Deacons-Alice Brinegar 641-895-7352
Moderator & Board Chair-Dean Penner 641-664-1115
Submit Newsletter Items-Emily Penner
Submit Bulletin Items-Lisa Myers
The Church of the Brethren traces its history back to 1708 in Schwartzenau, Germany. A group of eight Christians joined together for Bible Study and prayer and determined to live more closely to the teachings of Christ than what they found evident in the State Churches of the day. As the church grew, so did the government persecutions. Eventually, the group scattered. In 1719, a large group of Brethren migrated to Pennsylvania. Within ten years, most of the Brethren had arrived in America.
In 1838, the first Brethren arrived in Iowa. In 1849, Brethren migrated from Indiana and Ohio to Appanoose County, Iowa where the Fairview congregation was organized in 1853. The fertile farming ground of the area attracted many Brethren farmers and their large families. The first church building was built in 1866. It served the growing congregation for nearly 78 years.
Learn more about the denomination at Church of the Brethren Network
In January of 1944, the church building burned to the ground despite the valiant efforts of community members to fight the fire. Few items were saved from the burning structure. Among them was the picture of Jesus (see story below)rescued from the fire by a church member, Dwight Powell. By the time Powell went in for the picture, the smoke had thickened to where he could not see. The men on the outside kept talking to him to guide him out by the sound of their voices.
A new building was constructed that summer and dedicated in December of that same year. An educational wing was added in 1960 and renovated in 1997. The rescued picture is prominent when you enter the building. The picture of Jesus praying in Gethsemane for all his followers of all times is a reminder that he prayed for us. It's also a reminder that each of us needs to be rescued from our own "fires."
The painting hanging in Fairview Church is more than a picture; the painting of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane is a sermon and witness to the people who view and study it. The few verses in the Gospel of Luke 22 simply tell us that Jesus left the city and went, as he usually did to the Mount of Olives to pray. His prayer the evening before his crucifixion on Golgotha was impassioned but humble, one in which he relinquished his will to suffer for the sins of mankind. Luke says Jesus’ three friends, James, John, and Peter, were not able to pray with him for one hour. Jesus admonished them to ‘Get up and pray that you will not fall into temptation,’ Luke 22:46.
Ralph Stuckey portrayed the prayer event in oils on a 4 x 6’ canvas. The painting won awards for the painter and might have been sold for a large sum, but in the 1930's Ralph chose to trade it for burial plots in the Fairview Cemetery for his parents and himself. Ralph was a talented man, attended Iowa Wesleyan College at Mount Pleasant learning art and participating in sports, and music. In his teens, Ralph was stricken with epilepsy, an illness that was still a mystery to local doctors. Although today Ralph could have been treated effectively with simple medications, in the 1930's those were unknown.
Ralph lived at home with his parents, took art lessons and traveled to local churches sharing his musical talent in a quartette, on the piano and playing the flute. At one point he performed with the Chautauqua. He also kept a huge flower garden. When he was in his 50's, his parents died. He stayed for six months with a Baptist minister in Centerville. For a time men were hired to care for him at his Udell farm home and drive the car for him. When his condition worsened with age, he was taken to Mount Pleasant sanitarium.
The painting has continued to inspire sacrifice. In the Spring of 1944, the Fairview Church caught on fire. As the congregation gathered to fight the blaze, Dwight Powell, a member, was motivated to enter the burning building to get the painting. As Dwight entered he became disoriented in the smoke and fumes. Only the encouragement and yells of his friends guided him out to safety. Thus the painting became the link between the old church and the new building when the structure was completed later that year.
The painting which stands as a focal point upon entry to Fairview Church has assisted the worship of the viewers for more than 75 years. For the first 25 or more years the painting hung front and center in the sanctuary behind the pulpit to cover the baptistery opening. Membership classes included the story of Gethsemane and the history of the painting. Each person who viewed it brought their knowledge of the Scripture and Jesus’ saving love to their experience with the painting. If sermons seemed dull or not meaningful to the hearer, the painting provided inspiration and challenge to live prayerfully remembering what Jesus sacrificed.
In 1960 when the church members built an addition for Sunday School rooms, the painting was placed in the entrance, directly across from the outside doors to set the stage for worship and reflection.
What about the painter? His life too was impacted by misunderstanding and sacrifice, over which he had little control. Ralph Stuckey was never happy in Mount Pleasant. He wrote many letters to friends and family begging them to assume responsibility for him so he could be released. He was not mentally ill; he did not belong there. Although he had occasional attacks of epilepsy, he was talented and could work productively.
Unfortunately, no one stepped in to rescue him. Like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, Ralph had to bear his cross alone. In a small way, he lived out the story of self-sacrifice through a misunderstanding of an illness. Misunderstanding caused Jesus Christ much anguish in Gethsemane. Was the experience of painting the picture of Jesus how Ralph Stuckey identified with his Savior and found comfort? Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane is a painting by Ralph Stuckey circa 1930. A painting, but so much more; it’s Ralph’s continuing sermon of love and sacrifice.
Marilyn J. Koehler, 2007
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us." -- Hebrews-12:1
If you will, take this cup of suffering from me. However, not my will, but your will be done." -- Luke 22:42
Come on in and take a look around! Click the icon in the upper right to get full screen view.
"Do not neglect to meet together..." -- Hebrews 10:25