The supreme wonder of the history of the Christian Church is that always in the moments when it has seemed most dead, out of its own body there has sprung up new life. William Temple
As I came into middle age, two separate dangers were simultaneously impressed upon my mind. I saw, at the same time, both the futility of empty freedom and the fruitlessness of single effort. Affirmatively stated, the latter led to the idea of the small fellowship while the former led to the idea of voluntary discipline; in conjunction they led to the recognition that hope lies in the creation of an order. Now, for a quarter of a century, much of my thought and energy have been employed in both the dream and its embodiment in one particular order, the Order of the Yoke.
The conviction that in the promotion of the Christian Cause a new approach is needed, was deeply impressed upon me in my final years as chaplain of Stanford University. I began to see where the power is, and where it is not. I observed among our soldier students the obvious strength of the Orthodox Jews with whom I met in the vestry of Memorial Church on Friday evenings. Their cohesiveness and their personal discipline were two
sides of the same pattern of living. In contrast to the attendance at a conventional student gathering, which was always unpredictable, the attendance of Orthodox Jews on Friday nights sometimes amounted to 100 percent of those involved. They were faithful and they were participants largely because they had a rule by which they undertook to live. Suddenly I saw that those young men, though they were not Christians, exhibited some of the characteristics of the Christian orders about which I had read with both interest and admiration.
The spiritual growth at Stanford in 1945 was the consequence of small committed and disciplined groups. Beginning with one group which met in the chapel for prayer every noon, the movement grew until there were such groups in every living unit throughout the entire campus. The Chapel Cabinet was remodeled into a group which included prayer as well as discussion and action, and in which each member began to accept a serious discipline of the interior life. Without conscious intention, something of the character of an order was actually emerging.
During those days I thought a great deal of what orders had meant in the history of the Christian faith, especially after I read the life of St. Francis by G.K. Chesterton. Much as I admired the work of the First Order and the Second Order of St. Francis, I admired the Third Order most because it was envisioned as a way of meeting the needs of those who were involved in common life. At Stanford the idea was so infectious that some of the members of the Chapel Cabinet began calling themselves "tertiaries." We were convinced that far from needing any new denominations, we may actually be entering the post-denominational age. We knew that whereas denominations have existed for only about four hundred years, orders have existed far longer. The effectiveness of the Benedictine Order, especially in the penetration of pagan England, is impressive to anyone who knows the story. Perhaps, we said, we require contemporary orders, developed in our own century; we need not, we said,
depend wholly upon former patterns because new ones can emerge now.
When we referred to an order, we meant something radically different from a denomination; we envisioned a horizontal fellowship, cutting across existing religious lines. The new grouping, we thought, would not supplant the existing churches nor work against them, but would rather work within them for the purpose of renewal. We saw that our deepest fellowships, far from being limited to our own denominations, tend to transcend them, some of our best friendships being with those who are members of bodies other than our own. That indeed is part of what is meant in calling ours a post-denominational age, though emphatically it need not be a post-Christian age. The members of the emerging order, we saw, are marked both by the intensity of their fellowship and by their spiritual self-discipline. Instead of being permissive with themselves, they are tough, and in spite of their failures, they have a rule by which they seek to live. Such a rule naturally is very different from that of any medieval order in that it is one appropriate to life in the modern world. The new rule which must be developed, far from being geared to life in a monastery, is one made by and for men and women who, because they have children to rear, taxes to pay, and work to do, cannot be cloistered.
With that kind of thinking as a background, I moved to the Middle West in 1946 and almost at once began to discover that others were thinking similarly. In the winter of 1945, when I gave a series of lectures at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago on "The Idea of a Redemptive Society," I found a ready response among the students and professors. A few at McCormick began to meet regularly and to think of themselves as part of a developing order. In my first year at Earlham, 1946-1947, I met with a group of students for whom the dream began to make a real difference in their personal lives, though their fellowship had as yet no name. That is why, when I wrote
Alternative to Futility in the summer of 1947, I dedicated the book as follows: "To those students of Earlham who have provided a demonstration, rather than an argument, in support of the theme of this book."
The new groups which began about the middle of the century to appear across the country were known by a variety of names, some of them being called "cell groups," though nobody was really satisfied with the term. The earliest conferences of the scattered "cells" were those held on the campus of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor under the leadership of Franklin Littell, then director of Lane Hall. In those earliest gatherings there was not enough emphasis upon either a disciplined order or a universal ministry, for, though the idea was growing, it was far removed from full development. The Inter-seminary Movement, particularly in its gathering at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, went further in helping people to understand what a group can become.
Two important steps, so far as my own thinking was concerned, came in August 1948 and in May 1949. The former came in my visit to Iona, when I participated for the first time in the Iona Fellowship. I saw that under the inspiring leadership of George MacLeod, a new order had actually arisen, with the work of St. Columba as its model. At Iona I saw a developed pattern which included interior discipline, ministry, evangelism, and social action. The discipline of beginning each day with prayer, seeking to go through the day in prospect, and asking God's guidance upon each detail, appealed to me so mightily that I have sought ever since, not only to practice it myself, but also to lead others into it. The rhythm of withdrawal and encounter, basic to the Iona pattern of Christian vocation, is obviously sound. On Sunday, when I was present, the sermon delivered in the restored Cathedral of the Isles was entitled "The Mountain and the Plain," a message based upon Mark 9:2-29. The fact that Christ withdrew to the mountain retreat even
while the people needed Him, and later returned to them in human service, was to me a fresh insight. I saw that such a rhythm must be an essential element of any new order worth developing in our generation.
The crucial experience came in May 1949, nine months after the visit to Iona. Having promised to preach on Sunday at the First Baptist Church of Cleveland, I traveled by Pullman train from Dayton so as to have a good night's rest and if possible to be alert on Sunday morning. After completing my sleep and a quiet breakfast in the Terminal Building, I boarded the Rapid Transit for Cleveland Heights. Already, under the influence of Frank Laubach, I had begun the practice of reading every morning from the New Testament, whatever my location might be. Instead of skipping about in the Scriptures, I had adopted the discipline of going straight through a book, reading slowly about eleven verses a day if the topic admitted of such a division, and noting, in the margin, the place and date of reading. This system of dating has come to be personally valuable in that my New Testament has in one sense become also my diary. Many different copies of the New Testament have now been dated in this fashion, and these become reminders of high moments in a quarter century.
My reading that morning on the Rapid Transit was Matthew 11:25-30. Though I had of course read the passage on many former occasions, it struck me then with unique force. It was almost as though I had never before read the words "Take my yoke upon you." Suddenly, I saw that this is Christ's clearest call to commitment. I realized that the yoke metaphor involves what we most require if the vitality of the Christian faith is to be recovered. Being yoked with Christ may mean a great deal more, but at least it means being a participant rather than a spectator; it also means accepting a discipline which leads paradoxically to a new kind of freedom; it leads finally to fellowship because the yokes which we know best cannot be worn alone. Within a
minute or so, as an entire complex of thinking came together, I had a different sermon. In my briefcase was a sermon which I had prepared, but I have no idea what its subject was, for it was entirely supplanted by a new and exciting vision. The words which came to me on the train that morning I preached within the hour, recognizing that I was participating in a new development. Later, when I wrote as faithfully as I could what I had said that morning, it became the first chapter of the book The Yoke of Christ.
Suddenly, in 1949, we had a name for our hitherto nameless fellowship which was beginning to be a conscious one. We saw that the term "Yokefellow," which is employed in the New Testament (Philippians 4:3) as a synonym for a practicing Christian, derives its entire significance from the yoke passage on which I had felt led to speak at the First Baptist Church of Cleveland. The advantages of the term "Yokefellow" are obvious in that it is a Biblical term and is also free from the ambiguity of the word "cell." Furthermore, it provides a suitable nomenclature for the growing number of men and women who are unwilling to be known as either laymen or clergymen. Thus it appeared to be a genuine third way, and some grasped it eagerly. At the time that some of us began to employ the word "Yokefellow" we were not aware that it had been used in the nineteenth century, in essentially the same fashion, by Dwight L. Moody.
The first groups who picked up the name were those of McCormick Theological Seminary and the American Baptist Home Mission Society. Desiring a visible witness, Professor Vartan Melconian was the first to wear a pin in the shape of an ox-yoke, the original pin being carved from wild cherry wood at Warren Wilson College, Swannanoa, North Carolina. Professor Obert Tanner, who had been my associate at Stanford University, and who owned a jewelry manufacturing establishment in Salt Lake City, arranged for the production of gold pins appropriate
for lapel wear, and the Baptists distributed them. Soon the pins began to appear in surprising places, so that people, who would otherwise have been strangers, began to feel that they belonged together. The greatest advantage of the use of the emblem is that in characteristic situations it has caused another person to inquire about its significance. The pin thereby becomes an occasion for a potentially effective witness of response.
Our major development after 1949 came in the winter and spring of 1951 because of a committed group of students at Earlham College. Returning from a long stay in England and feeling the need of a new start, I invited into our home one evening nine young men and women who seemed to me to be persons of unusual promise. One of them was Emily, a Christian student from Tokyo, who at the end of that year married a young pastor, Tetsuo Kobayashi, and soon became, along with her husband, an exponent of the Yokefellow idea in Japan. All of the others were of American families belonging to various denominations. I explained as best I could the possibility of a new kind of Christian fellowship which would include prayer, study, and human service. To each one I gave a copy of Alternative to Futility, asking each to read it and to come back on the following evening if the idea appealed. If it did not appeal, I said, it was better to forget it entirely. I made the point that the message I had put into the book might be false, and it might be true, but it could not be inconsequential. The one option, I said, which is not available to an honest person is to say that the message is true and then do nothing about it. The urgency, I held, is intrinsic to the conception, rather than something added.
Most of the students came back the next week, bringing some others with them, and we were off to a great start. We loved one another; we thought together; we worked together in tasks of compassion. Within a few weeks the group was too large for its
original purpose and we were forced to divide, recognizing the paradox that multiplication comes by division. Soon there were similar groups in other colleges, then in churches and later in factories. At our first regular meeting we worked on the creation of a minimum discipline, all recognizing that nothing of any importance is likely to survive without it. We knew that however valuable emotion may be, it can never of itself lead to endurance. Accordingly, we agreed upon a common discipline and printed a discipline card, which later in its use reached various parts of the world. The first card which we printed included only five disciplines: Daily Prayer, Daily Scripture, Weekly Worship, Proportionate Giving, and Study.
After a few months it began to dawn upon me that something was developing which was far beyond my capacity to handle alone. As the idea spread, the correspondence became heavy and I had no secretary. The lack of a secretary was one of the prices which I had paid in transferring from the affluence of Stanford to the relative poverty of Earlham. Requests for information and for assistance poured in both by post and by telephone, the requests indicating an almost insatiable hunger for a new kind of vitality which many admitted that they lacked, but believed to be possible. Though I was thrilled at the response, the burden was nevertheless real. Just when the burden began to seem intolerable, a new figure, Edward Gallahue, entered the scene. Mr. Gallahue, who was in the insurance business in Indianapolis, had wanted me to preach one Sunday in the local church to which he belonged, and I was able to comply. In his home, on Sunday afternoon, he asked about the new patterns which were beginning to appear in the Christian Cause and volunteered practical help. Learning that with no organization at all a new order was actually forming, he helped in two specific ways. First, he handed me a check, asking that I use it for secretarial assistance, postage, and printing. He said he believed that other men, if approached, would match him in that gesture and encouraged me
to try to recruit them. Second, he proposed that while continuing to minimize organization we should draw several men into a cabinet in order to provide counsel and spiritual support as well as financial backing. The group recruited for these purposes early in 1952 was the prototype of what finally became the governing board of Yokefellows International.
Increasingly, as I had felt the need of a group devoted to mutual support, the conviction had grown upon me that the isolated individual makes very little difference in the world. The voice crying in the wilderness is not remembered or even heard. "It is impossible," said John Baillie, "for men to meet with God and love Him without at the same time meeting with and loving one another." Recognizing the truth of Baillie's words, I felt keenly the need of being a part of a fellowship which would be small enough for the members to know one another and large enough to be truly effective. That fellowship I found at last in the men who began to meet in my home. When I look back now on the events of 1952 and consider the nature of that little galaxy, I am filled with amazement.
First there was Edward Gallahue, the businessman who, though both an intellectual and a sophisticate, was also, in his enthusiasm, unusually childlike. He cared greatly about mental health, his interest having been stimulated by the illness of his own mother. He became a friend of the Doctors Menninger and one of the most generous supporters of their clinic at Topeka, Kansas. Being drawn to Christianity largely on intellectual grounds, he recognized that since he would not be a Christian alone, he should, for the first time in his life, join a local church. After analyzing the values represented in many others, he decided that he could serve best as a Methodist. He lived long enough to put together in a book, Edward's Odyssey, the account of his spiritual pilgrimage. After months of pain, he died in July 1971.
A second member of that remarkable pioneer group was Dr. H.V. Scott,
a dedicated pediatrician living in Fort Wayne. The first meeting between Dr. Scott and me came in February 1951 when, after I had made an address in his city, he asked me a question. Sensing that his interest was not perfunctory, I arranged for an immediate and unhurried conference, and we have walked together ever since. He formed the first Yokefellow group to be made up wholly of physicians. When the Stout Memorial Meetinghouse was opened for use at Earlham College in April 1952, it was Dr. Scott who presented the attractive ox-yoke which now hangs above the mantel in the Wymondham Room. Fortunately, the new life represented by the beautiful meetinghouse and by the Yokefellow Movement emerged almost simultaneously. It was appropriate for Dr. Scott to become the first chairman of the board of Yokefellows International, a position he still holds.
A third member of that gathered fellowship was Robert Greenleaf, long associated in personnel training with the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. The idea of the yoke, with its emphasis upon the ministry in common life, appealed to him as both fresh and valid. A similar reaction was that of Harold Belt, an officer of the Fred Harvey Corporation and a member of Chicago's Central Church. His outstanding gift was, and is, his ability to stimulate others. In retirement, Mr. Belt is committed to the hope of making America's bicentennial celebration a time of spiritual reaffirmation.
Paul Davis, a man of the same type as those just mentioned, had earned, first at Stanford and then at Columbia, a national reputation in the field of university development. He knew how to raise money, not by asking for it directly, but by encouraging commitment to a vision. Understanding perfectly why it is fruitless to make small plans, he dreamed big dreams. Like Mr. Greenleaf, he is a Quaker, but the interests of neither man have ever been limited by the erection of sectarian fences.
William McKay, a wholesale grocer of Fort Wayne, originated
the first adult Yokefellow group in our century, the fellowship arising out of tragedy and pain. When Mr. McKay's daughter was stricken with polio, several men, including Mr. McKay's pastor, John Meister, began meeting regularly in order to pray for the one who is ill. The project, as might reasonably have been expected, went far beyond the original purpose and has been the means of influencing numerous lives. Desiring to help others while they helped themselves, Mr. McKay's group undertook to make one of the classics of Christian devotion, Law's A Serious Call, available to ordinary readers. For an entire year they spent their time together in shortening the famous volume, chapter by chapter, without substantial harm to the content. When they completed the work, they were successful in getting Westminster Press to publish their edition, which has been widely distributed. Now, after more than twenty years of continuous existence, with inevitable changes in membership, the Yokefellow Group of the First Presbyterian Church, Fort Wayne, continues, and is actually stronger than ever before.
Several of those who assisted in the early articulation of the Yokefellow idea are no longer living, but their influence endures. Among them, in addition to Edward Gallahue, are Edwin Howe, a brilliant lawyer of Cleveland, and Wyatt Miller, a paint manufacturer of Chicago. The pattern of life of each person in the remarkable formative group was essentially similar. Nearly all had experienced periods of profound doubt and nearly all had come into their Christian commitment in middle life, after long and agonized searching. All believed in the Church, imperfect as it is, but all realized that the Church needs within it new movements devoted consciously to renewal. All undertook to provide support both spiritual and financial to the implementation of their shared dream, realizing the joy of being involved in a new beginning. Though not one of them earned his living by being professionally religious, each one saw his daily work as an opportunity to engage in the ministry. One of their chief
ministries was their willingness to become members of the Yokefellow board.
The board, seeing from the first the serious danger of overorganization, resolved consciously never to become administratively top-heavy. One consequence is that at the time of this writing, and in spite of inflation, the annual budget of Yokefellows International is only slightly higher that it was ten years earlier. The secret lies in being extremely careful with other people's money, and in using volunteer labor whenever it is available. The order of which we dreamed really exists, but not primarily as an organization. It is instead a redemptive movement markedly influenced by the principle of nonpossessiveness, with no copyrights on publications. Deliberate modesty appears even in the physical assets of the board, the international headquarters being located in a converted garage. Along with the nonpossessiveness has gone the rejection of a single stereotype. Thus the emphasis of Yokefellows on the West Coast has differed somewhat from the emphasis in other parts of the country. Instead of developing an educational center it seeks primarily to nourish small groups. The guiding spirit is Dr. Cecil Osborne.
One of those to whom contemporary Yokefellows owe much is the late Harold Duling, the first director of the Lilly Endowment, who attended the original lay conferences at Earlham College. Since it had not occurred to me to seek foundation assistance, Mr. Duling's approach was as surprising as it was encouraging. He knew that because of my responsibilities in 1954 and 1955, with the United States Information Agency, the Yokefellow work was temporarily in some abeyance. When he learned that I expected to return to full college duties in 1956, he felt that the time had come to lay greater stress on the Yokefellow idea. Accordingly, he wrote to me late in 1955, suggesting the possibility of the Lilly Endowment's providing matching funds. We accepted the offer with gratitude and had no difficulty in raising funds of our own to match the grant dollar
for dollar. The simple method employed was that of recruiting persons termed Yokefellow Associates, each of whom was asked to represent the movement in his own area and to contribute a minimum of $100 a year. The plan worked so well that soon there was no need for a matching grant. In short, the original gift was looked upon as "seed money," with the hope that it would be required, so far as annual expenses are concerned, only in the germinal period. The interest which Lilly Endowment showed may now be seen in retrospect as the most important single lift which the Order of the Yoke has received. Mr. Duling's initial enthusiasm has been shared subsequently by his successor, John Lynn, and by Charles Williams, vice president for religion of the Lilly Endowment.
The first significant gathering which occurred when we determined, under the encouragement of the Lilly Endowment, to enlarge our work was attended by only three persons. Knowing how every meeting with Robert Greenleaf tended to produce new ideas and consequently new action, President Thomas E. Jones, of Earlham, and I went to Short Hills, New Jersey, for a day's conversation at the Greenleaf home. We had no prepared agenda and simply listened to one another as we sat on the porch in fine weather. Though we could not know what would come of such a meeting of minds, we were confident that something would emerge. What developed, largely because of Robert Greenleaf's imagination, were two new operating units, the Yokefellow Institute and the Earlham Institute for Executive Growth. Neither of these would probably ever have come into existence apart from the dialogue at Short Hills.
Mr. Greenleaf's contention that summer day was that new situations require new institutional developments. The parish congregation, valuable as it has been in the Christian Cause, frequently does almost nothing to implement the idea of the priesthood of every believer. The pastor is expected to do the work, while the contribution of the members is deemed satisfactory,
even when it includes no more than occasional listening to sermons and the depositing of a little money in the offering. Participation is often limited to such a marginal operation as that of ushering! New vitality, we agreed, will not come until there is a radical change in expectations.
Mr. Greenleaf's vision of what is needed bears some resemblance to the monastic dream of the Middle Ages. Just as the monasteries were once centers of renewal, affecting entire areas of Christendom, so in our time there must be institutions for the training of men and women who can be involved in the ministry of common life. Because an untrained ministry is potentially harmful and may, in spite of noble motives, actually cause damage, there must be established a chain of educational centers geared to the contemporary need. Those centers should not, Mr. Greenleaf explained, be identical with theological seminaries, which exist to train the professionally religious, nor with centers devoted to social service, however valuable and necessary they are. We began to dream of an institute intrinsically different from any in existence, though a start had actually been made at Quaker Hill, north of Richmond, Indiana, where, beginning in 1947, I had led the first retreats of my career.
The first Yokefellow Institute was established in the house which my wife and I had owned, but which later belonged to Earlham. The house, where ten could sleep, seemed adequate in the beginning, but larger quarters were soon required, and a commodious structure was erected on the Earlham land across the ravine to the south of the main college buildings. The remarkable effectiveness of the Institute in influencing the church life of a wide area is chiefly the result of the dedication of the first director, Samuel Emerick, who was appointed in 1957 and who served until January 1974. Also important, both in the house on College Avenue and in the new structure, is the devotion of Leona Boyd, who has transformed cooking into a ministry.
In the new institute quarters there are sleeping rooms for thirty-six persons, dining facilities, bookstore, offices, library, lounge, and worship room. It is essentially a monastic establishment without any separation from the world and without any permanent residents. The usual retreat occupies forty-four hours, from six o'clock on Friday evening to two o'clock on Sunday afternoon. While various gatherings are planned during weekdays, the most productive time has proved to be the weekends because the aim is to reach the busy, employed people.
Since the establishment of the original Yokefellow Institute four others, serving a similar purpose, have come into existence. The first of these is the Tri-State Yokefellow Center, located in farming country twelve miles northwest of Defiance, Ohio, on the south edge of the village of Evansport. The Tri-State Institute occupies a converted bank barn, which has three levels, and sleeping accommodations for eighteen people. The most valuable part of the old building, the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Pickering, was the oak frame. Attenders now are conscious of this solid structure because the beams are exposed in the rooms into which the barn is now divided. The building, being itself a symbol of conversion, is the scene in which, beginning in 1960, a great deal of new life has appeared. An adjunct is Hope House, devoted chiefly to private retreats on the part of individuals and couples who may feel the need to be away, not only from their daily work, but also from public meetings. The beneficent effect of Tri-State upon the churches in the surrounding towns is evident.
A more recent Yokefellow Center is Acorn, near Yorkville, Illinois, the building and surrounding woodland near the Fox River being the gift of the late Homer Dickson and his wife, Alice. James Shaver has from the first been the pioneer Yokefellow of Illinois. The Kentucky Yokefellow Center occupies some of the old buildings which once belonged to the Shaker Community thirty miles south of Lexington. There the sense of a noble past, combined with the determination to establish something
more than a museum or a shrine, has helped to make Shaker Village into a remarkable instrument of renewal. The director, Stephen Sebert, who was specially trained for this particular opportunity, is influential in the spiritual life of a wide area in the Blue Grass section. The story of the growth and eventual decline of the Shaker community, sorrowful as it is, is a valuable spiritual asset. A still more recent development is that in North Carolina, guided by Jerry Murray.
When I began to think of a new kind of Christian fellowship I could not see very far down the road. That is why the innovative educational establishments came relatively late in the Yoke development. Another feature which we all value now, but which we did not see in the beginning, is the Annual Yokefellow Conference. After we had experienced one or two conferences, we realized that we were involved in a practice worthy of perpetuation. Thus each year since 1954 there has been held at Earlham College a general conference during spring vacation, when, because the students are away at that time, the residences can be occupied by conference attenders. I now see clearly that the long-established Christian practice of emphasizing a yearly gathering is eminently sound. Separated local groups, like separated individuals, need the encouragement which meeting others of like conviction can provide and which, it seems, can be provided in no other fashion. The Annual Yokefellow Conference, far from declining with the succeeding years as some movements do, grows steadily stronger. At the 1973 Conference more than two hundred persons had to be turned away from the opening dinner for lack of space, even though more people were crammed into the large Earlham dining room than had ever assembled there previously. One attraction was the address of Keith Miller, whom many of the Yokefellows across the nation had reason to know and to love. The Annual Conference is deliberately brief, running from six o'clock on a Friday evening to four o'clock Saturday afternoon.
Another feature of the growing fellowship, which I did not
envisage in advance, is that of the Quarterly Yokefellow Letter. Largely in response to requests of those on the mailing list, I now write, four times a year, a letter-essay of about fifteen hundred words devoted, not to promotion, but to ideas. What I find is that many dedicated Christians, being sincerely puzzled about a variety of theological questions, seek help in the clarification of their thinking. With that in mind, I have in the recent past written quarterly essays on "The Second Coming," "The Jesus People," "Speaking in Tongues," "Astrology," "The Decline of the Church," and other such topics of current interest. Since I have ceased to write a monthly column for Quaker Life, after doing so for eleven and a half years, the Quarterly Yokefellow Letter is now the only periodical writing in which I am engaged. It is possible for any person to become a regular recipient of the Letter simply by request, and without any financial consideration. Furthermore, any reader is free to copy and use the Quarterly Yokefellow Letter at his or her own discretion. [note: the Letter was carried on until 2008]
In my earlier years I gave very little thought to my fellow citizens who were imprisoned. Most of those whom I know were like me in that regard, chiefly because we had few reminders. Today all of that is changed, Yokefellows being especially conscious of those behind prison walls. The change began to come in my life during the summer of 1955, when I was asked to address a conference of prisons chaplains meeting in the old Supreme Court room of the Capitol in Washington. I spoke on the power of the small group of people who have a common discipline and who share both their problems and their faith with one another. Though it had never occurred to me that such groups could be nurtured in prison communities, two of the chaplains present saw the possibilities and soon, working independently of each other, established Yokefellow Groups in the federal penitentiaries both at McNeil Island, near Tacoma, Washington, and at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. So effective were these pioneer undertakings that the idea has spread until there
are now more than five hundred such fellowships in various kinds of prisons across the country. The nurture of these is the responsibility of the Yokefellow Prison Ministry of which Newman Gaugler is president.
One result of the new development was that I began for the first time in my life to visit prisons and to make a few addresses to the prisoners. When I could, I took with me numerous Yokefellows from the outside. One highly amusing consequence of such speaking is that I now have in my study an autographed photograph of Abraham Lincoln, the signature looking startlingly authentic. The words are: "To Elton Trueblood with warm regards, A. Lincoln." The forgery is the work of a genuine professional who is serving a twenty-year sentence and who wished to share with me the only gift which he has at his disposal.
At the present time the vitality of the new order is still increasing. Lilly Endowment has generously provided challenge gifts for the creation of new educational centers, most of which became self-supporting after the initial assistance. Among the newest developments are those in England, in East Asia, including Japan, and in Switzerland. There are good prospects for new developments in both India and East Africa, the strategy being to train the leaders in America and then to provide them with support in their own lands.
During the last few years I have led many retreats, most of which have had five sessions of two hours each. The retreats I now value most are those which are entirely unprogrammed. It is my responsibility to guide each session in order to avoid, if possible, unprofitable discussions, but we have a complete absence of agenda, prepared speeches, reports, and minutes. We are able thereby to demonstrate a break with the standard practice of church gatherings, which are nearly always overprogrammed. The human results of this unconventional kind of meeting of minds are phenomenal.
The best of the unprogrammed retreats which I have led in recent years have been held at Lake Paupac Lodge, in Pennsylvania, and at Shakertown, Kentucky. All attenders are present by invitation and there is no publicity. Such gatherings were at first limited to younger men, but subsequently it has seemed wiser to invite couples so that the wives of the men can be involved in the thinking of their husbands. The couples are chosen solely on the basis of their promise as Christian leaders. One valuable by-product is that the attenders continue the fellowship begun in the forty-four-hour period and do help one another in a variety of ways. Without a program to inhibit participation, each person can share what means most to him or to her. With the right selection of attenders this is possible even with an attendance of fifty.
Much of my work as president of Yokefellows International has now developed into what I call the ministry of encouragement. Part of my inspiration for this is the striking admonition in what may be the earliest book of the New Testament, "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:11). What I do chiefly in this direction is to try to help potential writers. Many, I find, need only slight assistance in order to be able to advance in their ability to communicate ideas. Lilly Endowment provides modest financial resources designed to liberate potential writers from the necessity of paid employment, so that for short periods they can develop their ideas single-mindedly. Several books, the product of such assistance, have now been published.
The future of the Yoke we cannot know, but we are at least convinced that certain features are of enduring value. If they decline in one pattern, they will need to arise in some other. The essentials are commitment, discipline, ministry, and fellowship. Without the commitment nothing else of any importance will occur; unless there is discipline, life dissolves in permissiveness; the ministry is too important to be limited to a professional class;
fellowship is essential because no person is strong enough to operate alone. The heart of the idea which has helped to give meaning to my own life for a quarter century is that, to be a Christian, I must be yoked with others because I am yoked with Christ.
Modest as our new order is, this one or something like it is what our time sorely needs, for it provides an alternative both to solitariness and to the impersonalism of the crowd. Since I first read the words of Archbishop Temple which serve as the epigraph of this chapter, I have been convinced that in the Christian Movement there will always be new and unexpected developments generation after generation. Just when the bones seem hopelessly dried, life arises. When I become discouraged, as sometimes I do, I remember the surprising creation of the Third Order of St. Francis seven hundred and fifty years ago. In like manner I think of the way in which the mood on both sides of the Atlantic was revolutionized by the Wesleys in the middle of the eighteenth century.
Each new development has been strictly unpredictable. Who could have predicted the work of Robert Raikes, in starting Sunday schools in 1780; or of George Williams, in dreaming up the Young Men's Christian Association in 1844; or of General William Booth, in establishing the Salvation Army in 1878? With such undoubted examples of inner renewal in mind, I expect others of equal significance in my lifetime, though I cannot possibly guess now what their precise character will be.
The Yokefellow Movement is best understood as part of the Renewal Movement of the twentieth century. Far from operating alone, it is closely affiliated with numerous other new forms of Christian fellowship. Going beyond the development envisaged by Francis, these together constitute a kind of "Fourth Order." Transcending the distinction between Protestant and Catholic, and including both pastors and ordinary members, they establish centers, bearing various names, which are necessary
for the continuing reformation within the churches.
Twenty-five years ago I wrote in my journal that we need a contemporary counterpart of the Salvation Army. What I then envisioned was a fellowship that would do for the average thoughtful person what the Salvation Army has done for the poor and the dispossessed. I saw that even the people who denounce the Church do not denounce the Salvation Army because its devotion is obviously genuine. The Army has provided countless modest persons with a faith, a discipline, and a means of witness. I hope to live long enough to rejoice in new developments as effective as the one which Booth created nearly a century ago. It will not surprise me if the last quarter of the century with which my life has so far been contemporary becomes one of the most productive of all history, so far as the Christian faith is concerned. One of the most encouraging ideas which has entered my mind is that we are early Christians, still alive while the faith is fluid and capable of assuming new forms. I think that this idea was originated by Professor Kenneth Scott Latourette, but the origin is not really important. The important fact is that it is true.
Chapter 7 || Table of Contents