BBC 1 have recently aired a documentary about a group you may not have heard of called the Bruderhof Community. They have a centre down in Sussex as well as around the world. CR chats to Bernard Hibbs, who is a member of the community.
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Jeff: So in terms of churchmanship, in the wider Christian church it goes from high church, sacramental, low church, social action - where would the Bruderhof Community be?
Bernard: It's pretty difficult. We're Anabaptists but we have relationships with the Coptic Orthodox Church; we're members of the Evangelical Alliance; we have friends who are Catholics. We're pretty free and easy; we don't spend much time debating theology. We try and spend our time living out what it says in the gospels.
Jeff: Jesus gives the commission to go and make disciples, is that something you fulfil?
Bernard: We try, whether we fulfil it or not is not for us to decide. We run a publishing house called Plough. We publish some great books and a quarterly magazine; people can look that up on plough.com. We send out missionaries; we often support other churches that are wanting to do something similar and we have hundreds of visitors a year come to our community. Those are the ways we want to show the world that a different way of life is possible, where elderly people can be fulfilled, they can contribute still and are not just pushed to one side. People with disabilities can be fully part of life and be valued and cherished. These are the things our society should really be looking hard at and thinking how can we do something about them.
Jeff: I really appreciate that; that sounds absolutely an ideal place and I think the fact that you are open and you welcome people should allay a lot of people's fears. And the fact that you are part of groups such as the Evangelical Alliance. I think a lot of Christians would feel happier to know those are the values that you hold. That you don't rush people into joining you and the seriousness of it, the lifetime commitment of it, is also saying to them there is a degree of sacrifice - if anyone would follow Christ they have to deny themselves and take up a cross.
Bernard: Absolutely. Jesus' words in the gospels about what he wants his disciples to be are uncompromising. He wanted the rich young man to leave everything, sell all his possessions. He told his disciples drop your nets and just walk off; leave your Dad with the fishing boat. These are hard, uncompromising words and I think we, as Christians, should be trying every day to do exactly that.
Jeff: Thank you so much for coming on the programme. I really appreciate you giving the time. Have you had a preview of the documentary?
Bernard: I have, yes. Generally it's pretty good, they got a couple of things wrong but watch it and then people can find out about us on our website and come and visit us if they want to.
Jeff: I was going to ask if you're happy with it.
Bernard: If I was unhappy I probably wouldn't be speaking to you right now, but trying to keep very quiet. They did a pretty good job and we look forward to seeing the response. People are already signing up to come and visit and see what it's all about.
Jeff: I hope it has a very positive impact. One thing I wanted to ask, how are you perceived in the local community? That's always a sort of litmus test, isn't it?
Bernard: It's been really encouraging because there have been articles about us in the Guardian and places like that. People will say these are just a cult but then to see people in our locality coming to our defence in the comments section saying oh no, these people helped build a garden in the local school; these people play football with my son in the village. We live in a beautiful village, Robertsbridge, and we have wonderful neighbours and get on well with them.
Jeff: That is brilliant, that's its own testimony. Thanks for coming on and I hope the broadcast is very successful and has a positive effect for you.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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