The notion that a particular pulpit “belonged to Bresee” is odd, to say the least. In your own experience, are pulpits owned by pastors or churches? Pulpits do come and go, but pastors come and go a lot more frequently. Bresee preached from many pulpits in his lifetime, including one from Phoenix First Church that now resides on the second floor of the Nazarene Global Ministry Center’s atrium.
Still, the conjunction of any talk about “Bresee’s pulpit” with Leach’s call to Pasadena First Church raises a very tantalizing question: Who were the women to whom Bresee yielded his pulpit when he was a pastor?
The first woman of record to preach from one of Bresee’s pulpits was the Black holiness evangelist Amanda Berry Smith. Smith was a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She was a frequent speaker at holiness camp meetings and revivals and even garnered an international reputation from preaching in Africa, Europe, and Asia. When he was pastor of Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, Bresee invited Smith to conduct a series of revival services there some time during the conference year of 1890-91. Nearly a quarter century later, he could still describe the message she preached on a Sunday afternoon, stating that she preached “as I never heard her before, and as I have rarely ever heard anybody preach, in strains of holy eloquence and unction, almost equal to Bishop [Matthew] Simpson in the zenith of his power and sacred oratory.” For Bresee, this was high praise for any preacher, since Bishop Simpson was one of his personal heroes.
A woman who preached even more regularly from Bresee’s pulpit at Los Angeles First Church of the Nazarene was Rev. Rose Potter Crist. An issue of The Nazarene Messenger from 1908 states that “notwithstanding the continued rain, a goodly number assembled for the evening service. Sister Rose Potter Crist preached from 1 Peter 1: 2-5.” An announcement followed, stating that “Mrs. Rose Potter Crist has been invited by the Committee on pastoral relations and pulpit supply to assist Dr. Bresee in the general pastoral work of First Church during the month of February. She has kindly accepted the invitation and will supply the pulpit at the Sunday evening service, as well as at other times.” Ten years later, Crist had gone on to become pastor of the Nazarene church in Berkeley, California.
There were undoubtedly other women who preached from Bresee’s pulpit at his invitation, and in the months ahead we will keep a discerning eye out when searching the Nazarene Messenger to identify who they were.
Sources: T. Scott Daniels, “What Should We Glean from Phineas F. Bresee?” http://www.graceandpeacemagazine.org/articles/21-issue-spring-2014/384-what-should-we-glean-from-phineas-f-bresee ; Carl Bangs, Phineas Bresee: His Life in Methodism, the Holiness Movement, and the Church of the Nazarene (1995): 169; and The Nazarene Messenger (Feb 13, 1908): 8.
This information is taken from the Nazarene Archives: https://www.facebook.com/Nazarene-Archives-134614599943106/?fref=photo