(Feb. 12, 2007) — The Anniversary Committee of Annual Conference has announced several plans for special events and commemorations of the 300th anniversary of the Brethren movement. Among them are an opening celebration this fall in Germantown, Pa., joint events will be held with the Brethren Church at the 2008 Annual Conference, and a “300th Anniversary Celebration Sunday” for congregations on Aug. 3, 2008.
“Our committee views the period from Annual Conference ’07 to Annual Conference ’08 as the time of celebration for the 300th anniversary,” said committee chair Jeff Bach. The opening event will be held Sept. 15-16, 2007, at Germantown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, the site of the first Brethren meetinghouse in America. The meetinghouse was built in 1770. A day of worship will be the focus, with Sunday morning worship at 10 a.m. led by the congregation, and a service at 2 p.m. serving as the denominational celebration. Other activities on Saturday will include cemetery tours, visits to the site of the first Brethren baptism in America at Wissahickon Creek, tours of Philadelphia, exhibits, a hymn sing, and informational presentations.
An academic conference at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College is planned for Oct. 11-13, 2007, to celebrate the past heritage, present, and future prospects for the Church of the Brethren, Bach reported. Preliminary information is at the website of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, www.etown.edu/YoungCenter.aspx?topic=Brethren+Call+for+Papers.
The Annual Conference scheduled for July 12-16, 2008, in Richmond, Va., will include a joint day of worship and celebration with the Brethren Church on Sunday, July 13, and a joint closing service on July 16. A joint event on mission and the global church will take place on Sunday evening, July 13. The two denominations will gather under the theme, “Surrendered to God, Transformed in Christ, Empowered by the Spirit.” The two denominations will have separate worship and business sessions on July 14-15.
On Aug. 3, 2008, the Brethren Encyclopedia Board is planning an anniversary event in Schwarzenau, Germany, the site of the baptisms of the first group of eight Brethren. Several Church of the Brethren members are planning tours to Europe to coincide with this event. The anniversary committee encourages interested individuals to contact tour leaders directly for more information, Bach said.
Aug. 3, 2008, also is designated as “300th Anniversary Celebration Sunday” for Church of the Brethren congregations. The anniversary committee invites congregations and districts to mark the anniversary with special events. Activities being suggested include district speech contests for youth on the anniversary theme, “Surrendered to God, Transformed in Christ, Empowered by the Spirit,” or on the topics, “I’m Brethren because…,” or “My hopes for the Church of the Brethren as we move into our fourth century are….” Winning speeches may be given at district conferences or district-wide anniversary celebrations.
Districts also have been invited to participate in Youth Heritage Travel Teams. A training event for Youth Heritage Travel Teams is scheduled for April 13-15, 2007, at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Each district has been invited to name a team of two youth to attend the training. Districts will cover travel expenses but other expenses such as room and board, materials, and leadership are covered by the Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office of the Church of the Brethren General Board. The youth teams will provide leadership at district events and in congregations throughout the anniversary year. They will be trained in the areas of storytelling, public speaking, drama, music, heritage, and Brethren beliefs and practices.
An anniversary resource packet including a six-lesson study guide on the anniversary theme, and a bibliography of worship and drama resources that will be posted at the anniversary website, was mailed to congregations and districts last fall. To request a copy of the resource packet contact the Annual Conference Office at 800-688-5186. A children’s curriculum, “Piecing Together the Brethren Way,” also will be available this year. It is suitable to be used for Vacation Bible School or church camp, may be expanded into a 14-week Sunday school unit, and may be adapted for use by youth and adults as well.
Church of the Brethren member Al Huston also is taking a 1776 Sauer Bible to any church that would like to see it, as part of the 300th anniversary celebration. “He is offering this as a way to help us appreciate the importance of the Bible in our faith, and as a pilgrimage of prayer for the church as a whole,” Bach said, adding that Huston and his son have developed a video that tells about the Sauer press, the connection of the press to the Brethren, and the Bibles that the press printed. For more information about the “Bible Visit” project or to schedule a visit to a congregation, go to http://www.biblevisit.com/.
Find the 300th anniversary website at http://www.churchofthebrethrenanniversary.org/. Congregations are invited to provide a link from their websites to the anniversary website. To receive the e-mail newsletter from the 300th Anniversary Committee, send a request to Dean Garrett at email@example.com.