Guide A Fathers Mantle: The Legacy of Gustav Niebuhr

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A third principle at work in her philosophy of religious education was the belief that the church was a faithful Christian community, a place where people were both nurtured and challenged. Equally important for Hulda Niebuhr was her commitment to the inclusive and ecumenical nature of church. She believed it was a place where all ages and races could feel welcome and included. She was most concerned that this welcome for participation and leadership was extended to children.

McCormick Speaking. Knowing the biblical story was important to Hulda Niebuhr. Equally important was enabling people to live their lives in response to the biblical story. She was concerned about the limiting title of the position and negotiated rank and title, joining the faculty of the college at age fifty-six, as associate professor of religious education. When the college was merged into the seminary in , she was made a regular member of the faculty, teaching in the Division of Christian Education and Social Work.

In , Hulda Niebuhr became the first woman inaugurated as a full professor. Together their home offered a welcome place for children living on the campus, for students, and for colleagues.

Contributions to Christian Education

The occasion of visits from her brothers were times when students were invited for conversation and refreshments. She shared with her students her interests in art and politics. Her writing during this period was limited to articles and a piece of curriculum for junior highs, The One Story Her time and energy were focused on her teaching, her leadership within the faculty and the seminary community and her family.

The Legacy Of A Good Father Pt.1

Though it can be said that she was influenced in educational theory through her study and work with Walter Athern at Boston University, the greatest influence on the development of her writing and teaching grew out of her formation in her family, and the model of her parents, Lydia and Gustav.

Hulda Niebuhr died on April 17, , one month before she was to retire. Hulda Niebuhr has touched the lives of her students with kindness and generous self-giving. Hulda Niebuhr was hired to teach at McCormick Theological Seminary both because of her knowledge and the practical experience she had gained in her work as a religious educator with congregations.


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She represents the vocational path of other women in her generation and the generation after her whose path into teaching in theological education was preceded by experience as a local church educator. It is obvious that her contributions to the field of religious education are more clearly evidenced by the students she taught than in a large collection of writings. Hulda Niebuhr made three important contributions to the field of religious education.

She emphasized the importance of intentional Christian nurture, the partnership of the church and the home in raising children in faith.

A second contribution she made was in her thinking and her demonstration of age appropriate teaching. In her practice and teaching of religious education, she found the use of two particular methods of teaching and learning to be most appropriate to children: drama and storytelling. She modeled this same concern in her teaching of theological students, requiring them to engage in learning outside the classroom by visiting such settings as juvenile court and reflecting on learnings from their field sites.

Films of early research in child development theory were shown in her seminary classes to help students preparing for vocations as educators and pastors and their ministry with children. Hulda modeled for her students what she was teaching them about the role of the teacher as artist. She sought to engage students not by telling her or him about a topic with long lectures, but rather by making it come alive through discussion, art and reflection on experience.

It was the freedom, not the responsibility, that vexed students accustomed to doing prescribed assignments step by step. Perhaps the greatest contribution she made to the field of religious education are the generation of faithful leaders who have served the church as educators, ministers, curriculum writers and editors, judicatory leaders, and seminary professors.

Robert Worley, former Dean of McCormick Theological Seminary, was one of her students who accepted her challenge to go to graduate school and return to McCormick to teach religious education. The teacher as artist illustrates how she saw everything as having potential for learning: nature, art, drama, story, music.

Sometimes a story is ineffective because it is a poor story, not worth the telling.

Hulda Clara August Niebuhr - Database: Christian Educators of the 20th Century - Biola University

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Hulda Clara August Niebuhr

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