worms by a council of the church. Luther was threatened with excommunication if he did not recant. Surely Peter’s words to the Pharisees went through his mind as the challenge was issued. Did he obey the church or God?

This was Luther’s answer, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.” He then his arm raised his arm “in the traditional salute of a knight winning a bout.”

Luther hid out after the meeting, fearing retaliation. During his sequester, he translated the New Testament into German. He was excommunicated and the Protestant Reformation was firmly under way. He spent the rest of his life preaching salvation by faith through faith. Luther wasn’t the best role model of a Christian. His anti-semitism and faulty doctrine left scars on his legacy, but he stood strong in the face of persecution.

Luther wasn’t the only reformer at the time in a sea of men and women who stood for the truth of Scripture and faced of persecution, imprisonment, and death. Through it all, the reformation led the world out of the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. Science, art, and theology flourished. The Bible was translated into many European languages and the Gospel was spread throughout the known world.

Sarah Edwards – The Mother of the Great Awakening

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Sarah Edwards is often overlooked when the First Great Awakening of the 1700s is mentioned, but her legacy and contribution to her husband’s ministry are enormous.  Over fourteen hundred descendants of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards have been traced in 1900 by A.E. Winship. Of these, fourteen became college presidents, roughly one hundred became professors, another one hundred ministers, and about the same number became lawyers or judges. Nearly sixty became doctors, and others were authors or editors.

Sarah Pierpont was born in 1710. Her father, James Pierpont, was one of the founders of Yale University. Sarah was known for her love of God at an early age. When she was 13, Jonathan attended Yale at age 16. He would often wait outside Pierpont’s church to catch a glimpse of her. He had this to say about her.

They say there is a young lady in New Haven who is loved of that Great Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this Great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight; and that she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on Him…You could not persuade her to do any thing wrong or sinful, if you would give her all the world, lest she should offend this Great Being. She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness, and universal benevolence of mind; especially after this Great God has manifested himself to her mind. She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure…She loves to be alone… and seems to have some one invisible always conversing with her.”

Sarah Pierrepont married Jonathan Edwards on July 28, 1727 at the age of 17. Jonathan was serious and scholarly. Sarah was beautiful and enjoyed conversation. As far as their personalities, they couldn’t be further apart, but what attracted them to each other is their love for God.

Jonathan and Sarah had 11 children, 3 sons and 8 daughters. She prayed consistently for her children and was known for her parenting skills. She treated her children with gentleness and firmness. Although Jonathan contributed with child-rearing, making sure he spent at least one hour with the children every day when he wasn’t traveling, most of the parenting was done by Sarah. All of their sons became pastors, and their daughters married pastors.

Jonathan was also known as being absent-minded, spending as much as 13 hours a day in study, so Sarah was responsible for maintaining the household and keeping things going.One remarkable thing for that time period was Jonathan’s attitude toward Sarah. He valued her intelligence and not only relied on her to manage his personal affairs, but she also helped him with the ministry.

In 1734-1735, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Northampton and the surrounding ares erupted. Jonathan was at the center of that outpouring, but Sarah experienced it too. Jonathan asked his wife to write a testimony about her experience, and she wrote a long one. One phrased she used to describe it was being “swallowed up in God”.

When George Whitefield, Great Awakening preacher, visited Jonathan and Sarah Edwards in 1730, he said, “A sweeter couple I have not yet seen” and wrote about the peaceful home Sarah had created and how she freely talked about the things of God. He called her a perfect helpmeet for her husband and determined to get married himself.

In 1750, Sarah was by Jonathan’s side when he struggled with the congregation at Northampton Church. He would not allow the members of his church to take communion unless they had a salvation experience. This angered many of them because the town council had to be communicants of the Congregational Church to hold on to their government positions. The last pastor, Solomon Stoddard who was Jonathan Edwards’ grandfather, had allowed anyone to take communion regardless of their salvation.

Many in the church came against Jonathan when he asked for a raise in his stipend due to rising costs. The church said they would only consent after investigating the Edwards’ material affairs. Some were outraged that their extravagant minister had two wigs and two teapots! Jonathan denied possessing even one wig although he did admit they had several teapots. The congregation used this excuse to fire him.

Edwards was still in high demand and in 1751, became pastor of the church in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and a missionary to the Housatonic Indians. In 1757, Jonathan became President of the College of New Jersey, now known as Princeton. 

Jonathan died on March 22, 1758 when he contracted smallpox. He was out of town, so Sarah couldn’t be with him. He did leave a deathbed message for her. Over a year later, Sarah became ill during an epidemic and died at the age of 49.

Sarah was a woman who loved God, her husband, and her children. In many ways, she was a woman who was ahead of her time. She left a legacy that is still alive today.