In February seven members of Sojourners Community visited the Woodcrest Bruderhof in Rifton, New York. The following is a recounting of the history of the Bruderhof as told to Sojourners by some of the Bruderhof's earliest members.--The Editors
Hardy Arnold: I was 8 years old when the community started in a little village in central Germany called Sannerz with my parents, Emmy and Eberhard Arnold, my aunt, we five children, and various friends. Right from the beginning, we had many guests, because after the first world war, people in the so-called youth movement in Germany were looking for a new way of life. They were disillusioned with Christians who had killed each other by the million, and yet went to church on Sunday.
When my parents had lived in Berlin, they had an open house once a week and 80 to 100 people came and shared together about the best way to live. They read the Sermon on the Mount and the story of the early church in Acts 2 and 4 and felt more and more that we should live like the early Christians.
My parents had been influenced by the revival movement in Germany, which originally goes back to Charles Finney and the American revival movement. The emphasis for them was on personal conversion and a clear stand with regard to the way the early Christians had lived. That led them to decide to share everything in common.
My parents had also been influenced by the old message of religious socialism, which was strong not only in Switzerland but also in Germany. It proclaimed that the economic injustices of the world had to be overcome by love. Religious socialists believed we had to stand on the side of the workers and the poor who were exploited. And although my parents never became socialists in the political sense, they always chose the side of the poor, the working class. They always said, "We don't want any middle-class economic security, we want to live on faith."