Have a question about how we live, or why we do something? Don’t hesitate to contact us, but perhaps you’ll find the answer to your question below. (Many of these issues are discussed in more depth in Foundations of Our Faith and Calling, the public account of our faith which describes the tenets and orders common to all our communities.)
Yes! We have visitors on our communities every day. Some people come for a couple hours, some stay with us for several weeks or months – the door is open. The best way to understand our communities is to experience them first-hand.
Anyone who is willing to give up everything to follow Jesus is warmly welcome to seek with us. Jesus called his disciples to “drop your nets” and we believe that we can only truly start being disciples by doing the same.
Membership in the Bruderhof is a lifetime commitment, so it must be clear to you and to us that God is calling you to this way of life. We don’t try to recruit members, since we don’t believe that you have to be a Bruderhof member to be a Christian or to be saved.
Some members have PhDs and others need help with daily living, some come from broken homes and others from a background of worldly rank and privilege. You do have to be at least twenty-one years old, and have received believer’s baptism. For more detailed information on the path to membership in the Bruderhof, visit this page.
No. Membership in the Bruderhof is not a birthright. Regardless of where someone was born, anyone who becomes a member must experience a calling from God.
Many people who grow up on the Bruderhof choose a different way of life. We try to raise each young person to have a sense of purpose and a desire to be of service to others, and young people may be called to a different vocation than ours, for instance to service in a third world country or an urban mission.
We are religious in the sense that our Christian faith is of utmost importance to us. That said, most Bruderhof members are not religious in the sense of highly developed or frequently displayed personal piety. We are extremely ordinary, and tend to speak less about our faith than some other branches of Christianity.
To live in a Bruderhof community you have to want to follow Jesus. Whether you call that being a Christian is not so important – but you have to want to follow Jesus and live the way he showed people how to live.
We live in community because we love to be together, and we love following Jesus together. Jesus said that where two or three are gathered in his name he is there with us, and that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. That’s a direct call to community. If you’re not living in community it’s also hard to share everything in common and take care of each other like the first church did (Acts 2:42–47).
The reason we live like this is because we believe it’s the best way to follow Jesus, but once you’ve lived in community for a while you wonder why people live any other way. A lot of the day-to-day problems people deal with – paying bills, getting a meal on the table, finding a good school for their children, access to medical care, feeling isolated – are answered by community.
We hope that our communities can help people to have a vision of what society can be like: a place where each child and older person is loved and taken care of, a place where we work against loneliness and poverty, where marriages stay together, where there isn’t violence, and where people willingly give up all their possessions for a cause that is greater than themselves.
No. God is far greater than that. While we each believe that God has called us to live in this particular way, it’s certainly not the only way to follow Christ.
And our calling is ultimately not to community but to Jesus, who calls all people to himself. He brought the good news of the kingdom of God, the nature of which is summed up in two great commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” So if you find a better way to live out those commandments, tell us – we want to join with you!
Radical can mean different things to different people, but to us it means that our faith demands a commitment to a life where the only priority is to follow Jesus’ teachings.
Most Christians today see nothing wrong with private property and personal wealth, and few churches practice full community of goods, consist of members who have made a lifetime commitment to one another, or make decisions only when all members are in unity; and fewer still live on a basis of daily forgiveness and honest, open, loving correction.
But that was not how Christianity started. The first Christians in Jerusalem were radical, and we seek to be like them.
Community of goods, also known as the common purse, simply means we share everything together. None of us owns any property in our name, and none of us receives a paycheck, stipend, or allowance. Everything belongs to the collective membership.
When someone becomes a member, all their earnings and inheritances are given to the church, and each receives necessities such as food, clothing, and housing. Each of us is accountable to the church community for money we spend. No one member, or any one Bruderhof location, is richer or poorer than any other.
This idea is not ours; this is how the first Christians lived, as described in Acts 2.
Well, yes. Everyone has a different way of looking at the world, and our gifts and shortcomings are all different as well. Bruderhof members are a fairly normal mix of the disorganized and the efficient, the naturally cheerful and those inclined to gloom, the garrulous and the tight-lipped, high energy people and those of us who value tranquility. Some people write poems and jog five miles a day, some enjoy crafting and bird-watching, and others brew beer. We have artists, doctors, musicians, engineers, and web designers among us.
A visitor might look at us and say, Oh they’re all the same because they dress the same and act the same and say similar things. But spend time and get to know us – you may be surprised by some of the viewpoints you encounter. We have found that community life gives us the chance to be the person that God wants us to be without the pressures of fashion and social norms that can push people to conformity of dress or action.
We’re not really trying to dress differently so much as we’re trying to dress modestly and respectfully. We want to avoid clothing that indicates status or wealth as well as anything provocative or sexualized, because Jesus commands us to be pure in heart, soul, and body. We try to represent that in our dress.
By having a simple mode of dress we also try to uphold Jesus’ teachings about not worrying about what you’re going to wear. It frees us up to think about things that are more important than clothes.
We also want to respect the differences between men and women as God made us. So the women’s clothing includes a skirt and head covering. The men’s clothing may not stand out as much as the women’s but it’s also simple. (For a personal reflection on the head covering that Bruderhof women wear, read this piece from our blog.)
As one Bruderhof member (our blogger Carmen Hinkey) says, “I think a distinctive lifestyle calls for a distinctive dress. I love walking down the street or through an airport and have people see immediately that my life is something different.”
We are Protestant in the sense that we’re not Catholic, and we stem from the Anabaptist tradition. That said, we don’t identify with any major denomination - you could say we’re interdenominational because people from all religious backgrounds have come to join us, or you could say we’re nondenominational.
We don’t believe in any special revelation unique to us; our faith is grounded in the Bible, and we confess to all the points of Christian faith contained in the Apostolic and Nicene creeds.
In his gospel, John writes about the church having even preceded creation (John 1:1). That is the church that we want to be part of, and that is the church which we want to share with all true believers. Jesus did not come to establish a human institution; he came to tell us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
At the time of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, the Anabaptists sought to find a full Biblical resolution to the changes that were being made in the church.
Anabaptists believe that in order to receive baptism, a person must have come to a personal faith, i.e. they do not believe that infant baptisms are valid. They believe that to be a Christian you have to both have faith and live a life of discipleship. Anabaptists believe that because the church is an eternal work of God, it cannot be identified with any state-sponsored institution. As a corollary to this attitude of separateness from temporal authority, Anabaptists do not serve in government office or in the police force or armed forces of any nation.
We share an Anabaptist heritage with the Amish and Hutterites (also the Mennonites and Brethren), and we know that we look similar to them in dress. But while we certainly respect them, we’re not formally affiliated with either group.
Unlike the Amish, we live in full community of goods and are open to the use of technology, and unlike many Hutterites today, we believe strongly in the Great Commission (Mark 16:15) and in an open door to new members – as their founders in the 1500s did.
No. No one who lives on a Bruderhof is paid for their work: no wages, paychecks, stipends, or allowances. No one has any private property at all (and that is how we like it!). Some members who live in urban areas may hold a job, but all wages are donated to the church community.
Everything we have is available to those in need, and the church community provides each of us with necessities such as food, clothing, and housing. If someone needs money, for instance for a trip, they are accountable to the community for what they use.
This way of living puts us all on the same footing. Nobody’s work brings either privilege or stigma: work in the community laundry is valued as highly as the work of an expert technician or doctor.
Yes, many of our young people pursue some form of training at the university level or in a trade, and others find opportunities to volunteer or learn practical skills in the workplace.
Yes. We work with local churches, homeless shelters, food pantries, nursing homes, and social services to try to help meet the needs of the people who live right around us. In addition to material support it’s important to us to spend time with our neighbors, especially those who may be lonely or going through difficulties. Members also visit local prisons and jails.
We also support community organizations like the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club and local art and music venues, either as volunteers or by assisting in their fundraising efforts.
Daily. Of course every individual and age group has their own idea of what’s fun, but living together provides endless opportunities for good times, whether it’s an impromptu soccer match or a hotly contested game of poker.
Church holidays – Easter, Christmas, Pentecost – are the high points of our year. In addition to religious observances, we celebrate with festive meals and gatherings, and as often as possible our children participate in these events.
We love to celebrate, and occasions from birthdays and weddings to Mother’s Day and Oktoberfest are good opportunities for barbecues, piñata bashes, and even the odd hootenanny.
No. We try to provide healthy food for everyone, and raise much of our own meat and vegetables in a way that respects the life of the animals we eat and cares for our planet. A handful of members avoid meat. (For a perspective on vegetarianism that many of our members would concur with, read this from Bruderhof founder Eberhard Arnold.)
And many of us enjoy alcoholic beverages, too (see special occasions above) – in moderation, of course.
We love our role as mothers, nurturers, and homemakers, and also love our roles as teachers, doctors, sales managers, lawyers, and laundresses. A couple lucky women work in the building trades as well.
We value and honor the partnership and teamwork which exists between God-fearing men and women – whether married to each other or simply co-workers – because we have found that we bring out the best in each other.
For more details on singleness and marriage roles, see Foundations of our Faith and Calling, Sections 77-82.
Our communities are served by medical professionals (doctors, physician assistants, nurses, physical therapists, and dentists) who are members. We use the services of local hospitals and specialists for acute or difficult medical problems.
If someone has a long-term disability or illness, we pull together to give them the care they need within the community. This might mean ground floor accommodation, a hospital bed, or round-the-clock nursing care. Often an elderly couple or single person will form a small family unit with one or two younger people who can provide not only medical care but companionship and support as well.
Caring for one another is a privilege, and the benefits flow both ways – young people who have lived in a household with older people will tell you about lessons in humor, persistence, and humility that they’ve picked up in in the process.
As for end-of-life care, although it can of course be emotionally and physically demanding, accompanying a brother or sister in their final days is one of the most meaningful experiences in communal life. The community rallies around the dying person: children visit to deliver cheerful drawings or sing songs, brothers and sisters stop by to take leave, and often the whole church community gathers to stand outside the window of the dying person, to pray and sing songs of faith and encouragement.