The KIT Newsletter, an Activity of the KIT
Service, a Project of The Peregrine Foundation
P.O. Box 460141 / San Francisco, CA
telephone: (415) 821-2090 / (415) 282-2369
KIT Staff U.S.: Ramon Sender, Charles Lamar,
Bernard, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom;
U.K. : Susan Johnson Suleski, Ben Cavanna, Leonard
Pavitt, Joanie Pavitt Taylor, Brother Witless
(in an advisory capacity)
The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and
encourages the expression of all views, both from within
outside the Bruderhof. The opinions expressed in the
publish are those of the correspondents and do not
reflects those of KIT editors or staff.
January 1995 Volume VII #1
-------------- "Keep In Touch" --------------
A VERY HAPPY 1995 TO ALL OUR READERS! The
KIT Newsletter now begins its SEVENTH year of
publishing, unbelievable as it may seem, with more than
a million words in print in 61 issues. We have reprinted
these in spiral-bound annuals that total over 1800 pages.
Also we have three books in print, Roger Allain's, Bette
Bohlken-Zumpe's and Nadine Moonje Pleil's, with two
more planned for the next years. We have enjoyed five
Friendly Crossways summer conferences in
Massachusetts, three EuroKITs in England, as well as a
two-day gathering at Wheathill in 1992 attended by 65
people. EuroKIT reports at least seven ad hoc informal
get-togethers at various people's houses with up to 30
people attending (one on only two weeks' notice! This
does not include innumerable individual contacts with
friends, old and new. In the States, there have been the
ongoing Christmas sing-alongs with Muschi and Heidi's
families (now also started in the D.C. area), as well as a
1994 Spring Camp-out that was attended by 42 happy
On top of all this, we have a very active computer
Bulletin Board (The Humming Bird Express) and e-mail
connections (in the States except for the Cavanna
Connection) with roughly 15 people chatting almost daily.
Ben Cavanna also reports that the U.K. group continues
with three useful support groups. Those of you who have
a computer or want to think about getting online for
cheap, we have a $200 possible deal to get you started.
Contact KIT staff for info! We also have quite a successful
Lost & Found Super-Sleuth Service that found Andrew
Bazeley's dad and is working on a list of others.
By the end of January we hope to be able to provide
access to the Newsletter over the InterNet (WorldWide
Web, complete with a home page, newsletter back issues
and various articles. So if you're feeling 'poor and lonely'
like the song says, there's no reason to sit and mope. KIT
is ready to connect you into the network in whatever
way suits you best!
1995 KIT Conference!
The Friendly Crossways gathering this year will be held on
the weekend of July 28-31, 1995. Mark Your Calendars!
----- The Whole Kit And Caboodle -----
EuroKIT Staff Change: As of this issue, Susan
Johnson Suleski will replace
Joy Johnson MacDonald as coordinator for EuroKIT
mailings. Joy has taken on a degree candidacy in
counselling, and has more than enough to keep her busy.
KIT staff would like to thank Joy for her wholehearted
efforts over the years that helped to create the nurturing
environment for KITfolk existing in the U.K. and Europe today.
Despite the 'changing of the guard,' we are sure that Joy's loving
presence will continue to be in all our lives. Thank you, Joy!
ITEM: Monika and Balz Trumpi-Arnold
reported that the letter they mailed to Emi-Ma Zumpe on
the anniversary of the death of Eberhard Arnold was
returned unopened. Enclosed was a note from Emmy
Zumpe stating that the Zumpe relatives in the Bruderhof
felt that they could have nothing to do with the Trumpi-
Arnolds as long as they are a part of KIT, whom they
consider a group that trying to destroy the life they are
Ben Cavanna, 1/5/95: An update on the
Paraguay photos. We are still checking the cataloging of
the negatives with the prints as we found a few errors.
That is nearly finished and then we can get all the
reprints done and out to those of you who ordered at
EuroKIT. Sorry for the delay. We are at the same time
continuing the identification of the photos which was
started at the conference, but there is quite a long way to
go. If you think you can help with this, please let me
know. The photos are circa 1954. The project is to
produce a photo album of these wonderful pictures which
are a great record of what was achieved in Paraguay.
Joe Keiderling to Plough mailing list
11/23/94: Dear Friend, this year has been unforgettable
for us here at the communities of the Hutterian Brethren.
I am sure some of you have heard about the difficulties
we have encountered at our Palmgrove community in
Nigeria, but for those who have not, you should know
that in June we discovered that the two Nigerian leaders
who originally pleaded to join with us had secretly
assumed control of significant assets of the Hutterian
Church in Nigeria. They made it clear to us they didn't
want us at Palmgrove.
As you can imagine, this was a stunning blow, and
in many ways we are still recovering. Tragically, there
are many Nigerians involved who have become victims to
the personal whims of their two leaders. We felt we had
no choice but to withdraw temporarily until Palmgrove
could be restored to its original purpose. We made every
effort to ensure that those remaining in Palmgrove would
be cared for and provided them with ample resources.
There is much more I could say about this. Over the
past years you shared in the excitement we felt in this
new venture, and you supported us generously, and if
there are any questions you might have, I would be
happy to answer them. We still trust that none of our
shared efforts will have been in vain. To ensure the
responsible care of the buildings and people, we have two
Hutterian ministers from Canada there with their wives.
But though our work in Nigeria has been scaled
back significantly, the work of building community and of
service goes on in other areas. We have maintained active
and rewarding exchanges with groups in India, Japan,
South Africa, and Israel. Our young people have helped
with flood relief in Georgia, and in emergency relief work
in the neighborhoods around our communities. But one
project in particular has been the focus of the resources
of the Hutterian Brethren Service Committee this year. I
would like to introduce this to you.
You probably know that our communities operate a
business called Rifton ['Rifton Products' - ed] that
manufactures equipment for the severely disabled.
Through this, we have become deeply involved in a new
approach to special education developed in California
Through our nonprofit Service Committee, and in
collaboration with a team of rehab and education
professionals in Bakersfield, California, we are helping to
create a new charitable organization called MOVE
International whose mission is to improve the overall
quality of life for people with severe disabilities and for
those who care for them. The new MOVE International
will revolutionize the way people with disabilities are
taught. Indeed, the revolution has already begun.
Thousands of people with severe disabilities around the world
have already discovered the hope MOVE offers. From children with
cerebral palsy to adults affected by debilitating accidents, those
people are stepping out of their wheelchairs and into a life of choice,
independence, and dignity.
Naturally, the communities of the Hutterian Brethren are
committed to the success of this new venture. But much
must be accomplished during the next few years. The
burdens and joys of liberating individuals with severe
disabilities are only now becoming better understood.
Both learners and caregivers require further education, guidance,
new supportive equipment, proper research, and new techniques if
exciting progress is to continue to unfold. To this task we dedicate
the new MOVE International.
This year we will assign all proceeds from our
Service Committee's annual fund drive to the creation of
the new MOVE International. Would you consider a
charitable contribution to the HBSC to help us? Your
donation will provide us with the resources to set in
motion a new movement that spells hope for rehab's
I look forward to hearing from you. If you would
like more information or a free copy of our new booklet
on MOVE International, please call.
Yours sincerely, Joe Keiderling
P.S. Since the HBSC is a 501(c)3 organization, your
contribution will be fully tax-deductible.
ITEM: it was pointed out to us by a reliable
source that the MOVE solicitation letter from
Joe Keiderling contained at
least one substantial inaccuracy: Joe
stated that the Bruderhof arranged for the western
Hutterite ministers to look after the welfare of the
faithful and to maintain the physical plant at Palmgrove.
According to our source, the Bruderhof had absolutely
nothing to do with the western ministers being on site at
Palmgrove, and in fact they are there in defiance of a
directive from Christoph Arnold to the Western Brethren
to shun any overtures from the Nigerian brethren. What
has become obvious is that Palmgrove seceded from the
Arnoldleut, but not from Jake Kleinsasser.
Name Withheld, 12/16/94: First time
writer. Did you hear that Christoph was run out of Crystal
Springs Colony by Jakob Kleinsasser and told not to come
back? One of the 'Oiler' Elders (Big) told Christoph that
"The fire between the Oilers and the Gibbs is burning so
hot -- the biggest fire department in New York could not
put it out. And Christoph, we just now realize that you
are shoveling the coals." Christoph went home mad, and
on his next meeting in the East he said, "We are through
with the Western Brothers. No more letters to the West,
no more Ploughs to the West. The Western Elders will
come back on their knees begging till we will let them
BACK INTO THE CHURCH AGAIN." What a soul murder is
this monster anyways? Thank GOD!!
Bette Bohlken-Zumpe 12/28/94: I have
just finished reading through the December issue of "our"
Keep In Touch letter and must say, I think it is the best
issue yet. What I usually do is to skip through the letter
first to see who wrote in it and if it is someone I know, I
read that first. This time I went through it step by step
and think that this is a better way, as you are sure not to
But first of all, let me wish all of you -- far and near
-- a happy, fulfilled and healthy 1995! I was too late to
wish you a happy Christmas, so this counts double! Also
this year I have not managed my usual number of
Christmas cards due to bad eyesight, which again is due
to the Multiple Sclerosis with which I keep on fighting
The December letter was so good because it was so
honest about personal experiences and feelings and I
could find myself so well in many of the accounts. I
would just like to answer some of you personally in this
letter because I just cannot manage individual letters at
the moment, and hope this is OK with the KIT editors.
Ben Cavanna: Your letters -- both of them -- are
important to me and I am sure to others, because you say
quite clearly: "I disagree with you, but I still love you!"
That is what I have been trying to bring across to my
family for years, but they will not understand. They see
in me "enemy number ONE," which most certainly I am
not!! I was very thankful for your story, which covers a
time when I already had left and know very little about.
I felt very sad that you had to go through the same
struggles as I, only much more vile and mean, really an
attempt to control all your feelings by undermining your
trust and childlike spirit. That this happens so much in
the community is the one thing I feel very strongly
about. As you say, you were "robbed of your childhood in
many ways". I felt a kinship, when you say on page 2, "I
wasn't sure what they wanted from me, but became more
and more desperate to go back to my class .... not
knowing when the punishment would be over .... so I
confessed to more and more things, hoping this would
prove my repentance...." This is what brought so many of us
into a vicious circle from which it seemed there was no way out at
What you say on page 9 about the talk with Heini is
amazing too, as I have had exactly the same experience:
"Asking for the novitiate is asking to become a Christian
and not necessarily to join the Bruderhof .... " I was a
baptized member when Heini told me, that I should be
quite clear whether God wanted me to live with Hans in
Holland or remain on the Bruderhof, and accept either
way I chose as a leading from God! Which I actually did
and still do! But why can they not simply accept this
now? Why all this hardheartedness in sending all my
mail to my mother back to me unopened??
Thank you, Ben, for your story! I know it cost a lot
of grief and pain to put it on paper, but finally it will give
you joy and a sense of freedom in life -- like you have
actually closed a chapter for good, in the willingness to remember
the joys and forget the tears!!
Hilarion Braun: Thank you for many of your last
contributions! I loved and respected both your parents,
and it is wonderful to hear from you and your strong
vision of faith for all of us human beings. I am sure that
raising your daughter alone must have been hard, but is
it not wonderful to do what you yourself feel is right? To
give love freely without the constant threat that it might
be "emotional love" and therefore to be despised? Your
questions to Duffy were exactly what I felt. Yes Duffy, we
were crippled sexually as children and is it Christian to
not allow a family visit even for Christmas and
undermine even the most personal Christmas mail?
Neutrality -- 'lukewarmness,' as Heini would say -- can be
very frightening for us, the Bruderhof sabras -- refugees--
because again we feel that we are not understood or
loved. I do think there is a difference between coming
from the outside world and "choosing" to have your life
dictated by others "who know better," and indoctrinating
the spirit you admire in a person into a third person or a
child! This is dangerous, as it is far from the direct line of
love from man to man -- brother to brother! I do believe
like you, Hilarion, that the Bruderhof is not just a nice
little experiment of Christian brotherhood ".... but a cult
that exhibits psychotic neglect of the sacredness of
children and as such should be exposed for what it is!"
Thank you for having the courage again and again to say
what really moves your heart and makes it tick!!
Konrad Kluver: I was glad to hear from you through
KIT, as you never did answer my letter. Many things you
write were absolutely new to me, but I do believe you. I
was amazed that as early as 1938, when Heini first was
elected as Servant of the Word at the age of 25 years,
that he asked your father to listen to the "plain brothers
and their feelings for him (Heini) and for that, he would
make him a Witness Brother." I am sure that is how it
went and still is going on in the Bruderhof today.
But why, then, is it that many of us were so deeply
convinced that the loving community was the answer for
the cry of all men of our time? Why did we feel the
closeness of Christ himself, and why did we actually give
up everything in order to find fulfillment of life and faith
on the Bruderhof like I did? Why did we feel the
happiness of unity and were filled with joy living and
working as brothers and sisters? I think it was so
because God works in spite of man's failings and can turn
the bad to the good if we are willing to hear his voice,
even if it speaks through a "small vessel" or through
someone we do not expect to be the transmitter of God's
will. I think actually that is what happened in Primavera.
Brothers and sisters were ready to listen to a different voice, even
though also during those years much went wrong, love prevented
the coldness of heart from taking over and we had a lot to be
thankful for, although here again it was a daily struggle for the clear
guidance of God's people. I believe that brothers like Phillip Britts,
Fritz Kleiner and Adolf Braun had a special gift of love and honesty
towards the brotherhood and its leaders, and God used them to
guide us through the difficult years of poverty and tropical heat and
George Maendel: Your report of your recent trip to
your family in North Dakota was lovely reading and I
find myself thinking: "Why is it, that "Ex-Hutterites are
welcomed with love and as family members when Ex-
Bruderhofers are treated like a terribly contagious
disease?" It must have been lovely to meet all your
friends and loved ones and talk with them freely! You
know, any meeting of people with a shared past can be so
positive and healthy. It saddens me deeply that all of us
Bruderhof sabras are denied this experience.
Dave Ostrom: I read your piece twice and
underlined the parts I really liked and then reread it
again. I think you must have given the Bruderhof a lot of
thought and feeling to be able to put on paper such a
vision of your thoughts. I would love to talk to you! I feel
that you have a deep understanding of the core of all the
troubles of the past. I do not want to repeat your letter,
but what struck me -- even though it is not a new thought
-- was (page 5): .... "that Heini perceived himself to be ill-
treated by his siblings. He would hold this grudge to his
death .... Heini operated from a different set of values ....
he was seeking the quick solution ...... he zeroed in on
religious money centers, determined to outdo his
brothers and brothers-in-law by bringing in more and
more influence, saying: What did brother "Common" do?
Look at all the money I raised and the influential people
I brought to the life!! Who has the right to run the show?
..... Heini learned to talk the talk. The 1940s through the
1970s were the years for reaping great wealth by selling
religion to disillusioned and emotionally dependent
You are right Dave. I never saw it quite so black
and white, but it is important for us to understand why
something we so wholeheartedly believed in fell apart
and into shreds! At low moments we tend to "be
homesick" for the Community -- the singing, the joy we
had despite all the pain. That is why we need to
understand what it is that makes the core so rotten and
why it is that our families are afraid of us who are free!
Thank you very much for writing down your ideas and
thoughts! I still believe that amongst those living on the
Bruderhof there are many who give every ounce of their
being for a life they believe to be "Godly." I love and
admire anyone who will go on believing, even though
everything around him seems to fall apart. I believe that
in Nazi Germany it was the underground movement of
believers that made -- even if in a small way -- the
difference. Theologians like Dietrich Bonhoffer and Alfred
Dell gave the Christians hope, even though they were
killed by the Nazis. I know that many brothers and
sisters are no longer convinced, but are afraid to be sent
away at their advanced age -- and where could they go
to? How to start a different life? Others keep their ears
closed for what they hear and their eyes closed for what
they see and pray that God will intervene and make an
end to this "show." Others again are so trusting that they
will not allow a thought of criticism to enter their minds!
They want to believe in the utopia to which they have
given their lives, and therefore they will wash everything
that is black or grey into white before the thought has
had a chance to develop. So really they are dependent on
the leader because they cannot cope independently!!!
Your last paragraph on page 6 put it all into a
nutshell, and I believe you to be right [that the 'plain
brothers' and the children have become wholly owned
community playthings - ed]. But I continue to believe
that each of us has this deep inner light -- also those
living in the Community. I believe that God can and will
eventually speak through the one or the other, and one
day the blinders will fall from their eyes. Let us be
prepared when this happens!!
Ramon: Thank you for your letter also. You are
right, that the individual conscience is crucified by
leaders of the Bruderhof today. Also, that after the
experience of baptism by water, the inevitable "baptism
by fire" exclusion will follow, to test the ego and the
ability to submit to the will of the leader -- or leaders.
You are also right when you say that the scripture says
that Christ will set you free! And I continue to believe
that, even though at the moment this seems against all
odds! Why are we so happy when we meet at the KIT
Conferences? Because we are free -- set free! Each person,
also the Bruderhofers will have to experience this for
themselves and we cannot do this for them. I spoke with
a theologian the other day and he said: "From the very
beginning the scripture was interpreted or translated in
different ways. Take the Lord's Prayer. We always say,
"And lead us not into temptation but deliver..." whereas
in reality it really says: "And lead us through temptation
......." which gives us a totally new dimension.
I must close for today! Please take my best wishes
for the New Year as personal ones. I do hope that there
will be a EuroKIT next year of some kind. I can well
imagine that the team that organized so far want to give
others a chance to do so. But I cannot very well ask you all to
Holland, can I? All my love and very good wishes to all of you, far
Nadine Moonje Pleil, 12/24/94: I noticed
that Konrad Kluver is not in agreement about using the
expression "Plain People" and that nobody has disagreed
with it. Well, Konrad, I have used the expression to
exhibit the fact that we were treated that way. I do not
condone that expression! I wanted to show how the
Upper Echelon, the Servants of the Word, thought and
think of us. Some were more equal than others. Read
Animal Farm and you will know what I mean. I do not
accept the way we were treated. I was always one to
speak up against such treatment until I got squashed by
the Servants of the Word. So enough explanation!
As time goes on, I become more and more appalled
about the horror stories I hear, which seem to constantly
come from the Commune. I thought life was terrible
when we still lived in the Commune and did not think it
could be worse. However the stories coming to light now
are so terrible that it is hard to believe that a Christian
community can act so coldly, towards young people in
particular. Of course I should have known. I had enough
experiences from my life in the Commune. Where is love,
where is compassion, and where is a listening ear?!
Duffy, I am glad to hear that you experienced some
love from the Commune. In my book I describe the good
times I experienced in the Commune. That, however, does
not cancel out the heart's anguish I and my family
experienced. When KIT publishes things about the
Commune which are negative, it does not mean that KIT
wants to destroy them. I, for one, am not out to destroy
them. However, why is it that the Commune is always
right? When we try to challenge them on something, we
really never get a clear and straight answer. We are told,
"We cannot remember," or "It had to be challenged," or
"Ausschluss had to take place. There is no life without
Ausschluss!" Some people always seem to be on the
receiving end in regard to being shunned. The Elder
never, ever, makes a mistake! Are we not all human? I,
for one, if I have made a mistake, will gladly apologize
for it. Out family did everything to be in good graces, but
it was all to no avail. Once you are labeled, you are
labeled! One never gets free of the stigma. At least we
never did, and that hurt. Our children suffered under that
stigma. We had to be sent away to be free of it all.
Again, I say it is good that some people experienced
love from the Commune. I think I am on the Black List
because I have written a book. The truth hurts and
therefore I am being completely blacked out. I am very
grateful that I have no loved ones there in the Commune
anymore, as my book has caused them to cut me off
completely. I am thankful for how my book is selling. It
seems to have captured many people's interest!
Staughton Lynd, 12/31/94: During the
1994 Christmas season, I found myself thinking further
about the Macedonia Cooperative Community. Alice and I
had dinner with four members of the KIT staff (Charley
Lamar, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom, and Ramon Sender)
whom we had not seen since 1957-58, when we lived for
a time at the Woodcrest Bruderhof after the breakup of
Macedonia. I also read the following in a piece by Konrad
Kluver in the December KIT:
I have been informed by reliable sources that
Heini convinced several members of the Macedonia
Community to change over to the B'hof by offering them
"positions" if they would join! One of them who actually
was an agnostic or atheist, and still is, according to his
actions, was made Witness Brother shortly after his
I'd like to offer my own account of what happened
at Macedonia. First of all, to the best of my knowledge the
only member at Macedonia who "actually was an agnostic
or atheist" was myself. If Konrad's sources have in mind
Dick (now Arnold) Mommsen, who did indeed become a
Witness Brother at the Bruderhof, I find it difficult to
imagine him seeking that position or changing over to the
Bruderhof for that reason.
More generally, as one who lived through the
decision-making process at Macedonia, I believe that
what happened there in the summer of 1957 was a group
conversion experience or religious revival. Early in 1954
four families -- Kurtzes, Newtons, Stanaways, and
Franshams -- had left Macedonia and joined the
Bruderhof. When Alice and I visited Macedonia in the
summer of 1954 and returned "for good" in November,
the remaining members of the Macedonia community
were Ivan and Alma Kneeland, Art and Mary Wiser, and
Dick and Dorothy Mommsen. Besides ourselves, Norman
Moody (Doug Moody's brother) and his wife Ann, and
Sharon Pratt (later Melan¨on), were trying out the life.
Macedonia continued to have frequent contact with
the Bruderhof in 1954-57 because Community
Playthings, which had been created at Macedonia, was
jointly operated by the two communities. Differences
arose that required discussion. We at Macedonia felt the
Bruderhof's advertising was too "hard sell." The
Bruderhof felt there was a quality problem with the
Community Playthings products Macedonia continued to
produce. (I think that there was a quality problem, and
that my work in the shop probably contributed to it!) In June
1957, the Bruderhof and Macedonia decided to dissolve their
business relationship and to proceed as two separate businesses,
Community Playthings and Macedonia Blocks.
Meantime, there had begun an exchange of longer
visits. The Potts family and Stanley Fletcher spent time at
Macedonia. The Mommsens visited Woodcrest and were
much impressed. On their return they taught us the song,
"Come now in joy preparing." As I wrote in the October
1994 KIT: "The Bruderhof had lasted much longer than
our community; it seemed more experienced, more sure
of itself, immune to the uncertainty, groping
experimentation and catastrophes experienced at
Before his recent death, Ivan Kneeland told me
something else. In late 1956 or early 1957 Ivan and I
made a short visit to Woodcrest. Heini gave Ivan a
manuscript by Blumhardt with an admonition to the
effect that it should be shared only with those Ivan
considered ready to receive it. Ivan did not show me or
tell me about the manuscript. As I understood Ivan, on
our return to Macedonia he did share the Blumhardt
essay with Art Wiser, who likewise said nothing about it
to me. Telling me about this thirty years later Ivan asked
my forgiveness. After Ivan's death, I asked Art to see the
manuscript and he sent it to me.
In June or July 1957, full and provisional members
of the Macedonia community began to read together in
the New Testament. At the invitation of Macedonia, Heini
and Duffy Black came from Woodcrest and took part in
the later stages of the process. On September 16, 1957,
the Macedonia members (besides the Kneelands, Wisers,
and Mommsens, Kathy Brookshire, Vonnie and George
Burleson, Van Geiger, Janet and Gordon Keith, Sharon and
Jack Melan¨on, Joan Nicholson, and the Lynds) issued a
statement ending with the declaration that "Macedonia
has become a community of the Society of Brothers."
The statement (quoted in full in Edward Orser's
book on Macedonia at pages 234-235) recognized that:
"There were marked differences among us, in that some
felt ready to ask for the novitiate in the Society of
Brothers, while for others there were strong questions." I was
the least persuaded. As Orser puts it, "eventually only Staughton
Lynd held out." But Alice was drawn to experiencing life at the
Bruderhof. I did not feel strong enough to carry on alone. I
concluded I should give life at the Bruderhof a chance.
Indeed it was I who on or about September 24,
1957, drove the Macedonia truck and the first contingent
of ex-Macedonians up the Woodcrest driveway. Young
people had stationed themselves on both sides of the
road, and sang "Lift your hidden faces." We had hot
chocolate in the snuggery.
Alice and our two-year-old Barbara arrived a few
days later. The weeks passed. I loved my work as a
teacher of the junior high schoolers (Edith and Lisa
Arnold, Jonathan Clement, Annie Maendel, Jeannie
Chatham, Linda Stanaway). By way of studying the
hunting phase of world history we found an old bear skin
and made bear skin hats. Years later when Alice and I
were breakfasting with the Kneelands at Evergreen,
Jeannie came into the room carrying a baby daughter
who was wearing... the bear skin hat! When the
class got to the pastoral stage of history, we got a great
mass of greasy sheep wool, and Annie showed us how the
Hutterites washed, carded, dyed, and spun it.
But I continued to be wholly unmoved by the
religious life at Woodcrest. One day I posted the following
poem near the dining room at the Carriage House:
The year is dying.
The aged one is ruddy,
Happy in his going,
But I watch with fear
The rain wash clean
The piles of bloody leaves around his bed.
We were led thus far by many solemn
A blaze, a sculled leaf
Told of foregoers;
Where the trail ended
We found a dried-up stream,
A hint of sky on up the slope.
What we came to was a death.
We did not reach the sun,
But came in time to see him die
Behind the naked trees.
At this death
And through the winterdark
We need a light.
There are many wanderers in the woods
And in fear we may do each other harm.
We see no path ahead:
For us the journey is over,
And the waiting begun.
Lord, see thy petitioner:
Heavy earthen feet,
Face red with shame;
Scarecrow world, poor man
Asking for spring.
No one ever said a word to me about
this poem. Nothing changed. We left on November 17, 1957, to try
life at the Glen Gardner community in New Jersey.
While Alice and I were at Glen Gardner, the
Bruderhof asked to meet with us. The meeting took place
at a diner halfway between the two communities. The
Bruderhof representatives said it had been decided to sell the
Macedonia property, and offered Alice and myself a first option to
buy it. We declined.
Alice returned to Woodcrest late in February 1958.
Lizzie and Hans Uli Boller cared for Barbara. Lee, our
second child, was born in May. Alice asked for the
novitiate early in the fall, but was asked to leave in
December. Our memories about Alice's leaving are
incredibly vague -- it is almost like the memory loss of an
accident victim -- but we believe the Bruderhof concluded
that Alice was emotionally unable to advance toward full
membership without her husband. Ramon took part in
Bruderhof membership meetings at the time, and
remembers Heini saying: "We will not split this family."
Even if what I have written is basically how it was,
what Konrad Kluver was told raises a different question.
Why did former Macedonians like Mark Kurtz, Art Wiser,
and Jack Melancon (and a former member of the Celo
community, Doug Moody) play such prominent roles so
soon after joining the Bruderhof, in the events of the
early 1960s? Why did it seem appropriate for men who
had belonged to the community three or four years to
exile persons who had put twenty or thirty years into
building up the Bruderhof? I do not know the answer.
Something I do feel strongly is that my beloved friend
Jack Melancon might still be with Sharon -- and if he is
dead, might still be alive -- had he not been pushed so
quickly to wield great power in spiritual matters.
In retrospect, I have always felt that the "road not
taken" for Macedonians was to recognize that neither we
nor any power that we might summon could solve all
human problems. We could have said, for example, to
struggling marriage partners: "Look, we can give love, but
that may not be enough. You should feel free to seek
professional help outside the community." Also, I think
we should have challenged individuals to draw on their
own inner resources, in the manner of a Quaker clearness
committee. We lacked confidence in our own tenets when
we failed to show faith in the untapped strength, albeit in
very different forms, within each person. Had Macedonia
turned its face toward trust in the inner light within all
human beings, rather than in principalities and powers
outside them, we could have survived as a community
until the coming of the sit-in and voter registration
movements opened up new vistas.
A. Allen Butcher to Martin Johnson,
Pleasant View Bruderhof, 12/16/94: Good Day! Thank
you for sharing your concerns about the material related
to the Bruderhof in my work, Community Tools. I will be
revising that booklet and your comments have helped me
to become more clear about certain aspects of that work.
First of all, I must admit that I do, as you wrote, "...
wish to encourage anyone who wants to give their lives
fully in communalism to what they believe even if others
feel it is wrong." I lived twelve years of my adult life in
communal society, the Federation of Egalitarian
Communities (FEC). Although the FEC shares the economic
aspect of communalism with the Bruderhof, unlike your
communities the FEC is secular and has a participatory
government, while I understand your communities to be
religious/spiritually oriented and to have an authoritarian
government. Do you agree with this characterization?
I certainly respect your right to build whatever
kind of community you wish, and have the intention of
helping your communities' growth, not to aid their
destruction. Where we disagree is on the point of
whether the Peregrine Foundation's material is helpful or
harmful. In our experience, being open about problems
and controversial issues in our communities does more
good than harm. Although this openness can be painful,
like bitter medicine, I believe that it is also growthful and
healthy in the long run. I will attempt to explain my
feelings on this and ask how you receive these ideas.
In the communities in which I have lived (the FEC),
when we had members who left in disagreement with the
community's policies we simply reminded them that they
knew what those policies were when they joined; it was
spelled out to them in the membership agreement which
they signed. Since they join willingly, they have no basis
for complaining about how things are when they leave.
This argument would hold for the Bruderhof as well, as
long as the nature of the Bruderhof communities is made
clear to new members before they join. I have no direct
experience upon which to base a judgment as to whether
or not the Bruderhof adequately (e.g., in writing) explains
the reality of its government and society to prospective
members before they join. The kind of information
appearing in the Peregrine Foundation's newsletters
suggests that people are not adequately prepared before
joining for the kind of authoritarian government and
controlled society which they report finding upon joining,
and subsequently leaving.
Please understand my perspective. As one who is
providing information to the public about intentional
communities it is my responsibility to provide all the
information that is available, both positive and negative.
It is important to report the negative as the public is
(rightfully) concerned about the number of tragedies that
occur in the community movements. I'm sure that I need
not list those here. The best early warning that we have
about problems in communities is what ex-members and
families of current members are saying about the
community or movement. If there is widespread concern
it is my responsibility to let this be known. No other
community movement that I know of has the range and
volume of disgruntlements directed toward it as does the
Bruderhof. Other authoritarian groups, such as the
Catholic Monasteries and even the Hutterites seem to
adequately explain themselves to prospective members,
or more likely, take in few members from outside. Since
the Bruderhof has a policy of growth by assimilation of
folks who grew up in the outside culture, it is
understandable that some of those would misjudge what
life in Bruderhof communities is really like, and later
leave in disappointment. Providing better orientation to
these new recruits may be one answer to your problem.
Another potential answer is the one adopted by the
Emissary communities, a network of spiritual
communities that also has a large number of disgruntled,
dissatisfied ex-members. (Unlike with the ex-Bruderhof
folks, these have not created a newsletter to print their
concerns; I only know of these via personal conversations
and second or third person reports, so there is no
material here for me to advertise, which I would do if it
were accessible.) The Emissaries have begun a
reformation process of change from a limited
participatory/strong unelected leader format to much
more of a genuinely participatory governmental system.
The change is impressive, and by all reports, was only
possible after the death of one strong paternalistic leader.
His son then encouraged the change to greater degrees of
participation by the members in each of their
communities' governments, and in the coordination of
their network as a whole.
When you state that the goal of the Peregrine
Foundation is to destroy the Bruderhof, I do not believe
that this is the case. I believe that their goal is to
encourage the kind of reformation within the Bruderhof
that the Emissaries are experiencing. For my part, I think
that your problem could be solved simply by more
adequately conveying to new members and the rest of
the world the true nature of your governmental and
social system, in terms that we understand, i.e. other than
strictly Biblical terms. Notice that I employ a method of
classifying different types of governments based upon a
continuum ranging from authoritarianism to consensus
participation. Social systems may be classified as ranging
from controlled to open. (I have much more material on
methods of presenting the different types of intentional
communities if you are interested.)
In my view, some kind of change is inevitable, and
since the Bruderhof leadership does not adequately report
on these issues in its official publications, we who observe from the
outside must rely upon the material that we have available from ex-
The message that I get from the Bruderhof
leadership (may I count you in that number?) and their
publications with regard to the concerns voiced by ex-
members in the Peregrine Foundation newsletter, is one
of blaming the messenger for their bad tidings, of
ignoring the basic charges aimed at your leaders, and of
denial of the degree of seriousness of the issues. The fact
that you ask me to delete reference to these charges from
my publications may be an effort at damage control from
your perspective, but from my perspective as an outside
observer this suggests that the Bruderhof leadership is
engaged in a cover-up or whitewashing of the issues. I
have seen no official, serious response from the
Bruderhof leadership (specific names of "Bruderhof
leaders" I expect I could infer from your own
publications as well as from Peregrine Foundation
material) with regard to the concerns of ex-members and
of families of current members, nor have I seen any
response to these issues coming from other current
members. If you would provide such material, I would be
happy to advertise it along with the other side of the
Frankly, I remember when I lived in the FEC that
we preferred to think of ourselves as being separate from
the rest of the world with regard to how we conducted
our communities' business, and that we did not
appreciate outsider's opinionated meddling. I suppose
that all communities feel this way to some degree, so I do
not fault you for that. Yet we must awake to the fallacy of
isolationism. Communities are like individuals. We may
think that we are alone, and that what we do or say is
our own business, but the truth is that individual
communities and networks are part of a larger
community of communities, just as individual people are
part of a larger human community, whether we recognize
that fact or not. What one of us does affects us all, and we
must be responsible to one another. When we forget this
and carry on behaviors that others object to, those of us
who are concerned have a moral responsibility to voice
those objections, and continue to attract attention to the
issues of concern until some answer is offered and a
resolution is found. I am sure that you understand what I
am saying, and that you can see how the above relates to
the Peregrine Foundation. Hopefully, the fact that only
one side of the issues in question are now presented in
the Peregrine materials will inspire an official or even
unofficial response directly addressing the issues from
the Bruderhof perspective. The hope for such a response
is a good reason for me to continue to advertise the
existence of the Peregrine Foundation publication. If you
would ask, I expect that your ex-members would be
happy to work with you in addressing their concerns
rather than continue to appear to be working against you.
I recognize that you may not accept my position on
this issue, but I hope that you will at least understand
that my intentions are good. When one friend feels that
they have to say difficult things to another, this is
sometimes called "tough love." It is not easy to hear
criticism, but working with it can be healthy and growth
engendering. I hope that you will accept all of this as
coming from one who sincerely wishes to help build, not
to destroy. I have never visited a Bruderhof community,
but I did briefly visit two Hutterite Colonies and met
several Bruderhof and Hutterite members at conferences of the
Communal Societies Association and of the International Communal
Societies Association. I know your people to be wonderful, beautiful
people, and I wish only the best.
I believe that it is possible for the Bruderhof to be a
more open, responsive and participatory community and
still live in, as you wrote, "full commitment to the Bible's
words." If authoritarianism is Old Testament, then a
participatory openness to renewal and reformation is
New Testament. I encourage you to consider your
communities to be New Testament with regard to this
authoritarian/participation issue. For this reason I offer
the following in the hope that you will find these
resources to be helpful in addressing the problems in the
Bruderhof communities that we on the outside consider
to be significant. Sincerely, A. Allen Butcher, P.O. Box
1666, Denver, CO 80201-1666
"The best way to keep your community from
becoming a cult is to continually expose its processes and
dynamics to the light. Cults cannot withstand scrutiny.
That is why many of them demand that members cut ties
with family and friends, ... and treat questions about the
community like arrows from the enemy.
"If you attempt to root out all cult behavior from
your own community, however, or label any other group
exhibiting such behavior a cult, you risk falling into the
righteousness trap yourself. Every person and group has
a shadow. This is as natural as the moon possessing a
dark side and a tree providing shade. The path to health
for individuals and groups lies in acknowledging the
shadow and integrating it into conscious awareness. In
this lies the secret of becoming whole."
from: Creating Community Anywhere, Carolyn R.
Shaffer & Kristin Anundsen, Tarcher/Perigee, 1993, p.
If you agree that it is important to acknowledge
and work with the negative or less perfect aspects of
ourselves or our communities, please consult these other
Meeting The Shadow: The Dark Side Of Human
Nature, edited by Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams
(Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1991).
The Shadow Side of Community and The Growth of
The Self, M. K. Woff-Salin (Crossroads, 1988).
People of The Lie, M. Scott Peck, M.D. (Harper and
and other resources listed in Creating Community
P.S. This entire letter, along with excerpts from your
letter to me are being shared with others in the
Fellowship for Intentional Community, and copies are
being forwarded to The Plough Publishers and to the
Peregrine Foundation. AAB
Hilarion Braun, 12/17/94: How beating or
caning of children was carried out on the Bruderhof has
been the subject of some speculation, but little has been
written that would shed light on how widespread the
practice was. In the Primavera communities, it was very
widespread, even though some children were exempt, for
some reason. I, for example, was caned only twice by
people other than my parents. However my brother (one
of three) was regularly and often caned by Hortners (recreation
leaders) and Servants alike. I must say, though, that his defiance of
authority remained a legacy and has brought him much grief far
beyond the reach of the Bruderhof.
To put this in perspective, let me give my own
experience as an example and then try to describe what I
observed in others. A school friend once told me that she
had heard her friend describe to her his 'playing doctor'
with a playmate. She wanted my advice on what to do, I
told her to remain silent to save the hide of the
transgressors. A few days later, she confessed the whole
story to her parents, including my 'bad' advice. I was
summoned to a Servant's office where he told me that I
needed a Denkzette (lesson) and ordered me to fetch a stick. I
had to bend over and was caned. It made no sense to me. I also was
told that what I had done was to participate in filth.
Another time, a group of us boys did not keep up
with the rest of the Hort (play group) on our way back
from an expedition to the Wurzel. All of the late arrivals
had to line up in the woodworking shop, bend over and
be strapped with a leather belt made specifically for that
purpose by a Hortner. Needless to say, I was never late
again! The experience included a perverse, sexual aspect
because it was obvious the Hortner enjoyed what he was
doing. In general, he would joke about his practice of
disciplining the boys at the drop of a hat! Once, when my
brother was treated to the same ritual, my mother
intervened and scolded the Hortner for not letting my
Dad take this responsibility. I don't know whether or not
her scolding had the desired effect.
Another Hortner, who later was a Servant, regularly
caned children (I think only boys) when they were late in
line for our evening procession to the children's dining
room. He would take the boy behind a tree (we could still
see part of them) clamp the boy's head between his
knees and cane him. I always found it utterly perverse
and humiliating. It caused us to feel a common bond of
To those whose culture is different, it should be
understood that both the Germans and the English
historically have believed in the virtue of ritualistic caning or
beating. What is so grotesque and perverse is that it is not the result
of anger or frustration, but instead a calculated administration of
"discipline," believed to be as necessary as vitamin C. The more the
In my own development, I resented that my
parents would resort to such stupidity. When I was
almost seven years old, I decided to fight back physically.
My father was shocked, and suddenly saw how violence
begets violence. In one terrible moment we, father and
son, were actually in a physical fight in which I was so
enraged that I was willing to risk everything to stop him
from hitting me. He promised me from then on never,
ever again, to strike me, no matter what the provocation.
In spite of his promise, my mother continued to use a
belt to strike me, not ritualistically but out of frustration that I was
not going to be the Bruderhof boy she wanted.
One of my closest school buddies, who grew up in a very
Prussian home, was beaten mercilessly and very often by
his father who was the schoolmaster. It amazed me how
well he took these beatings and how quickly he would
stop crying. Ironically I, who was caned quite
infrequently, felt more horrified at the beatings of others
and turned my rage inward in sympathy for others' pain.
This morbid sensitivity in children makes the practice of
violence doubly evil because it punished both directly
and indirectly, and in a totally indiscriminate way. I
donÕt mean to imply that psychological violence is any
less perverse, but we have yet to grapple with the
more obvious violence, namely physical violence in
a pacifist community.
Miriam Arnold Holmes, 12/26/94: I
enjoyed December's KIT very much, especially Andy
Harris' and Ben Cavanna's childhood memories. It's so
good to hear from the men how they experienced various
times, good and bad. I also enjoyed Konrad Kluver's
account of his father's exclusion in the Wally-Waldchen
and his close communion with the wildlife of Paraguay.
What a great storyteller Willi Kluver must have been!
I would like to address something else Konrad
wrote about, re: the "plain brother" issue. I agree with
Konrad that this concept should be totally foreign to
anyone who is true to the original Bruderhof ideal. I
would, however, like to correct the notion that this term
originated with the Arnold brothers. I believe only one of
the brothers, namely Heini, is responsible for this.
I came across it for the first time in the second
edition of "Tortures Rekindled," in the letter Heini left for
Christoph, his son and heir, with the instruction not to
open it until the former's death. Frankly, I was horrified
about how blatantly Heini espoused his superiority vis-a-
vis the "plain brothers." Had he no shame? I never heard
anything like it from my father Hardi, nor do I believe
Hans Herman thought or said anything like that. Hans
Herman, especially, was not particularly interested in
power. I'm sure there were things in Primavera as well
as in the U.S. that Hans Herman objected to and spoke out
against, but never for the purpose of self-importance and
power. My father Hardi in his humanness occasionally got
bitten by the power bug. However he always very
quickly got beaten down because he wasn't that subtle
about it and Heini would not stand for it.
All through my childhood and youth my father
impressed upon us how, in God's eyes, nobody is better
than anyone else. To illustrate this, I will recount a dream my father
told us that he had in Primavera.
The dream: "The brotherhood in Primavera
received the message that Jesus was coming to visit.
Everyone got very excited and eagerly gathered at an
outdoor location to wait for Jesus to arrive. Somehow the
local Paraguayans got wind of the impending arrival of
this important guest, so they also came. They stood a
good distance away from the gathered Brotherhood,
humbly holding their straw hats in their hands, standing
barefoot in the dusty road, hoping to catch a glimpse of the honored
"Sure enough, here comes Jesus walking towards
the group. However, to the shock and horror of the
Brotherhood, instead of approaching them, Jesus walked
past them and went to the Paraguayans. He spoke to
them, completely ignoring the Brotherhood, leaving them
to feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves because of
This was Hardi's message to his children. I wish
everyone a very good, peaceful New Year.
Joel Clement, 12/18/94: While a
Bruderhof graduate was visiting here at my house, I took
the occasion to ask him about one girl whom I had known
at the Bruderhof who seemed to be severely depressed --
let's call her Sophie Walsh. The Walsh family was quite
large -- American in origin -- and had joined in the late
1950s. In 1968 the family had been sent away to the
Saugerties, N.Y., area where the Bruderhof owned one of
their famous Auschluss houses -- the same place where I
think the Domer family was sent after Dick Domer's fall
from power in 1973, which Ben Cavanna refers to in his
life story in the December, 1994 KIT. The Walsh family
remained out for several years until around 1971 when
they were accepted back into the community. I do not
know the charges against them. They were both very sweet
people. They were probably found to be "in the wrong spirit" or
something stupid like that.
When my family returned from Darvell to the U.S.
(Evergreen Bruderhof) in 1973, the Walsh family was
back at Woodcrest. Sophie was kind of shy and quiet and
reminded me a bit of Laurel Durgin. She was about 3
years older than me, which in 1973 would have made her
20-21 years old. During occasional visits to Woodcrest
from Evergreen, I sensed something about her which led
me to believe that the exclusion of her family (due to
some supposed fault of her parents) had taken a toll on
her. I think this also might have been the case with
Laurel Durgin. The children helped bear the guilt of their
parents and were adversely affected by the massive shame
associated with being sent away from the Bruderhof. Mike LeBlanc
writes about this also.
I think that Sophie either was a novice or had
asked for the novitiate, which was also a major step
toward membership. It was clear that she was seriously
seeking to become more committed to "the life, but she
seemed sad to me.
For approximately one year I took part in the
Gemeindestunde meetings at Evergreen where my family
lived. I was about 18 at the time. Many of the meetings
were conducted with a phone-loudspeaker connecting the
three hofs together, Woodcrest, Evergreen and New
Meadow Run. As you know, the Gemeindestunde was
"The Church Hour" and the most revered part of the life
of the church-community. It was here that those
individuals who were experiencing problems or who
were "not in the right spirit" would have to confess their
sins publicly in order to clear it up before the church
could come to prayer. Sometimes this happened before
the teaching or reading and sometimes it came right after
I remember Sophie Walsh making a weeping
confession before the church. I don't remember what she
said in terms of specifics -- I don't think there was any
specific sin. It seemed to me to be a general feeling of
being sinful. If memory serves me correctly, the reading
that night was from Heini's book, Freedom from Sinful
Thoughts, which had just been published. Doug Moody
"had" the meeting from Woodcrest and was reading from
that book, and then Sophie made this weeping confession.
Doug then addressed her condition in some way, and I got
the impression that she was under some kind of church
discipline and no longer in the Brotherhood. She may have been
confessing to having sinful thoughts as well as a general feeling of
Having been at the community at the time, my
general impression is that the book was written as a
result of many young people confessing to having
problems with sinful thoughts and as a way to "help" us.
For many, it just made matters worse and we became
obsessed with our sinfulness. Then we were told not to
engage in "self-circling" but to be more joyful. That kind
Some months later, Sophie was sent from
Woodcrest to Evergreen and was put
with a family that was
mostly girls. Now she appeared to me to be quite
depressed. From her general demeanor, she appeared to
be very depressed. Perhaps she was being medicated, I
don't know. I don't think she was in the Brotherhood or
in the Gemeindestunde circle. I think she was under
Church discipline. I observed that she was almost always
accompanied by one of the girls in that family as though
they thought she might harm herself or something.
One day I was in our living room in our family's
apartment. I was sitting at the dining room table near the
door, talking to one of the other young men who was
visiting us. Sophie and one of the girls accompanying her
were out in the hallway, passing through on their way
somewhere or perhaps visiting a family down the hall.
Before I knew what had happened Sophie was standing
behind me and had put her hand on my shoulder. She
didn't say anything. As near as I can remember she
hardly spoke anyway -- it seemed like just speaking took
great effort -- that's how depressed she seemed.
The guy I was with looked shocked and I didn't
know what to do. Nothing like this had ever happened to
me before. It was very much out of the ordinary. The
other girl quickly took Sophie away with her. We did not
talk much about the incident - it had happened so fast. A
few days later my mother came to me and talked about
the incident to sort of clear it up. She told me that Sophie
had become worse or something to that effect and was
being moved away or was going to get treatment or
something like that. I don't know what happened to her --
whether she went back to Woodcrest at that point or was
put in some kind of an institution. I wonder what became
Mike LeBlanc, 12/11/94: As the holidays
draw near, I like to pause and reflect about events of the
past year and look forward to what the new year will
bring. As the seasons move from fall to chilly winter and
then back to a sunny spring, the cycle of life continues.
As new life springs from the ground, I find hope for the
future, on a personal, then global scale.
Also during the holiday seasons, or on special days
we hold dear for whatever reason, we experience
something special. Whether it be Christmas, Hanukah, All
Saints Day, a birthday, wedding or whatever, there are
events in our lives where we experience a tremendous
sense of joy, love and expectation. On these days,
something very special happens, which I will call a
"miracle". Somehow we feel inexplicably happy, bathing
in what I believe is the presence of our Creator, or Source
of Life, or Ultimate Truth or meaning of life, or whatever
you call that thing which deep down in each one of us
resides as a spark. This spark can sense the presence of
that same entity, same force, yet many times more
powerful. This can happen when we help others, give
gifts to the needy, or just do something that "feels right".
This brief moment, this "miracle", is to be treasured.
It is my hope, however, that we do not limit
ourselves to trying to achieve this joy, happiness, or spirit
of giving only during the holidays or other special days,
but that we reach out to our fellow man whenever we see
him in need, and in doing so, once again, can experience
"the miracle" of LOVE. We can take that special feeling
and spread it out over the whole year, and in doing so,
will not only help out our fellow traveler on the road of Life, but
will experience tenfold, the joy, hope, and love that we extend to
others. This is not a mystic, or ethereal spirit, but can be felt and
experienced as a practical reality.
My thanks go to all who have shared truth, pain,
but most importantly Love, and in so doing, help me
experience a "miracle", by helping me to see another side
of the Bruderhof that allowed me to finally let go of the
ideal of perfection, not only in religion, but all facets of
life! As I struggle to create new beliefs, new ideals, new
"miracles", I bid you all thanks, peace and joy for the
I would be amiss not to mention that I wish the
same for those that are still held in bondage in the
Bruderhof system. This extends from the lowest brother
to the highest Servant, but most especially to the Elder.
From my perspective, it is the Elder who will have much
to answer for, when he stands at the feet of his Creator. I
hope sincerely that he can remember a "miracle" that he
experienced, and relive that miracle by expressing love to
his brothers and sisters, whether "innies" or "outies",
speaking the plain and honest truth, begging forgiveness,
thus freeing himself and those he holds close, in fear
through intimidation, from Bondage.
The Truth, blended with Love into a searing,
cutting, molding, creative, joyful, exuberant Flame, will
set us ALL free, to live to our full potential as creatures
of the Universe!
My heart, my spark, my small flame,
reaches out to all of you,
wishing that where you hurt, you will find healing,
where you are persecuted, you find peace,
where you are confused, you find truth,
where you are hungry, you are fed,
where you are thirsty, a cool, clear drink is
and where you are weary, you find rest.
For only with clear mind,
glad and joyous heart,
strong hands, and feet,
can you reach out,
to offer your brother in need,
a helping hand,
a sympathetic ear,
to offer him
In closing I offer once again, the following, hoping
that each one of you can find the spark in yourself, to
light another's flame, and in so doing find love, joy, truth,
and fulfillment for you life:
A spark resides,
within each one,
giving their lives,
for one another,
Years of hardship,
Lives given freely,
lives ruined easily,
at whim of
and others in
name of love,
rising above the fire,
fall outside the circle,
fanned by healing,
growing in intensity,
in all truth,
yet not the same.
Let us be truly "graduates" of the community,
moving on to create, to live, to love, to be fulfilled, for
living up to our potential, we become a beacon for those
that are not yet "Free from Bondage."
Wendy & David Dorsey, December 1994:
This year was marked by a significant passage: in
February our son Reuben took off to travel around the
U.S. with a friend, Jeannie. They ended up deciding to
stay and go to school in New Mexico. Later, in November,
they traveled to Amsterdam (Holland), stopping by to see
us on the way. Reuben plans to pursue a degree in
English and write (he's had three poems published, which
precipitated a dramatic change in future career from chef
to writer!); Jeannie is working on a Master's in
Psychology. I suppose it's not totally coincidental that
Jeannie has had experience as a counselor for troubled
adolescents and loves working with them. We miss seeing
Reuben, but he keeps in touch and we're happy he's
finding a direction and some happiness in his life.
Our three younger children continue at Rolling
Terrace Elementary School, which has a wonderfully
diverse population, including children (many refugees)
from all over the world, all colors, cultures and classes.
Viviane, in 5th grade, has taken up the flute and
continues in Girl Scouts. Eliana, 4th grade, chose to begin
violin lessons, and is progressing in gymnastics, which she
thoroughly enjoys. Paulo, 4th grade, continues in Boy Scouts and is
beginning the clarinet.
David and I continue pursuing the dream of
building a cohousing community in this area. We are
actively searching for a site and there are some real
possibilities, but nothing definite yet. We're also working
with our church community to focus on greater inclusion
of families and children in the life of the community. It is
a time of renewal and re-looking at where we are as a
David and I also continue in our vocations, finding
new challenges and joys. In the current political climate
which mitigates harshly against those "at the bottom" of
society, we are particularly grateful to be given
meaningful ways to be engaged in encouraging and
advocating for "the least of these." Kid-space/House of
Ruth Child and Family Development Center will be
moving and expanding to include babies and toddlers in
the new year.
We greet you with gratefulness for the abundant
life that has been given, and hope that each of you shares
that experience of abundance and grace in your lives. If
we haven't heard from you this season, we look forward
to hearing from you in the new year. With love and hope,
Jon & Linda Greenwood, 12/15/94:
Happy Holiday, Family and Friends! Another year is
almost over and once again we wonder what happened to
it. So we will mention the highlights of the year, not only
to keep you informed but to remind ourselves of what we
did in 1994. The children are getting to be more helpful
in the house and in the barn. Clara is 14 years old. She is
in charge of cooking supper and doing dishes. She can
now cook just about anything. In fact she cooked our
Thanksgiving meal by herself this year. She loves cats
and wants to be come a veterinarian.
Ben is 12 years old. He mows the lawn, and helps in
the garden. He also helps Linda with milking on the
weekends. He loves to read and is reading Tom Clancy
novels now. Ben's goal is to become a test pilot or an
aerospace engineer. Ted is Ted and he is 10 years old. He
said he wants to be a farmer when he grows up. He does
have more of an interest in the farm than Clara or Ben.
He is one of the top math students in the 4th grade. He is
into computers and Super Nintendo. All the children
make full use of computers at school. Ben helps other
students in his class with them. Clara is typing this letter
for us. They are all involved in 4-H. The boys had pigs at
the fair this year. Clara had an art project that went to
the state fair.
This year has not been good for Ben, health-wise.
The week after school was out for the summer, he had
surgery on his right hip. The bones were separating and a
pin was put in to stop it. He had to spend 6 weeks on
crutches. Before he was completely recovered from that
problem his other hip developed the same thing. So in
November he had the other hip operated on. It will be
March before he will be allowed to run again. They were both
caught early and no permanent limitations are expected.
We had a roadside stand for sweet corn. Our road
was redone this summer and it greatly affected business.
"When life gives you lemons make lemonade." So we
supplied the IGA store with sweet corn. We will have this
market again next year and a new road to sell beside.
Linda is active in a writers group she started two years
ago. She is also involved in "agriculture in the classroom"
at the elementary school. She was recently on TV doing a
lesson on corn. She and Clara took a 10-day vacation in
February to visit her sister Marie in St. Louis.
Jon continues to shuffle his time between farming
and politics. In November he was elected to a 4-year
term as County Legislator. Then in the first week in
December he was elected vice-president of The N.Y Farm
Bureau. He also has been asked to be chairman of the
Dairy Committee on the American Farm Bureau. Some of
his travels this year included Fort Lauderdale, St. Louis,
and Washington D.C. He crisscrosses N.Y state in-between
his out-of-state travels. We had a great crop of alfalfa
and corn. It was a tremendous growing year. The extra
feed will be needed because we hoped to be at 275 cows
next year. We also built a new barn for young stock,
calves through springing heifers. It is 186 ft x 106 ft and
well hold 300 head.
Some of our visitors included Jon's mother and
father in April. Linda's sister Marie and nephew Eric in
August. Glen and Karen (and their two sons Eric and
Mark.) made several visits during the year. On a sadder
note, Jon's grandmother Bessie died in February. She
would have been 100 years old later that month. She is
missed by all.
I hope everyone has time to reflect on the
happenings of the past year and that next year will be all
you hope it to be. Have a happy new year.
Nadine Pleil has had the following two
articles about her book appear in the Western
Finding freedom a life's journey
by Don Herschell
The Observer-Reporter, Monday Nov. 28, p. 1
Washington and Greene Counties, Pennsylvania
MEADOW LANDS -- Stay in prison. long enough, and
you get used to it. You may even fear being set free to make your
own decisions and live your own life.
Sixty-two-year-old Nadine Pleil of Washington
knows how it feels. She spent 40 years living in Hutterian
Brethren religious communes in England, Paraguay,
Uruguay and the United States. In Free From Bondage, a
368-page autobiography published earlier this year, Pleil
writes of being told where to live and work, what to
believe and who to love. She writes of questioning the
decisions of the Hutterian elders and being shunned and
eventually expelled for it, all "out of love."
"In my mind, man has taken over, and it did not start that
way," Pleil said of the Hutterites. "To be very open and honest about
it, I feel that it has become a cult."
Soft-spoken and unassuming, Pleil today answers
the phone at the local office of the U.S. Soil Conservation
Service. She describes herself as open-minded,
independent and even rebellious -- qualities that
eventually got her labeled a troublemaker and her eight
children branded as "problem children," she said.
Almost exactly 14 years ago, on Nov. 27, 1980, Pleil,
her husband and six of their children were expelled from
New Meadow Run Bruderhof near Uniontown and placed
in a rented apartment in Washington. She said the other
two children had been expelled earlier or forced to leave.
Although she had attempted to leave the commune
several times over the years, it was with mixed emotions
that she arrived in Washington that day. Making her own
decisions was a new experience.
"One time when we said we wanted to leave, they
said, 'Oh, you can't leave just like that. We have to make
that decision for you.' I was married and had several
children," Pleil said. "When it finally happened, I think I
was upset because of the way it happened. But once we
were out, we all said that we were not going back."
The children were enrolled in Washington School
District and went through a time of adjustment. At first
they wore Hutterian costumes, similar to traditional
Amish or Mennonite attire, she said.
For years, members of the Hutterite commune in
Farmington visited the family occasionally and tried to
persuade them to repent and return to the community.
Pleil said she was free from the commune physically, but
she still felt its pull on her mind.
"I kept on worrying about what the commune
would think," she said, recalling with a slight laugh how
the neighbors gave the Pleils their first television set,
which was against the commune's rules. "We used to
cover it up. Whenever we knew that they were coming, I
would really get upset.
"They really brainwashed us," she said. "They
always described the world as evil, and then you thought,
do I want to take my children out into the evil world? So
in the end, you believed that what the elders did and said
No members have visited them for three years, but
Pleil said she believes the leaders are sorry they sent he
family away, and they are afraid of what the book
reveals. She said the book doesn't make any
Free From Bondage (Carrier Pigeon Press, $17)
begins in pre-World War II England, where Pleil lived
with her mother, stepfather and brother. When the war
started, the bombings caused her to become hysterical,
and her stepfather took her to stay at the Hutterite
The arrangement was supposed to be temporary,
but the war forced her family to move to India and the
commune to move to Paraguay.
She believes the war made Hutterite philosophy -- a
philosophy of living together in peace and harmony, of
sharing everything you had and giving up your
independence for the good of the group -- very attractive.
But she said her faith in God has become stronger since
leaving the commune.
I didn't really feel that I needed God. I was taken
care of," she said. "But when we came out from the
community, I really needed God and I needed faith. And
when things looked very black, a way was always shown
and we got help."
She eventually was adopted by a couple in the
commune, and she considered them her mother and
father from then on. Once she was given parents, Pleil
said, she had a happy childhood, but she still regrets
taking so long to leave.
Last year, her adoptive mother, who continued to
live in a Hutterian commune in New York, died. It bothers
Pleil that the Hutterians did not notify her of the death,
but her mother's death freed her to publish the book
without worrying about the consequences for her.
"Writing the book, for me, has been very good
therapy," Pleil said. "It put everything in perspective,
made me feel that I could get on with my life. Now I
don't worry about what the commune thinks about me."
Pleil said the book started out as a way to explain
her life to her children. She said she and her husband,
Augusto, always taught their children to think for
themselves, which is what she hopes her readers will
take from the book.
"I think the message is, to the young people
especially, not to jump into living a life that looks very
attractive before they've really thought well about what
the future might be with such a life."
The Tribune Review, Sunday Nov 13, 1994
FOCUS Section 'Book and Author'
Free from bondage: Unhealthy ties to brotherhood
By Dorothy Yagodich
Watching Nadine Moonje Pleil at her desk in the
Soil Conservation office in Meadowlands, Washington
County, one could scarcely imagine the life she endured
for four decades. Nadine was 8 when England came under
attack during World War II. Bombs blasted London,
sirens screamed and gas masks became common gear at
school, in church, even in the air raid shelter. "I had
nightmares and was hysterical with fear."
Separated from the half-English, half-East-Indian
father before Nadine was born, her mother asked if the
child could be placed in the care of the Cotswold
Bruderhof community for three months to get away from
the bombings in London. A train carried the child and her
few belongings to the Society of Brothers, a small
Anabaptist splinter sect, to their Oaksey Bruderhof
community. Nadine left behind her mother, a stepfather
and a young brother named Vijay. Frightened and alone,
she had to adjust. German was spoken all day long.
Shuffled between different families and locations, before
long Nadine and the community packed their belongings
and boarded ship for the South American continent,
settling in Paraguay. Nadine's mother, brother and stepfather
moved to India. With Nadine in Paraguay and Vijay in India, the
siblings grew up half a world apart.
The primitive jungles were Nadine's new home.
Called "Primavera," the 20,000-acre ranch offered no
amenities. Shelters with thatched roofs, crawling
creatures and tropical diseases were commonplace. But
there were pleasant memories too. The jungle flora, vivid
sunsets, picnics, swimming the river and always new
When Nadine was 10, she watched a Bruderhof
baptism. The "Servants" explained it meant to commit
their lives to God and the Brothers with the promise to
accept admonitions and stay loyal. Nadine was reluctant
yet she felt grateful that the community had given her a
home and taken her from war-torn England.
"They promised a life where people would live in
peace and harmony, sharing all their worldly goods. On
the surface it looks very attractive because everything is
taken care of," Nadine recalls.
Asking why children of the Brothers received more
privileges than children of the "plain people," she was
accused of wanting to serve the devil. Each time she
rebelled, she was chastised. The Brothers said they were
punishing her out of love and began calling her "Nadine
The only thing that belonged to Nadine were her
thoughts "the private part of me. They were mine to
keep. Everything else had to be shared, but I held onto
my thoughts as something especially my own." Later, she
found that even her innermost thoughts were not allowed
to be hers.
(photo with caption:
Nadine Pleil: Family free at last.)
When Nadine was 13, she was smitten with a 24-
year-old man in the community. A kiss began a secret
relationship that lasted for four years. "Paul was a
baptized member and I was still a child, although
maturing quickly. In the eyes of the Brotherhood we
were doing something that was considered very sinful."
The pair confessed their undying love to each other but
when the Brothers found out, Paul was shunned into
"great exclusion" and expelled from the community.
Nadine was put in "small exclusion" and treated like a
leper. She was just 17. The community demanded the few
small gffts that Paul had given her. Rather than
surrender them, she dropped them into the outhouse.
"You servants, you can take all my earthly goods, of
which there are very few, but you can never take my
heart, my love and my thoughts away from me. Those
belong to me forever."
Nadine thought about running away. "I wanted to
become a doctor. I'll always regret that I did not accept
my mother's offer to study medicine in England."
Bruderhof women were not allowed to use their brains or
talents. "I was asked if I wanted to follow Jesus or go
back to the evil world. In my mind, I couldn't be a doctor
and follow Jesus.
"Women had three tasks in life, to clean, to cook, to
bear and care for children. Women were to remain silent
in meetings and not allowed to voice any opinion in
When Augusto Pleil, a baptized Brother, asked to
marry the teenager, "I was given three days to make a
decision." The union brought eight children, born on
The Pleils moved about at the whim of the
community and were assigned tasks. Augusto worked as
a cobbler while Nadine cleaned, worked in the
community laundry, hospital or school. Children were
sent to the "Babyhouse" at 6 weeks and the mother
returned to work.
"We were brainwashed into believing we were bad
parents," said Nadine. "We were harassed to discipline
our children, forcing them to conform to the demands of
Many times the Pleils wanted to leave, but fear of
the world kept them bound to the Brotherhood which
threatened expulsion for little reason. Nadine said at one
time, "600 people were sent away after having toiled for
years in the Brotherhood."
Many of their friends, sometimes an entire family,
sometimes a single family member, were expelled.
When Nadine was 29, the Pleil family was sent back
to England. While in England, Nadine was reunited with
her brother Vijay, who had become a physician and was
living in Canada. She not seen Vijay in 23 years.
Eventually the Pleil family moved again, this time to the
United States. They were sent to communities in
Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The Bruderhof community
near Farmington, Fayette County, became home. The
children were growing, attending schools in Uniontown
and finally Washington, Pa.
By this time, husband Augusto's entire family, his
parents and eight brothers and sisters, were "kicked out"
of the community. Nadine, Augusto and their children
were dealt the final blow too. "We were just told we had
to leave." The community provided them a home in
Washington, a shabby shack with obscene words
scribbled on the walls and the smell of dogs permeating
the air. Nadine described it as "a pigsty."
The Pleils dug in to make the house a home and
picked up the pieces of their lives without the
community. They were visited repeatedly by the
Brothers and told to confess their sins, to repent and then
perhaps they could return.
The children, four boys and four girls, wanted no
part of the community.They eventually went on to
colleges, to jobs. Augusto worked in a shoe repair shop
and also made musical instruments. He's retired now
"but he's not retired," Nadine explained. "He's always
busy." Nadine took jobs cleaning offices and as a nanny
Then Green Thumb -- "they hire older Americans" --
placed her at the Soil Conservation Service where she has been for
the past four and a half years. "I've learned a lot, even how to
operate the computer."
And over the last 10 years, Nadine has been
committing her experiences to book form. "The idea
originated with my husband and children." She kept a
diary and had letters from friends, but the Brothers
demanded she turn them over. To ensure the memoirs
would not fall into the hands of the Society, Augusto
burned then. Still, her recently published book Free From
Bondage (Carrier Pigeon Press, a Project of The Peregrine
Foundation. 368 pages. $17) brims with names, photographs and
details. "I've been blessed with a very good memory," she said.
Dorothy Yagodich is a Charleroi free-lance writer.
Paulo Allain, 11/16 '94: I received the Vol
VI #10 Oct. 94 issue of the KIT Newsletter a few weeks
ago. There are a lot of interesting contributions, especially
the report I Leave the Bruderhof, by Belinda Manley,
which is such a vivid description of those times. I got a
letter from Hans G. Zimmermann commenting on the
Palmgrove affair. Zimmermann also tells me a certain
Martin Johnson has threatened Bette Bohlken-Zumpe with a
libel suit for slander. Well, I think here is a good
opportunity to make public all of the issues we ex-
members have against the SOB treatment of children,
young people and the procedures for ousting members. I
should say, let's catch them on this, so the "slander" will
have to be made public. Only a very narrow-minded and
stupid executive of a corporation would risk his
company's reputation to sue for slander when there are
tons of evidence that the charges are correct and can be
backed up by hundreds of documents and people willing
to testify. We could even make them pay for a few
hundred air fares to bring people to court!
Then you, Ramon, could also come in and threaten
to sue them for having spread the idea that you are out
to destroy the communities "as long as they follow Jesus"
-- what a crab! I wonder where they could find written
proof for such a lie. I think all of us ex-members should
keep any correspondence containing any kind of material
that could be useful in the event of a suit. We could even
call in the press and let them record an attempted
visitation of a family member. That could then be used as
material for proving the "loving welcome" they are giving
I think we have come to a point where
confrontation sooner or later is bound to occur. I would
like to see the SOB pay financial restitution, especially to
the people who were cruelly sent away without a penny.
I believe this will alleviate their much heavier karma in
the future. I am not claiming any indemnification for myself,
but for my brother, who still bears the scars of their cruel treatment
up to this day.
I would like to thank for Hans G. Zimmermann for
his letter commenting on the Palmgrove affair and giving
his ideas for the reasons that made the SOB pull out
without fighting. I am sorry for those innocent SOB
women who married Nigerians and who are now
probably in a tight situation. New country, different
mentality, different religious and psychological
background. And they probably have not had any
previous experience in dealing with conflicting opinions
and now they will have to learn the new premises on
which to base their decisions.
After having read the October Issue of KIT, I feel
we have come to a point where the usual means for
reconciliation with the Bruderhof have lost their meaning.
The SOB are getting closer and closer to downright
criminality in the way they are treating youngsters who
do not want to stay. I believe KIT can be instrumental in
helping outgoing members to find a new way into life,
but we could also try to hasten the final and inevitable
break-up of the communities which, not intentionally, is
being worked out by their leaders.
I'll try to explain this. You all know that a power
struggle is taking place in the communities, with J. C.A.
being the principal figure on the chessboard. But he
probably is not the only one. The entire history of the
Bruderhof points to the occurrence, from time to time, of
a 'clearance' which, as far as I can see, was promoted by
the servants and other members when they felt they
were loosing their grip on the psychological surrender of the
members. Throughout Bruderhof history one can observe
this dynamic: as one 'clearance' followed the other, they
became ever more radical and cruel. Just remember the
last Big Crisis when Heini Arnold chucked out family members and
even went so far as to mistreat his mother.
The next one will be worse, and could culminate in
a major break-up. This sequence of "clearances" is due to
a major snag in the psychological structure of the system,
which does not allow any leeway for innovation and
personal creativity -- except in the case of servants and
sometimes witness brothers -- so that inevitably a time
comes when members cannot suppress this kind of
innovative urge completely, and then the leaders feel
they are loosing control. The desire for control is
probably what made the founder stress the need for
unanimity in brotherhood decisions. There is a superior
law which Jesus proclaimed: "He who would be the
greatest among you, be a servant unto the others".
Continued disobedience of superior laws brings forth the
conditions for penalty, which in this case is the loss of
leadership. But sometimes a "leader" will cling so hard to
his position that the whole structure has to collapse so as
to re-establish justice. This is what is going to happen to
Now, the longer this break up takes to materialize,
the more insiders will suffer and their recovery into
normal life will be even more traumatic. So I suggest we
could help them, especially in the case of family
members, through telepathy. I suppose most of you KIT
readers have heard of or experienced transmission of
thought through telepathy. As far as my experience
indicates, transmission of thought between people does
not occur exactly in the time and space continuum that
we are accustomed to observe in normal life. They occur
according to a different scheme in which these
transmissions may be received at different times than
the actual moment when the emitter is concentrating on
emitting. But I am quite sure that if we KITfolk transmit
to our dear ones that they would do well prepare for a
final break-up of the communities, and that they should
look for information outside the communities, then a
major break-through would eventually occur. Many
members who presently are too tied up in obedience to
'the system' will come out of their isolation and try to
make contact with their family members outside. The
best time for transmission is during the sleeping hours of
the contactee. The message could be something like: "Dear
_____, become free, look out into the world so you have a
reference point for assessing your position. You have the
right to be independent and free. I am here to help you,"
etc. These messages must be positive and constructive. A
destructive message will boomerang back to the emitter
and build up his karma.
I find that KIT is doing a very valuable job in
creating the network and opportunities for people to
contact each other and recognize that they are not the
only ones who suffer, and that it is possible to overcome
the resentments and hopelessness by communicating
with each other. I have a very strong urge to
reconciliation as long as there is a sign of good will on
part of the other party. But if there is no sign of good will,
well then people and organizations have to face the
country's laws of justice. Loving greetings,
---- Creative Writing ----
by "Name Withheld"
"The four of us are in this together," or so I
believed, until the bitter end.
It all started with washing the dining hall floor.
How did such a simple and mundane task as washing a
dirty floor turn into this soul-searing issue of lies and
In the structured system of Hutterian tradition and rules
that governed our lives, we were more to each other than
ten-year-olds of the same peer group, or even partners in the
same delegated 'work week.' Marela, Clara, Lissie and I
were cousins and, I believed, "Friends Forever."
This was our week to wash dishes plus general
clean-up in the children's dining hall, whose entrance was
a heavy wooden steel-gray door with a full-sized,
beautiful beveled glass center. This door opened to a
large rectangular room with dark, leaf-green
beaverboard walls. The wooden plank floor was painted
gray to match the heavy door. Just inside the door in the
right-hand corner stood the serving table and an old
battered wooden chair which was the domain of Barbel
Basel (Old Barbara), the rotund and stolid school mistress,
attendant to 45 hungry youngsters aged five to fifteen.
The light from four small-paned, curtainless
windows revealed three long wooden tables arranged
along three walls, each table flanked by two long, narrow,
backless wooden benches. The evening meal was over.
The older girls, having dutifully cleared, cleaned and set
the tables for next morning's breakfast, had gone home.
Marela, Clara, Lissie and I had washed and dried the
dishes and placed them properly on the shelf over the
serving table. Gloomily we surveyed the two huge, heavy
metal tubs of dirty dish water and rinse water that
needed to be dumped, and contemplated the distasteful
task of kneeling to wash the wet and dirty floor.
Two brooms standing in the corner caught our
attention, and sudden inspiration hit each of us
simultaneously. Four pairs of hands quickly lifted six
benches on top of three tables and pushed the tables
against the walls. Marela and I carried the heavy tub of
dishwater outside, dumped it over the rail of the porch,
and hung the tub on its nail inside the entrance hall.
Gleefully we danced back into the room where Clara and
Lissie already had turned the other tub of water over
onto the floor. This erased all thought of drudgery from
our minds. With broom in hand, Marela and I skated and
sloshed the water around to clean the floor; Clara and
Lissie skittered and skated with pails and floor rags in
hand, trying to retain their balance. We had invented an
impromptu skating party. Blissfully unaware of the
passage of time and the deepening shadows of evening
fast turning into night, we skated happily, as only ten-
The sound of splintering glass and a shrill scream
followed by a heavy metal thud brought us to a sudden
halt. Simultaneously, Marela and I turned to see Lissie
stretched out full-length on the wet floor staring with
horror-struck eyes at the door, which was now a
spiderweb of splintered glass spiraling outward from the
center. Engulfed by guilt at the consequences of our
unconventional behavior, we huddled in our common
horror, all of us pulling at Lissie as she struggled to her
In our pathetic plight, we suddenly became aware
that darkness had descended. Collectively we surveyed
the scene and imagined the discovery and punishment
the morning would bring. Somel Vetter, the minister,
would mete out certain punishment! Quickly, with one
accord, we knelt to the task and quickly wiped up the
floor. Together we pushed the tables into their usual
places, together we set the benches primly at each side of
the tables. Turning to leave, we again faced the dreadful
door, the unspoken certainly of what tomorrow would
bring hanging over our heads like the Sword of Damocles.
The answer to our dilemma suddenly was clear.
Together we descended on the door, broke the shards of
shattered glass from the frame, swept up all vestigial
evidence and disposed of it under the porch. With a good
imagination, it would appear that the now nonexistent
glass was clean enough to be invisible. Collectively we
planned for tomorrow. Each of us agreed to deny any
knowledge of the broken glass.
After a too-short and sleepless night, the breakfast
bell tolled. The round, heavy form of Barbel Basel was
seated as usual on her chair in the corner. Forty-five
pairs of eyes seemed to look right through me as I
entered the dining hall and took my place between my
friends. I stole a furtive glance at each of them and
gained courage from our complicity.
Breakfast did not taste good this morning, but
Somel Vetter didn't show up. Reprieved, we finished our
morning chores without a word.
The axe fell at dinner time. As the black-clad,
black-whiskered, short figure of Somel Vetter shadowed
the doorway, Barbel Basel got to her feet. Her words
sounded like a knell of doom on my guilt-burdened heart.
"We have a bad case to settle here!" she said,
pointing to the door in response to the question in Somel
Vetter's eyes. "It could only be the big girls who did this.
The boys would never have cleaned up the mess."
Without a word, Somel Vetter stepped to the wall
on his right. With one quick move he hung his hat on a
nail and picked up his willow switch. Switch in hand, with
measured and deliberate step he approached our table.
He stopped directly in front of me. His omniscient eyes
pierced my very soul. My heavy heart pounded in my
parched throat. 'Why in front of ME?' I wondered.
(Hutterite custom dictated always to question from the
oldest to the youngest.)
The 'Prophet of Doom' spoke. "What do you know
about the broken glass, Maria?" In this moment
bordering on eternity, it was my deepest desire to
unburden myself, to tell the truth. But... I was protecting
"Us!" We were in this together. Honor commanded, and I
"Nothing" fell from my parched throat and petrified
"Nothing?" Out of the stillness that surrounded all of
us, his voice mocked me. "My, my, my, how you can lie!
Your three companions came earlier today, confessed
their deed and apologized. How can you lie like this?"
I turned incredulous eyes to Marela on my right,
then to Clara and Lissie on my left. Although their eyes
remained locked on their plates in front of them,
verification of their treachery was written clearly in the
deepening flush on their faces.
Judgment rendered, punishment was soon executed.
The startling pain of the willow switch on my cold,
bare hands was nothing compared to the soul-searing
pain of this unexpected betrayal by three loyal friends.
My trust, like the glass in the door, was shattered.
If one were given a choice, "The Bottomland" is the
last place one would choose to be, especially on this
oppressively hot and humid day. The heat and humidity
in this caldron is trapped by the range of rolling hills that
surround it. The humidity is effectively sealed in by the woods and
underbrush at the foothills. Winding down between two hills, a
dusty country road dissects this ground, creating two fields.
Here is a freshly plowed garden. Long slim lines of
green show between the fresh furrows of rich, black dirt.
The weeds, thick as a woolen pelt, are stealing the sun
from the struggling young plants.
Scattered at varying distances from each other, an
approximate dozen young women and girls are inching
slowly along the rows of green, wielding their hoes
carefully. Bending down at times to pull the weeds from
around the plantlings by hand, they straighten up again
and continued to chop away at the relentless weeds. The
occasional click of a metal hoe against a hidden stone
sharply breaks the silence. The sound hangs briefly on
the heavy air, then disintegrates into the stillness.
Although the silently working women are all
dressed in similar costume, 'The Woman' stands out in
silhouette against the horizon where heat waves visibly
shimmer and dance. She looks fairly young. What is
visible of her dark blonde hair is parted in the center and
pulled back off her heat-flushed and perspiring face. Her
head is covered with a black-and-white polka dotted
triangle of cloth tied beneath her chin. Underneath the
polka dot covering at the neckline, the pristine white of
her cap shows, leaving a scant line of skin visible
between the cap and the collar of her white blouse. Her
dark vest hangs loosely over an ankle-length, fully-
pleated skirt and apron, barely hiding the ripe fullness of
her well-advanced pregnancy.
She lifts her apron to wipe the perspiration from
her flushed face and heat-scorched neck. She shrugs her
shoulders impatiently, trying to ease the discomfort of
the sweat trickling between her shoulder blades. She
rests briefly from her task, gazing into the distance
beyond the trees and across the dusty country toad. The
sound of a machine at work catches her attention, and a faint strain
of music drifts by.
There is the other field. Just across the road from
the Medieval scene of heat-burdened women inching
laboriously over the clods of upturned earth and rows of
weeds, run a John Deere tractor. Inside the shaded cab
sits 'The Man.' His light-colored shirt is flapping open to
the waist. He is cheerily whistling to the tune on his
radio, which keeps him company.
Just like the country road winging down from the
eternal hills, dividing the group into two fields, so do the
structure, the rules and traditions of the Hutterite system
define roles in the life of Man and Women:
Man is to demand subservience and obedience.
Woman is to submit and obey.
Thus it has ever been, and thus it will always be.
After all, was it not Woman's fault that Paradise
She bends down to her task. The little one inside
her protests vigorously about its cramped quarters,
adding to her discomfort. A soft sigh escapes her. Deep
inside her, deep down in the very bottomland of her most
secret soul, she breathes a prayer. "Please God, may this
precious one be a boy." And deeper still, so deep inside
her that the thought of protest does not yet exist, she
dares to hope that this child might bring within its soul
the spirit of the Great Emancipator.
Unholy Devotion, Why Cults Lure Christians
Harold Bussell (Zondervan Publishing)
reviewed by Joel Clement
I have found yet another book which should be
dropped out of an airplane over the Bruderhof. But since
the Federal Aviation Regulations frown on such activities,
I thought it would be more productive and a lot cheaper
to review the book for the KIT Newsletter. I have had
this book in my growing collection for some time and
refer to it often. It sits amongst the unlikely company of
such works as God's Revolution, the Witness of Eberhard
Arnold; Torches Extinguished, Memories of a Communal
Bruderhof Childhood; A Kyrie Study Bible; The Joyful
Community; Free from Bondage; Torches Rekindled;
Churches that Abuse; and all the KIT Annuals. You might
be tempted to say: "No wonder he's so confused."
Some of us got out of the Bruderhof with a seed of
Christian faith intact and, as the Bruderhof puts it, "claim"
to be Christian (as if to imply that we are not "really"
Christians). Others have thrown out the baby with the
bathwater, which is understandable. I personally believe
that the latter group is completely and positively "under
grace" and always will be -- but that would be another more
I would wager that regardless of your experiences
with the Bruderhof and after, that you probably went
through a time of confusion regarding Christianity and
the Christian message. That is understandable too. This
book may be a help as you seek to untangle the
confusion. One of the most compelling aspects of this book
is that it is based primarily on life experiences of the
author. He recounts being involved with an Evangelical
youth mission and the effect it had upon him:
"Upon arrival at the headquarters, each team
member was given a 'victory sheet,' which instructed him
or her never to question those in leadership and never to
write home any negative comments. Questioning a leader
was considered an act of rebellion against God and His
chain of command. Team members were kept constantly
busy, even overextended, for the cause. Married partners
were separated from one another. All the organizations's
demands were adhered to for the sake of 'spirituality.'
When some of us grew tired, causing tempers to shrink,
those in authority pointed out how sinful we were and
how much we needed to depend on those in spiritual
authority over us. Any of us who questioned exaggerated
stories of miracles, finances or poor diets were accused of
bringing sin into the camp.... We were with the group
only six weeks, but it was almost seven years before I
had overcome the psychological damage caused by their
cult-like control and spiritualization."
The author was also a pastor and is currently a
college chaplain. He holds several academic degrees. The
foreword to the book is written by Ronald Enroth and this
book would make a great companion to Enroth's
Churches that Abuse and
Recovery from Churches that Abuse.
For those of us who were born into the Bruderhof,
we might wish that this book had been around for our
parents or grandparents to read before they joined the
Bruderhof. It is indeed a warning of the inherent traps
which Christianity holds. This book hits so close to home
that it may be distressing to read. Worst of all, it may
create more confusion in someone recovering from an
abusive Christian group. You may want to wait another
10 years before reading it. I gleaned out a couple of
tidbits which should not put the average Bruderhof
Graduate into too much overload.
From the Preface: "This book is not an attack on
either cults or Christians. It is an examination of the
things cultists and Christians hold in common." "The
issues presented in these pages have been born in my
own struggles and questions and from my relationships
with many who have completed a painful, long, emotional
and fearful journey back to stability after being involved
in a cult."
From Chapter 5, 'But We Have a New Testament
Church': "Many cults, as with numerous Evangelical
groups, present themselves as being modeled after the
New Testament church. We all long and search for the
"ideal" Christian community." ... Often students boast that
their home churches are patterned after the first-century
church described in the New Testament. With stars in
their eyes they tell me of their congregations' thrilling
impact and the evidence of God's blessing upon them. I
do not deny their claims, but they frequently forget that
the New Testament church was constantly beset with
doctrinal, behavioral, even racial problems."
... "The Corinthians, for example, tolerated sexual aberration,
misunderstood the resurrection of the dead, misused the
gifts of the Spirit, and some even got drunk at
Communion services. The Galatians misrepresented the
gospel and turned to legalism for a time."
"As a child I was taught that walking in the light
spiritually involved sinless perfection. As long as my life
was free from sin, I was walking in the light. In studying
Scripture further I have been forced to challenge this
teaching as unbiblical and basically cultic. This view of
the Christian walk says that if one thinks about
immorality, bitterness, resentment, or exaggeration, then
suddenly he or she is in darkness: 'Oh, now I have to
breathe out a confession, so I can return to the light....
Wow! I am perfect again... Whoops! Thought a bad
thought; now I am out of fellowship again.' This kind of
thinking easily leads to schizophrenic behavior and
deception in our fellowship with God and others."
From Chapter 6: "The mud and mortar of the
foundations of all the groups mentioned in the first
chapter of this book were made of the perfect church
(usually independent) and a powerful leader who,
because there was no system of checks and balances, was
finally placed in a position beyond confrontation. Most
cults allow one or more leaders to confront the laity and
call them to accountability, but never the reverse.
Ultimately this dynamic results in followers giving over
to the leaders the complete control of their minds and
lives. In many cases leaders are granted more authority
over personal matters than scripture allows."
Under the heading: 'All Authorities are Vulnerable':
"What does Scripture say about leadership? One thing is
quite clear: The leaders of God need to be confronted.
Moses stood under the law of the Ten Commandments.
David was confronted by Nathan. Peter followed the Galatians
to another gospel sometime after Pentecost and was called to
account by Paul."
From Chapter 10: "Another problem is that
parachurch organizations can be orthodox in doctrine, yet
function like a cult in issues of authority and abuse of
Unholy Devotion is a expose of those aspects of
Christianity which lend themselves to cultic behavior.
Many Bruderhof graduates have spent years wrestling
with these issues. One thing is certain, those of us who
left the Bruderhof are not alone in our post-Bruderhof
problems. Leaving the Bruderhof can be upsetting to the
core. To find oneself alone and "apostate" can be very
distressing. This book will help you put your mind at
Discipleship, by J. Heinrich Arnold,
Compiled and Edited by the Hutterian Brethren, The
Plough Publishing House, 1994
reviewed by Julius Rubin
The Plough Publishing House has recently released
Discipleship, a book of excerpts from the unpublished
correspondence, sermons, and previously published
writings of their late Elder, J. Heinrich Arnold. This
volume intends to commemorate and honor the teachings
and memory of Arnold, to put forth his teachings to new
publics, and to lend legitimacy to his leadership of the
Bruderhof movement. Note the name change. In previous
publications, he referred to himself and was spoken of as
"Heini." In this work, he is known by a more formal
address -- J. Heinrich Arnold.
The Plough has commissioned a leading Catholic
theologian, Henri J. M. Nouwen, internationally renowned
for his writings on spirituality and practical divinity, to
write a Foreword. Nouwen offers a celebratory, uncritical
essay, calling this a "prophetic book." Hela Ehrlich and
Christopher Zimmerman provide the Introduction,
completing Heinrich's commemoration. They write:
"He was not a charismatic personality, and he had
no formal theological training. He was a true Seelsorger
(italics) or 'spiritual guide' who cared deeply for the inner
and outer well-being of the communities entrusted to
him." (p. xiv)
They describe him as an emotional and enthusiastic
devotee of Bruderhof piety, an exemplar of the imitation
of Christ -- mocked and rejected by others, despised for
his humility. Despite these trials of faith, he practiced
Christian forgiveness for those who had wronged him.
They write, ". . . he refused to set himself above a person
who had sinned or to condone any harsh treatment or
legalism toward that person." (p. xvii) Heinrich is
depicted as a gentle, empathetic pastoral guide of souls, "
... he never criticized or belittled anyone who turned to
him in trust."(p. xvii)
Discipleship forcefully presents Arnold's theology --
a Christocentric challenge for true believers to seek
surrendered lives devoted to the fulfillment of the Gospel
and the teachings of Jesus. Heinrich Arnold reanimates
the Pietism of his father Eberhard, the movement's
founder, but adds a special emphasis upon mystical
contemplation and an emotional communalism of the
faithful joined together in community. What is never
examined directly are the psychological "costs" and
consequences for believers who devote themselves to
discipleship and the surrender of self to the church-
community. The Hutterian Brethren who compiled and
edited this volume do not refer to the alarming numbers
of young adults who felt forsaken by God while attempting to
experience the desired contemplation of Christ.
Against this backdrop, Arnold wrote
Freedom From Sinful Thoughts (1973).
This helps explain the meaning of
Arnold's letter of encouragement to a depressed,
spiritually disconsolate member, "Every serious Christian
must go through hours of godforsakenness; even Jesus
himself did." (p. 125)
The book divides into three sections, The Disciple,
The Church, and The Kingdom of God, and conveys
contemporary Bruderhof dogma. The unpublished letters,
sermons, and writings are largely undated and pieced
together by theme, without giving the reader any sense
of the context of the writings. For example, reprinted
under the subheading 'Surrender,' the following
paragraph appears to underscore the sincerity and depth
of the Bruderhof's commitment to surrender to the
leadings of the Holy Spirit and to the teachings of Jesus.
"If we ever found a group--even if it were a
much smaller group than ours -- where the love of
Jesus was expressed more fully and clearly than it is
among us, I hope and believe that we would want to
join them, even if it meant losing our Bruderhof
These are noble sentiments, indeed. However, this
paragraph is a fragment of a letter sent to John Miller of
Reba Place in the early 1960s. Arnold was attempting to
persuade Miller to merge Reba Place with the Bruderhof
which would require the liquidation of Reba Place with
the proceeds and personnel going to Woodcrest. Miller
voiced reservations given the untoward events that
proved disastrous to the Forest River Colony, Macedonia,
and Koinonia. Without a better knowledge of Bruderhof
history -- the historical context of the paragraph -- a
more complete understanding of the letter is not
available, and the significance of the text is distorted.
Discipleship does not place the text into a meaningful
context. The aphorisms and pious words are treated as
eternal truths that stand outside of historical time and
context, and appear intended to proselytize new
members rather than to provide a greater understanding
of the development of Heinrich's teachings and doctrine.
KITfolk may find the commemorative and
propagandistic aspects of the work annoying. However,
Discipleship deserves serious consideration because of the
abundance of new material written by Heinrich Arnold
and previously unpublished, that documents the more
ruthless and unbrotherly ideas and practices in the
commune. A partial list of topics includes: sexual
repression, child-rearing and discipline, exclusion and
church discipline, and spiritual crises of Bruderhof believers.
Here is a letter written by Arnold to a Sister (age unknown, undated,
"Dear Sister, it seems to me that there is an
atmosphere of eroticism around you, and I want to
warn you about this. There is nothing surprising about
the fact that the powers of eroticism and sex are
problems any person has to face, and you are no
different form anyone else. But I plead with you to
value the gift of purity -- the light of absolute chastity
and virginity. Do not let the smallest shadow of an overly
casual relationship with boys or men come into your life,
also not in the way you dress or the way you walk. Please
take this advice from someone who loves you."
Or another letter:
"Your question, 'Why do I feel attracted toward
this boy if he is not meant for me but for someone
else?' is a bit of a rebellious one. It accuses someone
higher than yourself. Ultimately it accuses God.
Human nature being what it is, we often feel
attractions that we have no choice but to reject. That
is simply part of our human weakness . . . .The important
thing for you is to give your life to Jesus." (pp. 153-154)
Here is a letter regarding the Society Syndrome
(probably written in the early 1970s, p. 200). Arnold is
guiding a tortured soul:
"Until Jesus comes back and frees us completely,
we will always have to fight sin on this earth. The
fight is first a struggle against the lower nature.
Second it is a battle of spirits, a battle against Satan
and his demons. Your fall was not only a matter of
your lower nature; it was also satanic. . . ."
As a last example, Arnold wrote this letter to a
member seeking readmission during exclusion:
"You ask for forgiveness for your envy and hatred.
We personally will gladly forgive you. But the
forgiveness of the whole brotherhood, which means
the renewal of unity with Jesus and his church cannot
be given until you turn fully away from your sin. We
are not angry with you, but cannot pronounce
forgiveness on behalf of the brotherhood for your
sinful attitude until you prove your repentance more
deeply. This may have already begun. If so, continue
in that direction. God is good, and he will not reject
you. The brotherhood loves you, too, and will not
reject you either. But we cannot reunite with you as
long as there is envy and hatred in you." (p. 127)
Heinrich Arnold's legacy will remain mired in
controversy, the subject of contested collective memory
and disputed truth-claims about the "real" nature of his
actions and teachings. Discipleship does not help resolve
---- o ----
The Bruderhof leadership insists that they cannot
dialogue with anyone who holds the mistaken notion that
the Bruderhof is a cult. Therefore we offer once again
'The Checklist of Cult Characteristics' compiled by Dr.
Michael Langone to encourage readers to judge for
themselves how the Bruderhof measures up. Please share your
views with KIT. We suggest you cite specific examples from your
own experiences that can help others form their opinion.
The Checklist of Cult Characteristics
1: The group is focused on a living leader to whom
members seem to display excessively zealous,
2: The group is preoccupied with bringing in new
3: The group is preoccupied with making money.
4: Questioning, doubt, dissent are discouraged or even
5: Mind-numbing techniques (such as meditation,
chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions,
debilitating work routines) are used to suppress doubts
about the group and leadership.
6: The leadership dictates -- sometimes in great detail
-- how members think, act and feel (for example,
members must get permission to date, change jobs, get
married; leaders may prescribe what types of clothes to
wear, where to live, how to discipline children, and so
7: The group is elitist, claiming a special status for
itself, its leader(s) and members (for example: the leader is
considered the Messiah or avatar; the group and/or leader has a
special mission to save humanity).
8: The group has a polarized us-versus-them
mentality, which causes conflict with the wider society.
9: The group's leaders are not accountable to any
authorities (as are, for example, military commanders
and ministers, priests, monks and rabbis of mainstream
denominations). The group teaches or implies that its
supposed exalted ends justify means that members
would have considered unethical before joining the group
(for example, collecting money for bogus charities).
10: The leadership induces feelings of guilt in
members in order to control them.
11: Members' subservience to the group causes them
to cut ties with families, friends and personal group goal
and activities that were of interest before joining the
12: Members are expected to devote inordinate
amounts of time to the group.
13: Members are encouraged or required to live
and/or socialize only with other group members.
Carrier Pigeon Books Currently Available
Free From Bondage, by Nadine Moonje Pleil
Torches Extinguished, by Bette Bohlken-Zumpe
Each $17 postpaid U.S./Canada, $20 Overseas
KIT Annuals in four volumes: 1989-1990, 1991,
1992, 1993, all in larger typeface, spiral-bound with
index: $25 each U/S./Canada, $30 Overseas
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