Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Today on the Almanac, we remember Jacob Albright—founder of the Evangelical Association and actual “little drummer boy.”

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 18th of May 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Today, I want to tell you the story of Jacob Albright, although he went by Jacob Albrecht. Even that little detail tells you something about this story about immigration to the new world. Albright was the son of Anna and Johannes Albrecht- they had moved to Pennsylvania from Germany during the mid-1700s. Pennsylvania was a haven of relative religious liberty thanks to William Penn. The German Reformed harassed German Lutherans, and the German Reformed who were harassed by the German Lutherans all fled here for safety.

Imagine arriving and finding a Lutheran or Reformed Christian happy to be free from the harassment back home… do you think they would continue to harass each other in the new world? Unfortunately, some did, but others sought “union” churches, unlike some in parts of Germany back home.

The Albrechts, soon to be the Albrights, stayed with their German Lutheran heritage. Jakob was baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran church and took up his father's trade of tile making.

He was 17 in 1776, and with the start of the Revolutionary War, he enlisted as a drummer boy because drummer boys were real. And way cooler than you think. They provided the rhythm for marching (how a sea chanty did the same on a boat). Still, they also knew extensive codes and messages set to specific beats- before anything like radio transmission could be a game changer, the ability to communicate across battlefields. [as far as why there was a drummer boy at the nativity according to that one Christmas carol, I will never know].

Jakob's faith was, according to him, meager. In 1790 dysentery swept the town, and three of his children with his wife Catherine died. This led to anguish and a crisis of faith.

He found that his childhood faith did not give him any comfort. Phillip Otterbein, a local Dutch Reformed minister, gave the sermon at one of his children’s funerals, and Jakob was so impressed that he began to visit the home church of Otterbein.

Please remember- this early in the new World experience, there were hardly enough preachers, let alone churches to pick from. Back home, your town or village had a local church. The magistrate decided what kind it was in the city's center, and all life flowed through and out of it.

But here in the new world- may be a circuit preacher came every few months. Otherwise, you had a lay preacher. Albrecht would become a lay preacher (called an “exhorter”) and a circuit pastor. He found the organization of the Methodist Episcopal church to be helpful and fruitful.

But Frances Asbury, the Methodist Episcopal church leader, was not interested in any missionaries or preachers who spoke German as their primary language. On account of this, Albrecht and others would break off the Methodist Episcopal Church to do their version of Methodism.

The established churches and their members were happy to see Albrecht and others preaching in the open air, not sanctioned by a larger body- they were at worst physically harmed- chased and beaten.

More common, and frankly comical- is the name calling- the special type of German name calling which gives us words like “Knierutschers” (knee sliders), Koepfhangers (head hangers), Kraechzers (groaners), Scwaermer and Heuchler (fanatic and hypocrite).

Jacob Albright was considered by many to be fair in his dealings (he was known as “the honest tiller”) and a dynamic, if not frail, preacher.

His body would eventually catch up to him and his constant travels. In the early 1800s, he suffered from various maladies, including tuberculosis. IN 1808 he attended a general meeting of his new denomination- dubbed the Albrechtleute or Albright's People- this would become the Evangelical Association- an important 19th century Methodist evangelical denomination that would unite with the United Brethren in the 1900s to form what would become the United Methodist Church (one of the most prominent denominations in America today).

After that meeting, on this the 18th of May in 1808, a weak Jacob made his way to a friend's home- he is said to have asked, “is my bed ready? I have come to die”. Born in 1759, Jakob Albright- preacher and evangelist for his own Evangelical Association, died at 49 years.

The Last Word for today comes from, what… wait… is that? That’s the music for Leviticus… the lectionary has us there today:

9 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 18th of May 2022, brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by the “Koepfhanger” to my “Knierutscher” he is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man still listening to Larry Norman- long after the episode came out. Check out how the Hymn to the Last Generation is a play on the Sun began to Rain at a slower tempo. I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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