Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New background: Ephrata chapel window

From Ephrata, PA, USA
Click for high-res
Despite having been Brethren all my life, I had never been to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, what I've recently been affectionately referring to as the "Anabaptist motherland of the U.S." Well, this past weekend, I finally made it up there with my family.

One of the places we stopped was the Ephrata Cloister, an 18th century monastic community that was started by Conrad Beissel, who I'll simply refer to as a Brethren mystic. He was much more than Brethren, but I'll go ahead and claim him. Just one tidbit I learned while there: We share the same birthday (March 1).

The excuse my family had for heading up to Lancaster was to finish some Brethren studies I'd been doing with Jeff Bach, the director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College (and also my childhood pastor). Jeff, as it turns out, literally wrote the book on the Ephrata Cloister! Voices of the Turtledoves: The Sacred World of Ephrata was published by Penn. State Press in 2006 and sits in the gift shop at Ephrata, where one guy from the tour bought a copy and sheepishly asked "Dr. Bach" if he would sign it. This gave me a chuckle, but it was super-awesome to wander around the grounds with the guy who probably knows more about Ephrata than anyone else in the world at this point.

So the new background for the blog, which I've also linked to a high-res pic in this post, is from the building called the Saal (see map), which originally served the sisters of the community. It was taken on my little rinky-dink Kodak ZI8 videocamera, which does't typically take good stills, but this one came out pretty cool. The old stock photo of mountains was slick and all, but this new background has some personal and traditional meaning. Also, the high-res pic makes a great desktop wallpaper!

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