Photo Friday: A Remarkably Unremarkable General Conference

Women of the Southern Ohio district stand behind tables they've prepared in the basement of the Highland church. Delegates to the 1911 General Conference at Highland will soon use these tables for the love feast dinner. (Brethren in Christ Historical Library and Archives)

Today’s Photo Friday installment celebrates what I like to call a “remarkably unremarkable” General Conference: the 1911 gathering at the Highland church in southern Ohio.

Here’s E. Morris Sider’s take on the gathering, from a photo essay about the Conference he composed in 1982:

The General Conference of 1911 is not known in Brethren in Christ history for any important action, in contrast, for example, to the preceding Conference when the denomination adopted a position that moved it closer to regarding sanctification as a second work of grace.

This General Conference was, in fact, a fairly typical one for its time. It was preceded by a love feast and a one-day Sunday school convention. It was held in a church — Highland, in southern Ohio, near West Milton. Representatives from all areas of the brotherhood attended and took action on business ranging from missions work to authorizing a new church directory which would include the names and addresses of all members in the denomination. . . .

What made the Conference unique, in Sider’s estimation, was that it was recorded for posterity. “Although not particularly noteworthy in its own right, the General Conference of 1911 is the first for which we have a significant number of good photographs,” he wrote in the pages leading up to several of the images, one of which serves as today’s Photo Friday installment.

The picture, in and of itself, is rather remarkably unremarkable, too: it shows a typical scene from an early twentieth century Brethren in Christ love feast. I’m always moved, however, by the cleanness of the photograph’s lines (which reflect the cleanness of Brethren in Christ meetinghouse architecture) and the beauty of the dinner’s place settings. I love this picture because it captures a slice of Brethren in Christ life, and because it captures — even celebrates — the work of Brethren in Christ women, who all too often are lost to the historical record.

The women pictured above are (left to right): Mary Dohner, Emma Thuma Bechtel, Cora Harshberger, Anna Moist Cassel, Lida Moist, Mary Hershey Hoover, Elizabeth Engle Moist, and Ella Hershey Lewis. (The young boy in the front is Albert Breneman.)

For more images of the 1911 conference, see “General Conference of 1911: A Pictorial Essay,” in Brethren in Christ History and Life 5, no. 2 (1982): 177-183.

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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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One Response to Photo Friday: A Remarkably Unremarkable General Conference

  1. Doris Heisey Crider says:

    At first this picture was a shock! I gasped! But, now the more I study it the more I am intrigued by the style of clothing, the simple humility, and by the ability of a photographer to capture this time in history for us.

    Does anyone know the history of this design of apparel? Was it worn in Europe?

    When I was a Senior at Upland Academy, our Sunday School teacher at Upland BIC was Ernie Boyer’s sister-in-law. She taught several lessons on the BIC apparel, the culture, and the history, but I can’t remember the details. Was anyone on this blog in that class?

    Doris Heisey Crider

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