Brethren history in three minutes (more or less)

Performed by NYCers Quinera Bumgardner from Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, Pa., and Jeffrey Copp from Columbia City (Ind.) Church of the Brethren; written by Walt Wiltschek

In seventeen-oh-eight–
Write that down, that’s the date–
There’s a guy called Alex Mack;
Said the church is out of whack.
So this group, they made a vow,
In the town of Schwarzenau.
It’s not going like God planned,
So we have to take a stand.

Eight dunked in the Eder,
’Spite the law and the haters;
Faith put to the test,
So they looked to the west,
Took a ship, crossed the ocean,
And they put their church in motion;
Praised the Lord, settled down,
In a place called Germantown.

Mack’s son and Peter Becker
Start to do some work together,
Do a Christmas Day baptism
‘Neath the ice of Wissahickon.
Sauers printing what they could,
Glory to God, my neighbor’s good;
Count the cost of non-resistance
When the war gets in your business!

Jeffrey Copp and Quinera Bumgardner perform the Brethren history rap. Photo by Laura Brown

Make sure all have what they need,
But we’ll do fine without a creed.
Conrad Beissel stirs up strife,
Goes to live a cloistered life.
Mission trips head for the hills,
Preach the Word and do God’s will;
Elder Wolfe says, “Don’t stop there,”
and they head for the frontier.

John Kline goes to South and North,
Till he’s shot while on his horse;
Henry Kurtz breaks out his pen,
And Sarah Major shames the men.
Annual meetings, hear the Spirit,
Change is coming, will we fear it?
Breaking bread, a feast of love,
On earth like heaven up above.

Mattie Dolby, Samuel Weir,
Saying things we need to hear.
Colleges and Sunday school,
While Holsinger says, “Just be cool!”
Guidance came from old James Quinter,
But the church began to splinter,
Anabaptist, Pietism–
Three-way split, we have a schism.

Goshen statement, that’s seditious,
Brethren shaking in their britches;
Bethany starts training pastors;
Camps and homes, we’re growing faster!
Kulp and Helser, Ryan, Stovers,
Spread the church the whole world over;
Seeds still growing till this day,
And Africa now leads the way.

In the wake of devastation,
Brethren show cooperation.
M.R. Zigler, Anna Mow,
Dan West says, “Hey, have a cow!”
And when each disaster strikes,
Brethren go by car or bike.
One bold call starts BVS;
When we serve, we’re at our best.

Move to cities from the farm,
C.O. status, Vietnam;
Studebaker doesn’t run:
I want a shovel, not a gun.
We respond to global hunger,
While we care for kids and younger;
From our gifts we keep on giving,
It’s another way of living.

Staff in Elgin and New Windsor,
Our small size will never hinder.
As the decades keep on moving,
We find God goes right on proving
That we’re strongest when we see us
Try to do the work of Jesus.
That’s the word, three centuries–
And here we are at NYC. Peace!

— Walt Wiltschek is serving as one of the worship coordinators for National Youth Conference 2022, where this rap was performed during the morning worship service on Tuesday, July 26. He is executive minister of Illinois and Wisconsin District and on the editorial team for the Church of the Brethren’s Messenger magazine.

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