Saturday, August 02, 2008


“Welcome home. Welcome to Schwarzenau!”

The words were spoken by Bodo Huster, mayor of Schwarzenau village and a council member for the larger region, welcoming more than 600 guests to the place where the Brethren movement was founded 300 years ago.

Huster made the remarks at the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the friendship between the Brethren and the community of Schwarzenau. “We are proud of the fact that this small community is the parent of your large community,” he said. “This plaque is a wonderful sign of friendship. It’s very durable, but I think the friendship of the Brethren and Schwarzenau will be of longer term.”

The unveiling of the plaque was a highlight of the first day of the international celebration of the 300th Anniversary of the Brethren movement and the 2008 Brethren World Assembly. The first group of eight Brethren were baptized in the Eder River in Schwarzenau, in 1708.

Aug. 2 was the first day of a two-day celebration planned and sponsored by the board of the Brethren Encyclopedia, Inc., along with the Heritage Club of Schwarzenau and a Schwarzenau Committee. Dale Stoffer of the Brethren Church is serving as chair for the coordinating groups from the board of the Brethren Encyclopedia, with Dale Ulrich as main coordinator for the logistics of events in Schwarzenau. Also on the board are Robert Lehigh, Terry White, Michael Miller, Fred Benedict, and Ronald Lutz.

Those visiting Schwarzenau today represented most of the Brethren denominations descended from the first eight who were baptized. Numerous tour buses--as many as 14, according to the organizers--arrived loaded with tour groups mostly from the United States. A group of five leaders representing Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) are attending. Also participating are residents of Schwarzenau and a number of people from other parts of Germany.

Events began with opportunities to look around the village and visit the places of special interest for Brethren, including the Alexander Mack Museum featuring displays and historic items related to the first eight Brethren as well as their faith descendants. The small three-room museum is in the Huttental (valley of the huts) area on a hillside above Schwarzenau. The Huttental is the area where the first Brethren lived, when they were welcomed as refugees in the early 1700s by Count Henrich Albrecht, the ruler of the area.

The huts were over time built up into houses, and one of those houses now serves as the Alexander Mack Museum. The museum was opened in 1992, with support from the late Donald Durnbaugh. It is managed by the Heimatverein Schwarzenau, a local community club, and continues to receive financial support from Brethren, according to the Encyclopedia Board.

Outside the museum during the day today, “A. Mack” played by Larry Glick, a Church of the Brethren member from Virginia, introduced tour groups to the life of Alexander Mack Sr. and the story of the first Brethren baptisms.

Visitors could also see the former Alexander Mack Schule (school), which was built by the Church of the Brethren in support of the community of Schwarzenau and as a memorial to Alexander Mack Sr. It opened in 1956, but because of a school consolidation the building is no longer in use.

A small open-air Historical Craftsman Market on the grounds of Schwarzenau’s Manor House gave displays about how the area’s unique slate roof and wall tiles are made, offered demonstrations of woodworking and how to make yarn from wool. A bake sale offered home-made goodies and cold drinks.

Pictorial lectures on the early Brethren were given by Nevin Dulabaum, who has been recently named as the incoming president of Brethren Benefit Trust. A hymn sing titled “Singing for Understanding Between the Nations” led by Karl-Heinz Wenzel took place at the Manor House. Meals were served under a large tent behind the Riding Hall.

The plaque unveiling took place in the late afternoon. It commemorates the hospitality and tolerance that Schwarzenau and its leaders have shown to the Brethren over the centuries, from the time when the first Brethren found shelter there after suffering persecution elsewhere in Germany, to the present day when the faith descendants of those first Brethren continue to be welcomed.

The ceremony began with the singing of “Blessed Be the Tie that Binds.” In comments translated in German and English, members of the Brethren Encyclopedia Board and the two local planning committees spoke of the friendship between the people of Schwarzenau and the Brethren.

The plaque is set in a wall below the Manor House, along the banks of the Eder.

The day closed with an evening concert in the Riding Hall, temporarily converted from a horse-riding arena to a meeting hall for the weekend’s festivities. Four choirs performed: the McPherson (Kan.) College Choir, the Frauenchor (women’s choir) Schwarzenau, the Gemischte Chor (mixed men’s and women’s voices) Schwarzenau, and Cantamus, an ensemble from the nearby town of Bad Berleberg.

The McPherson choir’s first song expressed a sentiment many Brethren in the audience might have named as their own: “Therefore shall ye drink with joy from the wells of salvation.”

The appreciative audience gave the choir a standing ovation, and then stood again to applaud when all four choirs joined together for the final song of the night.

The events in Schwarzenau will continue on Sunday, Aug. 3, with morning worship, an afternoon program, and a concluding gathering at the river.


Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260.

Source: Newsline Special From Schwarzenau, Germany

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