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Nicholas L. Bray

Nicholas L. Bray

Nicholas L. Bray after more than ninety-four years of earthly life, on August 31, 1938, was called of God to the life that is life indeed, and has received his coronation. He was the oldest member of the Michigan Conference.

He was born in Cornwall, England, June 28, 1844. He served seven years apprenticeship as a ship builder. He was converted early in youth and soon became a local preacher. Around 1870, he came to America and engaged in ship building in Chicago, but soon, feeling that his life's work was in the Christian ministry, and heeding the call of Rev. H.C. Peck, presiding elder of the Big Rapids District, he united with the Michigan Conference in 1870, at its session in Coldwater. He was appointed to Mt. Pleasant as his first pastorate. His subsequent appointments were Evart, Woodland, Orleans, Lowell, Quincy, Sturgis, Muskegon Central, Portland, Jackson Haven. He served a full term as presiding elder on the Coldwater District and later a full term on the Big Rapids District, and on the death of Rev. A.T. Ferguson in 1911 finished the year on the Grand Traverse District. He was also for a time, conference evangelist, and was field agent of the Supply Pastor's fund. He served as a delegate to the General Conferences, meeting in Omaha and in Baltimore.

In 1871 he was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth Jane Slade, of Cornwall, who, until she passed away in 1918, was his companion and helper indeed. She was a woman of charming personality and deep religious experience. There was one daughter, Mrs. Eli P. Bennett, who is matron of the Methodist Home in Chelsea, and with whom he made his home for the last 20 years, and who gave him the utmost of loving care. Three grandchildren also mourn his departure: Mrs. W.W. Zook, and Frances Phillips Bennett, of Detroit, and Chester C. Bennett, of Rochester, N.Y.

Brother Bray died August 31st, 1938, and his funeral was held in Chelsea, September 2, in charge of the Rev. H. Addis Leeson, with burial the following day in South Bend, Indiana, beside his beloved companion.

For fifteen years Brother Bray lived in Big Rapids, where his influence in the church and community was of the highest order. As a minister "he was a workman that needed not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth," and as presiding elder he was wise, kindly and a tactful counsellor as many can testify. His character was transparent, his record clean, his service of highest usefulness.

Upon his leaving Big Rapids the paper had this to say of him: "In the larger gatherings of Methodists he fittingly represented us, his work upon the district has been of high order; in the quarterly and district conferences his presidency has been characterized by dignity, justice and Christian brotherliness; his administration of the holy sacrament of the Lord's Supper has been imbued with the spirit of the sacrifice of the Christ that made possible this means of Grace: his sermons and addresses have been true to Methodist doctrines, and have led us to a more complete consecration and to a larger life in Jesus Christ our Lord. In all the cities, villages and communities of this great district he has left the impress of a Christian gentleman. He has come into the homes of both preachers and laymen to rejoice with them in their successes and weep with them in their sorrows." His work for the Reed City camp meeting left a deep impress on the spiritual life of the district. We may well believe that he has heard the master say: "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of Thy Lord."

- Michigan Annual Conference minutes of 1939, pp. 574-575