Mennonite Heritage Center Bus Tour
Bruderhof Community at Spring Valley
September 15 & 16, 2015
The Bruderhof are an intentional Christian Community of more than 2700 people living in twenty-three settlements on four continents. They were founded in 1920, by the Protestant theologian Eberhard Arnold, his wife Emmy and sister-in-law Else von Hollander in Germany, as a response to the devastation created by WW I. When the Nazi invasion of Europe began in the 1930s , the little community fled to Holland and England and eventually to Paraguay. After WWII, the first American Bruderhof community was started in NY. Today there are communities in the US, South America, Europe and Australia, each following the Foundations of Our Faith and Calling, the tenets and order common to all Bruderhof communities. (A more detailed description of their history can be found on the Bruderhof website). The Bruderhof stem from an Anabaptist tradition but recognize the power of Jesus to work through all people. (The Bruderhof partner with Mennonite World Conference). They are a fellowship of families and individuals that practice radical discipleship in the spirit of the first church in Jerusalem. They live in community, owning nothing individually but rather share everything in common. They live a life of service to God, each other and to those in need, holding to the teachings of the early Christian church.
Our tour will take us to the Spring Valley Community that was established in 1987, in Farmington, PA. It is located in the rural and picturesque Laurel Highlands of S.W Pennsylvania, along Route 40. It has a population of 250 who live, work and worship together. Bruderhof children attend the community elementary school, while the adults work within the community, including their businesses of Community Playthings and Rifton Equipment. We will be able to walk the rolling hills on mostly paved paths to these workshops. Community Playthings was started in the 1950s and produces toys and furniture for schools (Penn View Christian School has some) and daycare centers. Rifton Equipment specializes in adaptive, rehabilitative equipment for children and adults with disabilities. We will be encouraged to stay awhile and help with whatever project they may be working on…a good time to chat and learn about the community work.
Our tour will also include a walk through the community garden (farm), to see the end of summer produce, the creation of the low and high tunnels that will provide food during the winter months and hear how the children both help and learn about the outdoors as part of their schooling. The Bruderhof have their own medical and dental clinics and practice preventative care wherever possible. The elderly and disabled are valued as a gift from God and may work as many hours as they are able, alongside other members, sharing wisdom and perspective. At Spring Valley, the elementary-aged children go to the community school; while a nursery and daycare is available for smaller children. High-school aged children go to the Bruderhof school in NY. While the Bruderhof share all they have with each other, they do reject any attempt to make people uniform. Interests and individual pursuits are encouraged. You will see beehives at Spring Valley, as well as maple sugaring, pottery, painting, fishing and other examples of individuality. The Bruderhof dress simply; the men is simple trousers and shirts while the women wear long skirts and head scarves. We are encouraged to dress modestly during our visit. Communal meals are usually around noon and we will attempt to arrive in time to share in one. A “meeting” (worship) is often held around supper time, followed by a light dinner with our host families. To have a successful visit with the Bruderhof, it is expected that we interact as much as possible with our hosts, but are requested to refrain from photography and to silence our cell-phones.
While the Bruderhof Community at Spring Valley is our main focus, we will also stop at the Spruce Forest Artisan Village, after breakfast on Sept 16. This historic site was founded by Alta Schrock to provide a setting for local artisans to demonstrate and sell (as well as preserve) the region’s local arts and crafts. Dr. Schrock was the first Mennonite woman to receive a Ph.D. She taught at Goshen College in Indiana. In 1957 she felt the call to return to her mountain community and promote the local culture and heritage. Produced and demonstrated at the village are bird carvings, basket making, weaving, hand-forged iron, teddy bears and pottery. Some of the artisans may be on site to show us their work and of course you will have the opportunity to support them through purchases.
We will be staying overnight in Bruderhof family residences. Tour participants will have their own bedroom (2 per room) and have a shared bathroom. We will have our meals at the Bruderhof Community except for the lunch stop at a restaurant on the way home which will be on your own. The cost of the tour is $250 ($225 MHEP member) per person. Your tour guide will be Harry Anselmo.
Tour participants will board the Hagey Coach Tour bus at the Hagey Coach and Tours terminal located at 210 Schoolhouse Road, Souderton (located 1 ½ miles east of Route 113). The bus will depart on Tuesday, September 15 at 6:30 A.M with boarding at 6:15 A.M. The tour will return to the same location around 6:00–6:30 P.M. on Wednesday night. Your automobile may remain parked in Hagey’s fenced in parking lot. Deadline for registration is September 9.