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Bruderhof Communities

The Bruderhof Communities (German: place of brothers) are Christian religious communities with branches in New York, Florida and Pennsylvania in the USA, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Australia. They have previously been called The Society of Brothers and The Hutterian Brethren. The name was recently changed to Church Communities International.


[edit] Beliefs

The Bruderhof's foundation is faith in Jesus[clarification needed]. His teachings are central to Bruderhof life - particularly the command "Love your neighbor as yourself," the Sermon on the Mount, and His teachings concerning nonviolence, faithfulness in marriage, and compassion for the poor. Bruderhof members share the beliefs as recorded in the Apostles' Creed and the Didache.

The Bruderhof tries to follow the practices of the first church in Jerusalem as related in the Acts of the Apostles, for example Acts 4:32-37: where the church members were of "one heart and mind, and shared all things in common." Bruderhof members do not hold private property, but rather share everything. No Bruderhof member receives a salary or has a bank account. Income from all businesses is pooled and used for the care for all members and for various communal outreach efforts.

The Bruderhof is a peace church whose members do not serve in the armed forces of any country. They claim to model a way of life that removes the social and economic divisions that bring about war. The goal of the Bruderhof is to create a new society where self-interest is yielded for the sake of the common good.

The Bruderhof movement draws inspiration and guidance from a number of historical streams including the early Christians, the Anabaptists and the German Youth Movement.

[edit] History

The Bruderhof was founded in Germany in 1920 by Eberhard Arnold, a philosophy student and an intellectual speaker inspired by the German Youth Movement in post-World War I. In 1920 he rented a house in Sannerz, Germany, and founded a religious community.

When the group outgrew the house at Sannerz, they moved to the nearby Rhön Mountains. While there, Arnold discovered that the Hutterites (a body he had studied with great interest) were still in existence in North America. In 1930 he traveled to meet the Hutterites and was ordained as a Hutterian minister.

With the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism, the Rhön community moved its draft-age men and children to Liechtenstein around 1934 because of their conscientious refusal to serve in the armed forces and to accept Nazi teachers. This community became known as the Alm Bruderhof. Continuing pressure from the Nazi government caused others to move to England and found the Cotswold Bruderhof in 1936. On April 14, 1937, secret police surrounded the Rhön Bruderhof, confiscated the property, and gave the remaining community members forty-eight hours to flee the country. By 1938, all the Bruderhof members had reassembled in England.

While in England, the population grew to over 350 members, largely through the addition of young English members seeking an alternative to war.[citation needed] Even before the outbreak of World War II, the communityâs German members and its pacifist stance attracted deep suspicion locally resulting in economic boycotts.[citation needed] When confronted with the option of either having all German members interned, or leaving England as a group, the Bruderhof choose the latter, and began to look for refuge abroad. Soon after England entered the war, the Bruderhof emigrated to Paraguayâthe only country that would accept a pacifist community of mixed nationalities .[citation needed]

During the first years in the Paraguayan Chaco, Bruderhof members founded three settlements as well as a hospital for community members and local Paraguayans. The only clinic in the area, it served tens of thousands for the next two decades. By the early 1960s, the community in Paraguay had grown to about 700 members.[citation needed]

In 1954, the Bruderhof started a settlement known as the Woodcrest Bruderhof in the United States near Rifton, New York, in response to a dramatic increase in the number of American guests. Hundreds of new members joined, many from other communal groups across the country. Around this time, the Bruderhof reestablished the teachings of Jesus as the basis and foundation of their communal movement.[citation needed]

New communities were also founded in Pennsylvania (1957) and Connecticut (1958). By 1962, all remaining members had relocated from Paraguay to the northeastern United States, or to England.

The Forest River colony of Schmiedeleut Hutterites in North Dakota invited the Bruderhof to join them, and about 36 members moved to North Dakota. In 1955, the Schmiedeleut group excluded the Bruderhof and placed the Forest River colony under probation. In 1973, the Bruderhof leadership apologized for the problems among the Forest River colony and in 1974 was reunited with all branches of the Hutterian Church. However, in 1990 the more conservative Dariusleut and Lehrerleut Hutterites excommunicated the Bruderhof, refusing to recognize them as Hutterites because of practices that did not conform to standard Hutterite order including sending children to public schools, the use of musical instruments, and participation in a protest march. In 1990 the Spring Valley Bruderhof was founded adjacent to the New Meadow Run Bruderhof in Farmington, Pennsylvania. In 2002 the Bruderhof purchased the house in Sannerz where the movement started. It is one of two Bruderhof houses in Germany.

Most contemporary communities have a nursery, kindergarten, school, communal kitchen, laundry, various workshops, and offices. Bruderhof life is built around the family, though there are also many single members. Children are an important part of each community and participate in most communal gatherings. Disabled and elderly members are loved and cared for within the community and participate in daily life and work as much as they are able.

Like the Hutterites, the Bruderhof members do not hold private property individually, but rather share everything in common. No Bruderhof member receives a salary or has a bank account. Income from all businesses is pooled and used for the care for all members, and for various communal outreach efforts.

Children of Bruderhof families do not automatically become members, but are encouraged to leave the community and live elsewhere before deciding on their own whether or not to join the community. Numerous guests visit the Bruderhof and all communities are open to guests.

[edit] Businesses

Community Playthings, a line of classroom furniture and toys, was developed during the 1950s and soon became the Bruderhofâs main source of income. It still provides the community with a livelihood today. Other Bruderhof businesses include Rifton Equipment, which offers mobility and rehabilitation equipment for disabled adults and children, and Clean Sheen Services, which provides cleaning and property management services.

The Bruderhof operated a publishing house from 1920 to 2005. For the last forty years, the community has published books and periodicals under its own imprint, the Plough. Plough published spiritual classics, inspirational books, and childrenâs books. Many of the Bruderhof's books are available on Plough's website.

[edit] Involvement in the wider community

Through the Bruderhof Foundation, a charity created to support outreach and service efforts, and through individual members, the Bruderhof remains actively involved in the neighborhoods that surround its communities, and in the world at large. Bruderhof members serve on school boards, volunteer at prisons and hospitals, and work with local social service agencies to provide food and shelter for those in need of help.

[edit] Controversy and criticism

Former members have documented their experiences and criticisms in the Keeping In Touch newsletter (published 1989 - 2001) and in an Internet forum. Sociologist Julius Rubin compiled a book of ex-member's stories.

[edit] Further reading

[edit] External links

[edit] Critics

Related topics in the Connexions Subject Index

Alternatives  –  Left History  –  Libraries & Archives  –  Social Change  – 

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