“Missions history has experienced something of a renaissance lately. People are becoming more interested in the interaction between western Christianity and non-western contexts.”
Dr. Jared Burkholder is the new director of The Winona History Center (formerly the Reneker museum). Located in Westminster Hall on the campus of Grace College, Winona Lake, Ind., the museum was founded in 2000 by Steve Grill and Carol Forbes and is now maintained and operated by the Department of History and Political Science at Grace College. It not only incorporates the historic Billy Sunday home in Winona Lake, it includes historical items from Winona Lake, Grace College, and the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. It launched a new website this month, as well.
“In the last couple of years there have been more conversations about the importance of preserving the denominational records of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches (FGBC), as well as the missionary records,” explains Burkholder. “And though the Winona History Center is not just about religious things, a lot of what is there has a very strong religious element to it.”
The History Center involves people from Winona Lake community and Grace Brethren fellowship. “We currently have five or six volunteers work at the archives or the library, and every year we receive one student intern who is funded through the generosity of the Grace Brethren Investment Foundation,” says Burkholder. “Also, some of the classes we teach here at Grace utilize the resources in the museum as materials that enhance some of our lectures.” (The summer intern focuses exclusively on items related to the FGBC.)
Burkholder explains that many historians outside of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches are starting to show interest in the history of the Brethren church and Brethren missions, and he hopes that they will take the opportunity to delve into this rich historical resource.
“I think the main thing I would like is to have the history center become an active place of research that would draw people here,” he notes. “We are continuing to build relationships with the community and with local schools. Grace College has been doing really well with its relationship with the local community and I think this is just one more way these relationships can be maintained and strengthened.”