Photo Friday: Going to the Chapel…

Ornate bouquets (like the ones used in this 1939 Brethren in Christ wedding ceremony) were anathema to the conservative Brethren in Christ -- except, it seems, in California. (Courtesy of Harriet Bicksler)

I’m in California for the next couple days, covering Pacific Conference’s annual meeting as part of my job with the Brethren in Christ Church. So I thought it would be fitting to highlight a photo from our West Coast churches — and it just so happened that Harriet Bicksler, long-time editor of the Brethren in Christ social justice newsletter Shalom!, was all too happy to oblige!

Today’s Photo Friday installment shows the wedding of Harriet’s parents, Lewis and Gladys (Bohen) Sider, at the Upland (Calif.) Brethren in Christ Church in 1939.

Notice the beautiful, ornate bouquets — I certainly did. In this era, traditional Brethren in Christ wedding ceremonies were quite plain, in keeping with the group’s historic emphasis upon nonconformity. Use of wedding rings, instrumental music, or other signifiers of vanity/”worldliness” were out of the question for the majority of Brethren in Christ couples. Even in the 1950s, as many traditional Brethren in Christ practices were modified as the fellowship sought greater identification with the American Evangelical mainstream, church leaders cautioned against “the increasing tendency toward elaborate weddings.”

Of course, there were exceptions to the rule — and it seems, given this picture, that Upland was one congregation willing to break with tradition.

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About Devin Manzullo-Thomas

Father to Lucas. Husband to Katie. Prof and administrator at Messiah College. PhD student at Temple University. Member of Grantham BIC.
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10 Responses to Photo Friday: Going to the Chapel…

  1. Beautiful picture of “pushing the edge.” Please pass along my thank-you to Harriet for sharing the photo.

  2. Harriet Bicksler says:

    Happy to share the photo! Thanks to Devin for highlighting my parents’ forward-thinking, although I certainly wouldn’t have thought of them that way! They were likely doing what was generally accepted at the time.

  3. Pingback: A “Shalom!” Retrospective: 30 Years of Pursuing Peace and Social Justice « the search for piety and obedience.

  4. KGMom says:

    Devin–even before I read the caption, I immediately recognized Lewis & Gladys Sider. As someone who grew up on the mission field in (then) S. Rhodesia, I knew them when they looked very much as they do in that photo. And, I even played with Harriet, one of my girlhood friends.

    My parents also had an elaborate bouquet–David & Dorcas (Slagenweit) Climenhaga were married in Upland in 1942. Their wedding photo shows a similar scene.

  5. Pingback: Wedding Rituals in the Brethren in Christ Church « the search for piety and obedience.

  6. Elaine Byer Reed says:

    Lovely pictures! But as a child raised in a Kansas BIC home with grandparents in California, I don’t think the flowers would have been thought extravagant. They might have even been home grown and arranged by family or friends. It was the lack of jewels, lack of a bridal veil, the short plainly styled dresses, (although made of lovely fabrics), the plain shoes etc. that were different. Of course there was not a tux in sight, or often, not even a tie. There might not have been an organ or piano. But my parents had birds singing in their 1932 California wedding.
    Outward appearance and styles have changed. But the BIC vision for service, caring, and love for God and others remain. These are the most important part of BIC beliefs and heritage.

  7. Devin Manzullo-Thomas says:

    Elaine: Thanks for the comment, and the thoughts. I appreciate the feedback: It’s good to have my conjecture (i.e., that such floral arrangements would have been perceived as “worldly”) checked every now and again!

    Thanks for reading the blog! I hope “the search for piety and obedience” will have you as a frequent reader and commenter!

  8. Pingback: Another Word on Weddings in the Mid-Century Brethren in Christ Church | the search for piety and obedience.

  9. Elaine Reed says:

    Devin: I’m really enjoying this blog. There is so much here. I knew lots of these people growing up. Things have changed, but it’s good to remember the best of the teachings and values of the past so that they are part of our lives today. Thanks so much for all of your research and creativity.

  10. Devin Manzullo-Thomas says:

    Elaine: Thank YOU for your interest and readership! A blog doesn’t thrive without active, engaged, and comment-ready readers like you. I appreciate your involvement. Keep it up!

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