Today’s Photo Friday installment showcases the church of my youth, the Carlisle (Pa.) Brethren in Christ congregation. Long considered one of the more “progressive” (or “liberal,” depending on one’s perspective) churches in the denomination, the Carlisle church had, by the late 1940s, become one of the largest Brethren in Christ congregations in Pennsylvania. As a result, the congregation had outgrown its meetinghouse at on A Street.
On October 4, 1950, members of the congregation gathered to watch the groundbreaking ceremonies for the congregation’s new meetinghouse, at the corner of College and Louther Streets. The congregation’s two oldest members — John Peterman and Annie Lehman — dug the first spade of dirt with the assistance of long-time pastor Roy H. Wenger.
A photo of the pastor, the oldest members, and the church’s building committee demonstrates the midcentury diversity of expression in this congregation. Older members continue to wear the traditional Brethren in Christ “uniform”; Harper, as pastor, along with some other ordained officials, wears the traditional clerical collar; some congregants wear ties, despite the denominational sanction against such clothing.
How might a photograph like this inform my master’s thesis? To what extent did Wenger’s connections beyond the Brethren in Christ Church liberalize his pulpit preaching (or limit his out-of-pulpit critique of “errant” members)? To what extent did the evangelical/fundamentalist religious community of south-central Pennsylvania influence the Carlisle brethren? Only time (and research!) will tell.