The reformers understood that “ you don’t have to spend your time trying to reach God because God has reached down to you. You should spend your time helping your neighbor,” Haemig says. “ Or to put it another way: God doesn’t need your good works. Your neighbor does.”
Mary Jane Haemig wants her students to understand that the importance of the Reformation lies in the rediscovery of the basic Christian truth: "God in Christ never ceases to reach out to humankind and give them all that is His."
The reformers understood that "you don't have to spend your time trying to reach God because God has reached down to you. You should spend your time helping your neighbor," Haemig says. "Or to put it another way: God doesn't need your good works. Your neighbor does."
The study of history gives people a familiarity with the challenges faced by the church. "Similar problems, similar heresies, controversies and organizational issues keep popping up," Haemig says. "Those who have no of sense of history are like children without parents. Good parents give their children some sense of how to handle life's challenges. History does the same thing for the church."
Haemig, who holds a doctorate from Harvard Divinity School, is also an attorney. She liked the practice of law, but ultimately decided to return to graduate school and become a teacher. It's a decision she has never regretted.
She enjoys seeing students come alive in the classroom as they begin to understand crucial issues and ways of addressing them. She also loves her discipline. "History is full of interesting people," she says. "Some are fine, some are dastardly, some are fun, some are boors. They do marvelous things and stupid things, wonderful things and evil things. To study all that and understand the range of human experience, especially human experience with the Christian proclamation, is not only intrinsically interesting, but it helps you orient yourself in today's world."
Answering her call to be a church historian has brought Haemig great satisfaction. "I have loads of fun as a teacher," she says. "I can't imagine doing anything else."