Awakening Pietisten: An Introductory Editorial

by David Hawkinson

The introduction to the book, Images in Covenant Beginnings, by Eric Hawkinson might well serve to introduce the awakening of Pietisten:

One hundred years on the immense and expanding stage of history is hardly more than a breath. Yet the years 1868-1968 are also our years as a Covenant people. As a church we have no other time in which to contemplate the grace of God in our lives or to measure the character that has emerged and the returns God has received from his generous investment in us.

Fortunately, this time is the most recent of all time, and the great-grandfather clock is still ticking leisurely. We are not searching an “ancient stillness”, a portrait finished and framed and waiting to be hung on the walls of time. We are, rather, standing by a tiny stream of this vigorous and all embracing life which has not surrendered to modernity and change or been overcome by death. The stream is hidden in the big forest of life. It would be arrogant to call this stream ours alone. It runs through all times and lands and was so seen by our fathers, a beloved community. It is discovered only by those who are questing, close enough to what is real to see life as full of beauty yet under the law of sin and death and loved by God. You must search for this stream. When you find it, you may at first be disappointed. If you tarry and let the rush of life and your arguments with life sink away from you, you will discover that this stream descends from God and returns to God across every troubled landscape or wild stormy sea.

Fortunately, our interest can have something more in mind than factual, historical observation because the image of our founding fathers has not been obliterated. There are a few among us still who knew them, and have, through the years, become remarkably like them. A third generation which accepted the image as their faith found it necessary to bridge that image in a new cultural environment. They have, to be sure, been more problematic as channels of that image. They have done all that bridges can do. It remains for mutual traffic and the strength and appreciation of a younger generation to understand in greater depth and to refresh the old image with life again. (pp. 3-4)

We have gathered, in this spirit, to reopen this forum because searching for this “stream” has been a central concern in our lives. This interest, however, is not a dispassionate curiosity in the history of religious movements. Nor are we motivated by a naive romanticism or sentimentality meant only to conjure up bygone days and warm memories.

Rather, we find the “stream” to be living water, as the Hebrews called it. Water which continues to give life! This stream holds within it a vigorous exegetical and theological tradition capable of creating and nourishing new discussion and debate. Further, the stream continues to convey the witness of many to the importance of “Pietism” as a way of life. The devotion of our mothers and fathers endures in story and legacy pointing us toward a faith that is more complete and integrated with the whole of our living.

Pietisten is not means to compete with or represent a critique of present Covenant endeavors. Neither is this forum to represent a particular party or ecclesiastical platform. We purpose only to provide a forum, and the idea of this important journal. Therefore, in the issues which follow we will continue to explore and to awaken these former voices to dialogue with us the issues which we face as members of this community of faith. This is to enliven a dynamic relationship with the past, not to be bound to it—to be in dialogue with it as a critical element of our common identity.

We are, however, newcomers to this arena and somewhat out of practice with this kind of dialogue. It will take some practice and experimentation before the “stream” can begin to flow easily. Perhaps, for now, it is the quest that is important. To this end we encourage your participation in this adventure and call upon your ideas, your work and reflection, your passion and interest.

We set out then, in the confident hope of the Poet of the 46th Psalm:

There is a river whose streams make
glad the city of God
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her,
she shall not be moved;
God will help her right early.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

David Hawkinson is a teacher of Bible, editor of Pietisten, and Pastor of Covenant Community Church, Jericho, Vermont.

See all articles by David Hawkinson