Nazarene Archives receives original Phineas Bresee manuscripts

Global Ministry Center

A significant collection of Phineas Bresee’s handwritten sermons were recently donated to the Church of the Nazarene by Bobbie Bresee, the wife of Phineas’ great-grandson.

Bobbie brought them in June to Pasadena First Church of the Nazarene, where the collection was received with gratitude and enthusiasm by Senior Pastor Tara Beth Leach and other church staff. The manuscripts were then transferred to Nazarene Archives in December. They will be housed with the rest of Bresee's handwritten letters already in the archives.

“Placing the sermon manuscripts together with the correspondence strengthens and enhances the research potential of both collections,” said Stan Ingersol, denominational archivist.

The sermon manuscripts will be microfilmed first and then digitized.

“Preservation microfilming is still the archival standard,” Ingersol said.  “It is a preservation medium, whereas digitization is an access medium.”

Once these tasks are completed, the collection will be made available for use by researchers.

A renowned preacher, Phineas was elected general superintendent for the Church of the Nazarene at its First General Assembly (1907).

J. B. Chapman, founding editor of The Preacher’s Magazine, first heard Bresee preach in 1908.  Years later, he wrote: “The first time I saw Dr. Bresee in the pulpit was when he arose to lead the devotional service on the afternoon of the opening of the [Second] General Assembly. His patriarchal appearance so impressed me that I think I was more or less prepared for the marvelous address he gave on the 60th chapter of Isaiah.”  Chapman added:  “It was the presence and bearing and emphasis of the man that made the impression and constituted this an occasion of a lifetime.”

Bresee was founding pastor of Los Angeles First Church and preached there from 1895 to 1911. He lived in a series of Methodist parsonages in Iowa and California from 1857 to 1895, but when his Nazarene years began, he and his wife, Maria, moved into the home of their son, Paul, where they became part of a three-generational household.

Paul was a doctor whose medical office was in the basement of the home, while Phineas had an office upstairs where he had the solitude necessary for sermon-writing.

The Bresee family retained the sermon manuscripts until this year. Custody of the manuscripts passed from Paul to his son, Horace, and then to one of Horace’s sons, Frank, who passed away earlier this year. Bobbie is Frank’s surviving spouse.

Other Phineas Bresee materials currently held by the Nazarene Archives include a nearly complete set of The Nazarene Messenger — a weekly paper that Phineas edited from 1898 to 1911; the materials compiled by Timothy Smith to write the Bresee portion of Called Unto Holiness; and several cubic feet of folders created by Carl Bangs to research and write Phineas F. Bresee: His Life in Methodism, the Holiness Movement and the Church of the Nazarene, a biography released on the occasion of Los Angeles First Church’s centennial.

--Nazarene Archives