Continuing the work of Jesus : Peacefully ~ Simply ~ Together


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Brethren History & Heritage


Origin & Development

TIMELINE of the Church of the Brethren traces our development from a very small circle of eight Anabaptist-Pietist believers in Schwarzenau, Germany, until the present 1,100 congregations in 36 states with mission projects around the world. Discover many external religious events that significantly contributed to our formation. Included are many secular historical markers to more properly frame Brethren activity in relation to world events.

EUROPEAN ORIGIN    Alexander Mack, son of a German miller was greatly influenced by Pietism, especially it's emphasis on faith as something to be experienced apart from ritual and form. After befriending members of the Separatist wing of the Pietistic movement, Mack and seven others proceeded to the Eder River at Schwarzenau, Germany, in the autumn of 1708, and re-baptized themselves into a community of faith rooted in both Pietism, and Anabaptism from an earlier period. This was an illegal action for which they had "counted the cost" (Luke 14:28).
  Honors to Alexander Mack is a newly written article about the founder of the Brethren, written especially for COB-Net by noted author William G. Willoughby. He is also the author of "Counting The Cost" and "Beliefs of the Early Brethren." Unlike these two excellent works that have become treasures to fellow Brethren readers, "Honors" tells the story of Mack to the non-Brethren web visitor from the global community. It is written with a gentle sensitivity to the modern audience that wants a hero, and explains why the beliefs of Alexander Mack fills that need. We especially want to thank Mr. Willoughby for donating his time and literary talents, to help COB-Net tell the Brethren story through this evolving online technology of web communication.

  Anabaptism.....having started in the 16th century, profoundly influenced the early Schwarzenau Brethren. They accepted it's basic principles by renouncing materialism and participation in government, but especially abjuring infant baptism and publically rebaptizing themselves as believing adults.

  Pietism.....first started within the big three European churches by people who wished to 'feel' the effects of grace. Schwarzenau Brethren founder Alexander Mack was heavily influenced by Ernest Hochmann who was a member of the Separatist wing of Pietism.

BRETHREN IN AMERICA    Seeking freedom from religious persecution, the Brethren migrated in different groups throughout Europe and later to America where they could finally worship in peace. On Christmas day in 1723, resident and newly arriving Brethren founded the Germantown Congregation when they baptized seven individuals in the icy waters of the Wissahickon Creek in northwest Philadelphia.
  Basic Agreement by Carl Harter attempts to unravel the often complicated relationship between early Brethren leaders and the enigmatic personage of Conrad Beissel, who severed all ties with them and founded his own faith experiment at Ephrata Cloister. Harter explores their common understandings and tries to establish probable responses for several anticipated questions.

  Ephrata Cloister.....Conrad Beissel's affiliation with the Brethren vacillated between friendship and friction. He eventually renounced his membership with them and initiated his own experiment in faith at Ephrata in 1732. During his lifetime the cloistered dwellers prospered, but in the years following his death, the experiment simply began to fall apart as residents gradually moved away.

  Little Dunker Church on the Antietam Battlefield    On the crown of a long ridge near the Antietam Creek in north central Maryland, stands a little Dunker Church that continues to render a silent testimony to the horror of a bloody one day Civil War battle that completely surrounded it on September 17, 1862. More soldiers died in this one day of fighting and any other day in the history of United States warfare. The Dunker Church has become a powerful Brethren witness for peace. Sub-articles include: Mumma Dunkers, the Pulpit Bible, Clara Barton, the Battle of September 17, Slavery, the Emancipation Proclamation, Faces at Antietam, and Photography on the Battlefield.

  The Life and Labors of Elder John Kline, the Martyr Missionary, collated from Klines diary by Benjamin Funk. Now you can enjoy the powerful adventures of this circut riding Brethren minister in an eBook version released September 17, 2005.

NINETEENTH CENTURY ACCULTURATION    The industrialism of the Nineteenth Century changed the Brethren, who were mostly rural based and agriculturally minded. During the previous century of their American experience, they had insulated themselves from the many influences of the secular world, due to their German sub-culture and predominately rural location. The industrial and cultural innovations of the Nineteenth Century would force the Brethren to acknowledge the outer world, it's influences and subtle control over personal living.

EARLY BRETHREN LIFE    Have you ever wished that you could go back in time and experience life in a typical Brethren farming community? When life was at a much slower pace, without the vibration of noisy over crowded highways, and the word filth referred to something in a barnyard. Here is at least one opportunity to discover what simple family life was like during the 1840-1850's, in and around the small farming community of Boston, Indiana. These articles have been contributed by Brethren church historian, Merle Rummel.
  Four Mile Church
[Brethren Community] [The Dunkers] [Brethren Farmer] [Brethren Wife]

  The Ohio Frontier
[Ohio Brethren] [Obannon] [The Frontier] [Settlement Life]

  Brethren Migrations
[Introduction] [Bullskin Road] [Zane Trace] [The River] [Kanawha Trace] [Moving West]
[Monocacy Road] [Valley Road] [Carolina Road] [Braddock Road] [Wilderness Road]
[Canada Road] [Forbes Road] [Delaware Road] [National Road] [Wayne Road]

  Brethren Frontiers
[Frontier Life]

  Brethren Journal

BRETHREN GROUPS    Brethren? Which Brethren!? There are so many Christian groups using the term Brethren, that questions frequently arise concerning their relationship with each other. The purpose of this exercise is to acquaint you with a basic, non-theological outline of denominations using the word Brethren, and hopefully give you an overview of how we all fit together.


  Brethren Encyclopedia

  Brethren Genealogy & History

  Brethren Historical Library and Archives

  Fellowship of Brethren Genealogists

  Church Records

  Libraries affiliated with the Brethren

  List Server Discussion Group

  Lot's of Links to Online Resources

  Miscellaneous Lists

  Photographs that you want identified


ANNUAL CONFERENCE    It is the historical town meeting of the Church of the Brethren where delegates from each local church gather in harmony to affirm one another, and enact polity. This annual gathering successfully mixes fun, worship, serious debate, education, and challenge in one memorable week.

COMMUNION & LOVE FEAST    The Church of the Brethren observes holy communion in a three-fold service, comprised of a fellowship meal, feet washing, and the sacraments of the bread and cup. It is a corporate, mental re-enactment of Jesus and His disciples celebrating the Passover which is now called the Last Supper.

BRETHREN CONCEPTS OF PEACE & WAR    Peace, non-participation in war, and meaningful coexistence is the historic imprint of the Brethren on society. The Church of the Brethren differentiates between patriotism and militarism or the role of government to resolve seemingly impassable conflicts between individuals or nations. Their beliefs focus on the teachings of Jesus Christ who sacrificed his life on a cross instead of engaging political forces with violence to implement his beliefs.

MISSION & SERVICE    The concept of service logically follows our pursuit of a peaceful world. Christ modeled an exemplary life of service by identifying people's needs and ministering to them by feeding, healing, teaching, and most of all, loving. Brethren service is a direct outgrowth of our members loving others as Christ loved. We feel the urgency to touch hurting and impoverished people with love.

Where is Schwarzenau?

The Church of the Brethren had its origin in this tiny village located on the Eder River when eight people were baptized in 1708 to form a new community of believers. It is located in the extreme eastern part of the modern German state of North Rhine / Westphalia, and the district of Siegen. Although the town of Schwarzenau (“black-meadow”) is not found on most travel maps, it can be located by identifying the curvature of the Eder river where a unique double curve in the stream easily resembles the letter "M" with the village situated on the north-east side of the second (eastern) curve.

Global Positioning System (GPS): Latitude 51º 01'28.02 North / Longitude: 8º 28'24.73 East

Beliefs ~ Perspectives

Ball Plan of Redemption through Jesus Christ Understanding the grace of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of Christianity. Here is an overview of God's plan to redeem mankind to Himself through the exemplary life and vicarious atonement of Jesus Christ.

Ball Membership 101 Here is a place to explore the possibility of establishing your membership with the Church of the Brethren. You will learn about vows which you would be expected to affirm during a Baptismal or Reception service, and also the more distinctive beliefs and practices that uniquely accentuate the Church of the Brethren from other denominations.

Ball Brethren Card The Church of the Brethren has historically resisted the theological confinement of creeds and narrow statements of faith; but in order to give non-Brethren a brief introduction to our beliefs and practices, this card was issued many years ago to list the essentials of our understanding of the New Testament.

Ball Brethren Logo of our denomination is comprised of three elements which makes a distinct statement reflecting; our unity in Christ, our compassion for a world in spiritual darkness, our mission to serve others, our responsibility to teach and baptize, and our hope of reward for faithfulness.

Ball Creeds and the Brethren by Frank Ramirez examines the basic reasons why Brethren have traditionally resisted the confinement of a creed by detailing historical moments and theological weaknesses that predictably lay in the pathway to the formation of creeds. Ramirez further gives treatment to the inherent problems of creedalism such as affirmation without investigation or different signposts for different believers on the spiritual journey of faith. Lastly, readers are effectually challenged to define their own approach to developing and defending a system of beliefs.

Ball Pocket Gospel In Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans, he condenses the message of God's grace into just a few short verses. For that reason, some have called this passage the Pocket Gospel. You will be able to view humanity from God's perspective and learn how Jesus became the centerpiece of that plan of grace.

Ball FAQS - Frequently Asked QuestionS Visitors frequently load our e-mail box with innocent, and often curious questions about the Church of the Brethren and what we believe or how we function as an organization. Read our responses to these inquires, and hopefully you will discover the answer to your question.

“¬ďAsk, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find;
knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
Matthew 7:7

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