Martin Boehm … part 1

It’s good for us to know our history and our ancestors:

Martin Boehm was born in 1725 just south of Lancaster, Pa. He was the son of a Dutchman, and the grandson of a Swiss who had become a Mennonite while working in Germany (did you get all of that?). He married a Swiss immigrant, Eve. Four of their children died as children. The only surviving child, Henry, spent 64 years as a Methodist minister, part of it as a traveling companion of famed Methodist bishop Francis Asbury, and died six months after turning 100.

Martin Boehm became a minister in 1756 at the MMartin Boehmennonite church in Byerland, Pa. But it wasn’t the usual path to the ministry. In those days, when a church needed a new pastor, persons from the congregation were nominated for the position, and each nominee selected one of the Bibles standing before them. Only one Bible contained a slip of paper with Proverbs 16:33 written on it: “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” Boehm chose that Bible, and presto!, he was a pastor…


Five years later, when the Mennonite bishop died, Boehm was chosen—again, by lot—as the new bishop. At age 36. In that role, he participated in Great Meetings, as they were called—three-day events attended by several hundred people, sometimes held in barns, in orchards, or outside. Whole communities would find the Holy Spirit descending in power and changing everything.

The Great Meeting we know most about occurred on May 10, 1767, at Long’s Barn in Lancaster, Pa. Bishop Boehm spoke in the barn while some of his Mennonite pastors preached in the orchard outside. Boehm told of his plow-side conversion. As the sermon ended, a Reformed minister named William Otterbein rose from his seat, hugged Boehm, and declared, “We are brethren.” Our denomination’s name is based on Otterbein’s impromptu words.


The information above in italics is from “The Story of Boehm and Otterbein” from

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