|Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary|
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At a Glance
The collection is arranged in three series: Series 1: Personal materials; Series 2: Professional materials; and Series 3: Audiovisual materials.
Scope and Contents
This collection contains Reginald Helfferich's correspondence, diaries, family and biographical material, publications, and other personal materials; professional materials including information about Heifer Project International, photographs, materials related to Helfferich's ministerial work as pastor of Christ Evangelical and Reformed Church of Bath, Pennsylvania, and materials related to Helfferich's work with Church World Service (CWS); as well as audio and visual memorabilia from both Helfferich's personal and professional life, primarily Kodachrome diapositive slides, photographs, and postcards from Helfferich's travels in Europe, Africa, India, South America, and beyond.
Burke Library record group:
William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library Archives
Using the Collection
Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Information concerning copyright, fair use, and reproduction requests can be consulted at Columbia's Copyright Advisory Office.
Item description, WAB: Reginald Humphrey Helfferich Papers, series #, box #, folder #, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.
WAB: Church World Service records, 1925-1969, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.
The papers are part of the William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library Archives, which was founded in 1945 by the Union Theological Seminary Board of Directors.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The exact provenance of this collection is unknown.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Metal clips and staples were removed from materials and folded items were flattened. Materials were placed in new acid-free folders and boxes. Acidic items were separated from one another by interleaving with acid-free paper as needed. Any items in an advanced state of deterioration were placed in Mylar envelopes. The finding aid was created by Melissa Lemons in 2007, updated by Kristen Leigh Southworth in 2013 with the support of the Henry Luce Foundation, and edited by Leah Edelman in 2023.
2023-04-13 PDF converted to EAD and description updated by Leah Edelman.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
Reginald Humphrey Helfferich was the fifth generation in a family of clergymen who had led the parish of Christ Evangelical and Reformed Church in Bath, Pennsylvania for 182 years. The first generation, Rev. Johann Heinrich Helfferich, was sent to the United States as a missionary by the synods of North and South Holland in 1791. Reginald and his twin brother were born on June 15, 1905 to William Ursinus Helfferich and Nora Schuler Helfferich. Reginald attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut for three years before transferring to Ursinus College, the school his grandfather helped start, and from there he received his B.A. in 1929. In 1932 he received his Bachelor of Divinity from the Theological Seminary of the University of Chicago. That same year he married Virginia Merritt, daughter of the first woman in the Connecticut State Senate, Alice Patterson Merritt. He took his first job as the pastor at the Reformed Church in Butler, but when his father died two years later in 1934, he moved to Bath to take over the family parish. In 1946, Reginald led a failed campaign in the parish to raise money for European war relief. This forced him to reconsider his own prejudices against foreign aid. Confused by all the stereotypes, his wife finally suggested, "Why don't you go overseas and find out?" And so he began his first tour abroad as a volunteer field worker, assisting with the European church's refugee resettlement efforts after World War II. For this, he would later be awarded the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit by Germany in 1961. World service ministry became the focus of Reginald's work and life, and over the next 35 years he traveled to 161 countries, working in 41 of them to provide aid. He served as General Secretary of the Division of World Service for the Evangelical and Reformed Church, which later merged into the United Church Board for World Ministries, from 1946 until his retirement in 1971. He also helped to create the Church World Service (CWS) of the National Council of Churches (NCC), for which he served as special representative from 1949 to 1972. Reginald served on the policy boards of 27 organizations, including several that he helped to found: Heifer Project, for which he was Treasurer until 1973; Meals for Millions Foundation, for which he served as Vice President until 1975; CROP; International Voluntary Service; Interchurch Medical Assistance; the Tibetan Foundation; CODEL; PACT; Technoserve; and the Interchurch Aid Committee, which later became the Commission on Interchurch Aid, Refugee, and World Service of the World Council of Churches. Committed to service and action, Reginald was known for moving forward impatiently on projects, despite the hesitancies of his committees and superiors. Once with a mischievous smile he admitted, "I'm the stinker of the whole organization." His primary goal was to "help people help themselves" with the aid of tools, seeds, poultry, animals, and training. After retiring in 1971 he served the Connecticut Conference as minister of missions until poor health forced him to retire again. He died on June 28, 1981. He was survived by his second wife, Ruth Ernest Helfferich (married in 1963), his son, Merritt Helfferich, his two daughters, Alice Orsini and Deborah Scranton, and eight grandchildren.