September - October 2017

Written by Stan Ingersol
From his column Past to Present

D. Rand Pierce

Rev. D. Rand Pierce was a prominent minister in the early Church of the Nazarene. He was born in New Hampshire in 1869, one of six children of his parents, David and Diana, and a relative of U.S. President Franklin Pierce.

He was raised in Portland, Maine. His father was an invalid—the consequence of an injury sustained in the Civil War. Consequently, Pierce left school early to work in a woolen factory.

He was converted at age 19 in a Methodist camp meeting in Maine. Five years later, he testified to receiving the grace of entire sanctification and a call to preach. Pierce trained for the Methodist ministry and began his career as the pastor of churches in the East Maine Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. At the same time, he became increasingly active in the New England holiness movement, where he was well-regarded across denominational lines.

In 1901, he was called as pastor of the First Pentecostal Church in Lynn, Mass., a vital congregation of more than 100 members. Organized in 1888, it was a founding congregation of the Central Evangelical Holiness Association (CEHA), formed in 1890, and the oldest denominational root of the Church of the Nazarene. In 1896, the CEHA had merged with the Association of Pentecostal Churches of America (APCA), which would soon stretch from Nova Scotia across the northern United States to Iowa.

Pierce had strong literary interests that he developed from an early age.

He became a leader in the APCA, and was moderator at the denomination’s annual meeting in 1904. He took an active role in the Eastern group’s merger with the Los Angeles-based Church of the Nazarene led by Phineas Bresee.

He participated in merger discussions in Brooklyn, N.Y., in spring 1907, with Phineas Bresee and other western leaders; then again at the First General Assembly in Chicago (Oct. 1907); and at the Second General Assembly at Pilot Point, Tex. (Oct. 1908). Throughout, he exerted his influence on behalf of union.

Pierce had strong literary interests that he developed from an early age. His first publications appeared when he was 17. By age 20, he was an assistant editor of Eastern State, a Maine newspaper. After entering the ministry, he began writing for the religious press. While pastoring in New England, he became one of the editors of The Beulah Christian, the APCA’s official paper.

Pierce especially enjoyed writing verse. Some of his early work appeared in Maine’s Portland Transcript, which once published the poetry of such notables as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Greenleaf Whittier. Some of Pierce’s religious verse became choruses.

His primary publication was a large collection titled The Heavenly Pilgrim and Other Poems (1909). He emphasized holiness convictions in poems such as “The Fire of Pentecost” and “The Wondrous Blessing.” “Only a Word” consists of a single stanza that bristles with evangelistic intensity:

  • ‘Twas only a word to a wanderer far,
    And the speaker quite broke down,
  • But the Truth went home, and another star
  • Was won for a golden crown.i

Pierce’s first marriage was to Ida Files, a school teacher, in 1895. It came early in his Methodist ministry and was very brief. She died just four months after their wedding. He married again in 1897, uniting with Mary Everett, a native of New Brunswick, Can., who quickly came to function as Pierce’s co-pastor and was ordained an elder by the Church of the Nazarene.

Their subsequent pastorates included Utica Avenue Church in Brooklyn, N.Y. (1914-1916), one of the first churches organized by the redoubtable William Howard Hoople. Eventually they moved to the Pacific coast, where their pastorates included Tacoma, Wash.; Canby, Ore.; and Beaverton, Ore.

After her health declined Mary assumed a less active role. A year after her death, Pierce married Rev. Emma Tousley, a woman nearly 40 years his junior. His only child—a son, David—was born to this union.

Sometimes the Pierces engaged in full-time evangelistic work. At other times, they pastored. At Fullerton, Calif., Emma took the lead and Rand was her enthusiastic booster. Later they were co-pastors in Edmond, Okla. There, one of them typically preached on Sunday morning and the other on Sunday night. They switched the order the following week.ii

Though he pastored some fine congregations, D. Rand Pierce’s final pastorate was a home mission church in Crescent, Okla., which he was leading when he died in 1947. District Superintendent Ray Hance conducted his funeral at Oklahoma City First Church, during which he said: “He lived as pastor, evangelist, author; he died as missionary.”

Their son, David R. Pierce, became a leader in the community college movement, capping his career as president of the American Association of Community Colleges. In 2013, a year before his own death, he visited the Global Ministry Center and donated the D. Rand Pierce Collection to Nazarene Archives.

Stan Ingersol is manager of archives for the Church of the Nazarene.
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i D. Rand Pierce, The Heavenly Pilgrim and Other Poems (Fitchburg, Mass: For the Author, 1909): 30.
ii University of Central Oklahoma Oral History Project, “Emma May Pierce,” Interview on Sept. 28, 1995. Transcript. p. 13.
http://library.uco.edu/archives/Transcript%20Files/Pierce-Emma%20May-09-28-1995.pdf

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