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From his column Past to Present

past-to-present-11-13-1“It is always impossible to separate the man and the message. Brother W. G. Schurman has made such progress in his prayer life within the last few years that his friends have been impressed and have repeatedly asked him to speak on the subject at the campmeetings and conventions. He has a good message, but one has to know the man to fully appreciate it.” With these words, an editor introduced Schurman’s book, Helps for the Prayer Life (1930).

Wenford G. Schurman was born in Acadia Mines (now Londonderry), Nova Scotia, in 1871, and grew up in a community where the livelihood of thousands depended on the local iron ore mines and steel industry.

He moved to Wakefield, Mass., at 21, finding work with the Brackett Shoe Company. During meetings conducted in 1894 by Joseph Webber, the “cyclone evangelist” from the Midwest, Schurman was converted and joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. He quickly became an active layman.

The shoe company moved to Nashua, N.H. There, Schurman met Grace Walker. They married in 1897 and grew a large family.

He professed entire sanctification in 1900 and united the next year with a holiness church in Lowell, Mass., affiliated with the Nazarene parent body in the East. He was licensed to preach in 1904. While working days, he studied nights to prepare for the ministry.

In November 1904, the church at Lynn, Mass., called him as supply pastor.[1] Evidently he pleased them, for they soon made him their regular pastor, and he remained for five years. A year later it was necessary to “buy 50 more song books” for the growing membership.[2] In mid-1906, the church board voted to raise his salary to sixteen dollars a week, to take immediate effect.[3] A parsonage was built, and Schurman supported the local Florence Crittendon maternity home for unwed mothers by helping it purchase a building.[4]

Schurman followed Howard Eckel as pastor of the church at Haverhill, Mass., in October 1909. A local newspaper noted that Schurman “speaks in a most convincing manner.” In two years, church membership grew from 85 to 117. He remained at Haverhill until Dec. 31, 1915, receiving at least 154 new members during his tenure. And, by the time he left Massachusetts, he had conducted revival meetings in almost every New England state, parts of eastern Canada, and had organized churches in New Hampshire.[5]

He began the year 1916 in Olivet, Ill., as superintendent of the Chicago Central District, embracing Illinois and Wisconsin. That summer, he told the district assembly: “I discovered that the District Superintendent’s job on the Chicago Central District was a different proposition than that on the New England District.” He found the district “largely unorganized” and learned “we would have to do pioneer work ourselves.” He held revivals and derived income through the offerings. Soon, he was booked for nearly a year in advance. By September, he had traveled four thousand miles, preached 295 times in 244 days, dedicated two church buildings and organized five new churches. [6]

His district report the following year noted that he had preached an average of once a day and three times on the Sabbath—despite the fact he had devoted entire weeks to helping Olivet University stave off financial crisis by serving as the college’s treasurer. Still, he could report “we have succeeded in bringing in thousands of dollars in cash for the running expenses of the school.”[7] He declined re-election to his office.

Pastoral ministry was Schurman’s real passion, and he happily left district administration to be Chicago First Church’s associate pastor. Within months, he was its senior pastor.

A Chicago newspaper noted that “Schurman is pastor of a large church, and he fits the job. He has a message that appeals and grips. His delivery is simple and forceful. His interpretation of the Scripture is clear and often startling.” A source described him as “Lincolnian in height and build, sterling in character . . . patient with faulty humanity, but sternly uncompromising toward sin.”[8]

One issue of the congregation’s monthly paper depicts Schurman and the associate pastors, F. M. Messenger and Stella Crooks, with these words in bold letters: “A Great Revival Church.” Another issue advertised “The Livest Young People’s Meeting in Town.”[9]

Anniversary booklets state that “from the very first he was loved by the entire congregation,” and that “many, many people united with the church during Rev. Schurman’s ministry, and thousands of seekers knelt at the altar.”[10] Peers in other denominations recognized his leadership, and he was president of the Englewood Ministerial Association for several years.

Schurman contributed regularly to Herald of Holiness and The Preacher’s Magazine. The Nazarene Pulpit, a sermon anthology, noted that he remained “the favorite preacher with his people [even after] the strongest evangelist leaves.”According to Jarette Aycock, Schurman received 1,200 members in his career and baptized 350.[11]

He was a ministerial delegate to the First General Assembly in Chicago (1907) and to each subsequent General Assembly up through the Eighth, held in Wichita in 1932—a clear mark of the esteem in which he was held by colleagues and laity.

Schurman grew ill just a few weeks after attending his last General Assembly, and died on August 16, 1932.

Stan Ingersol is a Church historian and manager of the Nazarene Archives.

[1] Minutes of the Official Board of the Pentecostal Church, Lynn, Massachusetts, 52.

[2] Ibid, 63.

[3] Ibid, 67.

[4] Haverhill Evening Gazette (Nov. 25, 1911), transcribed in the Secretary’s Book, First Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene, Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1-4.

[5] Ibid, 2-3.

[6] Proceedings, Chicago Central District, 1916, 27-28.

[7] Proceedings, Chicago Central District, 1917, 31-32.

[8] Chicago Heights Star, May 24, 1923, 1; Annual Directory, First Church of the Nazarene, Oct. 1934, 28.

[9] Liberty Bells, Jan. 1919, 1; and Ibid, Mar. 1920, 12.

[10] 40th Anniversary, First Church of the Nazarene, 1944, 8; and 75 Years, 1904-1979, 3.

[11] The Young People’s Journal, Dec. 1932, 8.

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