The History of Western Christadelphian Bible School
In September 1950, a planning committee met at the LaHonda YMCA Camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains, west of San Jose, California. The purpose of the meeting was to explore the possibility of starting a Bible School on the West Coast that would serve the 15 Unamended Christadelphian ecclesias, which at that time ranged from San Diego to British Columbia. The gathering was arranged by the San Francisco Unamended ecclesia through the leadership and enthusiasm of Bro. H. Blair Smith and his wife, Sis. Florence.
They had recently moved to the Bay area from Portland, Oregon.
Bro. Smith was keenly interested in organizing a Bible School similar to the Bible School in Martinville, Arkansas, that had served so many brethren since its beginnings in 1922. Bro. Smith was selected as the planning committee chairman.
It was decided that the dates for the first Bible School would be July 22-29, 1951, with the intent to use the Mission Springs Conference Grounds near Santa Cruz. The Mission Springs management decided not to allow the Christadelphians to use their facilities due to a conflict of interest, which, as it turned out, proved to be a providential blessing. Further exploration brought to light the availability of the Presbyterian Conference Grounds at Zephyr Point, Nevada on the eastern shore of beautiful Lake Tahoe just north of the California/Nevada state line. It was possible to reserve the same week as originally planned, and so the first Western Christadelphian Bible School (WCBS) was held at the Zephyr Point Conference Grounds from July 21-29, 1951.
Bro. O. L. Dunaway who had been Superintendent and one of the organizers of the original Bible School in Martinville, Arkansas, was secured as a guest speaker. Having just returned from a visit to the Holy Land, he offered slides and movie documentation of the struggles and God’s blessing on the fledgling state of Israel.
In his overview of the history of the early years of the Bible School, Bro. Smith notes the tuition advertised in the ADVOCATE Magazine for the first Bible School was $20 for adults 18 years and over; $15 for those 7 to 17 years; and $10 for those 6 years and under.
1952 saw the continuation of WCBS at the same beautiful Zephyr Point location from July 26 – August 3, 1952. Among those baptized during this School was Bro. Tom Hawksworth.
Unfortunately, the management of the Conference Grounds decided not to renew a contract with the Christadelphians for the following year due to their doctrinal concerns and fear that their staff might be influenced. This problem was to be encountered again later on. As a result, the WCBS Committee quickly began to search for another suitable site.
In 1953 the Committee was blessed to secure a new site at a Methodist facility in the area of Boulder Creek, California near the Redwood grove in Big Basin on the western side of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The grounds were beautiful, however rustic, and the following year it was decided to move to a new location with accommodations that were not so rustic, though still in the central region of California. The highlighted guest teacher was again Bro. O. L. Dunaway. Sadly, this was to be the last year Bro. Dunaway would be able to attend. Bro. Charles Ghent Jr. served as chairman of the organizing committee. Among those baptized at the Bible School was Sis. Anne Robinson (Creekmore) of the San Francisco Ecclesia.
It should be noted that along with brethren from the Unamended ecclesias sponsoring the Bible School, there were also a number of brethren and young people from Berean and Amended ecclesias who attended from the start, and with whom longstanding friendships were forged and a closeness developed that would bear fruit in later years.
In 1954 the location of the Bible School was moved to the Mt. Tamalpais Boys’ School in San Rafael, at the north-west end of the San Francisco Bay. It was necessary to hold the Bible School a few weeks earlier than in previous years, running from June 26-July 4 . Bro. Blair Smith again served the Bible School as Chairman, with Bro. Norman Kuhlmeyer serving in charge of Education. The school was blessed with the attendance of Bro. John Peake as the highlighted guest teacher, accompanied by his wife, Sis. Janetta and daughter Janna from St.Paul, Minnesota. Among those baptized at the Bible School was Bro. Don Robinson of the San Francisco Ecclesia.
As Bro. Blair Smith observes, “we had begun to realize from actual experience that, “we have here no continuing city,” as Heb. 13:14 states.” The next year was to see the Mt. Tamalpais Boys’ School sold, again requiring the relocation of the Bible School. It was decided to return to the Redwood Christian Park location in Boulder Creek as the venue for the 1955 WCBS from July 9-17.
In 1956 the Bible School moved to the Pacific Northwest for the first time to Lewis and Clark College in the Portland area. The teachers scheduled for this year were, Bro. E. W. Farrar, Bro. David Warrington, Bro. Blair Smith, Bro. Charles Ghent, Bro. Tom Hawksworth and Bro. Charles Deighton. The children’s classes were arranged for by Sis. Marie Cederstrom along with willing volunteers to help teach the classes. The date this year was August 18-26, 1956. See the 1956 WCBS Flyer.
In 1957 and 1958 the Bible School was again held at this lovely campus (in 1957 from July 13-21 and 1958 from July 5-13). Having been blessed with three edifying years at Lewis and Clark College, it was once again necessary for the Western Christadelphian Bible School to move. This time WCBS moved back to a somewhat upgraded and expanded Redwood Christian Park in Boulder Creek, CA.
In 1959 WCBS returned to Boulder Creek and continued at the Redwood Christian Park location through 1967. 1959 saw some new faces at the Bible school including Bro. A.D. Norris as a visiting speaker and Bro. Cookson from the United Kingdom. Adult classes were led by: Brothers Murray Burch, George Conner, Charles Deighton and Uzziel Hawksworth. Intermediate teachers were: Brothers George Conner, Tom Hawksworth, Bob Sleeper and Sisters, Sarah Bigger and Winnie Sleeper. Primary teachers were: Sisters Carol Cedarstrom, Arlene Conner, Alice Hawksworth, Marsha Roach, Edris Robinson and Carol Roseneau.
In 1960 Bro. H. P. Mansfield was a guest speaker at the Bible School along with Bro. Harry Whittaker and Bro. Maurice Wubbels.
In 1968 the Bible School was again in search of a new home. Through the efforts of the brethren in the Portland area led by Bro. Gene Alexander, the Menucha Conference Center in Corbett, Oregon was secured as the new location. This scenic retreat located on the rim of the Columbia River gorge offered seclusion away from the outside world where God’s creation could be experienced first hand, yet close to the transportation centers in Portland.
Since 1968 WCBS has called Menucha its home, so much so that the Bible School is widely know as just ‘Menucha’. Menucha was such an ideal place for retreats that for many years the Christadelphians would hold fall and spring study weekends there. These ‘Mini-Menucha’ as they were called were held Thanksgiving Day weekend and Easter weekend. The Barn was used for these weekends because of the cooking facilities and the intimate setting for small groups.
As mentioned earlier, WCBS has historically been attended by brethren from various Christadelphian fellowships. The close friendships that formed over the years helped to bridge the divide that existed between these groups. As unity became a reality on the West Coast in the mid to late ninety’s, WCBS evolved as well. In 1997, WCBS adopted its current Statement of Belief. The acceptance of this statement helped to solidify unity on the West Coast and has made WCBS a spiritual haven for all believers in the 21st century. We praise our Heavenly Father for allowing this Bible School to flourish as we await the return of His son, Jesus.