What is a church? Is it a building? While having a “place” to gather is important, our facility is no more the church than a wrapper is the candy bar. What’s inside is what counts. Unlike a candy bar, however, a church is a living entity – composed of real people led by a living head, Jesus Christ. Long ago St. Paul called the church a living, breathing, functioning “body.” As the first line of the first song in our hymnal states:
“What is this place where we are meeting?
Only a house, the earth its floor,
walls and a roof sheltering people,
windows for light, an open door.
Yet it becomes a body that lives
when we are gathered here,
and know our God is near.”
(Huub Oosterhuis, 1968)
“I’ve got a name,” folksinger Jim Croce once wrote, and so does this gathering of people in the Long Green Valley north of Baltimore. The name we have chosen is the “Church of the Brethren.” This name ties us to a denomination, but it also describes who we are. We’re made up of brothers and sisters related to each other not by blood (though some of us are), but by our living Lord. Both our relationship with each other and our relationship with Christ is important. Furthermore, living what we believe is as important as believing it. Faith is a lifestyle, not just a creed. Is this ideal different from that of other Christians? We would hope not.
Continuing the work of Jesus. . .
Though the Brethren as a group have existed for nearly three hundred years, we subscribe to no formal creed. We simply try to do what Jesus did.
Jesus brought a message of life, love, and hope. But he offered much more than inspiring words: He understood that people’s spiritual needs also include day-to-day human ones – food, health, rest, comfort, friendship, and unconditional acceptance. “I am the way,” he told his followers. He showed them how to trust, how to care, and how to help.
Steadily, lovingly, even radically, Jesus went about saving the world – by serving its people. Because we believe his message, we seek to do the same.
Peacefully . . .
Whether the conflict involves warring nations, racial discord, theological disputes, personal disagreement, or mere misunderstanding, Brethren listen conscientiously, seek guidance in the scriptures, and work toward reconciliation. We practice peaceful living.
Our longstanding commitment to peace and justice includes a deep regard for human life and dignity. Brethren reach worldwide to help repair the ravages of poverty, ignorance, exploitation, and catastrophic events. Along with our faith, we bring food, books, classes, tools, and medicine.
Living peacefully, to the Brethren, means treating each person with the attentive, compassionate respect that all human beings deserve.
Simply . . .
Years ago, all Brethren were immediately recognizable because of their plain dress and reserved ways. Today’s Brethren live very much in the world, work in a broad range of occupations, and make use of the latest technology.
Continually, though, we try to simplify our lives. Practicing a modest nonconformity, we think carefully about our daily choices. The ideal of simplicity guides our decisions: How will we conduct our business, raise our children, spend our leisure time, tend our natural resources? How will we use our money, and why? How can we live comfortably, but without excess or ostentation?
For the Brethren, such considerations are not a requirement, but a privilege. As we seek to live intentionally, responsibly, and simply, we find a deep sense of purpose. And we find joy.
Together . . .
Whether worshiping, serving, learning, or celebrating, Brethren act in community. Together, we study the Bible to discern God’s will; we make decisions as a group, and each person’s voice matters.
During our traditional love feast, we gather at the table of the Lord, and each summer at Annual Conference we convene as a denominational family. Because Jesus urged unity, Brethren work alongside other denominations, at home and abroad, in worldwide mission and outreach.
Our congregation welcomes all who wish to share with us in another way of living: the way of Christian discipleship, life in community, fulfillment in service.