This was a rejuvenating year for the Brethren in Christ Historical Society. We welcomed one new member Christina Embree from Lexington, Kentucky, a church planter, New Generation coordinator and Minister of general discipleship at Plowshares Brethren in Christ Church, and founder and president of Re-Focus Ministry, which has the mission of connecting generations at church and at home. One of our goals is to bring younger persons into leadership of the Historical Society. Therefore, I am delighted that I am now the only officer that can reasonably be categorized as “old.”
We are deeply indebted to our diligent, resourceful staff members who consented to stay in their positions for the immediate future to continue the work of the Society and train persons to sometime move into their positions. Along with the officers, the executive director and editor carry the major workload of the Society.
Our Annual Heritage Service was a joint meeting with our historic brothers and sisters—the Old Order River Brethren, United Zion, and Brethren in Christ Churches. The September annual meeting focused on the seventieth anniversary of the Brethren in Christ Church in Japan. Thanks to our executive director for effective planning and implementation of these excellent programs.
Issues of Brethren in Christ History and Life in 2023 included (or will include) scholarly papers from the Sider Institute Conference on Christian nationalism; Jonathan Stayer’s exploration of how we got the name, Brethren in Christ; Wendy Urban-Mead’s analysis of the Brethren in Christ Church in Rhodesia during World War I; and Richard Hughes’s Schrag Lecture on questions related to the Anabaptist Vision. The journal has also continued its focus on storytelling: Costandy Saba’s account of growing up in the midst of the Israeli-Palestine conflict; Pauline Peifer’s biography of her parents, Isaac and Maybelle Kanode; Marion Musser’s survey of the history of New Hope Ministries in Pennsylvania;
Zach Spidel’s recovery of the story of Rhoda Lee and how the denomination came to accept women in ministry; Charlotte Brechbill White’s account of her Brethren in Christ childhood; Timothy Epp’s narrative on how Anabaptists addressed “blackness;” and Nancy and M.J. Heisey’s story of Elsie Bechtel’s relief work in France after World War II.
Larger projects are in process: Devin Manzullo-Thomas’s two manuscripts, a biography of E. Morris and Leone Sider and a history of the Brethren in Christ in the twentieth century; Daryl Climenhaga’s history of Brethren in Christ Missions, and Jean Smith Hunsberger’s biography of her father, Robert Smith. Thanks to our competent, visionary editor Harriet Sider Bicksler for her hours of work nurturing these articles and books from research to publication.
The Historical Socety board approved a formal process for how the Historical Society will work with potential book authors. Thanks to the Book Publishing Exploratory Committee David Weaver-Zercher, Chair; Glen Pierce; and Harriet Sider Bicksler for their work on this important project.
Our president and executive director met with Alan Robinson, national director of Brethren in Christ U.S. to talk about the relationship between the Historical Society and the church. We reviewed our covenant and affirmed our agreement to meet annually. The Historical Society also reaffirms our goal to serve as a resource to the Church.
We are grateful for those who serve the Historical Society in so many ways. Pray for us as we work to support the Brethren in Christ Church and its members.