Rock Run Church of the Brethren
century Europe was a time of strong governmental control of the church
and low tolerance for religious diversity. Nevertheless, there were
religious dissenters who lived their faith in spite of the threat of
persecution. Some of these dissenters found refuge in the town of
Schwarzenau, Germany. Among them was Alexander Mack, a miller who had
been influenced by both Pietism and Anabaptism.
In August 1708 five men and three women gathered at the Eder
River in Schwarzenau for baptism, an illegal act since all had been
baptized as infants. They understood this baptism as an outward symbol
of their new faith and as a commitment to living that faith in
community. An anonymous member of the group first baptized Mack. He, in
turn, baptized the other seven. This new group simply called themselves
Though the early Brethren shared many beliefs with other
Protestants, issues which separated them from the state churches
included discipleship and obedience, reinstitution of the New Testament
church, church discipline, biblicism, and nonresistance. They also
shared their faith enthusiastically with others, sending evangelists to
other parts of Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.
Due to growing persecution and economic hardship, Brethren
began emigrating to North America in 1719 under the leadership of Peter
Becker. Most Brethren left Europe by 1740, including Mack, who brought
a group over in 1729. The first congregation in the New World was
organized at Germantown, Pa., in 1723. Soon after its formation, the
Germantown congregation sent missionaries to rural areas around
Philadelphia. These missionaries preached, baptized, and started new
Their zeal, honesty, and hard work drew many new members into
the Brethren faith community through the 1700s. New congregations were
formed in New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. With the promise of
inexpensive land, they moved into Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois,
and Missouri after the Revolutionary War. By the mid-1800s Brethren had
settled in Kansas and Iowa and eventually the West Coast.
Expansion across the continent and changes due to the
Industrial Revolution caused strain and conflict among the Brethren. In
the early 1880s a major schism took place resulting in a three-way
split. The largest branch after the schism was the German Baptist
Brethren, who changed their name to the Church of the Brethren in 1908.
During the 20th century the focus areas of Church of the
Brethren have included educating its young people by developing Sunday
schools, camping, and youth programs; strengthening its emphasis on
service, foreign and home missions, and peacemaking; increasing its
ecumenical involvement; and developing a new denominational structure.
Today the Church of the Brethren maintains the basic beliefs
of the first Brethren and seeks to find new ways to continue the work
of Jesus in the world.
—by Ken Shaffer, archivist, and Kendra Flory, intern
[taken from the brethren.org site]
What We Believe
While the Church of the Brethren holds "no creed but the New Testament" and
seeks to live in harmony with the scriptures, respecting the
individual\\'s search for truth, there are some core beliefs that typify
the denomination and its members\\' life together. Creators of the
"Jubilee" curriculum, a joint project between the Church of the
Brethren and Mennonites, identified the following "commonly held
beliefs and theological underpinnings":
God exists and relates to us
Jesus Christ is Savior of the world
The Holy Spirit assures and empowers us
Salvation is a personal, redemptive
experience in Jesus Christ that is encouraged in the Christian
community, the congregation
The Bible and the Holy Spirit are our guides for faith and life
Believer\\'s baptism is an inward baptism of
the Holy Spirit and an outward baptism of water by the congregation
(Brethren youth and adults are bapitzed by immersion three times
Discipleship means to live a life imitating Christ
Peacemaking is a core component of our beliefs
Simple lifestyles grow out of Jesus\\' teachings
All people are valued in God\\'s family
Community and cooperation, not competition, are emphasized in the congregation
Service and worldwide mission grow out of
active discipleship, as Brethren are to be known "by the manner of
Worship is both a celebration of God\\'s activity in our lives and an occasion to renew our commitment to God
Jesus is incarnated in the church, the body
of Christ. Therefore, faith in Jesus Christ is lived out in the
community of believers. No one can be a Christian alone; conversion is
validated by the church, and new disciples are not merely additional
souls, but members of the body. . . . Having died to old ways and been
born to new life in Christ, believers choose the way of Jesus,
including peacemaking, simple living, service, witnessing through word
and action, and discipleship.
—from "Good Ground" adult curriculum writer\\'s manual
Where are we found?
Church of the Brethren started in Germany, it has no congregations in
Europe today. Instead, the denomination\\'s congregations stretch from
coast to coast across North America, with especially strong
concentrations in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana.
In all, more than 1,000 churches can be found in 38 states and Puerto
Rico. There are also nearly 20 international churches in the Dominican
Republic, and a large sister denomination in Nigeria.
Key locations in the denomination include the following:
*ELGIN, ILL.: Located about an hour west of
Chicago, this city is home to the denomination\\'s headquarters and
General Offices. It houses the main offices of the Church of the
Brethren General Board, Brethren Benefit Trust, the Association of
Brethren Caregivers, the Annual Conference, and the Brethren Employees
*NEW WINDSOR, MD.: This small town about an
hour northwest of Baltimore is the location of the Brethren Service
Center, known for hospitality and service ministries. On its grounds, a
former college campus, are the New Windsor Conference Center, Church of
the Brethren Emergency Response/Service Ministries, On Earth Peace
Assembly, and other ecumenical and independent church-related programs.
The New Windsor distribution center sends goods across the US and
around the globe for many church agencies.
*WASHINGTON, D.C.: The Church of the
Brethren Washington Office, located on North Carolina Ave., near
Capitol Hill, helps to give the denomination a voice in national and
international policy-making, provide interpretation of Annual
Conference statements and General Board resolutions, and keep members
current on issues.
*RICHMOND, IND.: Next to the Indiana/Ohio
border along Interstate 70, this small city is where students attend
Bethany Theological Seminary, the only seminary in the Church of the
Brethren. Bethany sits on a corner of the Earlham College campus, a
Friends (Quaker) school, next to the Earlham School of Religion.
Bethany also has a satellite office in Elizabethtown, Pa., and offers
classes there and elsewhere through the satellite and through the
Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership.
*FIELD STAFF AND VOLUNTEERS: Brethren truly
span the nation and the globe, with field staff in five regions across
the US, volunteers working at a projects in many states and countries
through Brethren Volunteer Service (which has a European office in
Geneva, Switzerland), and mission workers in Nigeria, Kenya, Sudan, the
Dominican Republic, Central America, and elsewhere.
*BRETHREN COLLEGES: Six colleges are
affiliated with the Church of the Brethren. Two of them --
Elizabethtown and Juniata (in Huntingdon) -- are in Pennsylvania.
Others are Bridgewater (Va.) College, Manchester College (North
Manchester, Ind.), McPherson (Kan.) College, and the University of La
Verne (Calif.). In addition, Brethren Colleges Abroad, also located in
North Manchester, Ind., sends students overseas for study abroad
programs and brings international students to Brethren colleges.