“Brethren have adopted the language of just doing things,” said Joshua Brockway at the annual meeting of the Brethren Journal Association. “We have emphasized obedience, especially with regards to our ordinances.”
Feetwashing and the Love Feast have helped Brethren internalize “knowing and doing the right thing. We heard the values of service, we embody the Priesthood of all believers…in our Love Feast.”
Brockway is director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship for the Church of the Brethren and a member of the Congregational Life Ministries staff. He spoke on the topic “Learning to Wash Feet: A Discussion of Brethren Discipleship.”
He began by defining discipleship. “It’s one of those words everyone uses but don’t know what it means.” Brockway suggested that discipleship may simply be expressed as “Following Jesus”–but that doesn’t say who follows Jesus, nor how they do it. So he tried again: “Discipleship is the formation of a person or community into the likeness of Christ through practice.”
And later he added, “Discipleship changes who we are, how we see the world, and how we relate to each other.”
The Brethren Love Feast is an intentional means of internalizing what it means to follow Jesus. Brockway told a story about a Love Feast he experienced as a young person. It was, he said, “sop in silence,” with metal spoons clanking on glass bowls in a dimly lit fellowship hall. One of the church members who was struggling with Parkinson’s interrupted the “soothing rhythm.” Frustration was visible on his face as he tried to control his spoon from making a rattling noise on the bowl. One of the deacons rose, without instruction, taking the spoon in hand and, with the whole congregation taking note, began to feed his brother in Christ.
Noting that there were many tears in that room, Brockway said, “That deacon had internalized the lesson of the ordinance.” Having learned by washing feet, he automatically presented the person and character of Jesus.
Although nothing magical happens in Brethren communion, Brockway said, “the practice inculturates a person into the group.” Our Brethren ordinances “give shape to the reign of Christ’s life among us…and sends us forth” as disciples of Jesus.
— Frank Ramirez provided this report.