Common Purse and Property
None of us owns anything personally, and our communal property belongs not to us as a group but to the cause of Christ. Anyone who has decided to become a member freely gives all property, earnings, and inheritances to the church community. In turn, all necessities such as food, housing, and health care are provided for. Members generally work for and in the community, but none of us receives a paycheck, stipend, or allowance. In our homes and daily lives, we try to live frugally and give generously, to avoid excess, and to remain unfettered by materialism. In these practical ways we seek to witness that under the stewardship of the church, everything we have is available to anybody in need.
Typical housing is in apartment buildings, with each family assigned its own living space and bedrooms. Everyone has the same basic furnishings, with most living areas containing a table and chairs, a simple sofa, and a kitchen area. Single members usually have a family assigned to them for mutual support, in which case the single person has his or her own bedroom but shares the living space and family activities. Many of the larger settlements have common buildings, such as a dining hall, laundry, and elementary school.
Several times a week, all members of a community eat together. We consider common meals – enjoyed outdoors when the weather allows – to be an important and joyful part of church community life. We often have visitors eating with us, especially at Saturday dinner. At a mealtime, you may hear group singing or stories being read. Common meals are also a time to celebrate occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, and important holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Every time we come together to eat is a time of thanksgiving and fellowship.
As with other religious traditions whose members may don robes, habits, or vestments, the Bruderhof has a distinct style of modest and utilitarian dress. Men wear simple trousers and shirts. Women wear long skirts and head scarves. There are many reasons for and benefits of this approach. It allows us to not have to think about choosing an outfit, which frees our minds for other things. Simple, modest dress helps remove the competition and sexualization that fashion can bring. Same dress also gives us a feeling of solidarity with each other – it is an outward sign that we are all on the same path of discipleship.
While we share all we have with each other, we reject any attempts to make people uniform. We are all of equal worth but must be free to be ourselves. We are called to serve God and neighbor with the gifts and interests God has given each of us. Some members are called to teach, some to proclaim the gospel, some to praise God through music and art. We practice our gifts through our work within the community, but there is also plenty of time to explore and nurture individual pursuits. Members’ interests include gardening, writing, painting, pottery, woodworking, piano, brewing beer, beekeeping, and fishing. The more originality there is among us, the more vibrant our fellowship will be.