This year the Bruderhof is celebrating its one hundredth birthday: In June 1920, Eberhard and Emmy Arnold left their secure home in Berlin to begin living in community in the village of Sannerz. From its chaotic beginning, the community gradually developed form and structure, and of course it has evolved over the decades.
We look forward expectantly for God to lead us on new paths. At the same time, we acknowledge that the foundation laid by our founders is solid. Looking back, we find inspiration for going forward.
Here is an excerpt of a meeting in which Eberhard Arnold described the first years of the community:
The rooms at Sannerz were filled with a power that did not come from us, nor from those who visited us. It was a power that came from God. People brought it with them, and they in turn felt it in us. But neither they nor we possessed this power; rather, it surrounded us like an invisible fluid, like the wind of the Spirit that visited the waiting apostles at Pentecost.
This power did not adhere to particular people. It could not be possessed or held fast, or used for gain or profit. It was an event, a happening, an occurrence; it was history. It was a manifestation of the eternal and everlasting in time and space. It was a communication with a primal force, which we could never have explained in a human or logical way. That was the secret of those times. There was something at work that was more than psychic, something that could not be explained in terms of emotions. It was something spiritual, something of the Holy Spirit.
But we never thought then – It would have seemed a kind of craziness to us! – that only people like us, or even just the handful of people at Sannerz, were visited by God’s Spirit or were illuminated by the Spirit of Christ. To the contrary, we felt the blowing of the Spirit in all people and all places. The important thing for us was to feel this breath of God and to recognize it.
We ourselves had to live according to the calling that had come to us from the words and life of Jesus, from the prophetic image of God’s future kingdom. We had to be true to this calling to the end. We believed we could best serve all those who were touched by the breath of God by living out the reality of our ultimate cause: the objectivity of God’s will, and the content and character of his kingdom.
As part of celebrating our centenary, we are making Eberhard Arnold’s writings available to the public on a new website. I have been part of the team preparing the files – many hours of hard work interspersed with thrilling discoveries as I come across lines that seem written for today.
Please take time to browse this site. There is a daily inspirational quote that can start you on the right foot every morning. On the main page you will find an overview of Arnold’s ideas and a short biography. On the Explore page, his writings are sorted by topic. On the Research page you will find his unedited talks and writings: a scan of the original, a typed German transcript, and in most cases an English translation. It will take us some time to upload everything, but already there is much to absorb.
I believe Eberhard Arnold was a prophetic voice and much of what he said and wrote a hundred years ago is relevant to us today.