Historic Brethren Documents Now Available Online

Photo by courtesy of Brethren Digital Archives
A page from “The Gospel Messenger” of January 5, 1924

How has Brethren theology changed since 1708? What was the discussion in church conferences in the late 1800s? What was life like on the mission field in the 1960s? When did my own congregation begin to meet?

These are among the questions that until a few years ago could only be answered by turning pages of dusty (and sometimes fragile) Brethren publications located in basement archives of colleges and denominational offices. No one archive or library in the US contained a collection of all the publications.

Representatives of the Brethren archives and current periodicals recognized that these old periodicals were valuable sources of historical, theological, and genealogical information. Yet many of them were so deteriorated that they could not be handled without being damaged. With that in mind, the group met at the Brethren Heritage Center in Brookville, Ohio, in 2007, to determine how to make these old newspapers, magazines, and journals accessible on the Internet.

The estimated cost of $150,000 seemed prohibitive until the representatives secured a grant from the Sloan Foundation that would cover 90 percent of the costs. Matching funds were quickly raised through generous donations. Each of the Brethren archives provided original issues to the authorized digitizing centers in the US where they were scanned and posted to the Internet.

Today, most of those publications are available at no charge online at archive.org/details/brethrendigitalarchives. They may be read online or downloaded in various formats to access later.

The publications include:

“Ashland Theological Bulletin,” 1968-2010
“Bible Monitor,” 1922-2010
“The Brethren at Work,” 1876-1883
“The Brethren Evangelist,” 1919-2000 (1883-1918 in process)
“Brethren’s (Family) Almanac,” 1871-1902 (1874 missing)
“Brethren Family Almanac,” 1903-1917
“The Brethren Missionary Herald,” 1939-1996
“The Brethren’s Missionary Visitor,” 1894-1896 in progress
“Christian Family Companion,” 1865-1873
“Christian Family Companion and Gospel Visitor,” 1874-1875
“Conestogan,” 1951-2010
“Der Brüderbote,” 1875-1877, 1880-1892 in progress
“Der Evangelische Besuch,” 1852-1861 in process
“Erstertheil der Theosophischen Lectionen,” 1752
“Etonian,” 1922-1961
“The Gospel Messenger,” 1883-1964
“The Gospel Preacher,” 1879-1882 in progress
“(The Monthly) Gospel Visitor,” 1851-1873 (1858 in process)
“Grace Journal,” 1960-1973
“Grace Theological Journal,” 1980-1991
“The Inglenook,” 1900-1913
“Messenger,” 1965-2000
“The Missionary Visitor,” 1902-1930 (1907, 1909 in process)
“Our College Times,” 1904-1922
“Pilgrim Almanac,” 1873-1874
“(The Weekly) Pilgrim,” 1870-1876
“The Pilgrim,” 1954-2000 (2009 in progress)
“The Primitive Christian (and The Pilgrim),” 1876-1883
“The Progressive Christian,” 1878-1882 in progress
“Schwarzenau,” 1939-1942


The Brethren archives and periodicals publishers that participated in project were: Ashland University Library/Brethren Church Archives; Bethany Theological Seminary, “Brethren Life and Thought”; Bethany Theological Seminary/Lilly Library; Brethren Church, “The Brethren Evangelist”; Brethren Heritage Center; the Brethren Historical Library and Archives; Bridgewater College; Church of the Brethren, “Messenger”; Conservative Grace Brethren, “The Voice Newsletter”; Dunkard Brethren, “Bible Monitor”; Elizabethtown College/High Library and the Young Center; Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, “Brethren Missionary Herald”; Grace Seminary/Morgan Library; Juniata College/Beeghly Library; Manchester College Archives and Brethren Historical Collection, Funderburg Library; McPherson College; Old Brethren, “The Pilgrim”; Old German Baptist Brethren, New Conference, “The Testimony”; and Old German Baptist Brethren, “The Vindicator.”

— Larry E. Heisey of the Brethren Digital Archives committee provided this release.

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