Representatives and friends of Brethren groups from all over the world will converge on the little village of Schwarzenau, Germany, about forty minutes north of Marburg, on Saturday, August 2, and Sunday, August 3, 2008, to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Brethren movement. This celebration will be the 2008 Brethren World Assembly.
It was early August, 1708 that Alexander Mack and his seven believer-friends gathered at the Eder River at Schwarzenau. One of them baptized Mack, and he baptized the others, thus beginning what is known today as the Brethren movement.
Tour buses, individuals, and international delegates will convene at Schwarzenau this year to worship together, be challenged from God’s Word, fellowship with other Brethren, and hear from a preeminent historian whose specialty is the Schwarzenau Brethren.
The festivities will begin Saturday with registration at the Gasthof Feige in Schwarzenau. Guests may visit the Alexander Mack Museum, the former Alexander Mack Schule, the old mill, the church, and the castle in Bad Berleburg and the Berleburg Bible. Walking tours of Marburg are also available. Exhibits of crafts will be available, and movies depicting the history of the Brethren will be shown on the grounds of the Manor House and at the Alexander Mack Schule.
A lunch in a large tent on the grounds will be available for six euros, as well as a supper at the tent for nine euros (not included in registration fee). At 7 p.m. a musical concert will be given by the McPherson (Kansas) College Choir; and several local German ensembles.
The next day, Sunday, August 3, a worship service at 10 a.m. will take place in a retrofitted equine arena in Schwarzenau. Speakers will include the Rev. Frederic Miller, Jr., pastor of the Mount Olive Brethren Church in Virginia, and James M. Beckwith, the 2008 moderator of the Church of the Brethren who pastors a church in Annville, Pa.
Following a noon lunch at the tent (six euros for guests not paying the registration fee), a 2 p.m. anniversary program will feature more choral music and an address by Dr. Marcus Meier, author of The Schwarzenau Brethren, a monograph now being published in English by Brethren Encyclopedia, Inc.
The worldwide assembly will conclude with a gathering at the Eder River where there will be hymn singing, remarks, and a closing prayer and benediction.
All events will be translated simultaneously into German or English, with individual translation headsets available to all who need them.
This 2008 Brethren World Assembly is being planned and conducted, in conjunction with a committee of Germans, by the board of Brethren Encyclopedia, Inc. The Encyclopedia board is comprised of representatives of six Brethren bodies descended from the little group in 1708 led by Alexander Mack.
Board members include Robert S. Lehigh, president, Dunkard Brethren; Dale R. Stoffer, vice-president, The Brethren Church; Dale V. Ulrich, secretary, Church of the Brethren; Terry D. White, treasurer, Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches; Michael Miller, board member, Old German Baptist Brethren; and Daniel Moeller, board member, Conservative Grace Brethren Churches International.
Grace Brethren participating in the 300th anniversary program will include Grace Brethren International Missions executive director Dave Guiles; Columbus, Ohio pastor David Plaster; M’boi Andre, president of the Grace Brethren churches of the Central African Republic; and Terry White, executive director of the Brethren Missionary Herald Company. Ted Rondeau of Grace Brethren International Missions is coordinating the Grace Brethren tour group that will attend.