Life in Community

Christians Don’t Throw Acorns (And Other Things You Should Know Before Visiting the Bruderhof)

September 12, 2018 by

What kind of people are crazy enough to visit an intentional Christian community? Since you ask, all kinds. We get a lot of visitors here at Darvell; some for a few hours, some overnight, some for several days. Guests are an important part of our community. It is great to see new faces around and to make new connections. The different perspectives brought by people of different backgrounds and the many questions they bring force us to constantly re-evaluate the commitment we have made to each other in this way of life; a very healthy thing. Often our guests put us in touch with other movements and people with whom we share a lot of common ground.

Stay around the Bruderhof long enough and you will find people who don’t always get things right, and who are, in short, annoyingly normal.

Given the individualistic, not to say narcissistic, current emphasis given to a person’s “spiritual journey,” it’s not surprising that a number of our visitors come with the idea of experiencing a retreat. Big mistake. You will most definitely not experience any kind of retreat on a stay with us. There will not be hushed voices in the breakfast room with sunlight filtering through the hanging geraniums, people padding over the carpet in stocking feet. No pre-arranged Bible reflections over orange juice and granola. In all likelihood breakfast will be at 6 a.m. with a family of squalling children, unrecognizable egg, burnt toast, and a lap full of spilled milk. Guests join us for a full day of work in the community, usually helping out in our furniture workshop for at least part of the day, where everyone seems to know what to do except for you. Lots of people ask questions. Very often the same questions you just answered someone else.

For all that you will feel welcomed. For as long as people stay with us we consider them to be part of the community, and we are more than happy to have you “muck in.” Our family really enjoys it when we have guests to breakfast or dinner. The boys love the novelty of people they don’t see every day. Our three-year-old will listen carefully to someone’s name and roll it around in his mouth, saying it quietly to himself over and over, the six-year-old will bring out his guinea pig and show off excessively, the two older boys start a non-stop string of commentary.

two boys and a football

Stay around Darvell long enough and you will find people who sometimes squabble and need to make up, who don’t always get things right, and who are, in short, frustratingly, annoyingly normal.

A few years ago one of our guests came up to me in some agitation.

“Those boys standing under the oak tree are throwing acorns at people,” he said.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’ll go ask them to stop.”

“You don’t understand,” he said. “This is a Christian community. You are all committed to nonviolence. Families bring up their children to love and respect others. How can they possibly throw acorns?!”

So there it is. Indisputable proof that you cannot isolate yourself from the problems of the world.

We would love to have you visit. Seriously. Work with us, eat with us, tell us what gets you up in the morning and what’s making you gnaw your fingernails. We don’t have a hell of a lot of answers for particular problems; we’re compass people rather than roadmap people. And the direction we are trying to follow? Jesus Christ.


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About the author


Ian Barth

Ian lives at the Darvell community in East Sussex, UK with his wife Olivia and their four boys.

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  • As I have visited Darvell several times and been fed and entertained what I find is a community living a Christian life but accepting all the joy and faults that we bring into this world when we are born. No one is perfect but we have to try and Darvell is doing that.

    Jacqueline Watson
  • Many visitors to Darvell tell me how they experience peace during their stay at the community. Not all families at the Bruderhof serve unrecognizable eggs, and some people there make really good granola, which they share with visitors in their cozy apartments with the sun streaming through the windows. But, eggs, granola and sunlight aside, what visitors need to know about coming to the Bruderhof is that they will be living alongside normal folk who, nonetheless, are committed to living out the teachings of Jesus in all aspects of life. They are just as likely to experience the joy of children crowding round the wheelchair of a 106-year-old sister, pressing flowers into her hands as a beaming smile lights up "Granny's" face. Or, perhaps, they will experience the wonder of peace being restored among members in a community meeting where people ask one another for forgiveness (and grant it, too!) So, come with an open heart and ready to seek God's will with us. We're praying for a movement of God to be ignited in our society - and our communities, too!

  • I see Darvell has tamed over the years. During my childhood there in the 1980s, we threw conkers, acorns not producing nearly as satisfying results. Luckily this didn't stop the guests from coming, lots of them. And listening to them grill my parents about what's important in life helped shape my world-view and challenge preconceived notions.