Balboa Union Church – The Panama Times 1926

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The following is a transcript from the Article published by the Panama Times, on January 30, 1926.

Balboa Dedicates Its New House of Worship

Union Church Represents More Than Twelve Years of Community Effort


Readers of Isthmian dailies are already acquainted with the details of the dedication services of the new Balboa Union Church, which impressive ceremony was attended by more than 1200 people from all points of the Canal Zone and Panama on Sunday, January 24. They are acquainted with the words, upon this occasion, of Colonel H. Burgess, Acting Governor of the Canal Zone, and Dr. David G. Wylie of New York, representing the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, who preached the dedicatory sermons.  But not all of the readers are aware of the fact that the opening of the new religious edifice marks the culmination of more than twelve years of community planning, of the investment of time and money, of the sacrifice of many people here on the Isthmus and the generosity of many others in the United States, and of the splendid co-operation of the Federated Church Council of America.

Has Interesting History

The Balboa Union Church has an interesting history.  It has had many prominent people as its patrons.  The mention of a few who gave generously to the building fund reveals a widely spread interest in the project.  The total cost of the structure was $127,000 of which $85,000 was donated by the Federated Council of Protestant Churches in America.  Private individuals made up the balance, excepting the loan from the Scottish … body of the Canal Zone.  Some of those who contributed from the States were: John D. Rockefeller Jr. of New York, $10,000; E.S. Harkness and mother of New York and Pasadena, $11,500; E. Curtis James o New York, $9,000; E.E. Alcott of New York, $1,800; Cleveland H. Dodge of New York, $5,500; S. B. Chopin of New York, $1,500; and D.B..Gamble of Pasadena $1,000.

Much credit is due to the Reverend Marshall, the present popular and versatile pastor, and his predecessor for the successful realization of the project.

Plans Commenced in 1914

The Union Church of Balboa really dates back to January, 1914, and the organization back of it had its origin at Corozal where the … of the church, representing the various Union Christian …, gathered from all points in the Zone.  The first pastor was the Rev. William E. Flammer who arrived on the Isthmus on September 11, 1914, his parish having the unique characteristic of extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific with headquarters at Balboa.

The site first selected for the proposed church, and parsonage, was on the flats near the Police Station, but this was eventually changed for the present elevated location.  Under the leadership of Reverend Flammer, the church grew and prospered so that it became necessary later to secure additional pastors, leaving him more time for local work.

Cornerstone Laid in 1917

Revered Sydney S. Conger was Flammer’s successor.  Under this administration funds were raised for the beginning of a new church at Balboa. He spent considerable time in the States soliciting funds, after the members of the Balboa church had first demonstrated their interest by subscribing heavily to the work. But for the outbreak of the World War, Reverend Conger would probably have raised sufficient money to complete the building. The cornerstone was laid on September 25, 1917, by Mr. … A.A. Smith, the first president of the Union Church here.

Rev. Conger resigned to accept overseas work during the War. A call was sent to Reverend Benjamin B. Knapp and for about three years he labored zealously for the development of the plans. He resigned to locate in California. The next pastor was Reverend Albert R. Brown. Under his direction, the church once again rallied to the task of raising funds.  Before the completion of the church, Rev. Brown resigned in order to accompany his children who wee seeking a medical education. The labors of Rev. and Mrs. Brown were of great value and will ever be remembered by the parishioners.

The Present Pastor

The Reverend Raymond E. Marshall was present at the laying of the cornerstone in 1917, at the dedication of the first story, and today is the regular pastor as the time of the final dedication of the edifice. His selection as pastor is ample evidence of the confidence of the church in his ability as a leader. He is a native of Milburn, New Jersey, and a graduate of Dickenson College at Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  He later studied at the Drew Theological Seminary of Madison, New Jersey, and still alter took a post-graduate course at Columbia University. Upon his graduation in 1917, Dr. Marshall received an invitation to come to the Isthmus as pastor of the Gatun Union Church, a post which he occupied for nearly two years, during the latter part of which period he also service as pastoral of the Cristobal Union Church.  It was under his leadership that the Cristobal Union Church building project was organised. He proceeded to the States to raise funds and succeeded in obtaining $25,000, a part of which came from the Methodist Board of Missions.

Served in the Philippines

Illness prevented Dr. Marshall from returning to the Isthmus and he resigned as pastor of the Cristobal church. Later he became associate pastor of one of the largest churches in Newark, New Jersey, where he remained for over a year, leaving this work to go to the Philippine Islands, having been appointed as Dean of the College Department and Professor of the New Testament at the Union Theological Seminary at Manila training school for Filipino pastors. He also served as pastor of one of the student churches. The Seminary is supported by the six different denominations and the men are trained for the ministry to represent all of these denominations appointed by their respective boards. The young men, upon graduating, go back to their various provinces to serve as pastors. Although the student may represent twelve or fifteen different native dialects, the entire teaching in the Seminary is in English.

Travels in the Orient

Dr. Marshall was also Secretary and Treasurer of the Evangelical Union of the Philippine Islands, an organization comprising the missionary pastors and leading laymen of the various Filipino Churches. While in the Islands, he made a trip through northern Luzon, the «head-hunters» country, and later visited Mindanao where the then ….. On one occasion, Dr. Marshall visited China and Korea calling at the various missionary stations and institutions. He was also a delegate to the World Sunday School Convention held in Tokyo in 1029. It was his privilege to address many of the students of the various institutions and churches and he can also claim the rather unique distinction of having taught the first Chinese woman automobilist how to drive.

Through a Chinese friend whom he had met in America, Dr. Marshall was invited to live at the home of his friend’s relative who was also an official. It was here that he not only served as chauffeur but was also the instructor of the lady of the house, reputed to be the first Chinese woman to run an automobile.

While still in the Philippines, Dr. Marshall was elected one of the delegates to the first central conference of missionaries of Southeastern Asia. He visited India, spending several weeks in that country looking over the missionary work and visiting points of interest en-route. A stopover in Egypt afforded him the opportunity of becoming acquainted with that ancient land. While there he had the novel experience of standing on the top of a time-old pyramid, addressing a group of students of a Moslem University, expounding to them the fundamentals of Christianity, an experience equally novel to his group of listeners.

His stay in Egypt was followed by a visit to Palestine and the Holy Land. The trip then took him over the mountains to Syria, into Damascus, and then Beirut.. Dr. Marshall was then given an opportunity of seeing something of the Near East Relief Work which  .. maintained 50,000 Armenian … left destitute in the Turkish desserts. A trip along the Mediterranean followed and he say Smyrna shorting before it was burned, a catastrophe that left the city in ruins and in which, it is said, 100,000 people perished.

Returns to the Isthmus

Dr. Marshall attended the Central Conference of the Methodist Church when Dr. George A. Miller, former superintendent of the Panama Mission was elected Bishop of Mexico and Central America. Bishop Miller then appointed the Reverend Marshall as his successor at the work of superintendent. While serving in this capacity and during the absence of Dr. A.R. Brown, then pastor of the Union Church here, Dr. Marshall occupied the pulpit on various occasions and, upon the resignation of Brown, the officials of the Balboa Union Church invited him to become pastor.

From this account it is evident that, although still a young man, Reverend Marshall possesses a wealth of travel and experience which enables him to deal effectively with the problems that arise in such an institution as the Balboa church where many denominations are represented. Here he ministers to all, giving concrete expression to the sentiment expressed by Dr. Wylie in this dedicatory sermon:

«The mission of the Church is to deal with the minds, the hearts and the conscience of men. As such, may the Balboa Church, built upon a hilltop between mighty oceans on a little Isthmus connecting North and South America, ever be a beacon sending out rays of hope and comfort to all who look upon its beautiful structure or feel its spiritual influence!»