Monday, September 22, 2008

Trying to explain the Brethren

At Bible study last week I was trying to explain the relationship between Grace Brethren and the Brethren Church (Ashland). A friend of mine has attended classes at Ashland University and insisted that the two were not related and that EUB was in that mix somewhere. EUB was created in 1946 from a merger of the Evangelical Church and the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, both home grown American denominations made up of German immigrants (now part of United Methodist Church). The German Baptist Brethren originated in Germany, came to the U.S. and split into three main factions in the 1880s. The members of the progressive group, The Brethren Church (headquarters in Ashland, Ohio), were in disagreement about some theological things in the 1930s, and in 1939 they split into two groups, The Grace Brethren and the Brethren Church (Ashland). Grace Brethren has a huge presence here in Columbus. Other than trine immersion baptism and the Love Feast/Lord's Supper, I'm not sure the two groups have much in common today--maybe a member of either group could explain. Trying to sort through the various "Brethren" names in church denominations is really tricky. It's like the Millers or Yoders if you're doing genealogy.

However, this blog is about another reunion, not a split. After all these years, the Brethren Church and the Church of the Brethren have finally worshipped together! Today I came across an account of the 300th anniversary celebration of the Brethren (formed in 1708). The German Baptist Brethren split three ways in the 1880s. The Progressives became the Brethren Church (Ashland), the moderates changed their name to Church of the Brethren in 1908, and the conservatives are/were called Old German Baptist Brethren. From this outsider's point of view (I'm now a Lutheran but was baptized CoB), I can see no difference in what they believe--they just have a different history since the 1880s. This was reported in the Church of the Brethren Newsline
    Brethren meet in Virginia for historic 300th Anniversary Conference.
    It has been 125 years since the Brethren worshiped together like this at Annual Meeting. The last time this took place was at a field in Indiana in the late 1800s, after which the Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Church experienced a split.

    On July 13, these two Brethren denominations held Sunday morning worship together at the 300th Anniversary Conference in Richmond, Va. The Conference sang on this historic morning, "Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord, our God!"

    The Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Church both stem from the Brethren movement that began in 1708 in the village of Schwarzenau, Germany, where the eight founders of the movement were baptized in the Eder River. At the Anniversary Conference, water was poured into a fountain worship center from the Eder River, from Wissahickon Creek in Philadelphia where the first Brethren baptisms in America took place, and from the districts of the Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Church.

    The whole of Sunday was given to anniversary events. After worship, the John Kline Riders greeted worshipers on the plaza outside the coliseum--the group remembers the life of Civil War-era Brethren leader and peacemaker John Kline.

    That afternoon, participants had their choice of workshops under the theme "An Experience of Brethren Faith Journeys." An evening celebration of mission featured music and stories from the international mission work of the Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Church.

    In addition, a Service Blitz and a food drive marked 300 years of Brethren faithfulness by sharing a witness of service and caring with the Richmond community.

    Anniversary committees from the two denominations worked jointly on the celebration. The Church of the Brethren's 300th Anniversary Committee has been planning for this Conference for eight years.

    The 300th Anniversary Committee included Jeff Bach (chair), Dean Garrett, Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, Leslie Lake, Lorele Yager, and Annual Conference executive director Lerry Fogle. The late Donald Durnbaugh also was a member of the committee.

    Source: 7/16/2008, Church of the Brethren Newsline

Here's a longer account at a Grace Brethren blog.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A syllabus for American religion

I'm always complaining about the Jesus-lite books that are available in church libraries, book stores and public libraries (our UAPL is impoverished for anything Christian after the 1980s unless it's been on the best seller list). But, that's what people want to read--fluff, anecdote and feel-good. Today I was bouncing around the internet looking a stuff on Egeria, a 4th century Spanish nun who had gone on a pilgramage and kept a travel diary. Fascinating stuff. However, the problem with Google, and the OSUL catalog is you get far afield, and somehow I ended up in Wheaton, Il in Kathryn Long's course syllabus for Young Scholars on American religion, History 483, an overview of Christianity in North America from the colonial era to the present. Thinking maybe "young scholars" were junior high and therefore I could read it, I discovered they all have PhDs and the program runs for 3 years. The textbook is Mark Noll, History of Christianity in the United States and Canada (1992) plus course readings that are on sale at the college bookstore or on reserve in the Buswell Library. Whew. Well, it's a place to start.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why Susie can't spell

Why is this cute? Curriculum?

The most segregated hour of the week

If you're a Christian, you've been hearing this old saw most of your life: "The most segregated hour of the week is on Sunday morning during church services," or some similar paraphrase. Well, praise the Lord, I say. I don't mind at all driving past a thriving, lively black Baptist church, or a Roman Catholic cathedral on my way to my not-so-much-so Lutheran church (although to do that I'd have to be going to our Hilltop location, not the Upper Arlington location. We don't ask Korean Americans or Hungarian Americans to stop singing the hymns they love, but it's just not cool these days to say you really don't enjoy an ear deafening service with worshipers wearing nose studs, muscle shirts and tattoos. But if you look like me, well, all's fair--or not so fair in the sense of skin color, because if your congregation is lily white or all black, well, shame on you!

I love a liturgical service, some Bach at the organ, repeating the creeds Christians have said together for a thousand years (several for variety depending on the season, not just the Apostles'), listening to the choir, and an inspiring sermon with a good Gospel message. If what matters to you is how high your heart rate can go, or how much your head can throb from the noise, or a sermon on political candidates or a saint's miracles, let's agree to worship separately.

There are plenty of service opportunities for us to work together to build the Kingdom of God on earth the other hours of the week.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Morning devotions--a bibliography

Probably only a librarian would read a bibliography for devotions and get all teary! Can't help it. I think I've mentioned this book before, but it continues to amaze me, and it's 65 years old. If you saw a 1944 Peloubet's select notes on the International Sunday School Lessons at a yard sale or book store, it would probably cost fifty cents, if they weren't offering it for kindling. Mine was free, I think, selected from a "not needed, free to a good home" box. [Aside: once when I was the librarian at the vet school at Ohio State, I put a huge bundle of equine magazines that we kept for 2 years only on a table in the hall and put up a sign "free to a good home." Someone put the journals on the floor and took the table!]

This editor (Wilbur M. Smith) includes the most amazing, analytical and critical bibliographies which say more in a sentence or two than most reviewers with all their hedgings and howevers do today. If most of the book was worthless, but one chapter was outstanding, he said so. In this volume there is an extensive bibliography in the introduction for I. Lives of Christ, (25 titles); II. Useful for the study of Mark's Gospel (one list for English and one for Greek), (23 titles); III. Biographies of the Apostle Paul, (23 titles); and IV. Old Testament History (8 titles). Then each lesson (there are quarterly themes) has a section called "The Teacher's Library." These are books the editor recommends in addition to those listed in the introduction, or he selects specific page numbers from titles mentioned in the introduction. For instance, in the longer bibliography:
    ALEXANDER WHYTE, The walk, conversation, and Character of Jesus Christ Our Lord, New York, Chicago, 1905. "A book that stands altogether by itself on the subjects which it treats. A wonderfully suggestive exposition of various texts in the Gospel relating to the person of Christ, which are too frequently overlooked." (p. 5) Then in lesson one, it appears again in The Teacher's Library paragraph as: "On verse 12 see a great chapter by Alexander Whyte in his The walk, conversation, and character of Jesus Christ out Lord, 105-114."
One author in this initial bibliography he sets above all the rest, G. Campbell Morgan, The Westminster Pulpit, which in 1943 he said couldn't be purchased anywhere in the English world because it was out of print, unless at a second hand book store. So I googled that title, read what the reviewers said, and read some excerpts. The first page grabbed me for its clarity and style. I'm putting it on my list. I'm looking over my right shoulder at my stuffed, jammed book shelves, and I see no room. This will require some tough decisions. Christian books that chit chat with anecdotes, or Christian books that teach and inspire.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Living by faith

While checking on the path of Hurricane Ike this morning I came across this quote in USAToday:
    "We're all just laying down looking up at the dark ceiling and talking," Adams, a personal adviser to the island chain's chief minister for tourism issues, said by mobile phone.

    Grand Turk, the capital of the Turks and Caicos, is home to about 3,000 people, and has little natural protection from the sea and expected storm surge, but Adams said she and her family were not afraid.

    "We live by faith here," she said. "We believe in Jesus Christ so a lot of praying is going forth. There is going to be damage, no doubt, to infrastructure but that we can replace over time."
We need this kind of faith for the storm surges of our lives. There certainly are no protections behind or under the walls and edifices of career, position, relationships, money and power in which we usually wrap ourselves.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

It's scramble time again

For many years we've attended the early service at UALC (Lytham Road, Upper Arlington). I've lost track. I think it's been as early as 7:45 a.m. when we were squeezing 6 or 7 services in one building, and as late as 8:45 a.m.; it's been informal and it's been traditional. We happen to be early risers and prefer an early service. Now it's all changing again, and tomorrow is the first day. I think it will, by design, kill the liturgical early service, and soon we'll be told that because of poor attendance, it will be offered only at 11 a.m. That's what happened at Mill Run a few years ago--there used to be more choices there.

"Community" may be the most over used and least understood word in today's churches. It's very hard to maintain any sense of community when we play musical chairs.