This edition of the journal is notable in that all four major articles are by women—two of them scholars who are contributing much to the body of Brethren in Christ research, one a visiting speaker whose recent popular book featured a Brethren in Christ farm family, and the other an ordinary wife and mother who endured great tragedy throughout her life and gives testimony to God’s grace.
The lead article is an adaptation of Bertha Heisey’s story of “God’s hand in her life” through the accidental deaths of her first husband and two of her sons. She also suffered severe physical pain from her own injuries in a car accident, as well as a debilitating illness. As her daughter Aspen Heisey writes in her introduction, Bertha Heisey originally wrote about her life for a presentation at the retirement home where she lived. Following her mother’s death, Aspen uncovered more stories and photographs to add to the original and compiled them into a book for family members and friends. The result is an example of the legacy that family members can leave for future generations by preserving the stories of their parents and grandparents.
Using funding provided by the Christian Lesher Fellows Program and the Sider Grants Program, administered by the Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan Studies at Messiah University, Lisa Weaver-Swartz has produced a significant although limited profile of Brethren in Christ pastors in the United States. As I read it, I was alternatively encouraged and discouraged. After interviewing a self-selected sampling of pastors and sorting through her conversations with them, Weaver-Swartz concludes: “The denomination is in deep need of identity work.” She follows with several recommendations, one of which is a call to “address a deficit in collective memory.” She notes that “stories are an important basis for group memory,” and points out that the 250th anniversary of the Brethren in Christ Church in 2028 offers an opportunity to collect and share the stories of the past to strengthen our collective memory. I hope that the journal can assist with that effort over the coming years.
Lucille Marr continues with her passion for researching the life and thought of H. Frances Davidson, a member of the first Brethren in Christ missionary party to Africa in 1998. In a new article, Marr focuses on the year between Davidson’s call to missions service and her departure for the mission field. Marr grounds her analysis of Davidson’s spirituality during this year (as revealed in her diaries) in other writings about feminine consciousness. The result is a fascinating glimpse into the inner life of one of the most consequential Brethren in Christ women of her time or any time.
Each year, the Sider Institute for Pietist, Anabaptist, and Wesleyan Studies at Messiah University sponsors the Schrag Lectures in honor of the late Martin and Dorothy Schrag, professors emeritus, respectively, of church history and music. The 2022 lecture was given by Marie Mutsuki Mockett, author of American Harvest: God, Country, and Farming in the Heartland. Mockett traveled with the Eric and Emily Wolgemuth family (from the Cross Roads Brethren in Christ Church in Pennsylvania) and their crew as they worked their way through the harvest in the American heartland. In her lecture, reprinted as the final article in this edition, Mockett spoke of the challenges of travelling and hanging out with people very different from herself and the lessons she learned about “loving our enemies.”
Four book reviews round out this edition. Two of the books being reviewed are in the autobiography/memoir genre, one addresses White people who want to pursue racial justice, and another addresses the issue of women in ministry and leadership in the church from historical and biblical contexts and strongly reaffirms the Brethren in Christ support of the same at all levels of church life.