Conceived in compassion and inspired by foresight.
One man had a bold dream. Dr. J.M. Phillippi of Lebanon, Ohio, dreamed that his church, the United Brethren, would one day create a home for the aged and orphaned.
In 1912, he acted on that call in a way that, to his church, seemed reckless. Even irresponsible.
Without its approval, Dr. Phillippi committed United Brethren to the purchase of 4,000 acres of a former Shaker settlement near Lebanon. The price: $325,000—40 million in today’s dollars. You can see why the church trustees gave him a sound verbal lashing!
Looking back, it all seems ordained. The leaders of that once-influential Shaker settlement, then called Union Village, must have shared his vision. Perhaps they saw it as an extension of their own “hands to work, hearts to God” ethos. They had 75 prospective buyers—but chose Dr. Phillippi.
A peaceful religious sect dating from the 1780s, the Shakers today are known for their ingenuity and cultural contributions. Especially their style of music and furniture. But they didn’t believe in procreation. They built their commune with the souls God sent their way. By 1909, the celibate Shaker population had dwindled to 26. And the village was sold.
Rather than dismantle the Shaker legacy, United Brethren preserved it. Today, Otterbein’s Marble Hall, built by Shaker craftsmen, is a national treasure, attracting history enthusiasts from around the world.
Vision and faith. Two all-conquering assets.
Dr. Phillippi said in 1912, “I am willing to take, and invite, all the censure that this church wants to give me. I think I can see something in the future. I think I can look ahead to the time when some of us that are living now will not take the same attitude toward what is now the Otterbein Home.”
Named in honor of the 1767 founder of the United Brethren in Christ Church, Phillip William Otterbein, the Home became a United Methodist ministry in 1968. That year, the United Brethren merged with the Methodists to form the United Methodist Church. Today’s Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices—an organization long-defined by innovation and compassion—has been gaining support and momentum since its founding a century ago. It is still driven by vision and faith.