The Hutterian Brethren, also called Hutterites, the Austrian branch of the great Anabaptist movement of the 16th century, was characterized by the practice of community of goods, as first established in Moravia in 1529 and re-established on more solid grounds by Jakob Hutter in 1533.
In contradistinction to the other Anabaptist groups the Hutterites had the unique chance to develop their communal life in comparatively peaceful Moravia where, due to a predominantly Slavic surrounding, they lived in relative isolation from the rest of the world.
Thus a rich group life developed with a strong sense for their own history.
Remarkable is also their extensive manuscript literature (devotional and historical) which made it possible that their teachings and their history, particularly of the beginnings, should become better known than those of any other group of the Anabaptist movement except the Dutch.
The 1520-s saw a lively spread of Anabaptism throughout the Habsburg territories, Tyrol, Austria, Carinthia, etc.
In Tyrol in particular Anabaptism was by far the strongest trend, and remained so until far into the second half of the 16th century, in spite of a government which ruthlessly fought all "heretics" wherever they could be ferreted out.
It was here that Georg Blaurock of Switzerland worked successfully as a missionary until his early martyrdom in 1529.
Persecutions were extremely bloody:
One source claimed that prior to 1530 no less than one thousand had been executed, and that the stakes were burning all along the Inn Valley. Yet the number of Anabaptists only grew.
Soon the news became known that Moravia (and in particular the manorial estate Nikolsburg of the lords of Liechtenstein) was a haven for all sectarians:
Here Hubmaier could freely write and print his new ideas concerning adult baptism.
In fact, one of the Liechtensteins himself accepted baptism upon faith.
Also other manorial lords showed sympathy and toleration, perhaps due to the fact that this country had seen the Hussites for nearly a century, and allowed complete freedom of conscience to practically all sorts of beliefs.
Naturally from then on a continuous stream of Anabaptists moved toward this "promised land," from Tyrol as well as from other Habsburg lands, but also from South Germany, Bavaria, Württemberg, Hesse, and even from Switzerland.
In 1528 the non-resistant group, called "Stäbler" (staff-bearers), moved away from Nikolsburg, then the centre of the opposing group, the "Schwertler" (sword-bearers, the Hubmaier followers), who, however, soon died out.
Compelled by the emergency situation, the need of taking care of the many indigent brethren, they pooled all their possessions and money in the manner of the first church in Jerusalem.
But this act was at first not understood as a definite step toward complete community of goods comprising both consumption and production. This development came but slowly step by step.
The first leader was Jacob Wiedemann, the "one-eyed one"; later leaders were Siegmund Schützinger, Jörg Zaunring, and Gabriel Ascherham.
The groups around 1529-1533 lived by no means in brotherly harmony; local quarrels over leadership and form of community-life marred these first years in Moravia.
Jakob Hutter, an Anabaptist from Tyrol who had visited the Moravian brotherhoods in 1529, and who worried much about these conditions, first sent his emissary, Jörg Zaunring, but eventually decided to leave Tyrol and to try for himself to settle these disputes and rivalries, and to establish more evangelical foundations.
Details of this intricate story cannot be told here, but it soon became obvious that Hutter was by far the strongest leader of all.
In 1533 the evangelical (non-resistant) Anabaptists of Moravia broke up into 3 groups:
(a) Those who accepted Jacob Hutter's leadership and (according to his organization) complete community of goods, called themselves from now on Hutterische Brüder (Hutterian Brotherhood).
Hutter, himself a very strong prophetic and charismatic leader, had given to this group such definite foundations that it could survive and, in spite of many ups and downs, preserve its basic principles through more than four centuries,
(b) The Philippites, named after Philipp Plener or Blauärmel, a Württemberger:
This group left Moravia already in 1535 during the first bitter days of persecution. They returned through Austria to South Germany.
On their way many were imprisoned in Passau, while others decided to stay in Upper Austria where still in the 1530s Peter Riedemann visited them and managed eventually a merger with the Hutterian Brethren.
This group stressed the suffering church in particular and with it Gelassenheit (serenity).
(c) The Gabrielites, named after Gabriel Ascherham:
They, too, soon moved out of Moravia back to Silesia, Ascherham's home country. But soon they became disappointed with their leader, who tended more and more toward a vague spiritualism.
Between 1542 and 1545 most of these Gabrielites returned and likewise merged with the Hutterites.
Other groups of evangelical Anabaptists in Moravia who did not accept community of goods were given the general name "Swiss Brethren," even though they did not come from Switzerland.
Also a small group of followers of Pilgram Marpeck were found in Southern Moravia under the leadership of Leopold Scharnschlager.
Yet these groups later disappeared, while the Hutterian Brethren managed to maintain themselves through all early hardships and local persecutions.
This may have been due to a large extent to a remarkable number of outstanding leaders:
Ulrich Stadler of Tyrol, Hans Amon of Bavaria, Peter Riedemann of Silesia, Peter Walpot of Tyrol, Klaus Braidl of Hesse, not to mention the long array of other brethren, most of whom died as martyrs or suffered long years of imprisonment.
Although "expelled" from Moravia more than once upon mandates by Ferdinand (the later emperor), they yet somehow succeeded in finding the sympathy of the manorial lords, who quickly recognized their value as craftsmen and tillers of the soil:
Many of these lords were either Protestants or at least in sympathy with the Reformation, and proud of their quasi-independence from the government in Vienna. And thus Moravia remained the one stable place in this century of intolerance and suffering.
In 1546 the Brethren also moved east across the border into adjacent Slovakia (then a part of Hungary) where the influence of the Habsburgs was still weaker, and where a good many of the lords belonged to the Reformed faith.
Jakob Hutter was a leader for only two years (1533-1535); he returned to Tyrol where eventually he too fell into the hands of his persecutors. In February 1536 he was martyred.
Hans Amon thereupon became the Vorsteher or head bishop of the brotherhood, 1536-1542, being a strong and inspiring leader.
In this time organized missionary activities of the brethren set in, perhaps the first such in all of Europe:
Missionaries were sent out to many places (knowing quite well the fate ahead of them; 80 percent of them died a martyr's death), and those in the throes of death were comforted by epistles and visiting brethren (e.g., the case of the 140 Falkenstein Brethren who were sent to Trieste to become galley slaves, 1539-1540).
One of the strongest missionaries of this time was Peter Riedemann, who went more than once to Upper Austria and to Hesse:
While in jail in Hesse (1540-1542), he drew up that outstanding document which from now on became the very symbolic book of the brotherhood, the Account of Our Religion (Rechenschaft) 1540 (printed 1565, and again in the 19th and 20th century).
In 1542-1556 he shared the leadership of the brotherhood with Leonhard Lanzenstiel or Seiler.
While elsewhere persecution intensified
(Anabaptism had died out by the middle of the 16th century in the Habsburg domain except Tyrol; it declined in Bavaria and other German lands),
in Moravia on the contrary it experienced now a kind of flowering.
This was particularly true during the reign of Emperor Maximilian II (1564-1576), himself rather in sympathy with Protestantism, hence averse to any harsh measures.
The Brethren speak of the "Good Period" (about 1554-1565) and of the "Golden Period" (1565-1590 or 95).
Although the Jesuits had been admitted in Habsburg territories since about 1550-1560, they did not find full influence in Moravia until the end of the century.
It is true that Nikolsburg had changed hands; the Dietrichsteins bought it in 1575, but even though they were more in sympathy with the Counter-Reformation, the Brethren could still persist here, too, relatively peacefully, until the coming of the Cardinal Franz von Dietrichstein in 1599, the very head of the Catholic party.
During the Golden Period the Brethren, now well established all over southern Moravia and Slovakia, found a particularly strong leader in Peter Walpot, a Tyrolean, who led the group in 1565-1578, and whose activities added much to further consolidate the brotherhood.
A number of regulations were drawn up, both for the general conduct of the brotherhood and for the different crafts or trades. The schools of the Brethren were organized on better defined grounds.
Doctrinal and polemic writings (mostly anonymous) were drawn up (such as the great Article Book, the Handbüchlein, the book called Anschlag und Fürwenden, etc.).
A rich correspondence with missionaries all over the countries of German tongue came in and went out (carefully recorded in a Schreibstube or scriptorium);
the great Geschicht-Buch (History Book) was then begun by Kaspar Braitmichel on the basis of archival material collected almost from the very beginning.
In short, it was the peak of Hutterite history:
It has been estimated that in Moravia and Slovakia together there existed at that time about one hundred Bruderhofs (Brotherhoods) or farm colonies, with a population estimated at between 20,000 and 30,000. (Certain estimates go as high as 70,000, but that figure is most unlikely.)
While Anabaptism elsewhere (except for the Netherlands and Prussia) was on a sharp decline, in fact nearly disappeared as an articulated movement in the latter half of the 16th century,
in remote Moravia and Slovakia it was almost on its way to becoming a distinct denomination (but brotherhood-living, continued to be dominant).
Very remarkable of that time were also contacts with the anti-trinitarian Polish Brethren (Socinians) who in Racov (Poland) tried to set up their "New Jerusalem", somewhat along lines which they had been studying at the Moravian Hutterite communistic colonies.
Visitors and correspondence witness to this contact which, however, never became very warm, due to basic differences both in doctrine and intellectual background.
Contacts with Swiss Brethren, in Switzerland and elsewhere, continued to be intensive; missionaries were sent out and a good number of Brethren from Switzerland and South Germany joined the church in Moravia. (The later bishop Ulrich Jausling, serving 1619-1621, had been such a Swiss newcomer.)
Also with the Prussian Mennonites around Elbing and Danzig contacts were obtained around the turn of the century. Even a settlement was attempted in Elbing though without success.
In the meantime the peaceful period had come to an end, and severe trials were in store:
(a) The Counter-Reformation became now the cry of the day. Whoever would not be converted to the Roman Church was to leave Moravia.
Cardinal Franz von Dietrichstein gave the lead in that movement, supported by a most vigilant government in Vienna and two priests, Christoph Erhard and Christoph Andreas Fischer, in southern Moravia, who supplied the Catholics with polemic material (gross slanders), and cast suspicions of all kinds:
They incited the hatred of the poor peasant population all around who naturally could not compete with large-scale rational farm economies.
In short the situation became ever more precarious. Yet until 1622 they somehow managed to come through, although on a declining scale,
(b) Turkish wars and invasions added to these internal troubles:
Emperor Rudolph II asked for war contributions, and Dietrichstein was to extort them from the Brethren (at one time no less than 20,000 fl. was asked).
Needless to say, the Brethren very decidedly declined, accepting all the consequences.
In 1605 Turks and their Hungarian allies plundered southern Moravia and many brethren were killed or dragged away into Turkish captivity.
(c) Eventually the event, later called the Thirty Years' War, 1618-1648, brought the Moravian establishments of the Brethren to a complete end.
After the success of the Catholic forces at the White Mountain in 1620, all restraint was dropped; complete expulsion was ordered by Vienna.
The History Book (570-571) reported that what they lost in inventory (corn, wine, cattle, linen and woolens, groceries, equipment, and furniture) amounted to about 364,000 florins not assessing any houses and grounds.
And all this after only one year earlier (1621) a sum of 30,000 fl. had been taken away from the Brethren by methods of extortion and downright robbery.
With these events the brotherhood begins to show a sharp decline in activities and also in loyalty to the old principles, and even in number of members and colonies (in Slovakia there were only 15 colonies).
Although Moravia was now lost, the Brethren could still withdraw to their Slovakian colonies, and after 1621 also to their new Brotherhood in Alvinc, Transylvania (today Rumania).
In spite of continued great hardships, mainly through Turkish marauders, the Brethren carried on, and visitors were amazed by their industriousness and diligence.
The brotherhood was fortunate enough in getting once more a bishop of outstanding qualities in leadership and spirituality, i.e., Andreas Ehrenpreis, 1639-1662, the real leader already since 1630. He was born in a Moravian colony.
His work was an effort to revive the brotherhood in many regards:
the last mission work in Silesia (contacts with Schwenkfeldians) and Danzig (the Socinians were contacted) was carried out, although with rather moderate success. A short-lived colony was established in Mannheim in 1664.
Internal discipline was re-established by strict regulations. And a rich literature was produced:
Of particular value for posterity was also the new custom of writing down all sermons (called Lehr und Vorred). The amount of such manuscript material is amazing:
there were about 250 such Lehren (some quite voluminous books about most books of the New Testament, and many of the Old Testament, mainly prophets, psalms, also about many apocryphal books and pseudepigrapha), and about as many Vorreden (shorter sermons).
One may safely say that the Hutterian Brethren of the mid-20th century continued the Ehrenpreis tradition at least as much if not more than any earlier tradition (e.g., that of Jakob Hutter).
Ehrenpreis' Gemeinde Ordnung (Community Rules) of 1651 was still in use, and the sermons of that period were the backbone of all spiritual life of the brethren in the 20th century.
After Ehrenpreis' death more tribulations made life in community of goods harder and harder until this core element of the Hutterites was partly abandoned, and a semiprivate or semi-cooperative form of economy was accepted (1685, 1695).
The great misery of Turkish invasions with its looting (which the non-violent Brethren could not stop in any way) impoverished the brotherhood to such an extent that they had to turn to their Dutch Mennonite "cousins" to ask for financial help.
The Great Chronicle ends with the letter which Johann Riecker, the successor of Ehrenpreis, wrote to the "Brotherhoods in Holland," 20 April 1665. It is known that the Doopsgezinde most generously responded. Yet also this help could not prevent further troubles.
After the defeat of the Turks near Vienna (1683) and their expulsion from Hungary (1700), the Habsburg government gained strength also in this newly conquered territory.
And even though the 18th century was known as one of religious toleration, it was not the same for Hungary:
Empress Maria Theresa (1740-1780) allowed the otherwise forbidden Jesuits to exert all means to convert non-Catholics back to the Roman Church.
And what torture, dungeon, and executioners could not achieve in the 16th century, the Jesuits achieved, at least partly, in the 18th, mainly in Slovakia:
Their old manuscript books were confiscated (1757-1763, 1782-1784); children were taken away from their parents; and the more important male members were put into monasteries until they either accepted instructions and were converted, or until they died.
Catholic services were established at the Brotherhoods and every one was compelled to attend.
In short, externally the Hutterite population now turned Catholic, although in secret they continued to practice their old beliefs, likewise maintaining their cooperative enterprises.
In Transylvania the Brethren had dwindled to scarcely more than a small group of perhaps 30 or 40 souls.
Then Lutheran migrants from Carinthia to Transylvania (they arrived in 1756) came into contact with this remnant of Hutterite life, and felt immediately attracted by this form of Christian communism:
They now joined the brotherhood, and thus brought about a rejuvenation of and rededication to the old principles.
Naturally, persecutions, mainly by Jesuits, quickly set in here too.
After a number of attempts to find other places the Brethren finally decided to flee Transylvania (1767, after a stay of 146 years), across high mountain passes almost without trails, and to enter Walachia (now Romania) where conditions looked favourable.
Another Turkish War (against Russia) again brought hardships, and the great trek continued after three years:
In 1770 at the Dniester River the Brethren were received by the Russian general Count Rumyantsev, who offered them an asylum on his own estate in the Ukraine (then a rather sparsely populated area).
At Vyshenka the Brethren finally settled down for about one generation. In 1802 the colony was transferred to Czarist crown land at Radichev, 10 miles north.
It was Johannes Waldner (born in Carinthia) who was then the most outstanding Head of the brotherhood (1794-1824):
It was he who between 1793 and 1802 wrote the second big chronicle of the Hutterites, the Klein-Geschichtsbuch (Small History Book), a work of great charm and refinement.
Johannes Waldner was also a genuine disciple of Jakob Hutter, who with all his strength opposed the threatening abandonment of the principle of community of goods, which one group under the leadership of Jacob Walter (formerly of Slovakia) carried out in 1818:
This new Walter-group then settled down in southern Russia (Molotschna district, under the sponsorship of the Mennonite Johann Cornies), where for about 40 years it practiced private property.
In 1859-60 some leader dared to re-establish communal life as of old, and soon the new Hutterite villages began to thrive.
Then in 1870, universal military conscription in Russia brought an end to all former privileges, and the Brethren saw no other way out than again to migrate—in this case to emigrate to America.
The story of this migration is too long to be retold here in detail:
After a trip of inspection and scouting (1873), all the Brethren decided to come to the United States, where they chose the prairie land of South Dakota for settlement (in scenery so similar to the steppe of Russia).
They arrived in 1874, 1877, and 1879, settling down in complete community of goods in three colonies near Yankton.
According to these three settlements they are still today divided into:
Darius-Leut (named after Darius Walter, their leader),
Schmiede-Leut (after Michael Waldner, a blacksmith, their leader), and
Lehrer-Leut (named after Jacob Wipf, called the Lehrer (Teacher)).
The last group, when still in Russia, did not practice community of goods but began to do so in South Dakota:
Those of their members who were disinclined, however, to accept this new-old form of living and wanted to stay in private ownership, later joined the group now called Krimmer Mennonite Brethren or also the General Conference Mennonites.
The colonies soon grew again under the favourable conditions of American democracy and its freedom, until new suffering occurred during World War I:
Then super-patriots could not understand the non-resistant attitude of these Anabaptists, and a great number of young Hutterite conscientious objectors went through almost unbelievable hardships in federal prisons. Two men died there on account of exposure and privations.
At that point the Brethren decided to move on to Canada where exemption from military service was granted. They located in southern Alberta, and south central Manitoba.
However, one colony, the original one at Bonhomme, remained in South Dakota, and several new ones have been re-established there, while others were established in north central Montana from Alberta.
In the 1950s the brotherhood was still growing, and in general their young people stayed loyal to their group. In 1954 they had close to 120 farm colonies (Bruderhofs) with almost 10,000 souls (between 50 and 150 souls per colony).
Community of goods was practiced everywhere, rather strictly, and seemed to result in thrift and general health, both physical and moral.
By and large the customs of old were observed, and this reminded the visitor occasionally of similar Amish attitudes. Although the young people learned English in their schools (on each Bruderhof), they yet spoke exclusively German at home.
Since the days of Ehrenpreis (17th century), mission work was abandoned. At their services they read the sermons of old, and did not allow any new ones.
The use of farm machinery, cars, telephone, and electric light was accepted, but otherwise they shared very little in modern American civilization.
They continued to copy their manuscript books by hand (in fine penmanship). Only the two Chronicles and their hymnbook had been printed, together with Riedemann's Rechenschaft of 1540 and Ehrenpreis' great Sendbrief of 1652.
The Hutterian Brethren practice community of goods, as first established in Moravia in 1529 and re-established by Jakob Hutter in 1533 according to the example of the first church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:44), "And all that believed were together, and had all things in common." The basic beliefs and way of life, including community of goods, are the same today as when the movement began.
In 1990 there were about 353 Hutterite colonies with a population of more than 35,000. They were situated in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Washington, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, England, and Japan.
The Hutterians in Japan began as a small group of Japanese Christians in 1969. They had all things in common and in a worldwide search for other groups living according to the gospel and Acts 2 and 4, their leader, Izeki, visited the Hutterian Brethren. He was baptized at Wilson Siding Bruderhof in 1975 and confirmed as Servant of the Word two years later.
The Hutterians who fled to the United States from Russia in the 1870s and moved to Canada after World War I because of hostility and mistreatment on account of their conscientious objection against military participation, encountered fresh discrimination following the outbreak of World War II and in subsequent years:
The Hutterians refused to join any branch of the military forces, but accepted alternative service under civilian jurisdiction.
In 1942 the Alberta legislature passed an act preventing the Hutterites from buying land if the site was closer than 40 miles (65 km) from an existing colony, and the amount of land was limited to not more than 6,400 acres (2600 hectares). In 1960 the law was amended. New colonies were formed in Montana in 1948 and in Saskatchewan in 1952.
In Manitoba attempts were made to introduce restrictive legislation:
Fearing restrictions like those in Alberta, a "gentleman's agreement" with the Union of Manitoba Municipalities stipulated the location of no more than one or two colonies per municipality and at least 10 miles (16 km) apart. In 1971 this agreement was terminated.
The Schmiedeleut (Manitoba and Dakota colonies) set up their own mutual insurance in 1980. The other two groups do not insure, but depend upon inter-colony mutual aid when a fire or disaster strikes.
Sizable donations are given every year to local funds and to the disaster fund of the Mennonite Central Committee. The Dakota colonies formed a health or hospital insurance fund while the Canadian colonies participate in provincial health plans.
Hutterian children attend kindergarten (age 2-5), and elementary school (age 6-16):
Normally the colony supplies the building, heating, and the maintenance costs.
The local school division and board selects and pays the salary of the teachers, administers the school and, in most cases, pays a small rent for the building.
In the past years a number of colonies which have experienced difficulties in acquiring teacher grants have educated their own members as qualified teachers. It is also felt that a colony's own teacher will offset the worldly influence of the outside teacher.
In Manitoba the Hutterite English teachers formed an association which provides in-service training sessions geared to the colony teacher's needs.
The children also receive two hours of German instruction daily from their own German teacher. The Darius-leut and Schmiede-leut have German school from October to May, while the Lehrer-leut have it from September to June.
Training sessions of two to three days per year for German teachers have been held for 10 years in Manitoba and South Dakota. Many of the teachers have replaced the Tyrolean dialect with the use of standard (high) German as the language of instruction.
The Hutterite Education Committee, along with other German teachers, has developed a history course for use in English and German schools. Other materials and new books have been introduced on hymnology, grammar, literature, etc.
Many schools have copying and printing machines.
A bookstore at James Valley Bruderhof in Manitoba stocks most school and church materials as well as books in English and German.
German schools in Manitoba colonies received sizable cultural grants from both federal and provincial governments for the retention of language, printing of cultural or historical books, and training sessions.
By the 1970s, mission work was practiced to a small extent:
Delegates have been sent to Germany, England, Paraguay, Japan, and, together with Hutterian Brethren from New York and England, to Israel, Czechoslovakia, and New Zealand.
The Hutterian Brethren communities located in New York State, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and England had their origins in the Bruderhof founded in Germany in 1920 through Eberhard Arnold and Emmy Arnold, which united in 1930 with the Hutterian Brethren in North America:
Because of persecution in National Socialist Germany, the Cotswold Bruderhof was established in England in 1936. The name Society of Brothers (known as Hutterians) was adopted. The members were largely English and German, living in harmony and giving a witness for peace.
When World War II began in 1939, irrational suspicions grew in the surrounding English population, and hostile actions, provoked by the war atmosphere, took place:
To prevent the division of the community through the possible internment of the German members, the Bruderhof's members decided to emigrate. The British government was sympathetic to the dilemma of the community and consented.
In spite of affidavits of support by the Hutterian Brethren in Canada and the United States, immigration into these countries proved impossible at that time.
The Bruderhof emigrated to Paraguay with the help of the Mennonite Central Committee and with the same privileges as the Mennonites. A branch colony was established in Uruguay.
In South America the communities were named Sociedad Fraternal Hutteriana until the break with the Hutterians in North America (1955-56, see below) from which date their name was Sociedad de Hermanos (1956-61).
Daughter communities founded in England and North America were known as Society of Brothers until the time of reuniting with the Hutterians in 1974.
From then on the name Hutterian Society of Brothers was used until 1985, when it was decided to be identified simply as Hutterian Brethren, reflecting their unity with the older Hutterian Bruderhofs in the western United States, Canada, and Japan.
During the time of departure from England to Paraguay in 1940-41 and afterwards, new people wished to join the community but the government would not permit them to leave England:
For this reason the Wheathill Bruderhof (1942-62) was started in Shropshire. To extend the outreach, the Bulstrode Bruderhof (1958-66) was founded near London.
After the war the Bruderhof communities felt a longing to start again in Germany and sent several members to make a beginning on the Hohenstein (1955) near Nürnberg, and later in the Sinntal Bruderhof (1955-61) near Bad Brückenau.
Members of the Bruderhofs in South America were sent on a number of journeys to North America, beginning in 1949, to ask for financial help, mainly for the medical services to their Paraguayan neighbours, the majority of whom lived in poverty:
On these journeys they met many friends who were also seeking for a life of brotherhood. This eventually led to the beginning of the Woodcrest Bruderhof (1954-) near Rifton, NY.
New people joining and the members moving from the other Bruderhofs made it necessary to start two new places: Oak Lake (1957), later renamed New Meadow Run (1965-) in Farmington, PA, and Evergreen (1958), later renamed Deer Spring (1975-) in Norfolk, CT.
For the outreach in Europe the communities in North America started the Darvell Bruderhof (1971-) in Robertsbridge, England, south of London.
Because many newcomers and most of the grown-up children of the Bruderhof families joined the community it became necessary to start the Pleasant View Bruderhof (1985-) in Ulster Park, NY.
The basis of all relationships between the individual members and between the different communities in all spheres of life is:
Love God above everything, and love your fellow human beings as yourself -- set your mind and heart on God's kingdom and his justice before anything else, and all the rest will come to you as well. This love and justice led to complete economic sharing, as it was with the early Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 2 and 4).
The example of the early church shows that true community is a fruit of the spirit of God alone, and not of human ideas and planning:
This truth was experienced by the Bruderhofs in a series of crises which started after the death of Eberhard Arnold in 1935 and came to a head in the 1960s, when their unity collapsed like a house built on sand:
The cause of these crises lay in the shift of the spiritual centre from the personal relationship with the living Christ to human ideals of community.
The ensuing situation should be seen in the light of Paul's warning to the Ephesians (6:12):
our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers. God does not quarrel with people (Genesis 6:3), but withdraws his Spirit when men and women tolerate the rule of other spiritual powers:
Any such rulership causes disunity, a fact that Christendom has experienced many times and often confused with true plurality.
In their crises the Bruderhofs experienced disunity not only within and between communities in Paraguay, Europe, and the United States, but also between them and the older Hutterian communities in western North America (1955-56).
The whole crisis brought about the loss of many members, and it became necessary to dissolve the Bruderhofs in South America and Europe and to gather in the North American communities to seek and find unity again.
Through God's grace, unity was given after serious searching of hearts and repentance, under the eldership of Johann Heinrich (Heini) Arnold:
It opened the door for the return of former members and for the reuniting in 1974 with the older Hutterian communities in the West. This new unity has been deepened and strengthened by many visits between the western and eastern Bruderhofs.
It also found expression in joint baptism meetings, weddings, and other mutual support, including the exchange of workers for the building up of new Bruderhofs (e.g., Darvell, Pleasant View, Concord), teachers for Bruderhof schools, and practical help in other communal work departments.
The Hutterian Brethren have felt the urge to share this newly given unity with others:
Since Christ's message is only believable when its messengers are themselves united (Jn 17:21), they sought this unity in the Spirit of Christ with other movements and individuals who seek it too.
With this intention, brothers and sisters from both eastern and western Bruderhofs participated jointly in various meetings and conferences,
sometimes together with Mennonites, with other Christian and Jewish (Kibbutz) community movements, and with seeking people in Germany, Switzerland (1984), Canada and Israel (1985), Pennsylvania (at a Mennonite Historical Society meeting in Lancaster, 1986), South Tyrol (at the Täufertagung in the Puster Valley, 1986), and New Zealand (1987).
In this spirit they also took part in a historic, first consultation of the following Radical Reformation movements: Waldensians, Hussites, Czech Brethren and Moravians, Anabaptists (including Mennonites and Hutterians), Quakers, and Church of the Brethren.
This took place in Prague in 1986. Its purpose was to learn from the groups' respective histories what the radical message of Jesus means in the late 20th century.
Other journeys were undertaken to India, Sweden, Germany, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua.
In addition, the Bruderhofs were able to increase their outreach through visiting prisoners and helping the hungry and poor in their neighbourhoods, and through such agencies as the Mennonite Central Committee and Oxfam International in the wider world.
The Plough Publishing House contributes to the outreach with its publications:
Of special importance is the publication in 1987 of the first English edition of The Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren,
written in German by the brothers in the 16th and 17th centuries, recounting in detail the material and spiritual struggles and tribulations, the imprisonment and martyrdom, and also the wonderful protection of God that the communities experienced up to the year 1665.
The care for and education of children is seen by the Hutterian Brethren as a primary mission task. Here also the atmosphere of unity in the whole environment, especially between parents and teachers, is decisive.
Every member of the Bruderhof is willing to do any work as a service for the whole body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27):
The brotherly atmosphere within and between the different work departments is more important than economic considerations:
There is no differentiation in value between income-producing work departments, such as farming and industries (educational play equipment, furniture for schools and day care centres, equipment for the handicapped), and the many services needed for the daily life of all the members of the community and its guests, such as kitchen, laundry, sewing room, school, clerical work, historical archives, publishing, and medical work.
The brothers and sisters who are responsible for the different departments are appointed unanimously by the community, as are the overall services of the Elder, Servants of the Word, stewards, work distributors, and housemothers.