The History of The Christadelphian Tidings Magazine

Bro. Peter Hemingray

Christadelphians and magazine editing go way back. The first “Christadelphian” magazine was edited by John Thomas himself when he published a periodical called The Apostolic Advocate beginning in 1834. At the time the United States was less than 50 years old and California (the state where The Tidings was born) and Texas (where three of the first four editors were born) still belonged to Mexico. A little over 100 years later The Christadelphian Tidings of the Kingdom of God was launched by Bro. Carl Wolfe in 1939. It has been published continually for nearly 80 years since and has had five editors: Carl Wolfe, Bob Lloyd, Don Styles, George Booker and Peter Hemingray.

Bro. Peter Hemingray was the first editor of the magazine to be born outside the United States, hailing (like Bro. Thomas) from England. Also like John Thomas, Peter immigrated to America in his late twenties. It was here in the “States” that Peter Hemingray researched and authored (in 2003) a book about Bro. Thomas called “John Thomas, His Friends and His Faith”. The highly interesting biography originally ran as a series of articles in The Tidings beginning in 1995. Fifteen years later, Bro. Hemingray became the editor of the magazine.

Early years

Peter Hemingray has something in common with those who edited The Tidings before him. All five of the past and present editors of The Tidings are descendents of Christadelphians from the late 1800s, back when Bro. Robert Roberts was editing the Christadelphian magazine. Bro. Carl Wolfe’s parents, William and Maggie, were baptized in the 1870s in Texas. Bro. Lloyd’s grandmother, Ella Lloyd, became a Christadelphian in the late 1880s. Henry and Sarah Styles, Bro. Don Styles’ great-grandparents, were baptized in Birmingham, England in 1882. Around the same time, Bro. Booker’s great-grandparents, Samuel and Eliza Johnson were baptized as Christadelphians in Texas. Bro. Peter Hemingray’s grandfather became a Christadelphian in Nottingham, England in 1896, two years before Bro. Roberts died in San Francisco.

Nearly 50 years later, when Bro. John Carter was the editor of the Christadelphian, Bro. Peter, the second of four children, and the only boy in the family, was born in Leicester, England, in March 1945 to Bro. and Sis. Owen and Ivy Hemingray. Bro Owen Hemingray was the son of Bro. Charles and Sis. Lucy Hemingray.

Charles and Lucy would be the first Christadelphian Hemingrays to take up residence in North America, but their stay was short-lived. As Bro. Peter tells it: “Bro. Charles married Lucy Chadburn in 1905, sailing for Canada within the week. Family lore recounts a brutal winter farming in Manitoba, and they returned in 1908, although my oldest Uncle, John, was born there.”1Personal History by Peter Hemingray, November 5, 2017

There were other Hemingray family members who came to Canada around this time as well: Charles Hemingray’s brothers Will and Arthur. Will Hemingray was not baptized when he arrived in North America but became a brother in Ontario, Canada about 1912. However, he “got baptized into an Unamended meeting (in Hamilton, Ontario), not realizing the difference, so when he returned to the UK in 1914 he had to join a Suffolk St ecclesia”2Personal email from Bro. Peter Hemingray, November 24, 2017. The Suffolk Street fellowship at the time was breaking bread with the Unamended fellowship in North America.

Bro. Arthur Hemingray, who emigrated in 1906 with his new bride Sis. Alice, joined the Brantford ecclesia, where coincidentally, the Recording Brother was H.W. (Harry) Styles, Bro. Don Styles’ grandfather3Christadelphian Magazine, April, 1907. A few years later the Hemingrays returned to England (though only temporarily4Christadelphian Magazine, January, 1910) and the Brantford ecclesia gave them a book as a parting gift. Bro. Harry Styles wrote the following to The Christadelphian:

“Their departure was made the occasion of a social gathering when they were presented with the Life of Dr. Thomas, and other books, for their pleasure and profit on the ocean, and afterwards.”5Christadelphian Magazine, July, 1909

It’s ironic that their relative, Bro. Peter Hemingray, would write a book on the same subject nearly 100 years later.

When Peter Hemingray was five years old, his parents, Bro. Owen and Sis. Ivy Hemingray, moved the family to Bradford in the North of England. He remembers spending “all my formative childhood in that industrial city, where my parents belonged to the local Christadelphian ecclesia. It was quite a large ecclesia, of about 150.”6Personal History by Peter Hemingray, November 5, 2017 Bro. Peter’s father was the Recording Brother of the Bradford ecclesia for a number of years. Bro. JB Norris who was well known for his book “First Century Ecclesia” was also a member of the ecclesia at the time.

In 1956, when Peter was eleven years old, the Central and Suffolk Street fellowships in England reunited. The two fellowships were originally separated in 1885 by a disagreement over “partial inspiration”. Bro. John Carter, editor of The Christadelphian magazine at the time, was a large factor in bringing the two largest Christadelphian fellowships in the U.K. back together. Bro. Cyril Cooper, editor of the Suffolk Street magazine Fraternal Visitor also played a significant role in the reunion. Although Peter Hemingray wasn’t personally affected much by the healing of the breach between these two fellowships at the time, it would later play an important role in his life. The woman who would become his wife was associated with the Suffolk Street fellowship as member of the Suffolk St. Ecclesia.

When Peter was a boy he attended a semi-private school. The deputy head master happened to be Bro. H.A. Twelves, who is probably best known among Christadelphians for his book “Freedom in Christ”. Amusingly Bro. Hemingray recalls, “Fortunately I never had any dealings with him in has official disciplinarian capacity, for he had a formidable presence and a commanding voice.”7Personal History by Peter Hemingray, November 5, 2017

Peter Hemingray was baptized on March 26, 1964 at the Bradford Ecclesia during his first year of college in Manchester.8Christadelphian Magazine, May, 1964 He seemed to have a connection with America even at this early time in his life. One of the things that moved him to be baptized was the assassination of U.S. President John Kennedy which happened four months earlier in November, 1963. The shocking event caused Peter to focus on the fact that he, like the President, was mortal and that life could end at any time.

Peter’s undergraduate years were spent around a lot of Christadelphians. Here is what he remembers of those years:

“I spent all three years in a local hall of residence, and found myself in the company of quite a number of Christadelphians, some of whom became quite well known. We often met for lunch, and I still have my battered pocket Bible I used to carry. We also had a regular little Bible Class: I am afraid it sometimes turned into a ‘I have read more commentators than you’ exercise, for the university had a large religious department, with a correspondingly large well-stocked library. I quickly became aware of the vast resources available for Bible study, if approached with care. I sometimes managed to hear lectures by F.F. Bruce [a well-known Bible scholar and writer who supported the historical reliability of the New Testament], as well as having somewhat intense discussions with some of his students. We arranged a debate between A.D. Norris and Clark Pinnock, one of the assistant professors of religion, on ‘The Trinity’, which was quite well attended.”9Personal History by Peter Hemingray, November 5, 2017

During this time Peter devoted parts of most of his summers to preaching campaigns in the U.K., several of which were in Glasgow. After graduation with a BSc, Bro. Peter continued to pursue his education, but before he finally graduated, he and Sis. Pat Hyde married in October, 1969. The newlyweds set up a home in Manchester while Peter finished his education, and attended the Old Trafford ecclesia. The Hemingrays would eventually have two children, Julia and Steven. In the meantime, however, a big change was in their more immediate future five years down the road.

Coming to America

After getting his doctorate in The Technology of Machine Tools, and finding a position in the machine tool industry, a chance arose for Bro. Peter to accept a job in America. So, he headed across the Atlantic with Sis. Pat, Joining the Cranston, Rhode Island Ecclesia in August 1974. Peter recalls not knowing exactly where he was headed when he took the job,

“After finally graduating, it was not long before the call of opportunity came from the USA, so in 1974 my nuclear family emigrated from Droitwich, a little town south of Birmingham, to Rhode Island. I must admit when the telephone call came, enquiring as to whether I was interested in working in this State, I had no idea where it was, and could not find it on the only map of the USA I possessed. However, a quick consultation of both the ALS diary (showing both Cranston and Westerly) and an atlas showed a reasonable location, so my wife and I spent a pleasant vacation interview there one beautiful New England fall. I must admit my working career seems to have involved me in many failing companies: the one I was working for in England essentially ceased operation within a year of my departure. I left Rhode Island because of a prolonged strike, which destroyed the product I was working on: other companies have been bought and located to areas without ecclesias, so I have hopscotched around the Eastern United States. By the providence of God, all this has caused little real disruption, although some anguish.”

Through all the issues that arose at work, Bro. Peter was always able to find employment near an ecclesia. At the time of one of his moves, though, his boss actually contacted Bro. Bob Lloyd (because Bob was listed in an encyclopedia as the editor of The Tidings) to check on Peter’s reluctance to move, which was due to there being no Christadelphian ecclesia with young people nearby!

The first move after coming to America came in 1983, when Bro. and Sis. Hemingray and family relocated from Rhode Island, where their two children were born, to Connecticut. They transferred from the Cranston ecclesia to the one in Meriden. It was during his time in Meriden that Peter stumbled upon the information that led to his book on the life of John Thomas.

John Thomas, His Friends and His Faith

The story of how Bro. Hemingray came to write “John Thomas, His Friends and His Faith” is a very interesting one. It all began in 1993 when the Meriden ecclesia decided to celebrate its one-hundred-year anniversary. The research that Peter undertook to uncover information for the celebration led directly to discovering previously untold stories about Bro. Thomas. Here is the way that Peter explains how one thing led to another:

“During this period, the Meriden Ecclesia was to celebrate its centennial (in 1993), so one Saturday, I took myself off to the Yale Divinity library in New Haven, to see if they had anything relevant. They had nothing useful for my original purpose, but I browsed their archives on material about ‘The Disciples of Christ’. I had of course read several of the biographies of John Thomas which all mentioned this group, but as I looked through a book about this denomination in Virginia in the Nineteenth century, I came across a chapter on John Thomas with much information I did not remember from the books I had read. It occurred to me that no-one in North America had ever looked around for traces of the activities of the founder of our denomination, so I started looking in the libraries and their indexes. There was little available on the Internet at the time, but a wealth buried in the dusty bookshelves of this country, which of course I added to in my annual trips back to Birmingham, where some of the family still resided. The magazine editors have been most helpful in opening their archives to me, and in fact my interest in this field still continues.
“I started serializing my efforts in The Tidings in 1995, and I must acknowledge the patience of Bro. Don [Styles] as I continued my research. I was fortunate in that my work took me to many areas of the Eastern United States: I found the New York Public Library had far more useful material than the Library of Congress, and a little library in Worcester called ‘The American Antiquarian Society’ had the rarest materials of all. I never expected to hold a contemporary newspaper (not a microfilm) confirming the arrival of John Thomas’ arrival in New York in 1832, and the storm he recounts. Or, the deeds to his property in Virginia and Illinois from over 160 years ago, and to stand in the house where the name of our denomination was developed. And so the book on ‘John Thomas, His Friends and His Faith’ slowly took shape, and was published in 2003.”10Personal History by Peter Hemingray, November 5, 2017
Bro. Peter Hemingray’s first appearance as a writer in the Christadelphian Tidings of the Kingdom of God occurred in the February 1993 issue when he wrote a letter to the editor, Bro. Don Styles, sharing with him information that he had gathered when he was researching the Meriden ecclesia’s centennial celebration. The information concerned Benjamin Wilson’s (author of the Emphatic Diaglott) agreement with John Thomas’ beliefs. In the December 1995 issue Peter began a series entitled “Scenes From the Truth in America”. This series ran through February 1998 and was the basis of his book.

Like these articles, much of what Bro. Hemingray has written over the years has focused on the history of the Christadelphians.In 1997, Bro. Peter wrote an article for the Christadelphian magazine on Bro. Thomas called “The Turning Point”. The article marked the 150th anniversary of John Thomas’ Confession and Abjuration publication in the March 1847 issue of Dr. Thomas’ magazine, Herald of the Future Age. Bro. Thomas was professing his newfound understanding of the gospel and repudiating what he had believed before. Bro. Peter explained in his article the importance of this action by John Thomas: “In his path towards the rediscovery of the truth contained in the Bible, this was a most significant step, for by doing so he essentially severed all remaining ties to the U.S. Cambellites with whom he had been associated since his arrival in America in 1832.” As Bro. Thomas himself stated at the time “Thus after a journey of 14 years, I had found the truth”. Consequently he was re-baptized. Bro. Hemingray wrote another article for the Christadelphian in 1998 entitled “The Writing of Elpis Israel” which sought to answer questions about the publication of the book such as “What did Dr. Thomas give up to write his work, what was its impact then — and why should we still read it?”. He has continued writing in that magazine: in 2014 he contributed to its 150th anniversary issue with an article on its earliest history, and in 2016 he wrote about a trove of information about British conscientious objectors in WW1.

Like these articles, much of what Bro. Hemingray has written over the years has focused on the history of the Christadelphians. In 2008 he authored an article in The Tidings called “The Historical Interactions Between the CGAF and the Christadelphians” that detailed the common origins as well as the beliefs that Christadelphians and the Church of God of the Abrahamic Faith disagree on and have in common.11Tidings Magazine, November, 2008

An exception to his usual theme occurred when he was able to utilize his background in engineering to write a series of articles on “Metals in the Bible” that was published in The Testimony from 1997 to 2004.

Editor

In 1996 the Hemingrays moved from Connecticut to the Detroit area where they would remain for the next 20 years. Meanwhile, their children grew up, were baptized, and found spouses in the Truth. They also have made Peter and Pat Hemingray grandparents.

In 2012 Peter and Pat Hemingray’s son and daughter-in-law, Bro. Steven and Sis. Kristen Hemingray and their three daughters moved from Seattle (via Detroit) to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.12Tidings Magazine, December, 2012 In 2016, Bro. Peter and Sis. Pat Hemingray moved to Pittsburgh as well.13Tidings Magazine, November, 2016

As mentioned earlier, the Hemingray family had relocated several times since coming to America due to employment necessities. While in Detroit, the recession of 2008-2009 helped push Bro. Peter into a time of semi-retirement.

It was during this hiatus that the opportunity arose for him to become the fifth editor of The Christadelphian Tidings of the Kingdom of God. It was an opening that he wasn’t expecting:

“So I was absolutely amazed to be approached in the fall of 2009 as to whether I was interested in becoming the Editor of The Tidings. I had no idea Bro. George [Booker] was interested in stepping down after only a few years, and I certainly did not fit the profile of the previous editors: I was not a well-known speaker or writer in the mold of the previous editors. It was with some reluctance that I agreed, with the full support of my wife.”

Bro. Hemingray’s appointment as the new editor was announced in the March- April, 2010 issue of The Tidings. Bro. George Booker, who had been the editor since 2007, became the associate editor, a role he continued in until late in 2011. When George stepped down as associate editor, Bro. Hemingray wrote the following notice in The Tidings:

“Those who are sharp eyed might have noticed that the name of George Booker has disappeared from the inside front cover. This event should not pass without notice, because Bro. George has contributed in many ways to The Christadelphian Tidings. This is in addition to the multitude of books, articles, and commentaries he has written, most of which are available on his website, which is to be found at www.Christadelphian books.org/agora.
“It is by his choice that George’s name has been removed, but he has, I am glad to say, agreed to continue to both supply the ‘fillers’ scattered throughout the magazine, and to continue to supply the magazine with his insightful pieces of Bible Study and Reflection. He felt that his role as ‘Assistant Editor’ had been fulfilled with the transition to my own editorship, but I must express my heartfelt gratitude to his guidance as I took over the reins that Bro. George had so ably held in his period as Editor. He set the direction and framework for the magazine, and greatly assisted in the transition. Thank you indeed, Bro. George.”14Tidings Magazine, October, 2011

In the May 2010 issue, Bro. Hemingray wrote an editorial that described his own vision for the magazine:

The Christadelphian Tidings is the regional Christadelphian magazine for the Americas. It seeks to convey the Christadelphian message of the hope of the Kingdom, and to help the brothers and sisters in their collective walk in the Truth. It conveys news of ecclesias and events in North America, as well as news from the mission areas in the Americas. It strives, in all that it does, to reflect the glory of God through His son Jesus.”

When Bro. Hemingray took over, the organization of the magazine had been re-vamped, and several section and contributing editors had been added to the staff. “The fundamental idea was to attempt to replicate something of the structure of ‘The Testimony’, with essentially stand-alone editors for various sections, and the role of editor being mainly to compile.” The original section and contributing editors were, as of May 2010:

  • Associate Editor/Reflections: George Booker
  • Music: Ken and Joan Curry
  • Sunday School: Jim Harper
  • Youth Speaks: Jason Hensley
  • First Principles: Tim Young
  • Letters to the Editor: John Bilello
  • Contributing Editor: Steve Cheetham
  • Bible Mission News: Jan Berneau

At first editing the magazine went as expected but eventually some issues came up. As Bro. Peter explains it,

“The mechanics of publishing and printing were running smoothly. Sis. Kathy Hill laid out the magazine, and Bro. Brian McDonald printed it, mailed it out, and kept track of the subscriptions. This ran smoothly until the middle of 2016, when Brian fell ill and the system of printing, mailing, and subscriptions essentially collapsed. It has taken over a year to recover from these problems, as more burdens have fallen upon the Hill family, with Sarah assisting with subscriptions. The Magazine is now printed in Austin, TX, directly from the electronic publishing files. Careful readers might notice the change in location of publisher and the mailing location on the inside front cover. The printing process also changed, but the difference in quality is not noticeable, despite a significant cost reduction. We are still suffering to some extent, as during this period of disruption we did not send out renewal notices, so our subscription income fell off.
“As editor, I must acknowledge that, without the Hill family, particularly Kathy, there is no way The Tidings would exist. She (and her daughter) handles all the mechanics of going from a collection of articles, Mission news, other news and notices to a print-ready version, and then supervises the printing, and distribution, as well as looking after the finances. I might be listed as Editor, but Sister Kathy ought to be listed as publisher.”15Notes on the Tidings Since 2010, Peter Hemingray

Tidings 2017It’s very common for editors to place their own stamp on a magazine and several changes have been made by Bro. Hemingray during his time as editor. As he explains it,

“The August special issue was originally introduced in 2008 as a topic written by a single author: the first was ‘Women of Matthew 1’ by George Booker. This was changed in 2011, to become a collaborative collection of articles on a single topic of wide interest: the first was ‘Preaching in America’ which enjoyed contributions from many writers, who came from ecclesias spread over all of North America.
“I found it difficult to have the number of ‘reflection’ articles that had previously appeared, and focused instead a little more on series on a variety of topics.
“I have avoided focusing on the various disputes in North America, as much as I am able. I only hope the on-going efforts will resolve the situation, and unite us, not only with some of the Unamended, but also unite our own divided community.
“And of course I was pleased to be able to produce a magazine with at least the front (Jan 2016) and back (Jan 2017) covers in color, which makes a considerable improvement in the appearance.”16Notes on the Tidings Since 2010, Peter Hemingray
Magazine editors also need to look forward to prepare for what the future holds. Bro. Hemingray had the following to say about the future of The Tidings,
“As we plan for the future, but live every day in the hope of the return of Christ, there is no doubt that the future of printed magazines, not just The Tidings but all the magazines of our community, is in doubt. We are fortunate in that our administrative expenses are very low, and all our articles are written by volunteers. But without advertising, it is almost impossible for any magazine to cover their printing and mailing expenses by subscriptions alone, especially outside the USA, so we rely heavily on the wish of our North American community for their own magazine. We will have to provide some form of electronic subscription in the future, if only to avoid the enormous expense of overseas mailing. It is hard to support a web-site on an on-going basis with volunteers, and our subscribers are trending older, as the youth tend to rely on mobile devices for their information.
“However, in North America the numbers in our community are fairly stable, and perhaps increasing slightly. If the current disruptive situation is resolved, and perhaps our fellowship gains a few more members, there is some encouragement to continue the course. And await the coming of our Lord, in the hope we helped our community in some small way in their search for truth and encouragement.” 17Notes on the Tidings Since 2010, Peter Hemingray

In conclusion

We’ve come to the end of our account of how a little Christadelphian magazine, that began as a Sunday school newsletter for a Southern California Berean ecclesia, became the magazine of the North American Central fellowship. Along the way we’ve shared in the lives of six brethren (five editors and one assistant editor) who invested great amounts of their time and energy for the spiritual benefit of their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Perhaps our Lord will return soon and the story will end here. But if not, let us all pray that God will provide others like them to carry on the work so that The Christadelphian Tidings of the Kingdom of God will continue to enlighten, strengthen and encourage us in the days ahead.

~ Gordon Hensley (Simi Hills, CA)

Bro. Peter Hemingray continued as the Editor of the Tidings Magazine until May 2020. His contributions have been significant over the decade he served. We thank him for his passionate work for our community.

Beginning with the June 2020 issue, Bro. David Jennings of the Verdugo Hills, CA ecclesia has assumed responsibility as the Editor. Bro. David and his wife, Sis. Mary Kay, live in the Simi Valley, northwest of Los Angeles. It is ironic that Bro. David was a long-time member of the Pomona Ecclesia, where the Magazine was first published and now attends the Verdugo Hills Ecclesia, where former Editor, Bro. Bob Lloyd, was a long-time member.

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