The Brethren resemble Mennonites in many ways, including their belief that baptism is for believing adults only, but they have their differences, beginning with the way they baptize. They traditionally do it by trine immersion, and historically that often happened in the dead of winter, once they broke the ice in the stream. Seriously.
Much of my ancestry on my dad’s side were Brethren, as I explain on my Orphan George blog.
Here’s a brief introduction to the faith.
Alexander Mack (1679-1735) was the leader and first minister of a Pietist community that broke with the three state churches in Germany in 1708. Persecution sent them fleeing to the Netherlands and then, beginning in 1719, to Pennsylvania. Mack arrived with about 30 families ten years later, essentially completing the migration to the New World.
They often resembled the Amish – and some still do – including the German-speaking identity. Like the Amish, Mennonites, and Quakers, they have upheld a peace testimony that rejects participation in war.
They also led lives modeled on simplicity and a non-creedal belief, “No creed but the New Testament.”
They were active on the American frontier and grew in numbers.
There has often been an identity problem. They were often called Dunkards or Dunkers, for their mode of baptism, which some found offensive, or German Baptist Brethren – but please don’t confuse them with the Baptists or the United Brethren in Christ, which I was raised in, or the Brethren in Christ, an offshoot of the Mennonites. Or the Plymouth Brethren in Garrison Keillor’s past, who broke off from the Anglicans.
Tensions between conservatives and progressives led in the 1880s to a separation that split off the Old German Baptist Brethren, on one side, and the Brethren Church, on the other, from the central body, now known as the Church of the Brethren.
The Heifer Project began as a Brethren peace and social justice initiative in the 1950s.
Denominational polity is through Annual Conference.
The annual love feast includes foot washing.
What others call sacraments the Brethren call ordinances. Among them are the laying on of hands and anointing for healing or for consecrating an individual for service.
In my novel Nearly Canaan, Joshua and Jaya settle into a place unlike anything they would have imagined. It’s desert, for one thing, where nearly everything has to be irrigated, for another. Quite simply, it’s a lot like Yakima, in the middle of Washington state. And yes, the state still has gold miners and prospectors.
Here are some significant gold rushes in U.S. history.
Cabarrus County, North Carolina, 1799
Sierra Nevada, California, 1848-55
Colville, Washington, 1855
Pikes Peak, Colorado, 1859
Clearwater, Idaho, 1860
Black Hills, South Dakota and Wyoming, 1874-78
Cripple Creek, Colorado, 1891
Mount Baker, Washington, 1897-1920s
Nome, Alaska, 1899-1909
British Columbia could have a Tendrils list of its own. And my family had a mine of its own in Guilford County, North Carolina, in the first half of the 1800s.
The early Quaker movement was heavily influenced by Mennonites via the early General Baptists in England. It’s a complicated story, but today Quakers and Mennonites still share some deep bonds, especially in the witness for peace. And yes, they’re both important in Pennsylvania. In fact, the first Mennonite congregation in America was a joint venture with Quakers in Germantown, then outside Philadelphia.
Here’s some background.
Mennonites are oldest body of the Anabaptist movement, which rejected infant baptism, insisting instead the sacrament was only for believing adults.
The denomination is named after Menno Simons (1492-1561), a priest who left the Roman Catholic church in the Netherlands and was persecuted as a heretic.
Its followers have been heavily persecuted, especially in the early years in Switzerland and Germany. Many were burned at the stake.
It identifies with an underground church going back to Waldo and the Waldensians.
They are strong proponents of peace, refusing to participate in military service or to fight in self-defense.
The Amish split from the Mennonites in 1693. Today some conservative Mennonites resemble the Amish, while others are urban professionals – most fall somewhere between in lifestyles.
They are known for their four-part a cappella hymn singing, although that’s changing with the youngest generation. Lay ministry and mutual discipleship are common.
Communion is celebrated as an annual love feast. Any lingering conflicts among the members of the congregation must be reconciled first.
It’s no longer primarily German-speaking or German descendants, a consequence of active mission work and growth worldwide.
Anabaptism is seen as the third stream of Protestantism – the others stemming for John Calvin and Martin Luther. Unlike them, it never accepted state sponsorship or endorsement.
In my novel What’s Left, there’s one big subject Cassia couldn’t ignore — not if she truly wanted to understand her father. It’s the whole hippie thing.
As he noted, in a sentence no longer in the text:
Will any of our inner music — our desires and activity — ever come into a reliably ongoing harmony?
As was this tidbit:
This is all new to him. The language, unfamiliar, even after the sporadic trips of his youth. The music, profoundly moving.
Take his hitchhiking. As her aunt Nita explained in yet another deleted text:
As for your body, well, you could go about anywhere on your thumb. Maybe not the Deep South or some of the big cities. But adventure called. Out in the countryside. And in the heart of the metropolis. There were moments when everything turned utterly surreal. It was a wild time, wasn’t it? You’re forgetting Nixon got reelected to the White House? If you were a freak — a hippie — you were part of a stream of kindred souls. You saw the world askew. You wanted to explore and discover new vistas, many of them psychedelic. You knew there was more — much more — than what your parents had ever imagined. The entire world was spiraling, about to go out of control, or so it seemed. And what difference does any veracity of hitchhiking in the subways make? Aren’t those some wild stories? Where does the line fall between what’s real and what’s imaginary? Didn’t your Baba land here after all? Return to build on earlier connections? Who cares how he got here as long as he did? You believe this is where he was destined, don’t you?
Admittedly, it’s a lot to take in. More than we needed, in fact. Even this flash:
Angels as hitchhikers! As subway riders! As candy store clerks!
These days, I’m left with mixed feelings.
Where do you think the hippie movement missed the boat? And what do you think it got right?
When Jaya meets Joshua and his family in my novel Nearly Canaan, she’s introduced to their Pentecostal faith. It’s not like most Christianity.
Here are some points to consider.
It’s more emotional than most churches, for one thing. Shouting, dancing, praying out loud during the service are common, along with applause, praise songs, and a rock band.
The term comes from the Day of Pentecost in the second chapter of Acts and its events 50 days after the Resurrection of Christ.
Pentecostalism’s principal defining trait is speaking in tongues as “Bible evidence” for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The vocal utterances are rarely in a foreign language the speaker doesn’t know, unlike the Day of Pentecost, but in a stylized babbling known as glossolalia. The proclamations are usually translated by another into the language of the congregants – typically English, though the movement is rapidly spreading worldwide.
In Brazil, an estimated 12 percent of the populace is Pentecostal and rising.
The movement started at the 1906 Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, led by African-American preacher William J. Seymour, or maybe as early as 1896 with the Apostolic Faith movement or maybe 1901 in Kansas when Agnes Ozman, a Holiness Methodist, was publicly recognized for speaking in tongues. It’s had more recent incarnations, such as the Charismatic strand among Roman Catholics and Episcopalians.
Among Pentecostal churches, theological beliefs can vary widely. But the majority interpret the Bible literally.
Women were ordained to leadership roles from the beginning of the movement.
Some denominations place strict limits on personal conduct and attire, even forbidding sports and movies.
Many Pentecostals are found as active members in non-Pentecostal congregations.
Pentecostal denominations include Assemblies of God, Foursquare Gospel, United Pentecostal, Church of God in Christ, and Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, but there’s a raft of smaller ones, too. Congregations range from small storefronts to mega-churches.
After his conversion in prison, Charles Colson held aloft Francis of Assisi and the early Quaker George Fox as his two examples of what happens when a person devotes his whole life to Christ.
Earlier, when Colson was in the White House, he oversaw the FBI creating subversives’ files for Fox and fellow Quaker William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, and anybody else whose name they found on public Quaker Meeting newsletters.
John Wycliffe, who introduced the Bible into English back in the 14th century, shows up as a major character in the opening novella in my book, The Secret Side of Jaya, only he’s taking refuge out on the American prairie.
And a century-and-a-half later, William Tyndale picked up the mission in England, though he didn’t move on to my fiction.
Could they be the most important translators in history? Apart, maybe, from Martin Luther, who could be the basis of his own Tendril, one with 95 points rather than ten, and his German rather than English?
Here, then, we go.
Wycliffe (1328-1384) was a dissident priest highly critical of the Papacy and much of Catholic teaching and practice. With his emphasis on scriptural authority, he is now seen as an important predecessor to Protestantism.
He translated at least all four gospels and perhaps the entire New Testament from the Latin Vulgate into Middle English, while associates translated the Old Testament into what became known as Wycliffe’s Bible.
His followers, known as Lollards, were a major underground radical movement leading up to the Protestant Reformation, despite being highly persecuted.
His writings in Latin highly influenced Czech reformer Jan Hus, whose execution in 1415 sparked the bloody Hussite Wars.
Wycliffe was declared a heretic and his books, burned. His corpse was later exhumed and burned, and the ashes, thrown in a river.
About 150 manuscript copies, in part or complete, survive.
William Tyndale (1494-1536) was a scholar influenced by Erasmus and Martin Luther.
In translating the Bible, he drew directly on Hebrew and Greek texts. He was the first to rely on them in translating to English, and his was the first English translation to make use of the printing press. He introduced the word Jehovah in English.
Many consider him the father of modern English, more than Shakespeare a generation later. His translations were widely plagiarized by others, including the committee of scholars who composed their authorized version for King James, where perhaps 83 percent of the New Testament and 76 percent of the Old Testament are lifted from Tyndale. The Bible was certainly much more widely heard and read throughout Britain than was the Bard.
He was convicted of heresy and burned at the stake in Belgium after his criticism of King Henry VIII in divorce matters only aggravated the situation.
There we go, politics AND religion. In this case, both of a radical nature.
That is, one h or two? Even before we get to COCHECAW / COCHECOW amid a host of other Colonial spellings.
A 1771 map of New England has no Dover (settled in 1623) but Rochester and Durham, later offshoots, as well as the KOCHECKA RIVER.
Also, that map shows Cape Neddick, Maine, as Bald Point, and Winnipesauke Lake, the the north, as Winipissionket Pond.
There’s so much to untangle in such evidence.
The widely used one-h spelling, by the way, is traced to a clerk’s error in 1827 in the founding of the Cocheco Manufacturing Company, building on the cotton mills started in 1812 at the waterfalls downtown.