The Bruderhof (/ˈbruːdərˌhɔːf/; German: place of brothers) is a Christian movement that practises community of goods after the example of the first church described in Acts 2 and Acts 4. They have communities in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Paraguay, and Australia. The Bruderhof is seen as Anabaptist due to its beliefs and practise, and their claim that another life is possible.
The Bruderhof practises adult baptism, non-violence and peacemaking, full community of goods, the proclamation of the gospel and lifelong faithfulness in marriage. The Bruderhof is an intentional community as defined by the Fellowship for Intentional Community.
The communities are best known by the name "Bruderhof" or sometimes "Bruderhof Communities", though "Bruderhof" is the name used on their website.
The Bruderhof was founded in Germany in 1920 by Eberhard Arnold, a philosophy student and intellectual inspired by the German Youth Movement and his wife Emmy, née von Hollander. In 1920 the young family with five children rented a house in Sannerz, Germany, and founded a Christian community.
When the group outgrew the house at Sannerz, they moved to the nearby Rhön Mountains. While there, Arnold discovered that the Hutterites (an Anabaptist movement he had studied with great interest) were still in existence in North America. In 1930 he traveled to meet the Hutterites and was ordained as a Hutterian minister.
With the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism, the Rhön community moved its draft-age men and children to Liechtenstein around 1934 because of their conscientious refusal to serve in the armed forces and to accept Nazi teachers. This community became known as the Alm Bruderhof. Continuing pressure from the Nazi government caused others to move to England and found the Cotswold Bruderhof in 1936. On April 14, 1937, secret police surrounded the Rhön Bruderhof, confiscated the property, and gave the remaining community members forty-eight hours to flee the country. By 1938, all the Bruderhof members had reassembled in England.
In 1936 the Bruderhof had purchased a 200-acre (81 ha) farm in England called Ashton Fields, near the village of Ashton Keynes in the Cotswolds area. Originally intended to be a mission post, it provided sanctuary when they were forced to escape Nazi Germany. While based in England, the Bruderhof membership grew to over 350 members, largely through the addition of young English members who were conscientious objectors seeking an alternative to the now seemingly inevitable war with Germany. However, even before the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the presence of the community's German members and its pacifist stance attracted deep suspicion locally, resulting in economic boycotts against the farm. In 1940, confronted with the option of either having all of its German members interned for the duration and its English members conscripted, or leaving England as a group, the Bruderhof chose the latter and began to look for refuge abroad.
In 1941 the Bruderhof emigrated from England to Paraguay—at the time the only country that would accept a pacifist community of mixed nationalities.
Starting in the hostile Chaco region, the Bruderhof then relocated to eastern Paraguay where three settlements were founded on a large tract of land called Primavera. Bruderhof members founded a hospital for community members and local Paraguayans. The only clinic in the area, it served tens of thousands for the next two decades. By the early 1960s, the community in Paraguay had grown significantly and was attracting visitors from North America.
In 1942, several leaders of the community came in conflict with a group of members over the community's trajectory.
Eventually allowed back to join their families, the dissidents re-joined the community.
Many members who supported Zumpe, and some who were confused by the turmoil, left or were asked to leave the community.
In 1954, the Bruderhof started a settlement known as the Woodcrest Bruderhof in the United States near Rifton in upstate New York, in response to a dramatic increase in the number of American guests. Woodcrest absorbed the Macedonia Cooperative Community in Georgia and many members of the Kingwood Community in New Jersey. Through the Macedonia Cooperative Community Woodcrest inherited the business Community Playthings. Additional new communities were founded in Pennsylvania (1957) and Connecticut (1958).
In 1990, the Spring Valley Bruderhof was founded adjacent to the New Meadow Run Bruderhof in Farmington, Pennsylvania. As of September 2017, there are a total of 13 Bruderhof communities in the United States.
In 1971, the Bruderhof purchased a property in Robertsbridge, East Sussex, United Kingdom called Darvell. The property had previously been a tuberculosis hospital. In 1995 a former sports college in Kent was purchased. In 2005, the Bruderhof started a small community in East London. This urban Bruderhof has now been moved to Peckham in south east London.
In 2002, the Bruderhof purchased a house in Sannerz, Germany.
As of September 2018, there are three Bruderhof Communities in the United Kingdom and two in Germany.
The Bruderhof opened a community in Elsmore, New South Wales, Australia in 1999. In 2005, the Bruderhof opened a community in Inverell, New South Wales, Australia, where they operate the sign-writing business Danthonia Designs. Also in 2005, the Bruderhof opened a community in Armidale, New South Wales, Australia.
Beliefs and practise
The Bruderhof is a Protestant, evangelical Christian group, strongly influenced by radical Anabaptist and early Christian beliefs. Eberhard Arnold drew inspiration from a number of historical streams including early Christianity, the Anabaptists, German Pietism and the German Youth Movement. Johann Blumhardt (1805–1880) and his son Christoph Blumhardt (1842–1919), both German Lutheran theologians, are important sources of Bruderhof piety.
The Bruderhof tries to follow the practices of the first church in Jerusalem as related in the Acts of the Apostles, for example Acts 4:32–37: where the church members were of "one heart and mind, and shared all things in common". Bruderhof members do not hold private property, but rather share everything. Members work inside the Bruderhof, and nobody receives a salary or has a bank account. Income from all businesses is pooled and used for the care of all members and for various communal outreach efforts.
The Bruderhof practices adult baptism, which does not equate to membership.
The Bruderhof believes marriage to be "the lifelong union between one man and one woman" and believes that sexual love should only be shared in such a marriage relationship.
In accordance with the Anabaptist doctrine of nonconformity to the world, the Bruderhof wear plain dress, with women donning Christian headcoverings in accordance with their interpretation of 1 Corinthians in the Christian Bible.
Present day life
Most communities have a nursery, kindergarten, school, communal kitchen, laundry, various workshops, and offices. Bruderhof life is built around the family, though there are also many single members. Children are an important part of each community and participate in most communal gatherings. Disabled and elderly members are loved and cared for within the community and participate in daily life and work as much as they are able.
The Bruderhof eats one meal together each day as a community.
Numerous guests visit the Bruderhof and all communities are open to guests. The Bruderhof is estimated to have around 2,900 members worldwide. They rarely appear in the mainstream media, but sometimes allow photographers or journalists to observe their life.
The Bruderhof has a reserved attitude to the use of technology.
The Bruderhof runs schools for the children on each community, up to the age of 18.
The Bruderhof run a variety of businesses that provide income to run their communities and provide common work for the members who almost all work onsite.
Community Playthings was developed during the 1950s and soon became the Bruderhof's main source of income. Community Playthings designs and manufactures quality wooden classroom and play environments and toys for schools and daycare centers.
Rifton Equipment, run by some of the American communities, sells mobility and rehabilitation equipment for disabled adults and children.
Danthonia Designs is the business that supports the Australian Bruderhofs.
Involvement in the wider community
The Bruderhof is actively involved in the neighborhoods that surround its communities and in the world at large.
Bruderhof members serve on school boards, volunteer at soup kitchens, prisons and hospitals, and work with local social service agencies such as the police to provide food and shelter for those in need of help.
The Bruderhof's Plough Publishing House publishes books and a magazine called Plough Quarterly. Plough publishes spiritual classics, inspirational books, and children's books, some of which are available as free downloads. Some of the books are written by Bruderhof members, but others are not.
In response to the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, the Bruderhof created a program of school assemblies that have now reached tens of thousands of youths in the United States and United Kingdom. Operating under the name "Breaking the Cycle", speakers with forgiveness stories speak to children at school assemblies.
The Bruderhof community has at various times campaigned on social issues, such as the death penalty and the Iraq War. They were involved in the campaign in opposition to the death sentence for the activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted in 1982 of murdering a Philadelphia police officer.
Despite rarely appearing in the media, the Darvell Bruderhof in East Sussex allowed CTVC to produce a 40-minute documentary about them, Inside the Bruderhof, which is due to air on July 25, 2019 on BBC1. The film follows the life of a young person as she decides to leave the Bruderhof to explore life outside.
Relationship with the Hutterites
The Bruderhof Communities and the traditional Hutterites were in fellowship between 1930 and 1955 and between 1974 and 1990. In 1990, the Lehrerleut and the Dariusleut withdrew, while the Schmiedeleut maintained their bond to the Bruderhof. After the split among the Schmiedeleut in 1992, the more traditional group also withdrew, while the more progressive branch (led by Jacob Kleinsasser) kept the bond until 1995. Since then, the traditional Hutterites and the Bruderhof have been separate groups.
The reason for the withdrawal of the Hutterites in 1955 was a conflict about the Forest River Hutterite Colony, which joined the Bruderhof by a majority vote.
According to Rod Janzen, there are differences between the traditional Hutterites and the Bruderhof Communities on many fields.