The Future of The Search for Piety and Obedience

This post has been in the works for a while, and it’s about time I shared it with my readers.

Faithful readers of The Search for Piety and Obedience will have noticed that things have been rather quiet around here lately. We have not published a new post since February. And while there are many reasons for this slow down in posting, the biggest one is perhaps the one most readers have suspected:

The Search for Piety and Obedience is coming to an end.

At least, the version of The Search for Piety and Obedience housed on devincthomas.wordpress.com is coming to an end. Keep reading for all the details.

When I started this blog in 2009, my goal was to share my emerging research on Brethren in Christ history and identity with a wider audience than those who read Brethren in Christ History and Life or frequent the Brethren in Christ Archives at Messiah College (where I’m often doing research). In that regard, The Search for Piety and Obedience was incredibly successful. Over the years I’ve made countless connections — professional and personal — through this blog. I’ve met Brethren in Christ folks from Canada, Zimbabwe, California, Minnesota, Ohio, Nebraska, Kansas, and elsewhere — folks I would almost certainly not have met if I hadn’t started the blog. Moreover, I’ve been able to connect with other bloggers (like John Fea at The Way of Improvement Leads Home and Chris Gehrz at The Pietist Schoolman) and to get my research out into wider circles.

During this blog’s tenure, I’ve experienced a number of important professional milestones: I joined the editorial team of the Brethren in Christ Historical Society, earned a master’s degree in history from Temple University, and landed a job at my alma mater, Messiah College, as director of the Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan Studies. In a little over a month, I’ll mark yet another milestone when I begin my PhD studies, once again at Temple.

Needless to say, The Search for Piety and Obedience has been an important part of my journey as a young academic and emerging church historian. Thank you to those faithful readers who have journeyed with me. I’m grateful for your interest, your enthusiasm, and your (digital) friendship.

And even though it’s a cliche, all good things indeed must come to an end. With everything that’s going on in my life right now, the time has come to end the current iteration of The Search for Piety and Obedience. This post will be our last.

But fear not: The Search for Piety and Obedience is getting a second life and a new home.

Over the weekend, the Brethren in Christ Historical Society launched its new website. As part of that website launch, the Society announced that The Search for Piety and Obedience will become part of its overall web and media strategy. I will join Society editor Harriet Bicksler and others as one of many co-authors of the blog.

I’m excited that the Historical Society will give The Search for Piety and Obedience a new home and new life at their new website… and I’m thrilled that I’ll continue to contribute to the blog every now and again.

For now, the devincthomas.wordpress.com version of The Search for Piety and Obedience will stay online so that readers can have access to archived posts. Meanwhile, if you want to connect with me, check out my personal website.

Once again, thank you all for your years of support and engagement with The Search for Piety and Obedience!

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Looking Back at Upland College

Upland (former Beulah) College, situated at the intersection of San Antonio and Arrow HIghways, was closed by the Brethren in Christ Church in 1965, and later sold. (Courtesy of the Brethren in Christ Historical Library and Archives)

Upland (former Beulah) College, situated at the intersection of San Antonio and Arrow HIghways, was closed by the Brethren in Christ Church in 1965, and later sold. (Courtesy of the Brethren in Christ Historical Library and Archives)

Upland College was a Brethren in Christ college that operated in Southern California for nearly 45 years. Financial hardships forced its closure in 1965, and it merged with another Brethren in Christ institution — Messiah College in Pennsylvania — that same year.

Recently, the Upland Daily Bulletin published an article looking back at Upland’s history and its educational “vision for service.” The piece draws heavily on E. Morris Sider’s history of the college, published in the late 1960s.

Here’s a taste of the article:

Nearly a century ago, a college was born on Third Avenue in Upland driven by the desire to keep young people within the folds of the Brethren in Christ Church.

For 45 years, Beulah College — later Upland College — instructed mostly young members “for home and foreign mission or evangelistic work.”

The church in California only numbered less than 200 members in September 1920 when the doors opened for a handful of students in the Brethren of Christ Church in Upland.

The goal was to create “a church-operated school whose curriculum and activities were designed (as) … an effective way to save the young people of the church,” wrote Upland College graduate E. Morris Sider, in a 1976 book on the college, “A Vision for Service.”

When it opened, Beulah College served all ages from elementary grades to college, though its grammar school was abandoned after two years due to low enrollment and costs. . . .

By 1949, the Board of Trustees decided to change the name – Beulah referred to the “Promised Land” in the 1678 Christian allegorical novel, “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” by John Bunyan. Sider said because of the name many thought it was a girl’s school and confusion often occurred, so Upland College seemed a better alternative.

The 1960s was a decade of change for the college. The Academy was moved off campus as Western Christian High School which was moved several times, finally returning to Upland several years ago to a campus on Euclid Avenue.

Financial problems plunged the college deeply into debt — a fundraising program in 1960-61 had an optimistic goal of $200,000 but raised only $67.000.

The board decided to finally close the doors before the opening of the 1965-66 school year, technically merging with Messiah College of Pennsylvania, another Brethren of Christ institution. To raise money to reduce its debt, the college was put for auction on Oct. 25, 1966, and the campus sold for $550,000 to the Salvation Army. The campus on the west side of San Antonio Avenue changed hands a couple of times before it was acquired again in an auction in 1995 by the Pacific Conference of Brethren in Christ Churches and today serves as the Pacific Christian Center.

The original church building on Third Street is now the Upland-Mt. Baldy Masonic Lodge, while the former administration building that was once a hospital was recently broken into individual offices.

The Search for Piety and Obedience has documented some of Upland’s architectural history in previous posts.

Read the whole article here. And readers with memories of Upland College should share their thoughts in the Comments section below.

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Brethren in Christ on the World Wide Web

A few Brethren in Christ-related links that caught my attention over the past weeks:

pauline-hank– The first female bishop ordains the first African-American minister — two milestones in the Brethren in Christ Church U.S.

– Two new books on Pietism

– Brethren in Christ church building in Malawi damaged by heavy rains and flooding

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Ernest L. Boyer on Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy

Ernest L. Boyer (Courtesy Ernest L. Boyer Center Archives, Messiah College)

Some of you may know that in addition to my work as director of the Sider Institute at Messiah College, I also serve as the digital archives specialist at the Ernest L. Boyer Center Archives, which is also headquartered at the College. Boyer was a son of the Brethren in Christ Church (his father and grandfather were long-serving ministers in Ohio); for many years he taught and served in administration at Upland College, and was a long-serving Messiah College board member. He also served quite briefly as a Brethren in Christ minister in Florida.

One of my current initiatives at the Center Archives is Service Fulfilled: The Blog of the Ernest L. Boyer Center Archives. While I encourage you to go back and check out all of our posts from the past month, I want to draw your attention to a particular post published yesterday. Here in the U.S., yesterday was a federal holiday honoring American civil rights leader, activist, and nonviolence advocate Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Over at Service Fulfilled, we celebrated the holiday by featuring Dr. Boyer’s thoughts on Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and how it should be taught in American schools.

Here’s a snippet from Boyer’s speech, shared on the blog:

We all rejoice, of course, that a national holiday has been dedicated to the memory of this extraordinary individual.

But it is my conviction—and it shall be the theme of my remarks today—that

if we fail to bring the message of Dr. King into the nation’s classrooms, memories will fade, our celebration will become increasingly superficial, and the holiday will be a time when we remember only the symbols, not the substance, of his work.

Specifically, I’m convinced that the curriculum in our schools should include a study of Reverend King for three essential reasons:

First, all students should study the life of Martin Luther King to understand, more precisely, the social and intellectual heritage of our nation. . . .

[Second,] I’m convinced that all students should learn about Martin Luther King not only to gain historical perspective, but also to understand the power and poetry of the written and spoken word. . . .

[Third,] all students also should study the life of Martin Luther King to understand more fully the relationship between what they learn and how they live.

You can read the full post here.

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Brethren in Christ on the World Wide Web

A few Brethren in Christ-related links that caught my attention over the past weeks:

danisa-ndlovuFormer Brethren in Christ bishop and current Mennonite World Conference president Danisa Ndlovu visits the U.S. to discuss the upcoming Mennonite World Conference Assembly

– How one Brethren in Christ pastor renewed his faith by embracing peace theology

– Sunday school materials connect veterans and peace churches

boyer– Ernest L. Boyer Center at Messiah College launches new blog

– Brethren in Christ U.S. national director kick-starts his blog

– Remembering Dr. Kenneth Hoover (1911-2014)

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Ring in the New Year, John Wesley-Style

2015Happy New Year to the faithful readers of The Search for Piety and Obedience! I hope 2015 offers each of you many blessings. In this season of reflection, I’m grateful for readers like you who share in this blogging journey with me.

In the spirit of the new year, here’s a snippet from the journal of John Wesley, founder of the Wesleyan movement, who observed the start of 1785 in a unique way:

Saturday January 1, 1785. — Whether this be the last or no, may it be the best year of my life!

Sunday, January 2, 1785. A larger number of people were present this evening at the renewal of our covenant with God, than was ever seen before on the occasion.

Tuesday, January 4, 1785. — At this season we usually distribute coals and bread among the poor of the society. But I now considered, they wanted clothes, as well as food. So on this, and the four following days, I walked through the town, and begged two hundred pounds, in order to clothe them that needed it most. But it was hard work, as most of the streets were filled with melting snow, which often lay ankle deep; so that my feet were steeped in snow-water nearly from morning till evening: I holden it out pretty well till Saturday evening; but I was laid up with a violent flux, which increased every hour, till, at six in the morning, Dr. Whitehead called upon me. His first draught made me quite easy; and three or four more perfected the cure.

May we all embody such compassion in the coming year.

Check out Commonplace Holiness for the complete post.

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Merry Christmas! And a Word about the Blog.

merry-xmasMerry Christmas to the faithful readers of The Search for Piety and Obedience!

It’s been over two months since the last post here at the blog. Lots of goings-on — both personal and professional — have prevented me from writing here as much as I’d like.

Fortunately, I’ll be returning in 2015 with some new posts, including new Photo Friday posts and updates on my “Born-Again Brethren in Christ” research project (which has also moved to the back burner in recent weeks). Stay tuned!

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