The Dominie: Herbert S Mekeel, his Clergy Conscripts,
and their impact on the Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1935 – 1979
A Donald MacLeod, Research Professor, Tyndale Theological Seminary, Toronto
A paper presented to the Canadian Society of Presbyterian History
29 September, 2007
By any reckoning Herbert Surface Mekeel was one of the most remarkable Presbyterian ministers of the Twentieth Century. For forty-one years he served as senior pastor of First Church, Schenectady New York. In that time he founded nine satellite congregations, received three honourary degrees, and sent (by actual count1) two-hundred and thirty-five men into the Christian ministry. He was a significant figure in the post Second World War evangelical renaissance, helping briefly in the establishment of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California as dean of the school and being a founding member of the National Association of Evangelicals which in 1958-1960 he served as President.
Almost singlehandedly Herbert Mekeel provided a vision of renewed parish life. Coming in 1937 to a congregation with a long and proud history he helped to establish two churches: those who came to faith under his challenging ministry and the others who left in disgust at his theology and helped strengthen the liberal but failing First Reformed Church two blocks away. Upper New York state, as Mekeel would often note, was part of the “burnt-over district” where a surfeit of nineteenth century Finney evangelistic techniques had left a sour taste to any evidences of evangelical religion. What is more it was commonly felt that Albany Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) was the launchpad for the latest fad from denominational headquarters. 475 Riverside Drive in Manhattan, overlooking the Hudson River, was the launch for so-called innovative programs that were (to quote one long time First Church member) “floated down river to Albany.” It was one of the most liberal judicatories in the denomination.
This vision of renewed mainline churches impacted Canada through the fifteen men that Mekeel sent to study, and in most cases to be ordained, in the Presbyterian Church in Canada, mostly during the 1950s. Singlehandedly the influx of students from Schenectady to Presbyterian College Montreal in that mid-decade significantly boosted enrolment there and kept the school viable. But Mekeel’s links with Canada went back much earlier. He had served two of the largest churches in the denomination on an interim or associate basis in the 1930s. In spite of the difficulties of these short but tempestuous links, he encouraged young men to go north to Canada because he saw in the Presbyterian Church in Canada a more conservative church that would provide openings for his recruits that the Presbytery of Albany increasingly spurned.
As an adult Herbert Mekeel was never called by even his closest associates “Herbert” or “Herb”. From the earliest days of his ministry, it would appear, he chose to be designated as “The Dominie” – a Dutch term of respect for the clergy. He was a challenging, probing, some said dictatorial, individual who kept his private life distinctly separate from his public persona. Mekeel was full of paradoxes. A lonely man, he was surrounded by adoring congregants. A prude when it came to anything sexual and a lifelong bachelor, women found him irresistible. He was 6′ 3″ tall, had steel gray hair from his youth, and was the kind of person who stood out in the crowd. Even into his sixties he was still on the wave-length of the young.
You said “No” to the Dominie at your peril. He always had a plan for your life. He worked on the premise that if God had not specifically told you not to be a minister then the Almighty had called you to become a pastor. No one could doubt the intensity of his religious convictions. His prayers in the conduct of worship were indescribable, lifting one to the heights of heaven2. His preaching was passionate, authoritative (some said authoritarian), and convicting. It was Mekeel who placed behind his pulpit the inscription, visible only to the preacher, “Sirs we would see Jesus” which is now seenin churches all over North America. You never walked away from his services without a challenge. He was a man of robust individuality, deep conviction, and penetrating gaze.
Though regarded as an intellectual (even by his critics), he had only one academic degree, a B.A. he received in classics from the University of Michigan in 1927. His theological training was spotty at best. He attended Biblical Seminary in New York City for two years, and then proceeding to Andover Newton Theological School in 1932, a year after the union between Andover (Congregational) and Newton (Baptist) at the height of the Depression. Biblical Seminary emphasized the English Bible, Andover Newton after the amalgamation was in a state of disarray. After two years of incomplete study there he left that institution without a degree. He received leave from his congregation in 1955 to complete doctoral work at the University of Edinburgh, joining a plethora of Americans who overwhelmed Hugh Watt with requests for thesis subjects. He never completed his dissertation. His three doctoral degrees were all honoris causa. But he read widely, studied the New Testament in the original language, and had eight thousand books in his library which overflowed from his study in the church to stacks below in the basement.
Theologically the Dominie was hard to categorize. He was by no means Reformed, and he appears to have had little stomach for theological argument. His visceral reaction to the liberalism of the 1920s and 1930s expressed itself more in a personal piety which owed much to several of his favourite writers, particularly mystics like Madame Guyon and the contemporary A. W. Tozer. His preaching was solidly Biblical but lacked the in-depth textual analysis of an exegete, in spite of his familiarity with Greek. His vast library reflected his tastes: a few commentaries but heavy on the historical and biographical.3
Canada formed a kind of leit-motif throughout the Dominie’s life. He was born in the border city of Detroit on Valentine’s Day 1904. His parents were, by the standards of the time, elderly when they married, and Mekeel as their only child was born to a mother then aged forty-four. It was an intense relationship: he was described recently as a “mommy’s boy, tied to his mother’s apron strings.”4 The Mekeel family appear to have had worshipped in the old Christian and Missionary Alliance Achurch@5 at the corner of Forest Avenue and Second Boulevard. There, while barely out of his teens, Herbert Mekeel published several sensational booklets focussing on Bible prophecy and demon possession which he later suppressed.6
Though details are sketchy Mekeel once stated that he had started his post secondary education at the University of Toronto and at McMaster, then close neighbors. A friend was later to describe those difficult days: AThis young man lost his father at a time when he needed him most, and he has had quite a struggle to put himself through university, and in spite of the many obstacles he has had to face has been a credit to himself.7 In spite of the fact that his father was a lawyer they seem to have lived in considerable financial distress. He returned home to complete studies at the University of Michigan. After serving for two years as an instructor in Ann Arbor, Mekeel went on to Manhattan to the Biblical Seminary. There he met one of the faculty, Andrew Rule Osborn8, who would make him a Presbyterian and bring him to Canada.
Andrew Osborn was an Australian Presbyterian minister who immigrated to North America in the late 1920s and in 1932 secured an earned doctorate of divinity at Presbyterian College, Montreal9. That was the year he was invited to fill the pulpit of First Presbyterian Church, Edmonton, made vacant by the death two years earlier of D. G. McQueen10. McQueen had established the church on the banks of the Saskatchewan River back in 1887 and served there for forty-three years, in the pulpit until his death at seventy-six. Describing First as “an important church” in a letter to Mekeel11 Osborn reported that a congregational meeting that was to consider a call was to be held later that day. A further meeting was summoned for the lecture hall, but so many turned up that they had to go into auditorium of the church. They were unanimous and enthusiastic and I felt it was my best course to settle here. So instead of professor I am minister of the First Presbyterian Church, Edmonton. It is a good church. The building cost $250,000. I have large congregations on Sunday both morning and evening and there is every prospect of building up a very strong and influential church.12
Mekeel left Biblical Seminary in 1932, transferring to Andover Newton Theological School in suburban Boston, Osborn was increasingly aware that First Church Edmonton was badly run down: the ravages of church union, the loss of young people, and a pastor who though an icon had stayed on too long, all having taken their toll. He wrote asking Mekeel to be his assistant and help to attract young people. Things started to improve in the church: by February of 1933 he was reporting that the sanctuary Ais always well filled, and it holds over 1500. But he quickly adds AI can do little until I have additional assistance.@ He continued AThere is a difficulty in regard to yourself by reason of the fact that you are not a Presbyterian. I do not know that you would even desire to come to Canada, nor that you would care to become a Presbyterian. I do not feel I could advise you on the matter. I am inclined to think that the Presbyterian Church is the one that would offer you most opportunity.13 It was an advice Mekeel was often to give his young men in later years.
By the spring of 1935 Mekeel had succumbed to Osborn=s entreaties. AI really believe there is the possibility of an awakening here, Osborn wrote him encouragingly14. On May 1 he informs him that Athe immigration agent here called me to know if some suspicious character known as Mekeel was seeking to enter the British Empire. Ottawa had wanted a full check up.@ Not only was Mekeel, on Osborn=s urging, entering Canada. He was becoming a Presbyterian minister. As a student minister (connected with the Salem Baptist Association) he had been serving the First United Church (Baptist and Disciples) in Swampscott, MA but now he needed speedy ordination. He approached the clerk of the Presbytery of Boston (Presbyterian USA), Earl van Zandt, who later recalled (relying on his memory as he had destroyed the correspondence) that AHe asked us to receive him as a member of this Presbytery and then dismiss him to the Presbyterian Church in Canada. After lengthy discussion, the Presbytery agreed to this by a very close vote, and received and dismissed him the very same meeting.15 AI had expected to be treated,@ Mekeel wrote his mentor16, like a heathen and a publican and to be displayed as an ignoramus, especially with my dislike for speculative thinking. Instead they ordained me without dissent, C and that considering that some of our views were poles apart.17
Ordained on Sunday, 10 May 1935, in what he described as a Abrief but dull service by ministers of the two denominations@18 he left to spend the summer in Edmonton two days later. On arrival he was interviewed by Session, who were assured by Osborn that his inquiries in Montreal (where he was a commissioner to General Assembly that year) provided no available Canadian alternative. The elders passed a resolution in Osborn=s absence (by now he was in New York recuperating from a busy year19) AThat we engage The Rev Herbert S. Mekeel as assistant minister until he is accepted by the General Assembly of the church next June.@20 At the end of the summer Mekeel returned to Boston. Delays ensued, and by November an anxious Osborn was complaining that AI have had to limit my activities. I find that I cannot manage as much as I did. The Sunday School is under the direction of Dr. Gillespie and Prof. Adam. Generally the whole of the young people=s work is chaotic. So I am hoping that you will be here by the middle of January at the latest … I am wondering whether it would be a good idea to have a series of sermons for young people during February.21 Ten days later he wrote, AAs you know my intention is that you shall become the real minister of the Church as soon as the way is open.22
This assurance proved later to be a recipe for disaster. Mekeel duly arrived in February and by May Osborn, again away in New York for his health, was writing Mekeel reclaiming his pulpit. His position as senior minister was increasingly being challenged. An undated petition about that time, addressed to the Presbytery of Edmonton, assails him for Ausing the pulpit as a political forum or arena for the discussion of politics instead of a gospel message.@23 AThe above preaching has brought to many of the congregation distress of mind, resulting in cancellation of subscriptions and absence from Church attendance. He was accused of modernism for a series titled ‘Man the Unknown”‘ and undiplomatically saying that “the congregation of First Presbyterian Church is asleep” and “the Presbyterian Church in Canada has no program.” Mrs. McQueen also seems to have been a powerful – and according to Osborn a divisive – influence. And Osborn was feeling decidedly uncomfortable in the presence of a younger, more popular, minister who was able to draw crowds to the church and whose preaching was so compelling and evangelical.
Mekeel was duly received as a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Canada at the 1936 General Assembly and on 24 June 1936 was inducted as Associate Minister of First Church Edmonton. Trouble was brewing, however. By 26 August Mekeel chaired an emergency Session meeting because Aa number of our young people desire to go out from our Church in Christian service.@ Osborn was not keen on their going out Awithout sufficient training.24 As the fissure between the two ministers grew larger, Mekeel received an invitation to speak at a young people=s meeting in St Andrew’s Ottawa and left 17 September. In an apparently friendly farewell letter Osborn said “All I can do therefore is to hope you will have a good time “and then added ominously “It will be all right, if you wish to stay a little longer to complete your B. D. work.”25
Three weeks later the Session of St Andrew’s Ottawa was requesting the appointment of Mekeel for three months, Asuch service to commence as early in November as you could conveniently make the necessary arrangements, and provided of course that your own Kirk Session would grant you the necessary leave of absence.26 Permission was duly granted for a three month leave of absence. It was a good time for Mekeel to absent himself from First Church: Osborn, through a group of supporters known as the Open Forum Club, had drafted27 a memorial against Mekeel that was submitted to the Session for transmission to Presbytery on 11 December.
AWe, your petitioners, are loyal to the standards and government of our Presbyterian Church and we ask you to help us to restore that government to our congregation.28 Attitudes were hardening: the church secretary, a young woman who was one of his supporters wrote, Ahe said a lot of nasty things about you … He also does not approve of Stacy (sic) Woods.” She continued “Even the Governor-general [John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir] spoke of you when he was here, telling some one that they, meaning Ottawa people, were going to have both you and your bride.29 Gossip says also that you are to stay in Ottawa for good. So do not be downhearted see what good fortune has in store for you.30
The Clerk of the Presbytery of Edmonton, F. D. Roxburgh, a friend of Mekeel’s, refused to allow the court to hear the memorial without his being present. Sam Niven, Session Clerk, received a letter from Mekeel early in the new year: AI love the church and its people, even those who dislike me, although they would not believe that. The hard and bitter struggle through which you and Alice and the others who love the Gospel is more than I realize, and I only wish it had not been my misfortune to be the focus of the trouble. However, such an antagonist might have aroused a storm sooner or later and the trouble cannot wholly be mine.31 At the annual congregational meeting an expression of the thanks of the congregation to Mekeel was sent on to St Andrew=s Ottawa. The petition was withdrawn32 and Mekeel’s resignation, left in the hands of the Session Clerk (which gave such offence) on departure for Ottawa, was accepted at the February meeting of Presbytery. A beautiful “From Friends in First Presbyterian Church Edmonton Alberta”, containing 240 signatures, was mailed to him. A First Church elder quoting “faithful are the wounds of a friend”, advised Mekeel “Be tolerant with both fellow ministers and people your impulsiveness sometimes makes you forget. I do not like modernists any better than you do. I have learned by experience some parts of their teaching is clear and helpful to mystified minds.”33
An outflanked Andrew Osborn resigned in March and left Edmonton three months later, his wife preceding him. Seven years later he wrote a former congregant: “I was glad to have Mr. Mekeel=s help, but unfortunately his ambition was to rule the church. While I was absent on my vacation, his mother and he visited members of the congregation telling them that I had persecuted him. I am incapable of persecuting anybody, but Mr. Mekeel has Hitler’s gift of attributing to others the things he does himself. What disappointed me was that people who must have known that Mr. Mekeel was not telling the truth turned against me … I can understand the tactics of Hitler and Goebbels, for they were practised in Edmonton.” 34 The Dominie had the letter, sent on to him, notarized and kept in his files. But there is no indication that he ever took legal action for libel. That was not his approach though he carefully mustered all the facts.
His year and a half in Edmonton was to be a formative experience for Herbert Mekeel and defined the rest of his ministry and influenced directly his subsequent mentoring of the young men (and a few women) he brought into ministry. Patterns were discernible there that he developed later: three young women sent to Vancouver Bible Training School, one at least of whom went out under the China Inland Mission in 1940, his earliest missionary recruit35.They were supported by a Training School Account that he had Session set up at First Church36. And the fierce loyalties he inspired were to continue throughout the rest of his life, as well as strident opposition to his strongly held convictions. But in his response he was always the gentleman.
Meanwhile the Dominie had arrived in Ottawa. It appears that St Andrew=s heard of him through Francis F. Burpee, Clerk of Session, who visited Edmonton frequently on court business and had relatives in the city. Mekeel=s first services at St Andrew=s were 27 September and communion on 4 October 193637. He had been also telegraphed by Ottawa Presbytery Presbyterian Young Peoples Society (PYPS) to conduct a week of “young peoples evangelical memberships drive services” during the intervening week.38 Our aim, the telegram went on, “is to bring the young people to a saving knowledge of Christ and interest them in their church. The meetings were an unqualified success: four young women, including significantly Moira Leathem, wrote to Mekeel’s mother: “It is impossible to put into words the encouragement and inspiration he has brought us, and the high goal he has set before us.”39
ASo impressed were we with his sincerity and the love of the Gospel he was preaching, that we asked him to remain for a period of some months, Judge J F McKinley recalled40 later. “In all my experience I have never seen a man who worked as hard as pastor, who visited the sick as much, or brought as much comfort into the homes of those in need, as this young man did. Mekeel built the evening service up from fifty when he came to two hundred by the time he left, organized a softball league which brought the young people out, continued to recruit Aseveral young people for the mission fields. On 3 February 1937 the St Andrew=s Session continued his contract until 31 May41. The highlight of his time at St Andrew’s was his conducting a special service commemorating George VI’s coronation 9 May, 1937, as acting minister.42
But there was soon to be trouble. W. H. Leathem43, who had come from Scotland to serve St Andrew=s after the congregation lost its minister through church union, succumbed to cancer at Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, on 23 February after a long illness44. Mekeel was asked to preach at Knox Church so that the minister, Robert Johnston, could bring comfort to his neighbouring congregation in their grief. He also spoke at the funeral. Johnston, moderator of the 1932 General Assembly, later reflected. “My duties as Interim Moderator brought me in close touch with Mr Mekeel and enables me to form a judgment about him. Lest I would be considered unfair I shall omit to express that judgment. This I do know that both in Edmonton and Ottawa he was the storm centre of divisions.”45 A minister in Belleville sniffed: “Mekeel is very strongly entrenched” and went on to indicate why he was unfit to receive the call: “he must be not only minister of St Andrew=s but also the minister of the Presbyterian Church in Canada whom we can send to represent us in the Old Country where scholarship counts, and to the United States where we can show that the Canadian Church holds second candle to none.”46
Johnston=s disapproval of Mekeel soon became an issue in the congregation. At a Session meeting on 21 September 1937 he was attacked by Judge McKinley. He wrote Mekeel: “I said I was surprised that a Moderator of our Session, and a past Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, doing such a thing, and ended up with the words, shame on you, shame on you.”47 On 7 October members of Presbytery had a long meeting with Johnston and asked him to resign. There was a brief flurry at the same time as “the ministers of Ottawa Presbytery informed our PYPS Provincial Executive that because of certain feeling in Ottawa they do not think it advisable for us to have you on our Convention program.”48 Their refusal to cooperate meant that 700 young people would not have billets for the Thanksgiving weekend. A compromise was finally worked out and Mekeel spoke as he had the previous year to a wildly enthusiastic group. A motion was almost passed asking the presbytery to remove Johnston as Interim Moderator.
The previous day the Ottawa papers announced that Herbert S Mekeel had been called to First Presbyterian Church, Schenectady, New York, a church founded when the United States were still thirteen colonies. During the summer Mekeel had moved back to the Boston area, his contract with St Andrew=s Ottawa having expired on 30 May. Inquiries from Schenectady were initiated in August, Referee Judge McKinley wrote the chair of the pulpit committee, Robert E. Rugen, that “you will make no mistake in appointing Rev Herbert S Mekeel to your pulpit, and if you so decide and you get behind him, I venture to say you won=t recognize your own congregation in twelve months, when his true worth becomes known, not only to the members of your church, but the citizens of Schenectady.49 Bob Rugen, an engineer at General Electric (“GE”) was one of the first to embrace Mekeel’s warm evangelical faith.
On 6 October 1937 the Ottawa Journal announced that “Rev. H. Mekeel Accepts Call.” It continued: “Mr. Mekeel left Ottawa in May after having been suply (sic) minister for six months, during which time he made many friends here who will be pleased to learn of the call extended him.50 Russell Dick, a prominent Ottawa lawyer journeyed south the next month. “Our trip to Schenectady,” he reported to Mekeel on his return, “was full of hazards, and we were all glad to arrive home safely as the roads were in a very bad condition. It gave us an opportunity of seeing not only the church buildings, but your people, and to see that you were in good hands. I do hope that you will not have any trouble such as you experienced in Ottawa, as that is enough for one lifetime.”51 The Dominie was to remain in Schenectady for forty-one years, finally retiring at the age of seventy-five.
There was one final bizarre twist in the Ottawa saga. Even after the call to Schenectady went through, his Ottawa friends would not accept his loss and actively campaigned to bring him back to St. Andrew’s. Session moved that Mekeel be considered “a suitable and desirable Minister of St Andrew’s Ottawa. ” A dissent noted that “His preaching is not acceptable to certain members of St. Andrew=s. We believe him to be an alien under our laws and none but British Subjects have ever been ministers in St. Andrew=s which has received and still derives assistance from Crown Grants. He has evidently found it very difficult to co-operate with the Ministers in either of the Canadian Presbyteries in which he has been located. ” Clarence Pitts’s name was at the top of the signatures of eight elders including, surprisingly, Mekeel’s erstwhile advocate Francis Burpee.
It is interesting to speculate as to what went on both in Edmonton and Ottawa with Mekeel. Both pulpits were trophies of the anti-Unionist cause. Both were regarded as “plums” in the Presbyterian Church in Canada. A gifted but young, outspoken, and some would say abrasive, American upstart, sparked both resentment and jealousy. Though in his early days D G McQueen, a protege of James Robertson, was evangelical in theology and possessed missionary zeal, increasingly and almost inevitably time mired him in that institutional Christianity that was typified by the quarter of a million dollar cathedral his congregation built in 1912. Gifted William Leathem, in spite of his daughter Moira’s conversion experience under Mekeel, was conservative and very establishment. He had come from the Church of Scotland and it was only after 1929 that the union between it and the United Free Church brought in a more evangelical constituency. Though Irish he played the Scottish and British card to the hilt. Mekeel was a striking contrast to both men which goes a long way to explain his enthusiastic acceptance by the young, and the cool reaction to his boyish charm by an older constituency who guarded the traditions of the Kirk, particularly after 1925. It was a predictable clash, emblematic of the psychology of the post-Union church. It is interesting to speculate on what would have been Mekeel’s impact on either congregation and on the denomination had he received a call..
Mekeel was inducted by the Presbytery of Albany on 16 December 1937 as minister of First Presbyterian Church, Schenectady, New York, established 1760. The congregation was one of the most prestigious and historic congregations within its bounds. First Church numbered among its constituency the social elite of upper New York state, many of whom were members of the Mohawk Club down the street. When asked why the church would call such a maverick minister, one of them later said52 that Mekeel had two things going for him: he preached well, providing a polished, intellectually challenging, discourse, but – even more importantly – he had good manners. He behaved, in spite of growing up in reduced circumstances (and thanks to his mother), impeccably and had mastered the fine art of Emily Post etiquette. He was courtly, a true gentleman, who always deferred to the ladies.
Historic Union College was less than a mile away from the church and, as he had elsewhere, Mekeel made an immediate approach to students on the campus. He had connected with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship while in Edmonton, knew Stacey Woods (whom Osborn did not approve of), and encouraged the movement as it entered the United States. American Charles Troutman, on IVCF staff in Canada, became the advance party, and on 9 and 10 November 1938 had lengthy conversations with Mekeel about the future of the movement should it come south53. Mekeel, as the minister of a prestigious mainline church, with a growing student constituency in his congregation, provided IVCF with needed credibility, particularly among the clergy, as it pushed south. Schenectady became, and remained for many years, an IVCF beachhead.
As students flocked to First Church, it did not take long for Mekeel to establish the same kind of administrative structure that he had in Edmonton for the encouragement of persons into “full-time Christian service” An Education Committee of Session was set up in 1939. The following year four students, each of them twenty or twenty-one years of age, met with the committee in Mekeel’s study. They were the first fruits of Mekeel’s aggressive recruitment of men to go into the ministry. Collister54, McKeefery55, McMillen56, and Wallace57 all went to Princeton Seminary. They were the start of a swelling tide. Engineers at General Electric – at its peak during the war there were 30,000 of them – were warned that Athat minister at First Church was out to get them into the ministry. By 1945, legend had it, when Princeton Seminary students gathered in Miller Chapel were asked how many came from First Church, Schenectady, two rows responded58.
On 6 June 1945 the Presbytery of Albany ordained three of them, two going immediately to serve under the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions in Persia, as Iran was then known. Among others in that famous class was Christy Wilson, about to join IVCF staff as missionary secretary and establish the first Urbana in Toronto the following Christmas. Christy went to Afghanistan in 1951 where he served for twenty-two years, all the time remaining Minister extra muros in Schenectady. He returned home when the Kabul International Church, just built, was razed on orders of his friend the shah, rightly concerned for his future as monarch.
It was inevitable that educational institutions would want Mekeel. He served on the boards of Albany Bible Institute, Gordon College and Divinity School, and was asked in the summer of 1947 by his friend Harold Ockenga to join the fledgling Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California59. He joined the faculty two years later as Dean and acting Professor of Practical Theology. With only an undergraduate degree, it was a tribute to his reputation as a compelling pastor and preacher. Mekeel, however, only lasted a year. Afraid of losing his ecclesiastical connection – Los Angles Presbytery was an implacable enemy of the new school – he returned to Schenectady after a year. It was basically an out for him: he was not particularly popular with some students60, and longed to get back into a responsive and caring parish.61
The scene was now set for Mekeel’s extraordinary engagement with Canadian Presbyterian theological institutions. Mekeel cast his eye northward, partly out of frustration with continual hassles with American Presbyterian judicatories, ongoing conflicts over the satellite churches he was founding in the presbytery, and opportunities for paying student ministerial positions which would help fund some of the older married candidates which didn’t exist in the United States. He also found the Canadian church more conservative and thus (in spite of his conflicts in Edmonton and Ottawa) assumed that they would be more hospitable and welcoming.
In the autumn of 1952 three students from Schenectady arrived at Knox College to take their final year of theology. Two of them were from Fuller Theological Seminary, stymied by the refusal of the Presbytery of Los Angeles to allow them to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA). The third came from Princeton Seminary where he was encountering difficulties with Albany Presbytery. Stuart Merriam had grown up in First Church, graduated from Union College (where he was an active IVCF member) in 1950 and had taken two years at Princeton. At the time of Mekeel’s death he described him as Amy spiritual father having influenced my life far more than anyone could possibly realize.62 Merriam left Canada on graduation, his only experience in the Canadian church being service on a student mission field in Prince Edward Island.
The other two who came from the West Coast would both be ordained, on graduation from Knox College, in the Presbyterian Church in Canada and accept ordained missionary appointments with the General Board of Missions. John Mickelsen, a General Electric engineer, had completed three years at Fuller but lacked credits in Hebrew and church history. Mekeel sent him to Knox to make up his deficiencies. He was appointed to Melfort, Saskatchewan, where he remained for four years before transferring back to the American church63.
The other, Ray Rollins, an ex GI from Buffalo, encountered Mekeel while a student at Renssellaer Institute of Technology in nearby Troy. He attended Mekeel=s class for college students held each Sunday prior to the morning service, and through Mekeel=s influence was brought back to faith after abandoning his childhood fundamentalism while in the military. He noted that Mekeel “devoted his whole life to his students.”64 He joined First Church, was married by the Dominie65 and having graduated from Renssellaer mid-year was encouraged to get his Greek during a semester at Faith Seminary, a Carl McIntire school in suburban Philadelphia. He then went on to Fuller for two years. He had wanted to go to Afghanistan as an instructor in an engineering school set up by Christians in that limited-access country. When the founder, Dick Gordon, met with him and explained the health risks to his wife who had had a difficult pregnancy, they decided against going. Mekeel encouraged him to take his final year of theology and sent him to Knox. Rollins accepted an appointment to Barney=s River, Pictou Presbytery, remaining there three years. He left the ministry, demitted his ordination, and taught engineering in Buffalo and then worked with the US Navy in the Washington DC area.
Sending the three to Knox College was an experiment by the Dominie to discover alternatives to the impasse he was experiencing in the United States with seminaries and judicatories. Rollins was not positive about the experience. He found that while Faith Seminary had a right-wing party line, he discovered that Knox similarly had a left-wing party line and was “unwilling to raise uncomfortable questions that challenged assumptions by the faculty.” This he contrasted unfavourably with the openness of Fuller Seminary.
So Mekeel looked increasingly to Presbyterian College, Montreal. He had already sent in 1951 Fred Woodberry66, son of First Church missionaries Ada and Earle Sr., to Montreal to study at Presbyterian College, along with Don Wilson67 and Jim Ranes68. Woodberry=s future brother-in-law Alvin Desterhaft had also been encouraged to go there but withdrew after a few days69. Ranes, Wilson and Woodberry, graduated from Presbyterian College Montreal on 28 April 1953 and, along with Richard Roberts70, were all ordained by the Presbytery of Albany the following day. Principal Robert Lennox preached the sermon. Ranes, Wilson, and Woodberry were the vanguard of at least a dozen students from First Church Schenectady who registered at Presbyterian College during the 1950s. One year (1956-7) they formed the majority of the graduating class. The Dominie thought that he could cooperate with Principal Lennox and turn Presbyterian College into the Fuller of the east, Ed Hart (one of the twelve) explained recently71, with a wry tone in his voice.
In the academic year 1953-1954 there were David Hostetter, and Earle Roberts, listed as Aspecial students. Hostetter grew up in India where his parents were missionaries with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He went to their training college at Nyack on the Hudson River. Mekeel had the Alliance in his blood and was welcome at the school and a link formed. Hostetter worked with Albany Child Evangelism and went up to Montreal and, on graduation in 1954, was appointed as ordained missionary to Valleyfield, Quebec, and soon was starting up a new church extension charge on the Lakeshore in Montreal, called St Columba by the Lake72
Meanwhile Jim Ranes, who had been an electrical engineer at GE, returned to Canada and was appointed to St Edward=s Church, Beauharnois, Quebec. He was recognized as an ordained missionary by the Presbytery of Montreal on 23 June 1954. The following year he returned to Schenectady to be Mekeel’s assistant, went back to GE, and then on 13 May 1958 was again recognized by the Presbyterian Church in Canada, this time as territorial missionary in Lanark and Renfrew Presbytery, covering Petawawa and Chalk River. He returned permanently to the United States three years later, becoming for over a decade a chaplain in the US Army during Vietnam. Mekeel was always vociferous in defending the American action there and included Ranes each week on his bulletin as one who was pro patria.
Earle Roberts, actually finished in January of 1955 and took up an appointment to Virden, Manitoba. Mekeel travelled by train in a bitter prairie winter to attend the ordination, as he did with all his men73. At the time of Mekeel=s death Roberts, then senior Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, wrote: “Dr Mekeel had a great influence on my life and time and time again I have expressed thanks to God for the privilege of having grown up under his ministry.”74 Roberts was appointed to Nigeria and went to study in Toronto in May of 1956. After fourteen years in Nigeria, and the bloody Biafra secession, and a tragic accident that deeply moved the entire church, he went on to give distinguished service to the denomination, first in the Board of World Mission, then the Administrative Council, and finally as senior clerk of Assembly. He was moderator of the 1993 General Assembly. Dr Roberts, the minute of appreciation on his retirement read, “brought to his office many gifts. He has used those gifts in the service of the whole Church. Above all, he brought a deep commitment to the Church and to its King and Head.”75
In the academic year 1955-1956 there were five Schenectady men at Presbyterian College: John Brush76, William Delaney, Ed Hart77, Jim Morton78, and Eugene Williams. Clyde Reed was also in residence, doing an arts degree in history as the Dominie had suggested. It didn=t take long for him to discover that he was still an engineer at heart and he transferred a year later to the McGill engineering faculty. A decade further on he enrolled at Knox College, graduating in 1972. He was ordained after a hassle by Albany Presbytery into the church in Amsterdam, New York, which subsequently split, one group forming an Orthodox Presbyterian church. Reed is presently in Arizona with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian denomination, church planting when past seventy years of age. Writing to Principal Lennox on behalf of the Student Committee of First Church Donald Brown stated: “Mr Mekeel and all of us connected with student work are grateful for the fine teaching grounding in faith being given by you and your staff.”79
In 1956-1957 the number of Schenectady men at Presbyterian College crested. John Brush graduated in 1958. The numbers were beginning to tail off. Mekeel was from 1958 to 1960 the President of the National Association of Evangelicals which took a lot of time away from the church. He started to look for another congregation. The final Schenectady recruit was Paul Mills, who graduated from the college in 1961. The two first met while Paul was studying at Nyack. At his urging Mills completed undergraduate work at St Francis Xavier, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, at the same time serving at Merigomish congregation, Pictou Presbytery. He then went on to Montreal, being appointed to Vernon, Ottawa Presbytery, as a student.
Paul had lost his own father at the age of twelve under tragic circumstances and Mekeel provided, over twenty years, continual paternal advice and encouragement. In 1960 Mekeel wrote Mills: AI do not blame you for whatever transpired between you and Lennox, and I am only too glad to know that we shall be seeing each other one of these days.80 On 15 May 1961 Mekeel preached, as was his custom, at Paul’s ordination in Vernon, Ottawa Presbytery, where he had been student minister. He recruited him the following year to be director at Camp Pinnacle, Mekeel=s summer centre in the Helderberg mountains. He then went on to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, a Mekeel church plant. Finally in June of 1969 he returned to Canada – his name had never been taken off the roll of Presbytery – to another church plant, this time in Barrie that was called Westminster. It was not an easy assignment but Mekeel was always there for Paul. In 1974 he wrote to his mentor: “I do appreciate the prayers of you and fellow-Christians at First Pres. I have profited by your prayer and concern.”81 During the summer of 1981 he was called to St. Andrew’s Wingham, Presbytery of Grey-Bruce, and seemed to bask in the warmth of a strong and supportive congregation. News from Schenectady was not good however: his daughter Liz was caring for Mekeel who was increasingly incapacitated and mentally challenged. Paul’s many friends were shocked to hear Christmas Eve 1985 that the night before he had died of a self-inflicted gun shot wound. AIt was never the same without Mekeel being there for him, his widow reflected years later.
Mekeel’s own final years were not easy. Adoption of the new Confession of 1967, which he actively campaigned against, put him in a problematic situation in spite of having been made moderator of the Presbytery of Albany the year before. There were difficulties with some of his church plants, several of which went independent or split. One, Loudonville Community, is today one of the largest congregations in the tri-city area. He was vexed over the societal turmoil of the late sixties. Well past retirement, he worried about the future for First Presbyterian Church, particularly after the Kenyon trial in 1974 proscribed (as was to happen in the Presbyterian Church in Canada with the MacDougall case in 1979) anyone not wholeheartedly accepting the ordination of women82. On 1 February 1977 he submitted his resignation from the United Presbyterian Church (USA) to the clerk of Albany Presbytery83. His congregation also voted to secede. The court case about the ownership of the property went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Our incorporation, James R Stewart who was on the Session committee that made the case explained, predates a revision of the New York State Religious Corporation Law and so was grandfathered with existing privileges, which we maintained included changing denominational affiliation without consequences to our property. After a period of years the courts upheld that interpretation and the U. S. Supreme Court agreed [in 1986] that it was a valid neutral principles of law case.84
On 20 July 1977 Mekeel made his last trip to Toronto, concluding sixteen years as speaker at the Knox Church Summer Fellowship85. Mekeel retired on the 31 December 1979. His colleague and successor Michael Alford graciously allowed him to keep his office in the church with all of his eight thousand books. He was going to set about writing the history of the church but his faculties were failing. One terrible wintry night in February of 1981, while he was visiting Christy Wilson in Boston, someone broke into his study. Finding nothing of value there except some old books and furniture, the burglar thought, he used kerosene the Dominie kept for his Coleman stove while camping and poured it out in front of the four walls with bookcases from floor to ceiling and then set it alight. The antiques were destroyed, the colonial portrait ruined, but worst of all the priceless library was reduced to powder. The result on Mekeel, when he returned and discovered the devastation that awaited him, was catastrophic. He never recovered and his once keen mind slipped further and further away from its moorings.
Four years later, on 24 August 1986, he died. Tributes came from all over the world but probably the most touching was from the high Episcopal priest whose church abutted First. For almost forty years Father Darwin Kirby proved that the Dominie was open and tolerant of others, loving and gracious, even if he disagreed. Jim Ranes came from Missouri, Christy Wilson from Boston, a native son from a church in Chicago, another from Ypsilanti. The church was full.
But the real testament to the influence of Herbert Surface Mekeel was the lives he had touched and the ministries that reflected his influence. As Ed Smith86, a faithful minister of the Presbyterian Church in Canada for fifty years, remarked: “I can still hear Dr Mekeel saying as we laboured to the top of some mountain in the Catskills or the Adirondacks, ‘Come on! Put some energy in it! It’s good missionary training.’
“87 Many of us, who owe so much to his life and influence, often and still think we can hear the Dominie say on occasion: “Come on! Put some energy in it” as we go about our daily vocation.
Confirmed by Rev. Michael Alford, Schenectady, his assistant, colleague and then successor, in an interview 11 September 2007. I would like to express thanks to Ms Peg Meo, administrative assistant at First Church, Schenectady, NY, for her gracious help in this project.
2 Cf his personal profile for the denominational placement office (he stated he was open to the possibility of a move at the time) dated 29 September 1959. APersonal devotional habits: Prayer, morning and evening, frequently at noon, and definite intercession for specific objects such as missions, evangelism, the sick, the troubled cases.@ (Herbert S Mekeel archives housed in First Presbyterian Church, Schenectady, NY, and used by permission, abbreviation HSMA).
3 Cf his personal profile dated 29 September 1959 AReading habits (catholic!): especially Church History, Bible Study, Biography.@ (HSMA)
4 Munro, Ken, First Presbyterian Church, Edmonton: A History. (Victoria, BC: Trafford, 2004) ISBN: 1412023378 (pbk.),, page 168.
5 It was only in the 1950s that the Christian and Missionary Alliance, found by former PCC minister A. B. Simpson, accepted reluctantly the self-evident fact that they were now a denomination, not simply a sending agency for overseas missionaries.
6 AThe Battle of Armageddon,@ ADemoniac Possession,@ and AThe Jewish Day and The Christian Sabbath.@ (HSMA), all selling for a few cents..
7 Judge J. F. McKinley, Ottawa, to Robert E. Rugen, Pattersonville, NY, 13 August, 1937. Rugen, a member of the Schenectady search committee, was seeking a reference.
8 Andrew Rule Osborn (1875 – 1949) was born in Beechworth, Victoria. Graduating from Queen=s, University of Melbourne and theological studies at Ormond College (class of 1901), the Australian Presbyterian divinity school there. He served congregations in Tasmania and Victoria and from 1914-1917, edited Sunday School and youth materials. He came to Canada in the post-Union call for ministers, served in Cornwall and Montreal, and then went to Biblical Seminary in 1929 but unexpectedly that summer was offered a year-long interim position in apologetics at Princeton Theological Seminary as the school was reorganized. His residence (with a daughter) was at 4 Urban St., Mount Vernon, NY, which he maintained when he went to Edmonton. He authored three books all published by OUP: Schliermacher and Religious Education (1934), Christian Ethics (1940) and Christianity In Peril: the New World and the Churches (1942). His time at Biblical seems to have been stormy: AThe Seminary I fear is in chaos,@ he writes HSM 22 September 1932. ADr. White is a psychopath if not a paranoiac. Any student who goes there must face the possibility of the institution becoming bankrupt at any moment.@ (HSMA)
9 There is an anomaly here. In the Preface of his Schleiermacher and Religious Education he claims that Ain its original form this book was written as a thesis for the degree of Doctor of Theology (sic) in the Presbyterian Theological College, Montreal.@ But, as Rev Dr Dan Shute librarian there points out the degree was granted after a rigorous four day examination on the basis of a previously published book and that book is listed as his 1914 Method of Teaching: A Text-Book for Sunday School Teachers (AThe Rise and Fall of the Earned D.D. in the Presbyterian Church in Canada,@ page 13, n 37). With Osborn nothing was straightforward.
10 D. G. McQueen (1854-1930), described as Aan evangelical preacher of the sanest type, the true spirit of Presbyterian doctrine, breathing through his every pulpit utterance.@ McQueen was moderator of the 1912 General Assembly when it met in his newly consecrated church. He was moderator a second time at Knox Church Toronto in 1925, this time of the non-concurrents. AHe had a part,@ his obituary stated (A&P , 1931, 291) A in every activity that contributed to the growth of his home city.@
11 A R Osborn to HSM, 22 September 1932, (HSMA).
12 In that letter of 22 September 1932 he writes HSM that he had entertained Aserious thoughts of going [to Montreal], taking a church or a lectureship until a chair was available@ but the call of a thousand member congregation was not to be scorned, even if it was out on the Prairies. The Osborns were cultured individuals and their eight children, scattered on three continents, were making a name for themselves. She was a woman=s page editor for eleven years in Australia and had edited the women=s section of the weekly Australian Presbyterian Messenger. Her husband was the author, it was later claimed, of some twenty educational and religious books. (Edmonton Journal, 3 February 1937, HSMA).
13 Self-typed letter (Athese benighted Canadians can see no need for a secretary in the church@) ARO to HSM, 17 February, 1932. (HSMA)
14 ARO to HSM, 9 April, 1935 (HSMA)
15 Rev Earl B Van Zandt to Rev E W Miller, Gloversville, NY, 20 November 1937 (HSMA).
16 HSM to ARO, 10 May 1938. (HSMA)
17 According to a letter in the alumni/ae file of Andover Newton Theological School there is a letter signed by HSM, 25 June 1960, providing the date of his ordination as 12 May 1935. (Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, MA, archives courtesy of Ms Diana Yount, reference librarian)
19 AI was tired when I left Edmonton, and church assemblies are far from a vacation,@ he wrote Mekeel (27 June 1935) (HSMA).
20 Excerpt from the minutes of the First Church Edmonton Session, 13 July 1935, signed by Rob Buchanan acting Session Clerk, sent to HSM (HSMA)
21 ARO to HSM, 9 November, 1935 (HSMA).
22 Sentence copied out and typed separately, quotation dated 19 November 1935. (HSMA).
23 On 8 October 1936 Edmonton Journal headline read ARev A Osborn In Reply To Bible Temple.@ In his weekly AVoice of the Church@ broadcast, ARO had replied to an unnamed person (Aa speaker at the Prophetic Bible Conference@) for his inconsistencies. The newspaper immediately identified the individual as Aberhardt. ARO was apparently correcting the premier=s eschatology Ato which [he] frequently refers in [Aberhardt=s] broadcast.@ (HSMA)
24 Munro, Ken, First Presbyterian Church, Edmonton: A History. (Victoria, BC: Trafford, 2004) ISBN: 1412023378 (pbk.),, page 169.
25 HSM to ARO, 16 September 1936 (HSMA).
26 F F Burpee, Clerk of Session, to HSM, 6 October 1936 (HSMA).
27 AThe Doctor (i.e., ARO) did explain to the Session that he put the memorial in proper form after those members had expressed their desire to know the facts as set out in that doctument.@ Sam D Niven to HSM, 14 December 1936 (HSMA)
28 AMemorial by Members of the Congregation of First Presbyterian Church, Edmonton, to the Presbytery of Edmonton, with Reference to the Present Condition of Our Church@ (undated copy, HSMA.)
29 While in Edmonton Mekeel met Muriel Elizabeth McRae who accepted his proposal of marriage. In a letter to a friend in Detroit, he indicated that he was stopping off in the Motor City and continues AI shall have pleasant news. You will rejoice with me in the good quality of it.@ (HSM to ACecil@, 3 November 1936, HSMA) The engagement was subsequently broken, only to be renewed almost thirty years later. Mekeel prepared a home in Pattersonville NY for her. Miss McRae was diagnosed with cancer and died 31 January 1965 before the wedding took place.
30 Grace, church secretary, to HSM, 17 December 1936 (HSMA).
31 HSM to Sam Niven, 7 January 1937 (HSMA)
32 F D Roxburgh, Presbytery clerk, to HSM, 29 January, 1937. (HSMA)
33 William Simons to HSM, 29 January 1937. (HSMA)
34 EAO to Mrs Douglas, 1 February 1944. (HSMA)
35 Helen McRae wrote to HSM=s colleague and successor Michael Alford (who around 2002 was seeking reminiscences of the Dominie for a book he has yet to write) in an undated letter: AThe second Sunday upon being home [in Edmonton] and hearing Herbert preach, I was strongly aware of God=s call that I should give up my teaching and go to Bible school for Christian training. For three nights I didn=t sleep a wink, trying to convince God that that should never be. God was so patient and insistent I finally gave in. Next day, I saw Dr. Mekeel in his study, told him what had happened and said I doubted if I should go for I didn=t know if I had any faith at all. He gave the wise response, >If that is so, don=t you think that Bible School is the very place you should go?= I therefore went to Vancouver Bible School for two years, and following that I taught another two years and then went to China in 1940.@ The other two from First Church who accompanied her were Margaret Killen and Norma Cuthbertson who was for many years home secretary of the Mission to Lepers in Toronto. (HSM archives, Schenectady, NY)
36 Cf letter from Sam D Niven to HSM, 14 December 1936: AThe Young People=s Society is going strong under the leadership of Allen Killen, and I heard the other day from the Vancouver girls. On the authority of the Training School Committee, I sent each of the three girls a cheque for $5.00 to meet their Christmas expenditures, B the fund still grows and the Young People decided to put seventy-five per cent of all their funds to the Training School Account.@ (HSMA)
37 Telegram 12 August 1936 from Gordon Faraday to HSM (HSM archives, Schenectady) There is also a formal letter of invitation from F F Burpee, Clerk of Session, 24 August 1936, explaining that Scott MacKenzie had waived his invitation on 27 of September in favour of Mekeel to comply with the request of the young people. (HSMA)
38 Canadian National Telegram, 12 August 1936 (HSMA)
39 Alison Cochrane, Moira Leathem (daughter of the minister, then dying), Marjorie McKinnon, Genevieve Bronson to Mrs O Mekeel, 7 October 1937. (HSMA).
40 J.F.McKinley to Robert E. Rugen, chair of the First Church Schenectady pulpit nominating committee, 13 August 1937. (HSMA)
41 F. F. Burpee to HSM, 4 February 1937 (HSMA)
42 Characteristically Mekeel preached on I Peter 2:17, AFear God. Honour the King.@ Bulletin preserved by HSM (HSMA) as a highlight of his time in Ottawa. He would later refer to waiting in the Vestry for the buzzer alerting him that the Governor General was in his pew before he could enter the sanctuary (personal conversation with HSM, 1950s).
43 William Harvey Leathem (1875-1937), of Belfast, undergraduate Queen=s and theology at New College, Edinburgh with Assembly=s Belfast. He served in Londonderry; asst Coates= Parish church, Edinburgh; St Andrew=s Fife; chaplain 1st Gordon Highlanders in WWI; called to St Andrew=s Ottawa, 1926. Author of three books. ADr Leathem=s pulpit utterances were ever characterized by a keen awareness of the vital and underlying principles of true Christianity.@ John Buchan and Mackenzie King eulogized him at the funeral. (A&P, 1937, 301-2.)
44 ARev W. H. Leathem, M.A.,D.D.@ Presbyterian Record (April 1937), 103.
45 Robert Johnston to E. W. Miller, Clerk of the Presbytery of Albany, 24 November 1937. The correspondence was initiated by a letter 26 October 1937 in which Johnston challenged the legitimacy of the call to Mekeel from Schenectady. There were followup letters on 11 November and then the final one 24 November. They can only be described as Awaspish.@
46 William J. Walker, minister of St Andrew=s Belleville, Ontario, to Mr Fiske, 2 April 1937 (HSMA) It would appear that Walker was actually applying for the vacancy by diminishing Mekeel though he protests that AI am not the man.@
47 J F McKinley to HSM, 21 September 1937. (HSMA)
48 John M. Stephens President, Ontario PYPS to HSM, 19 September 1937. (HSMA)
49 J. F. McKinley to Robert E. Rugen, 13 August 1937. (HSMA)
50 Clipping in HSMA.
51 Russell M. Dick to HSM, 12 December 1937 (HSMA).
52 Quoted by Michael Alford, 11 September 2007, in an interview.
53 On 9 November 1938 Troutman writes: AHad an hour chat with Mr Mekeel about the US situation showing him what we have done and have planned. He agrees with me on many lines as opposed to Stacey.@ The following day this entry in his diary: AHad lunch at Mekeel=s and a long talk with Mr Mekeel on the future and development of student work.@ (Centre for the History of Christian Thought and Experience, Macquarrie University, held at the Bible Society of NSW, Sydney, Australia) Stacey visited Mekeel in February 1938 (see my C Stacey Woods and the Evangelical Rediscovery of the University Downer=s Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2007), 73-74.
54 Allan Vannin Collister, born 1919, Colorado Spring, CO; Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS), 1944-1947; ordained by the Presbytery of Albany, 29 January, 1947; served as assistant, First Schnectady, 1947-1949; First Church, New Haven, CT, 1949-1952; asst, Lake Ave., Congregational Church, Pasadena, CA, 1953 – .
55 William James McKeefery, born 1918, after ordination spent his life in post-secondary educational administration.
56 Ernest Lomax McMillen born 1919 in Roanoke, VA; PTS 1942-1945; missionary to Iran, 19454-1950; asst First Schenectady, 1951-2; Ballston Center Church, 1952-1956; Abadan Iran, International Church, 1956-1959; St John=s Devon, 1960-
57 Donald Ewing Wallace born 1918 St Luis Obispo, CA; PTS 1942-1945; served in Iran 1946-1951; called as copastor, then senior pastor in historic South Church, Syracuse, NY.
58 Relayed to me by Professor Chuck Carlston, Fairfax, CA, 7 May 2007.
59 Marsden, George; Reforming Fundamentalism; (Grand Rapids, MI: W B Eerdmans Co., 1987), 27-28.
60 According to Professor Chuck Carlston, member of the first graduating class at Fuller, Mekeel seemed unable to pace his course requirements and made unrealistic demands on his students (conversation with Carlston, Fairfax, CA, 7 May 2007).
61 AHe often found his administrativemtasks thankless and so eventually decided to return to his New York pastorate when the year was completed.@ Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism, 107.
62 Stuart Merriam to Michael Alford 28 August 1986 (HSMA). Merriam was ordained on graduation from Knox and then went on to a doctorate at New College, Edinburgh (1956). For a year he was associate at Faith Church, Baltimore; then at First Portsmouth, VA; and in 1961 was called to succeed John Hess McComb at Broadway Church in Manhattan, a congregation with a substantial endowment left them by McComb=s predecessor who had married into the Dun (of Dun and Bradstreet) fortune. The following year Merriam became a media celebrity when the Presbytery of New York severed the pastoral tie. Time magazine noted that Apresbytery spokemen say that his fellow ministers did not quarrel so much with Merriam=s theology as with his >anti-intellectual= evangelism, inappropriate to a call that included ministering to students from nearby Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary.@ (Time 15 June 1962) Merriam went off to Goroka, EHP, Papua New Guinea (PNG), to found the Highland Christian Mission. The Mission was decertified by the Evangelical Council for Fiscal Accountability in March 1993 at the same time as Merriam got into serious legal difficulties in PNG. He was subsequently defrocked by the Tennessee Valley presbytery of the PCA.
63 Telephone interview with John Mickelson, 25 September 2007.
64 Telephone interview with Ray Rollins, Solomons, MD, 25 September 2007.
65 At the end of his ministry it was noted that Mekeel performed 265 marriages, 593 baptisms, 27 child dedications, and 532 funerals (Fortieth anniversary bulletin, Reformation Sunday, 1977 (HSMA)
66 Fred Woodberry was never ordained but was involved in Christian ministry as a staff member of IVCF in both Montreal and Hudson House, New York, He went out under Overseas Missionary Fellowship in Singapore briefly. He now lives in Manchester, New Hampshire.
67 On graduation, Donald J Wilson taught at an institute Mekeel set up on the campus of Albany Bible Institute for professional workers, spending a year going through the Bible, and being involved in evangelistic church planting. He went on to get a Ph. D. in Edinburgh and was received from the Presbytery of Albany in 1958 to serve an ordained missionary appointment in the Presbytery of Quebec in Legatt=s Point. The following year he was assigned to work under the General Board of Missions in Taiwan with his wife Marie. He first went to the Tainan Theological Seminary and later worked with Church World Service of the World Council and became Associate General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. On 31 December 1966 he was transferred to the United Presbyterian Church (USA), subsequently working in the denominational headquarters. He is married to Mary Jane Lundy, associate director of the Reimagining Conference of 1993. He and Mekeel parted over theological and political issues.
68 James Wilbur Ranes grew up in Rolls Missouri, served US Navy during WWII. He came to Schenectady in 1947 to work for GE. In 1950 took a year at Fuller. AAlthough I visited many churches during my navy days, it was not until I began attending the First Presbyterian Church in Schenectady that I yielded my heart to the Lord and entered into the joy of my salvation. It was in Schenectady that I was asked whether I had ever considered devoting my life to full-service for the Lord. Afer a year of prayerful consideration, the Lord gave me peace in the decision to go into His service.@ ASpiritual Experience-James Ranes@ (HSMA) Now deceased.
69 Alvin Desterhaft to Robert Lennox, 9 October 1951 (PCCA, 1984 6001 13 1)
70 Richard Roberts, who graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary, was the younger brother of Earle. He served congregational churches in Washington and California and currently resides in Wheaton, IL.
71 Telephone interview with Ed Hart, Seymour, Texas, 26 September, 2007
72 B David Hostetter, ordained 6 May 1954 by the Presbytery of Montreal; translated to St John and St Stephen, St John 9 September 1958; became assistant to Walter Welch at St Andrew=s Humber Heights; he subsequently transferred to the United Presbyterian church (USA) as an ecumenical Christian educational consultant for Schuyler Co. He describes Mekeel as Asuper orthodox@ and a Adominating character@ (Telephone conversation with Hostetter, Batavia, New York, 7 September 2007)
73 Dorothy Roberts said that the air in the tires of the cars parked outside the church froze during the service and the ride home was clunk clunk clunk. (Conversation, 26 September 2007)
74 Earle Roberts to Michael Alford, 30 September 1986 (HSMA).
75 Acts and Proceedings (1993), 8900.
76 John Brush, from Scranton, was another Nyack graduate. Mekeel became a father figure for him as his own father had died when he was three. He got his B.A. at Sir George Williams College (one of the reasons he gave for going to Montreal), served as a student at Mountain and South Mountain, Brockville Presbytery. Ordained as o.m. at Ingleside, Glengarry Presbytery, he gave a lifetime of faithful service to the Presbyterian Church in Canada, first in Molesworth and Gorrie, and then in Dundalk and Swinton Park. He is retired in Shelburne.
77 Ed Hart served the church in Ballston Spa, New York his first two years at Presbyterian College, only serving locally (Stanley Church as youth director) his final year. He was ordained in 1957 by the Presbytery of Abilene Texas (PCUS), did graduate study at Texas Tech. For over a decade he was in Beirut at the Armenian Community College. From 1976-96 he was pastor in Seymour, Texas. When he came from Texas to work at GE his first Sunday he looked for a church, found First Pres, and Ait changed my life.@ (Telephone conversation, 26 September 2007)
78 James Edward Morton was another Nyack graduate. Ordained by Albany Presbytery in 1957, served congregations in upstate New York until 1972, taught at Rochester Institute of Technology, and finally worked in PCA congregations near his home in Lake George.
79 Donald Brown to Robert Lennox, 9 April 1956 (HSMA)
80 HSM to Paul Mills, 6 February 1960 (HSMA)
81 Paul Mills to HSM, 16 April, 1974 (HSMA)
82 The official statement from the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) stated explicitly: ANeither a synod nor the General Assembly has any power to allow a presbytery to grant an exception to an explicit constitutional provision. A candidate who chooses not to subscribe to the polity of this church may be a more useful servant of our Lord in some other fellowship whose polity is in harmony with the candidate=s conscience.@
83 HSM to Donald W Stake, Clerk of Albany Presbytery, 1 February 1977. (HSMA)
84 James R Stewart to me in an email 28 January 2008.
85 Mekeel counted Knox senior ministers Christy Innes, Robert Barr and particularly William Fitch his friends. He was at Knox Church Toronto for the five weeks in the summer of 1960 nd again for a week of outreach to both church and university 22-23 January 1966.. Many of Mekeel’s ideas (such as Summer Fellowship) were borrowed by William Fitch and used in the ministry of Knox Church. Mekeel’s final trip to Canada was made six weeks later when he motored to Sept Iles, QC, and took a plane to Wabush, Labrador, for the induction on 8 September 1977 of David Renwick, an appointee by the Board of World Mission Presbyterian Church in Canada to a home missions congregation there. Renwick is presently senior minister of the National Presbyterian Church, Washington, DC.
86 Edward G Smith, who became a Christian at First Church, did not follow the usual path, attending first Gordon College and then graduating from Westminster Theological Seminary. After his second year there (in 1956) he went to Cranberry Portage, Manitoba, and from that moment on he committed himself to ministry in Canada. His final congregation before retiement was Centreville and Millbrook in Peterborough Presbytery.
87 Ed Smith to First Church Re-Union, 21 August, 1991 (HSMA)