History of Berean 2
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The terminology “Black” was not acceptable among us as that time, and was considered derogatory coming from “Whites.” The predominate European groups were Polish, Hungarian, and Italian. The Germans, French, and English were in the minority. The Chinese were conspicuous as laundry operators. The city population in 1983 was about 25,000, which was considered as large. Mother was only nineteen years old and father, twenty-seven, when they married and came to South Bend. They were both reared in the colored Methodist Episcopal Church. Mother had become a Christian at an early age, but father had not accepted Christ and did not do so until two (days, weeks, months, years?) before he died. They were happily married for twenty-seven years. Both were morally strict and total abstainers from all intoxicating beverages. Tobacco in any form was never used and gambling in any form was taboo.
Mother was disappointed in not finding a CME congregation. The African Methodist Episcopal Aion Church was three blocks away. She loved the people but was not particularly thrilled with the worship service. She was directed by a friend to the Olivet AME Church. She joined there under “Watch-Care.” For twelve years she enjoyed the fellowship and made life-long friends. While there she organized the home circle. It became a missionary project to help the needy.
In 1905 a Christian Jew came to South Bend. He was sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventists in a tent meeting. Our neighbors were Catholic and were completely captivated by the unusual meeting. They persuaded my parents to attend. Just as they walked up to the tent they heard the evangelist Elder Gilbert announce “Why I am a Seventh-day Adventist.” At that service she became a Sabbathtarian and was the first colored person to join the group. They had no church building and met from house to house, and was known as the first Seventh-day Adventists of South Bend. Six years after her conversion I was born. Although no longer connected with the Methodists, she continued on friendly terms with her earlier friends within the activity of the Saint Pierre Ruffin Club which she organized in 1900. Occasionally, she revisited the “Home Circle” of the Olivet AME Church. They were essentially a sewing and knitting club, making and repairing clothes for the needy. They also quilted bed spreads for those who needed bedding.
In 1918 my father, August Barton, joined the Adventist Church. The Baptistry of the First Baptist Church in the business district was rented since the Adventists had not building. In 1919 Mr. and Mrs. Edward Johnson (wife's name “Della”), with two sons, John and Henry joined the church, with the exception of Henry. Mr. and Mrs. Will Clark, with two daughters “India” and “Avalin” affiliated with the Adventists. Bessie Jenkins, mother's youngest sister came to live with us in 1917, and she also joined in 1919.
My father died suddenly, January 14, 1920 and his funeral was held in the Olivet AME Church for the convenience which the church building afforded. The Adventists had begun to use store fronts, but their place of meeting was inadequate for the funeral.