William Evander Penn: Texas Baptist evangelist.William Evander Penn bears significance in Baptist history as the first to devote his life to full-time evangelism in Texas.
J. M. Carroll stated, "Prior to 1875 there had never been among Texas Baptists any preacher who gave his entire time to evangelistic work." (1) William Evander Penn was born August 11, 1832, near the village of Old Jefferson in Rutherford County, Tennessee Rutherford County is a county located in the U.S. state of Tennessee. As of 2000, the population was 182,023. This grew when the 2005 estimate placed the population at 218,292. . In the fall of 1847, he was converted in a camp meeting held at Bluff Springs, Tennessee. He recalled attending the camp meeting primarily to have a good time with the other young people.
At the age of twenty, Penn opened a law office in Lexington, Tennessee Overview
Lexington is a city in Henderson County, Tennessee, United States. Lexington is midway between Memphis, Tennessee and Nashville, Tennessee sitting merely 10 miles south of interstate 40 which connects the two cities. The population was 7,393 at the 2000 census. . By this time, his musical talents had surfaced, and he was well known among the preachers as a fine singer. In Lexington, Penn met Corilla Francis Sayle, and they were married April 30, 1856.
In 1869, Penn was named subelector in the Ninth Congressional District Noun 1. congressional district - a territorial division of a state; entitled to elect one member to the United States House of Representatives
district, territorial dominion, territory, dominion - a region marked off for administrative or other purposes . As a politician, he viewed southern democracy as an enemy to the Union, and he bitterly opposed it. (2) After the southern states Southern States
government of 11 Southern states that left the Union in 1860. [Am. Hist.: EB, III: 73]
popular name for Southern states in U.S. and for song. [Am. Hist. , including Tennessee, began seceding from the Union, Penn reluctantly offered his services to the Confederacy Confederacy, name commonly given to the Confederate States of America (1861–65), the government established by the Southern states of the United States after their secession from the Union. . He rose to the rank of major, and he was known as Major Penn for the rest of his life.
Sunday School Sunday school, institution for instruction in religion and morals, usually conducted in churches as part of the church organization but sometimes maintained by other religious or philanthropic bodies.
In England during the 18th cent. Leader
After the war, the Penns moved to Jefferson, Texas Jefferson is a city in Marion County, Texas, United States. The population was 2,024 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Marion CountyGR6, and is situated in East Texas. , in January 1866. They joined First Baptist Church First Baptist Church may refer to many churches: Canada
In the early 1870s, Penn succeeded both professionally and financially. His thriving law practice continued to grow, and his fame as a lawyer spread. He attended the Southern Baptist Convention Noun 1. Southern Baptist Convention - an association of Southern Baptists
association - a formal organization of people or groups of people; "he joined the Modern Language Association"
Southern Baptist - a member of the Southern Baptist Convention in Mobile, Alabama, in 1873, and invited the convention to meet in Texas the next year. Thus, the first meeting of Southern Baptists in Texas took place in Jefferson.
Penn's success as a Sunday School leader led to his two-time election as president of the Texas State Sunday School Convention, in 1873 and 1874. (4) The experiences he had as president led Penn to change the direction of his life. One such experience involved J. H. Stribling, pastor of the Baptist church in Tyler. Stribling invited Penn to lead a Sunday School Institute in Tyler. After the close of the Institute, Penn was compelled, much against his will, to conduct services there in Tyler for five weeks. (5) Stribling was emphatic in his belief that Penn was chosen by God to devote his life to full-time evangelistic service.
Evangelist and Church Planter Church planter is an entrepreneurial minister or organization that starts new congregations from scratch, rather than preach in established churches.
Contemporary church planters include Andy Stanley, John Wimber, Ralph Moore, Richard Rossi, Eric Grenier, and Bob Logan.
Penn finally consented to enter the ministry and was licensed by his church in Jefferson as an evangelist on May 6, 1877. During the next few years, he was active in establising of new churches. In March 1880, the Penns moved from Jefferson to Houston, where he became pastor of the Fifth Ward Baptist Church.
Also in 1880, Penn conducted a revival in a warehouse in downtown Dallas Downtown Dallas is the main business district in Dallas, Texas (USA), located in the geographic center of the city. The area officially termed "downtown" is bounded by the downtown freeway loop: bounded on the east by I-345 (although known and signed as the northern terminus of . During the revival a twenty-year-old lad delivering telegrams wandered into the meeting and was converted. His name was Edgar Young Mullins. Mullins later served as president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary References
In 1881, Penn moved to Palestine, Texas Palestine (pronounced ˈpæl.ɛs.tin) is a city in Anderson County, Texas, in the United States. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 17,598. , believing it to be more convenient to every part of the state. The church in Palestine met in a dilapidated building far to one side of town. Penn suggested that the people buy a lot on which to erect a new church and that the church be finished with contributions not exceeding a nickel per person. So, the church became known as the "Nickel Church." Penn requested financial help from individuals and churches through the state of Texas by writing letters to Baptist publications. The response was slow and the results meager mea·ger also mea·gre
1. Deficient in quantity, fullness, or extent; scanty.
2. Deficient in richness, fertility, or vigor; feeble: the meager soil of an eroded plain.
3. . After numerous appeals for aid, Penn threatened that he would conduct "no more protracted meetings until the 'Nickel Church' is paid e for." (7) State leaders questioned Penn's method of fund-raising and questioned whether the erection of the church was the responsibility of Baptists throughout the state. Despite the opposition, the "Nickel Church" was completed and dedicated November 6, 1887. Yet the experience disillusioned dis·il·lu·sion
tr.v. dis·il·lu·sioned, dis·il·lu·sion·ing, dis·il·lu·sions
To free or deprive of illusion.
1. The act of disenchanting.
2. The condition or fact of being disenchanted. Penn, and before the church was finished, he left his adopted state of Texas and relocated in Eureka Springs, Arkansas Eureka Springs is a town located in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas, USA. According to 2006 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the town is 2,350. It is one of the two county seats of Carroll County, Arkansas. .
During Penn's two decades of evangelistic service, he led gospel crusades in thirteen states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas. His ministry also took him to England and Scotland. His ministry is estimated to have resulted in the conversion of 50,000 people. (8)
Penn maintained an active schedule of meetings, revivals, and conferences to the end of his life. As he finished writing his autobiography in 1892, his health began to fail. He gradually lost weight from 240 to 170 pounds and could only hold meetings as his health would permit. (9) He died on April 29, 1895, and was buried in the Odd Fellows Odd Fellows can refer to one (or more) of the following friendly societies, fraternal and service organizations and/or Lodges:
attractive feature, magnet, attractor, attracter, attraction - a characteristic that provides pleasure and attracts; "flowers are an attractor for bees" in that city.
Camp Meeting Preacher
Beginning in 1875, Penn organized camp meetings and found great pleasure and self-satisfaction in leading these meetings. A skilled orator ORATOR, practice. A good man, skillful in speaking well, and who employs a perfect eloquence to defend causes either public or private. Dupin, Profession d'Avocat, tom. 1, p. 19..
2. , he enjoyed preaching to crowds of 5,000 to 6,000 that included a wide spectrum of people ranging from the lawless and disorderly cowboy to the starched shirt-clad townspeople. Penn's early camp meetings were characterized by five and--many times--seven services each day. These meetings were initially housed in churches and town halls. After several years, however, it was difficult to find places large enough to accommodate his congregations, and out of necessity, much of Penn's work was confined entirely to cities and larger towns. He did, however, hold brush arbor meetings in the summers.
After four years of brush arbor summer meeting, Penn decided in 1879 that a tent would he an asset since it would accommodate more campers while eliminating exposure to inclement in·clem·ent
1. Stormy: inclement weather.
2. Showing no clemency; unmerciful.
in·clem weather. He purchased a small tent for $500 with his own resources. (10) Penn continued to conduct camp meetings until July 1892. His last meeting was held in Brownwood, Texas Brownwood aka "The Wood" is a city in the heart of Texas, United States and serves as the county seat of Brown CountyGR6. As of the 2000 U.S. Census estimate, the city had a total population of 18,813. . Ironically, the last camp meeting of Penn's illustrious career occurred in the same state where he, fourteen years earlier, had begun to popularize pop·u·lar·ize
tr.v. pop·u·lar·ized, pop·u·lar·iz·ing, pop·u·lar·iz·es
1. To make popular: A famous dancer popularized the new hairstyle.
2. the Texas camp meeting.
Music had a place of prominence in Penn's ministry. Although deprived of formal musical training, Penn's innate vocal talent and his strong personality repeatedly placed him in positions of musical leadership. His thunderous bass voice brought accolades from numerous sources. J. M. Carroll stated, "He was the greatest bass singer we ever heard; his singing at his meetings was one of the greatest attractions." (11) The rigors of serving as both preacher and singer, however, proved too great a strain on Penn, and he soon recruited other musicians to assist him in his evangelistic meetings. Vallie C. Hart of Tuscaloosa, Alabama Tuscaloosa is a city in west central Alabama in the southern United States. Located on the Black Warrior River, it is the seat of Tuscaloosa CountyGR6 and the fifth-largest city in Alabama with a population of 83,052 (2006 U.S. Census Bureau Estimate). , joined Penn in July 1876, as his first musician. Other prominent musicians who served with Penn included H. A. Sumrell, J. M. Hunt, L. B. Shook, George Robert Cairns Cairns, city (1991 pop. 64,463), Queensland, NE Australia, on Trinity Bay. It is a principal sugar port of Australia; lumber and other agricultural products are also exported. The city's proximity to the Great Barrier Reef has made it a tourist center. , and H. N. Lincoln.
Penn's major accomplishments in the area of gospel song were the Harvest Bells collections. During Hunt's tenure as Penn's musician, Hunt suggested they publish a songbook to be used in the meetings. (12) The result of their labors was Harvest Bells, published in 1882, and Harvest Bells No. 2, published in1884. Hunt served as musical editor of these first two hymnals and was the largest contributor of hymns to these collections. During the short tenure of Lincoln as Penn's musician, the two men produced a third edition, Harvest Bells No. 3 (1887). In all, Penn and his wife compiled seven separate and distinct hymnals between 1882 and 1900. These hymnals were endorsed by many prominent leaders, including B. H. Carroll, pastor of First Baptist Church, Waco, and J. P. Boyce, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. Perhaps the most significant endorsement came from B. G. Manard, state missions director for Arkansas, Manard wrote, "If Major Penn has never done anything more than make his contribution to the hymnology hym·nol·o·gy
2. The study of hymns.
[Greek humnologi of the 19th century, he would have made his life monumental." (13)
Penn sincerely believed Harvest Bells to be the only hymnal of the day that was distinctly Southern Baptist in thought, doctrine, and regional appeal. He offended some when he asked that churches wanting him to conduct meetings to use Harvest Bells rather than Ira Sankey's Gospel Hymns. Penn suggested that if churches would rather use Gospel Hymns, then perhaps they should call Mr. Moody instead.
Hymn and Tune Writer
Penn's contributions to the Harvest Bells collections include forty-three hymn texts and sixty-eight hymn tunes. The tunes were melodic in nature, major-key melodies set in simple harmonic structure. They could be quickly taught and easily remembered by the people. His most enduring hymn was "The Sheltering Rock," which appeared in the Baptist Hymnal, 1975.
Penn's work as a hymn and tune writer occurred during the same time in which Ira Sankey was producing his Gospel Hymns collections. William J. Reynolds observed, however, that the Harvest Bells collections "marked a development of gospel song tradition that paralleled, but was largely unrelated to the work of Ira D. Sankey Ira D. Sankey (August 28, 1840 - August 13, 1908), known as The Sweet Singer of Methodism, was an American gospel singer and composer associated with evangelist Dwight L. Moody. ." (14) Penn was undoubtedly aware of the work of Moody and Sankey. In April 1880, during Penn's time at Fifth Ward Baptist Church in Houston, Moody and Sankey conducted a revival meeting thirty miles away at the St. John Church in Galveston. (15) There is no record, however, that Penn and Sankey ever met face to face.
Reed Organ Player
Not only did Penn's ministry lead to the production of hymnals, it also led to the acceptance of the use of the organ in worship service. Penn brought to his meetings a portable reed organ, the use of which enhanced the singing of both the congregation and soloists. Deep-seated prejudices against all forms of instrumental music in the churches were common, (16) but as Penn's ministry progressed, the organ became a great attraction. Many of the rural people who attended camp meetings heard an organ played for the first time, and they were delighted with the experience. (17) Penn's utilization of the organ continued throughout his ministry, and he is credited with the acceptance and popularization pop·u·lar·ize
tr.v. pop·u·lar·ized, pop·u·lar·iz·ing, pop·u·lar·iz·es
1. To make popular: A famous dancer popularized the new hairstyle.
2. of the instrument in Texas Baptist churches.
William Evander Penn was a pioneer in the work of Southern Baptist evangelism during the late-nineteenth century. He made noteworthy contributions to the development of gospel music, to the acceptance and popularization of reed organs in churches, to the use of the Harvest Bells collections that featured Southern Baptist thought and doctrine, and to renewed interest in church music reform in the late nineteenth century.
(1.) J. M. Carroll, A History of Texas Baptists, ed. J. B. Cranfill (Baptist Standard Publishing Co., 1923), 617.
(2.) W. E. Penn, The Life and Labors of Major W. E. Penn, The Texas Evangelist (St. Louis: C. B. Woodward Printing and Book Mfg. Co., 1895), 50.
(3.) George Todd, Semi-Centennial Record (Jefferson, Tex.: First Baptist Church, 1905), 4.
(4.) Penn, The Life and Labors, 83.
(5.) Z. N. Morrell, Flowers and Fruits in the wilderness (Dallas: W. G. Scarff and Company, 1888), 400-01.
(6.) Gaines S. Dobbins, Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists, Vol. 2 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1958), 930.
(7.) "Here and There," Texas Baptist Herald, 20 December 1883, 2.
(8.) "An Address," Texas Baptist Herald, 30 May 1895, 5.
(9.) "W. E. Penn," Texas Baptist Herald, 9 May 1985, 5.
(10.) Morrell, Fruits and Flowers, 404.
(11.) Carroll, A History of Texas Baptists, 623.
(12.) Penn, Life and Labors, 226.
(13.) "Harvest Bells," Arkansas Baptist, 20 February 1890, 5.
(14.) William J. Reynolds, Companion to Baptist Hymnal (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1976), 399.
(15.) "Here and There," Texas Baptist Herald, 29 April 1880, 2.
(16.) David W. Music, "Music in Southern Baptist Evangelism," Baptist History and Heritage, 19, no. 1 (January 1984): 37.
(17.) D. D. Tidwell, "Major Penn's Camp Meetings," D. D. Tidwell Collection, Roberts Library, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, is a private, non-profit institution of higher education, associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, whose stated mission is "to provide theological education for individuals engaging in Christian , Fort Worth, Tex.
J. Michael Linder is coordinator for performing arts and director of choral activities, North Central Texas College, Gainesville, Texas.