· P.O. Box 460141 · San Francisco, CA 94146-0141 · telephone: (415) 821-2090 · FAX (415) 282-2369 · http://www.matisse.net/~peregrin/
KIT Staff U.S.: Ramón Sender, Charles Lamar, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom, Brother Witless (in an advisory capacity)
EuroKIT: Joy Johnson MacDonald, Susan Johnson Suleski, Carol Beels Beck, Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, Benedict Cavanna, Leonard Pavitt, Joan Pavitt Taylor
The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and opinion. It encourages the expression of all views, both from within and from outside the Bruderhof.
The opinions expressed in the letters that we publish are those of the correspondents and do not necessarily reflect those of KIT editors or staff.
Yearly subscription rates (11 issues): $25 USA; $30 Canada; $35 International mailed f/ USA; £20 mailed f/ EuroKIT to UK & Europe
The opinions expressed in the letters that we publish are those of the correspondents and do not necessarily reflect those of KIT editors or staff.
Yearly subscription rates (11 issues): $25 USA; $30 Canada; $35 International mailed f/ USA; £20 mailed f/ EuroKIT to UK & Europe
ITEM: The Eighth Annual KIT Conference at Friendly Crossways will be held July 25-28th. This is BIG YEAR in the USA, so let's have a turn-out! Next Year in the U.K. Photocopy the registration form on p. 9 and mail it in. Let us know if you are coming and how many you are, so we can plan ahead for the meals!
T h e W h o l e K i t A n d C a b o o d l e
Toll-Free Phone for former Bruderhofers in need of advice and referrals: 1 888 6 KINDER
Table of Contents
Joan Pavitt Taylor
Carol Beels Beck
'Born Hutterite' film honored
Ramón Sender - 'in reply to e-mail'
Joan Pavitt Taylor
Solomon Maendel - 'One Month'
Ramón Sender Barayón - 'A B'hof Memoir' -
Joan Pavitt Taylor, 5/31/97: What follows are a few ideas/concepts that I have been mulling over about recent discussions in KIT and get-togethers or
on the phone with KITfolk.
A general overview about groups: theory states the 'normal' stages of group development, which boil down to something like:
Stage (a): The start and the coming-together of people in which it is the things that we have in common that attract us and help us to form groups. The common ground may be common history and understanding and/or a common task and goal. This usually feels like, and is, a very supportive stage.
Stage (b): A furthering of discussions and understanding that highlights the differences within the common ground. Preferences for different ways in tackling a given issue or talk, or practising them, begin to show. This is still a positive stage, because although it can often cause disagreement, it shows the diversity, and therefore the strength and weaknesses of a group all of which helps the next stage.
Stage (c): Subgroups or departments may form in recognition of their willingness or ability to cope with various tasks or approaches to problem-solving. Divisions may occur and some may even decide they no longer want to be part of the task or issue group, but in either case this is still a positive stage of people making choices or being flexible in problem-solving.
This is a natural process of growth and development as seen in a small family business that manages to grow to a multinational corporation, or as with splinter groups within a political party that challenge and help the development of policy. I see this as a part of moving forward.
What has this to do with KIT? Well, I guess in many ways we have been moving through (a), (b), and (c) for a while. Also, people will be at different stages because of their length of association with KIT, or time spent thinking about issues or needs and wants from KIT. Some even keep trying to return to (a) when (b) and (c) get to feel too difficult The trouble is, for ex-community people, this process keeps throwing up all sorts of issues and feelings.
(1) The loyalty/betrayal trap in which our history tells us we have to support the group, no matter what; agree wholeheartedly and all the time. You're either for me or you must be against me, which means you are an enemy for life. Well, as I see it, indeed it's vital for balanced, healthy discussion and growth. No, you don't deserve to be excluded just because you hold a different opinion. And yes, it's reasonable to want to feel safe if you're brave enough to voice an opinion. And yes, it takes practise to overcome all the years of being told you can't.
(2) If it's OK to be critical, to disagree. I've noticed it's actually still asking a lot to expect people to stand up and say what they feel and think, especially if they haven't practised it. But it's even harder to accept that someone has, can, and will disagree with you and that the relationship is still fine. It's just that on this point they feel/think differently about the issue being discussed.
(3) The other thing that seems to surface is "I've already been so hurt by groups, I've had enough, it's dangerous to be part of it." All of us will have a different threshold tolerance as to what appears safe in accordance with our past experience and our current coping strategies.
(4) The fear/anger loop may also get hooked into play. As community members, you were not allowed to express anger and now it may feel that if you get into it, things could get out of control. The feelings are that to be angry is to be in a very dangerous state; you could get into awful trouble, and this leads to fear. To feel fear is to get angry, and so it goes on.
(5) If you then add to this level of anxiety the feelings that you want things to be clear, a definite right/wrong answer, a clear way ahead that everyone has agreed (sound familiar?), no wonder there is a lot of discussion about the way forward. No wonder it feels uncomfortable to have 'maybe's' and 'perhaps'.
The art of compromise and debate and negotiation was not commonly practised on the community. This then gets muddled up with the difficulty of respecting, valuing the individual voice and opinion, when in the community it was drummed into you that only group unanimity was valid. Given all of the above being in play to varying degrees, aren't we doing well!!! I'll repeat that because I know it may not always feel like it, but haven't we done well, haven't we come a long way? We support, we listen, we value, we explore ways forward, we dare to look, to challenge, to try and to take part. We care about one another. What a wonderful, powerful group of people we are!
So where am I going with all of this? I personally feel (and yes, you are welcome to disagree):
Development and growth equals change, which means there will be no static, fixed solution to 'how to be' or 'what to do'. This should be under constant review. This often throws people, because having once invested time and effort into coming up with a solution, the temptation is to try and hold this fixed point beyond its usefulness. I therefore feel I owe it to myself (if I want to be part of the KIT process) to:
(a): stay as informed and up-to-date as I can, given time and other commitments.
(b): be willing to review any conclusion I may have come up with and how I therefore choose to act.
Originally, I had honestly felt that by telling people's stories, by informing the Bruderhof how it has been for people and by negotiating changes to the benefit of all, we would all be able to move forward. This, with the information of the Bruderhof s official attitudes and subsequent behaviour, is a stance I have had to greatly modify. Their behaviour has severely limited the options that would normally be open when trying to mediate and problem-solve. What the current lawsuit 'threw up' for me was a mixture of fear and anger. Fear based on "What next? What happens to those cited, how can this be made safe, don't want to see people get hurt, where will it all end?" Namely it's fear of the unknown. The anger was based on, "How dare they, this is nothing but blatant bullying, how can Christians even think of behaving like this?"
Then I moved into a more reflective, less emotional stage of 'Why are they so mad?' If this shows them in such a bad light, surely the lesson is not to behave like this rather than compound it with more of the same. And this led to trying to problem solve.
"What is an effective way forward in time, energy, money and emotions? Given the Bruderhof's stance that they will continue to harass the KIT process as long as it exists, how can we best move forward? How to calculate the risks involved? Do I want to be involved?"
I realised I owed it to myself to be as clear as I could, and I am clear that I find much of the Bruderhof behaviour unacceptable. I've seen too much bullying and it's damaging effects, and the only way to deal with bullying and blackmail is to take a stand. I have found in my work that small-scale, localised bullying could be dealt with by low key, discreet "We know now, so don't do it anymore" tactics. The more large scale, vicious and higher the stakes, the more public and loud the stance had to be to stop it. I also know that each and every one of us has our own choices to make on this, and we should all respect each other for our differing conclusions.
In writing this, I've noticed that I have registered fear and anger. I've wanted to walk away, resign, pretend it is someone else's problem, but having given myself the space to look at all those feelings, I've also given myself the space to remember that I don't accept bullying, I don't accept abuse, I don't accept the misuse of power. I can't walk away from this, and though I still don't know just what it is I want to do, I do know I don't want to turn my back on any process that highlights the inhumanity of people to people, but I do want to find a way to fight oppression without being oppressive myself.
One irony: we KIT readers will be the last to know if things have really improved. But let's think positive for once, and say, "Yes, right on,
Woodcrest children! Way to go! We're behind you all the way!"
Now let's spread the good vibrations into other areas that sorely need them. After all, the Bruderhof still maintains their own ideological communications blockade, isolating many KITfolk from their families inside the Bruderhof communities. How can the Bruderhof protest the Cuban blockade and still keep up their own?
ITEM: An anthology titled Studies In Harmful Religion will be published in September in the U.K. It contains an essay on the Bruderhof by Julius Rubin. The launch party might be fun for U.K. KITfolk to attend. Keep an ear tuned to the grapevine for the date!
What became very clear again is that unless people make the effort to write into KIT with their personal news and concerns it will be filled with
reports and news items that those just interested in keeping in touch and supporting ex-members of the Bruderhof may not find of interest or see as having
It also was clarified that similar to a newspaper, no one is going to find everything interesting! I personally find it vital to hear what is going on in the relationship between the Bruderhof and the Hutterites. Also I feel that KIT has been enormously important in giving a less polished, less censored perspective to me of my history growing up in the Bruderhof. So thank you to each one over the years who has helped to piece together a clearer picture of what actually has gone on to mould and shape so many of our lives.
Reading your piece, Norah, was very revealing! Thank you very much to Barnabas for your two letters. I found them very important and clarifying. Thank you also for giving the time to meet with Christian and Joe. It is unbelievable that two people that believe they have renounced all for following Jesus could not hear your plea! Christian and Joe, I know you believe we in KIT will "reap what we sow" when we die. I am deeply concerned by what you will "reap and sow" right now for the Bruderhof, for your own families and for many in the divine plan "outside" the Bruderhof by your motivation for revenge. What has it got to do with love and peace and forgiveness? Warm love,
ITEM: The producers of the film Born Hutterite accepted three awards at the 1997 Alberta Film and Television Awards on April 26th in Calgary, Alberta. Co-produced with the National Film Board of Canada and with the participation of Telefilm Canada, Born Hutterite looks in on the lives of two Hutterite expatriates as they struggle to survive the rigors of mainstream life after years of comfort within the sect. It offers a rare and intimate glimpse of life on a Hutterite colony and the mindset of the "chosen few."
"Our film makes no attempt to be definitive about Hutterites," says director/producer Bryan Smith upon receiving the Best Direction
(non-dramatic) award. "We've simply tried to capture the separate truths of two strong individuals who found it impossible to stay within an idealized religious society."
On the occasion of the film's Alberta television premiere, Calgary Sun television critic Anita Van Wyk muses, "Born Hutterite is a fascinating trip to a foreign culture that exists in our own back yard."
The film also won Best Documentary (over 30 minutes) and Best of the Festival.
Looking Back Nostalgic Tidbits
From the June KIT Issues in Previous Years
June1990 - Leonard Pavitt: Reading recent issues of KIT, one can't help gaining the impression that the Bruderhof turns all 'negative' criticism
aimed at them into Positive Points in their favor. Two examples: they have been told in no uncertain terms that their public printing of Gwynn's first letter
without also printing the later retraction letter was quite wrong. They replied that Gwynn's first letter, which of course could be used to support the views
expressed in their book, showed quite clearly 'the true Gwynn' and the letter of retraction, which they couldn't make use of, did not. One joyous B'hof member
even went so far as to write to an ex-member who had complained, that 'the Angels in Heaven would have rejoiced over Gwynn's letter.' Apparently the
writer took it for granted that the Angels would also have ignored the letter of retraction, which does not give one much confidence in Heavenly Justice on
that showing it's just as poor as Bruderhof Justice.
Similarly, apparently after reading all the letters about various ex-members' harrowing experiences of their life on the Bruderhof, Hans Meier takes this as a sign 'that this way of life does not leave you in peace.' His implication seems to be that these ex-members are still struggling with the thought of returning. This is rather as if a former prison inmate's book about his treatment during incarceration would be seen by the prison officials as a clear sign of the former prisoner's overwhelming desire to return. The B'hof's response to criticism leaves one feeling that bringing up anything opposing the B'hof view of things and events with the hope of effecting a change would be as rewarding as trying to wet a duck that was wearing a diving suit.
June1991- Roger & Norah
Allain, 5/12/91: What shocked me so much in the last mentioned
[Torches Rekindled] was the narrowing of the
B'hof landscape to a limited, exaggerated Heini-centered perspective as well as the distorted picture of your father, Bette, and of Gwynn Evans. This is why I
am specially thankful to you, Bette and Kilian, for your objective, sober corrections of the cruelly unjust rendering of your father Hans' character. Since
most KIT readers never knew him personally, I want to say here, as someone who doesn't belong to the family but knew him well and worked with him
for years, that whatever his limitations and failings, I considered him as a warm, faithful friend and as a highly courageous, intelligent, balanced and
stimulating person indeed one of the best the Bruderhof ever had. To this vindication of your father's character I'd like to add a vindication of Gwynn's, which
was so erroneously misrepresented in Torches
Rekindled. I always remember Gwynn Evans as one of the best of Bruderhof leaders, a warm-hearted brother
and a 'gentleman' in the best sense of the word.
Rachel Mason Burger, the mention of Gwynn brings me to your moving letter about your sufferings as an excluded child in Wheathill in '48-'49. I could not remember you, of course, and only remember your parents vaguely; yet I remember vividly the report Balz gave the Primavera servants on his return about the incredibly crazy time of Llewlyn's dictatorial leadership and obsession with the evil, 'restless spirits.' His leadership, and the dazed and cowed following of the brotherhood, would have totally wrecked the Wheathill B'hof if Gwynn, Hans, Balz and Guy (those last two also some of our best, more balanced, dynamic leaders) had not returned from the European continent (where they were on mission for the war orphan adoption project) to restore order and sanity. The description of your ordeal, Rachel, like that of yours in Primavera, Miriam, not to mention that of your parents', pulled by antagonistic loyalties loyalty to their children and loyalty to the "Church" has made me think again how and why we then-brotherhood members and parents were both victims of and responsible for the harm done.
June1992- Joel Clement, 3/13/92: I tried to write some more about this new attitude of 'divide and conquer' of the B'hof, but got bogged down. I feel a little like I am being backed into a corner and don't like it. I am tempted to play hardball with them, but that would be sinking to their level. I can relate to my grandfather Tyson who never set foot on the B'hof in the 10 remaining years of his life after my mother joined. I am really tempted to do the same. I think it is in some ways dangerous to make deals with them. It was so weird to be talking to Dad the day after the March KIT came knowing that he will never read the testimony regarding Heini, etc. I talk tough, but why didn't I mention this to him?
June1993- Editorial Excerpt: The Bruderhof's reaction to KIT, in the form of veiled threats and covert attempts at coercion of ex-members,
relatives and friends, continues today in spite of disavowals of such action by the leadership of the HBE ('Hutterian Brethren East,' as the Bruderhof now refers
to itself). Within the past month, at least four Bruderhof families have told their children living outside not to visit them. No explanation given except that
of "bringing wrong atmospheres," and how "until you feel how KIT and gossip tear down and do not build up, it seems better not to visit."
When individual Brothers have been queried about the reason for the negative HBE reaction to people outside reading KIT and associating with people who write to KIT, the bottom-line response has been that outsiders are trying to interfere with the internal functioning of the Brotherhood. Anyone caring to read KIT will discover that this is not the main purpose of the letters, but the letters sent to KIT do indeed contradict much of the public information releases by the HBE. What is at issue is not outside interference in internal HBE affairs, but power. Information is power, power of the individual to make intelligent decisions, power to influence public opinion for personal agendas.
The control of this information has been a policy of the Bruderhof for more than thirty years and is now challenged by letters to KIT. Now there is a means for people to make and maintain contact, bypassing the HBE, and the HBE no longer has total control over their public image.
June1994 - Nadine Moonje Pleil: ...The only thing negative [about Ben's book The Joyful Community] is the title. I saw nothing very joyful about the community... The first thing we did after we were kicked out was to get a copy of the book and read it so that we could form our own opinion. We enjoyed reading your book, Ben. It open our eyes, and it opened them wide. We realized how brainwashed we really were. It made us wake up in a hurry! ...I believe Ben captured very well what was going on in the Bruderhof at that time.
June1995 - Hilarion Braun: 2/15/95: The Chip Wilson Story is a perfect case study of the character type that fits the SOB ideal. Chip first leans
on KIT, clearly without any inner conviction, begging to be advised and counseled by KITfolk who refuse to do so, warning him to make his OWN
decisions. And then he falls for the most simplistic non sequiturs imaginable!
How utterly pathetic! Chip, I hope for your sake that when your head stops spinning, your face will be towards the front! I find no evidence that Christ loved stupidity, so why the insistence that his followers must be stupid? Of course, this is my pride that leads me to that question! Doesn't it all seem rather boring and irrelevant by now? I'd rather go sailing, or else listen to Bach!
June1996 - Editorial Excerpt: The old adage "The ends justify the means" seems to have become SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) among
the Bruderhof leadership. One of them stated recently, "I treat my brothers one way, and the rest of the world another." This is precisely how one's values
drift off-center. The minute one draws a distinction between "them" and "us," the Golden Rule has been canceled, not to mention all the other New
Testament teachings upon which the Bruderhof claims to base its life. Over and over, the Bruderhof has moved out into their neighborhoods to "do some good."
But when their underlying motives surface, they are seen to be self-serving, and their "unselfishness" manipulative and unctuous. According to reports,
this perception is shared by many of their neighbors.
"If everything doesn't go their way, they pull out," a neighbor commented. "Pretty selfish behavior for people who claim to believe in brotherliness."
A company is contracted to lay carpet only to have their workers watched carefully by Bruderhof men and dismissed after the first day, to have their work completed by insiders. The Bruderhof serves on TEVAS (Town of Esopus Ambulance Squad), only to pull out when the squad leader won't bend the rules and transport a patient on an IV without the required paramedic on board (which the Bruderhof would have to pay for). Food Bank distributions to the local poor in the Fayette County area are carefully logged into a datebook. The hundreds of pages of names and the food items donated are presented later to county tax assessors as proof that the Bruderhof is a charitable organization and should not have to pay their property taxes.
Doesn't the New Testament say something about treating your neighbor as yourself, and proclaiming one's holiness and generosity on street corners?
"When you have lied to yourself long enough, you stop trusting other people," another neighbor commented. "I think that's their basic problem."
Ramón Sender, in reply to a incoming letter of thanks for posting the KIT newsletters on the Internet: Sorry to hear of your own personal situation. I
know how tough it can be to give up a dream. Yes, you are right. On the surface, the Bruderhof communities sparkle and scintillate, like everybody's
'utopia.' They put a lot of effort into looking like that, although probably they're unconscious that they are creating a kind of spiritual 'trap'. The veneer is
rather thin, however. If you break the spell with an incisive question about whether their leadership is totalitarian, or whether they feel that they can break the
laws of the land in defense of their church, the mood may suddenly darken.
Some of the normal 'rank and file' simple folks are wonderful, idealistic, people, but where are their consciences? Their individuality? Their willingness to speak out against wrong leadership? None of the protections that democracy affords us folks on the outside, that allow a 'loyal opposition' to flourish, exist there. Best Wishes,
Bette Bohlken-Zumpe, 5/23/97: I do want to thank all of you once again for all the phone calls, letters and greetings that we received while I was
in hospital! It is so good to know that we have friends out there that really care! I guess this time I was pretty sick, and for Hans and the family, it is
always pretty scary when I get taken away from them by ambulance. So far things are progressing slowly, much too slow for my liking, but I can do nothing
but follow the instructions from my neurologist, who again has no idea what this viral infection will do to the M.S. One thing is pretty clear: I cannot go
on with the Prednisone treatments as I did, because it really takes away your natural immune system and causes scary flare-ups like this one. I am not
really better yet, and not allowed to do what I am doing, sitting behind my computer. But there really are a few things I want to tell you so that we are all
Because of my bad eyesight, I only now have finished the book by Markus Baum about Eberhard Arnold. Until the last chapters it is a terrific and thorough study of my grandfather, but then he completely leaves out the name, Hans Zumpe. This is something a historian should not do. Naturally he was pressured into this by the Bruderhof, but it made me wonder: do you think the name Hans Zumpe has been eradicated from the files in the Woodcrest archives? He writes that Heini was given the task to continue by his father, together with Hans Zumpe and Hardy (this is the only mention of H.Z.), and that throughout the years, the enormous love of Heini to all mankind and his great knowledge about people and their needs has proven so very true!
I will write to Markus Baum, and maybe send him my book as well, so that he can see how much destruction Heini's personal sympathies an antipathies brought upon the B'hof. This must be all for now. Much love to all. I do have to lie down again,
May 25, 1997: Just to wish you a very happy Sunday and to tell you that I am progressing very, very slowly, but have been sitting in our garden this morning, and enjoyed our grandchildren playing around for an hour.
Once more I want to thank everyone for the cards that are still coming in, now that my sickness was mentioned in the KITletter. I do think that this really is the best thing that could have happened to all of us lonesome Bruderhof sabras, that we have KIT and have found each other!
I am looking forward to Muschi's book very much indeed and want to order a copy right away! It is so important to have the individual story from different angles, so as to get a full picture of how harassing Uncle Heini was, especially to his own brothers and sisters and their children! Something like Stalin! I have just heard from Gerhard Schwalm that the '48 Hours' program was on the German RTL TV show (I think May 10). He will send me a copy of the CBS version (which I still have not seen, and also the German version and commentary, which should be interesting.
This morning I had a phone call from Erna and Werner Friedemann. They will celebrate their diamond anniversary 60 years June the 27th, although the actual day was June 21, 1937 that they were married on the Cotswold Bruderhof by my dad. Maybe a mention of this in the June KIT would make them happy! They are such a lovely couple. This is just a little Sunday greeting, and I do hope all is well and not too much worry about the Bruderhof with their stupid lawsuit. Much love to all,
May 29, 1997: I had the video of '48 Hours' yesterday. I watched both the American original and the German cut version that was on German TV at the beginning of this month. I think it is a very good video and I think everyone came through very sincere, honest and clear! I must say personally that your story, Ramón, was and is the most heartbreaking thing that can happen to a father. It was good also to have Sibyl on the Bruderhof side as she is more intelligent and in her way 'honest' to her belief, even though it strikes one as hard-hearted.
Also, I think it was and is good that we have friends like Julius Rubin and Ben Zablocki who do not strike the public as men filled with hatred and the wish to destroy the Bruderhof. I felt sorry for my brother Ben who so obviously wanted to say the right thing, and poor Marianne, aged with grief about her lost children! Both have been through the process of exclusion so often that they no longer dare to let any of their own feelings reach their brains. They are absolute victims of this brainwashing community that allows no thought or feeling to survive, so love is suppressed in a manner that a normal person cannot understand.
I was amazed that German TV aired the video under the title, 'Dangerous Cults Amongst Us.' Maybe they remembered all the good films they showed in 1995 about the "Poor Hutterites being forced to leave Germany for a second time." I want to thank you all for working on it!
When you think of the people still alive that started up Primavera, there are only a few left: Migg Fischli, Balz and Monika, and Erna and Werner, who I will see (if all goes well with me) for their 60th wedding anniversary on June 21st, and Bruce Sumner who married Luischen, Opa and Oma's favorite adopted child. He was on both sides of all the struggles between the Arnolds and their sons-in-law. Personally, I would be very interested to hear what happened in 1938. My father was the only Servant when Opa died, and Opa had asked him to take this difficult task upon himself, maybe with the help of Georg Barth who at that time was excluded with all the brotherhood on the Rhön Bruderhof.
The community was very quickly divided onto four places (The Rhön, Liechtenstein, Cotswolds and Eispeet, Holland). My dad raced from one place to the other, and then the Hutterite brothers "put the services" on Hardi and Georg in the Cotswolds. Papa told me the Rhön Bruderhof, the Alm Bruderhof's rent paid and dissolved, people from Eispeet brought to England with all the difficulty of visas, etc. He was absolutely at the end of his strength when he finally reached the Costwold Bruderhof, only to find himself excluded for "having handled things without the Gemeinde!" What on earth could the poor man have done! There are many things I would like to know, and all of us should try and get as much of the Jigsaw puzzle together before it is too late.
My health is improving very slowly, and I tire quickly, so this will have to be enough for now! much love and all good wishes,
May 30, 1997: I have had some bad days, mainly due to the fact that I have to reduce the morphine dosages which I have been on for six weeks for the terrible pain this encephalitis has been causing me. The pain is not yet over, but I see how addicting morphine can be, even in hospital doses!
I so much wish I could wake up all well and happy and twenty years younger, but this is wishful thinking. My walking is poor, due to the MS, and the headaches sometimes do get the better of me. Sometimes I fear the wheelchair will not be that far away, now that I am off Prednisone. I will have to see the neurologist next Tuesday and, if all seems under control, then Hans and I will go to our summer vacation house on Ameland for two weeks. I do look forward to that.
You know what I did today? I took out all the KIT annuals and started reading some of the wonderful stories. It really is terrific what KIT has turned into since 1989! Thank you, Ramón, once again, for bringing us together. This morning I also had a card from the KIT meeting in England last week, with all the signatures of all our friends. You know, this really is a heart-lifter and makes you happy! Also, Belinda, Bruce and Leonard have been calling so faithful that it really moves me. Much love for now, and thanks,
Joan Pavitt Taylor, 5/31/97; I found this statement the other day and I guess it pretty much says all I aspire to.
The last of the Cathars was burnt by the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church at Montsegur, Languedoc, France in 1244, but they left this
prophecy: that the Church of Love would be proclaimed in 1986. It has no fabric, only understanding. It has no membership, save those who know they belong. It
has no rivals, because it is non-competitive. It has no ambition, it seeks only to serve. It knows no boundaries because nationalisms are unloving. It is not
of itself because it seeks to enrich all groups and religions.
It acknowledges all great Teachers of all ages who have shown the truth of Love, those who participate, practise the Truth of Love in all their beings. There is no walk of life or nationality that is a barrier. Those who are, know. It seeks not to teach but to be and by being, enrich. It recognises that the way we are may be the way of those around us because we are that way. It recognises the whole planet as a Being of which we are a part. It recognises that the time has come for the supreme transmutation, the ultimate alchemical act of conscious change of the ego into a voluntary return to the whole. It does not
proclaim itself with a loud voice, but in the subtle realms of loving. It salutes all those in the past who have blazed the path but who have paid the price. It admits no hierarchy or structure, for no one is greater than another.
Its members shall know each other by their deeds and being and by their eyes and by no other outward sign, save the fraternal embrace. Each one
will dedicate their life to the silent loving of their neighbour and environment and the planet, while carrying out their task, however exalted or humble.
It recognises the supremacy of the great idea which may only be accomplished if the human race practises the supremacy of Love. It has no reward to
offer either here or in the hereafter save that of the ineffable joy of being and loving. Each shall seek to advance the cause of understanding, doing good
by stealth and teaching only by example.
They shall heal their neighbour, their community and our Planet. They shall know no fear and feel no shame and their witness shall prevail over all odds. It has no secret, no arcanum, no initiation save that of true understanding of the power of Love and that, if we want it to be so, the world will change but only if we change ourselves first.
All those who belong, belong; they belong to the church of love.
Konrad Klüver, 5/18/97: Fabrication and 'Unity Above All' in place of the Biblical Truths
Those Christians who have lost the capability of orienting themselves by the word of God alone and do not live according to the biblical
foundations anymore will rapidly fall prey to phony teachings that foment the toleration and acceptance of deceit and injustice, thus loosing their ability of
In Matthew 23, you find a crushing condemnation of hypocrisy by Jesus. His words prove without doubt that Jesus was very capable of outrage concerning the make-believe of religious leaders. It is a heterodox tolerance that postulates false 'apostles' and deceitful 'workers' as 'Apostles of Christ.' A public denunciation in the name of God would probably be the best thing that could happen to these self-appointed Servants of God.
In times past, the faithful suffered and died in the name of God and Truth. How could all this have changed so drastically? Well, in the course of time, an overwhelming desire for popularity has been created, which is the stuff from which False Prophets are molded. Predominantly it is friendships and/or similar loyalties that blind and bind us to the point of total incapacity to act against these untruths. In some circles, the fear of controversy is driven to such a point that the ministers (Servants) are ready, together with the whole congregation, to 'pay the price' for the sake of 'peace and unity,' and so abandon God's truth! "Don't say anything that could foul up The Cause!" "Controversy separates!" "When we need is Unity Above All." These are all the slogans used.
The actions taken recently by Christian Domer "in the name of the Bruderhof" demonstrate sadism at its perverted worst! Where do Civil Rights start and Human Rights stop? Or vice versa? You, Christian Domer, and your group of Bruderhof power-mongers are apparently making out the encroaching shadows of the past and are getting hysterical about that fact that 'the worm might turn!' Mind you, gang, the worm is already turning, and no measure taken on the power-mongers' part shall block the course of 'history repeated.'
Tidbits about the new Gulfstream-5 jet: cost $35 million, range 12,000 km, engine BMW-Rolls Royce. 69 planes have already been ordered (buyers names may be disclosed on request). This is a luxury liner designed for business tycoons, heads of states, etc. It can carry up to 19 passengers. Net cargo 3402 gs maximum.
What do you yammer about adversaries?
Are those ever meant for your association
To whom your entity, the way you breathe,
In their sneakiness, is a perpetual recrimination?
Salve to all involved in the KIT Process, and those outside of it! In the light of the current happenings "in the name of the Bruderhof," I would like to air some thoughts on the subject. This authoritarian attitude of the Bruderhof 'leadership' which has its culmination in the recent goings-on, can be traced right back to good old Dr. Eberhard Arnold who implanted and implemented it in his community scheme from the start-up.
There are many reports by various people, "Ex's" as well as others, who knew the scheme from the very beginning. I can well imagine that all of us "Ex's" could fill volumes of experienced authoritarianism during our Bruderhof-bound history. I personally am of the opinion, that J.C. Arnold is just staging the 'stooge-in-the-limelight' for the present powermongers-behind-the-scene,' because:
Who coughed up the collateral for the new start in the USA?
Who kicked in the means "with strings attached" for the rice project in Primavera?
Who forked out the capital to start Community Playthings?
Who insisted so vehemently that a Bruderhof should be established in the US "because otherwise we would lose out on the membership of certain financial tycoons?
The above were not the Arnolds nor the Zumpes, who only were implemented by those financial tycoons who visualized in the Bruderhof system an unbeatable potential in the American free enterprise system. Imagine: free labor combined the religious concept of voluntary poverty, all under the guise of the Bruderhof system but controlled by a corporate office.
Who was sent from Woodcrest to Primavera for the sole purpose of investigating how best to shut down the hospital there and thus removing the 'reason for existence' of Primavera. What tactics and moves were necessary to accomplish the dissolution and sale of the Primavera Bruderhof? Of course, these emissaries were Americans with high qualifications.
Today I view the "Primavera debacle" and the dissolution and sale of all the Bruderhöfe in South American and Europe during the 1960s in the light of today's happenings and actions of the now-Bruderhof administration. I don't believe the Arnolds were not are ultimately responsible for all those unchristian, inhuman acts since the 1960s by the Bruderhof administrators, but that certain American powermongers deliberately implemented (and still continue to do so) the Arnolds and 'the Arnold problem' up to the present time. Because of this, and only because of this, Hans Zumpe and others, who had discovered these 'wheelings and dealings,' had to be silenced and were used as scapegoats to cover up these actions.
As an epilogue, the following: in the New Testament, all the commandments are mentioned, but never as ten; rather they are integrated into and subordinated to the commandment of love. 1.Corinthians, 7 v 23: since you were paid for expensively (to be freed), do not dare put yourself under manmade rules. Saludos,
ITEM: The Bruderhof children's trip to Cuba (thirteen 7th and 8th graders along with Christoph and other adults) on a goodwill mission with the Pastors for Peace seems to have gone well. The U.S. State Department did not interfere with the shipment of goods as they have in the past. Aside from a protest by the Cuban exiles' group Alpha 66 at the San Diego crossing of some of the participants, no untoward incidents were alleged to have occurred.
The Bruderhof's Plough page on the Internet brims with reports from various young travelers. Visits to many Cuban schools are described as well as
a gathering attended by Fidel Castro at which Christoph was introduced
to El Lider and able to present him with a copy of his latest book on Forgiveness.
Among the many gifts the Bruderhof contingent brought was a hand-painted yellow schoolbus that had been bought used and then repaired. It was used by the visitors to tour in Cuba before being handed over.
On May 10, the Albany Times-Union reported that the children raised $32,000 for the Cuba caravan by selling crafts, firewood, eggs, scrap metal and maple syrup as well as soliciting funds from private donors. They wrote songs and performed them for a cassette tape they sold, titled "Cantando Con Cuba!"
by Norah Allain
I will sing no more the old, sad song
Dead longings, dead hopes, dead dreams,
The song of the sad, old earth that grieves
For the death of men and the falling of the leaves.
For the things that were and are no more,
And the things that could not be
The song of the sorrow of all that lives,
Unquickened, O spirit, by thee.
But I sing the song of the mountain springs,
The song of the lakes and the streams,
The song of the meeting of the waters,
Where the red river meets with the green,
And both flow on together,
Flow on, flow on forever,
Down to the great, deep sea.
I sing of the starry heavens,
and the soft, strange magic of the moon,
And the glorious colours of sunset
That fade away too soon.
The song of the winds and the clouds
That race along where they will,
and the play of the swift cloud shadows,
As they sweep along over the hill.
The song of all small and tender things,
of black-eyed mice and bright-eyed birds,
And butterflies with gorgeous wings,
And tiny red lady-birds.
Of flowers and grass in the warm sunshine
Alive beneath my feet,
And the pure, cold sting of the falling rain,
And dewdrops sweet.
And within it all and one with it
Is the song of my own heart's blood -
The deep, strong pulse and the beat of it,
The upward surge and the leap of it,
The fire and strength and sweep of it,
Of my awakened heart.
by Norah Allain
My eyes are too full of thy beauty, O earth,
And my senses heavy with loss.
They long for the touch of thy warm, own fingers,
Scent of thy breath and sound of thy sighs.
I am wounded by all the loved, lost places,
Haunting as the still remembered faces
Of lost ones whom I loved.
Who gave thee power to wound me, earth?
I did not know I loved thee so,
When love was sweet content.
But now that once more I have to go
From some loved place, too well I know
the old, familiar pang, know that the thought will often hurt me
Of how the trees are clothed there
With garments of glittering leaves,
And how they bend and shake themselves
So gracefully in the breeze,
And how the stream flows gently on,
Or rushes after rain,
And by the stream the grass is green
On the bank where we have lain;
And how the path winds down to it
All hidden from the road,
And you may lie and watch the sky,
See through the leaves the clouds pass by,
And listen to the birds -
Or if more actively inclined,
May leave the pleasures of the minds
And join the children in some water fun.
How sweet, emerging wet and cold, to warm up in the sun!
And best of all, how tranquil there
The twilight spreads, all unaware.
I still shall see until I die
The sharp, black outline of that hill
Silent against the sky.
by Norah Allain
Love is not love which leaves me,
In the velvet void of night,
So piercingly alone.
For here, however well disguised, is paramount
The will that seeks its own.
Love has no thought for pleasure,
Or any other thing save love itself.
It has forgotten all the past,
Cast off the fear of the future,
Foregone the preconceived ideas,
The habits and the petty fears,
And all the manifold devices
For keeping life at bay.
Destroyer of all barriers
And fiery melting pot
Of all that time must bring to be,
Love, I belong to thee.
That is not love that leaves me,
In the velvet void of night,
So piercingly alone.
by Marc Angelucci
Reprinted with permission from the Campus Cult Awareness group website at U.C. Berkeley:
You all live your lives so freely
Like you're wise, content, and true,
But we'd rather think you're sorry,
And be glad we're not like you.
Can't you tell that we are happy;
Don't you see we're smiling thus?
We can paint our faces joyful,
And it cheers up all of us.
We don't drink or smoke like you do,
We no longer thus engage.
We are safe from such temptation,
Cause we're locked inside this cage.
We can sing and dance inside it
Like we're free and having fun.
We can sing ring-around-the-rosy,
Though there's not much room to run.
It delivers us from evil,
So herein we choose to dwell.
Those inside will go to heaven,
All the rest will roast in hell.
This was promised from the ancients
We'll remind ourselves each day
To make certain we stay humble,
And be sure we all obey.
"They're a cult" we heard one murmur,
"They're fanatics!" someone cried!
Then, we called that "persecution"
And it bonded us in pride.
But there is a hidden reason
That we tell ourselves this lie:
It's because we're scared of living,
And 'cause we're afraid to die.
So don't taunt us with your logic:
Keep your common sense away.
We'll stay inside this cage of ours,
And won't be led astray!
Solomon Maendel, 'One Month' a letter to relatives from a Hutterite colonist in North Dakota, 5/20/97: HI! Everybody, I can't believe one month can be
so long! I had planned on renting a 320 track backhoe for one month and go to Chamberlin, South Dakota, for two weeks to dig 12,000 feet of PVC pipe
and take 3 Irrigators apart that I had sold to a colony in Canada. The first week went well, got the machinery moved down, temps reached the 80's for two
days and seemed like spring was here. How wrong I was!!!
We took the three Pivots apart and got 2500 feet of 10" pipe dug the first week, second week we dug 2000 feet of 10" and 4100 feet of 12" pipe and on Saturday of the second week at 9 in the morning, my wife called and said they were having a real bad rainstorm. The rain was freezing to the window in our living room and that she thought I should come home. Well, at 2 pm Jonathan said I should head for home and pick up a generator set that I had booked at Big Stone Colony so we could run our well house so the colony would have water as they were predicting we would be weeks without power. So at 2 pm, Saturday, my son Greg and I left for home via Big Stone Colony
We drove in pouring rain most of the way. By the time we got 20 miles from Big Stone, we started seeing 'road closed due to high water' signs. I told Greg that we might have to make a 100-mile detour to get to Big Stone, but when we got to a low part of the road, a county worker told us there was a 500-dollar fine for getting caught driving on a closed road, but that if I stayed on the middle of the road I could make it. He was going to cross also, so ahead I went. When I got to Big Stone, most of the men were running around the farm looking for pumps to pump all the field run-off out of their lift station so the basements wouldn't get flooded. I loaded the gen set and took off for Fargo, north on highway 75, thinking I could cross over to I29 were I always did. At the first crossing I saw a 'road closed' sign, so I headed one road north only to stop at a station to ask if I could make it to I29. A convoy of national guard were there asking where they could cross over to I29 and the two attendants could not tell us if there was a bridge that wasn't flooded from there to Fargo as the Red was flooding in most places already. I took off and was able to cross over at Fairmont, North Dakota, and by the time I reached I29, 2 inches of rain had fallen already and 60 mph winds were starting to freeze the rain on the roadway, so it was starting to get slippery.
We saw a snow bird with a small car behind that had headed straight into the ditch on a curve because he could not turn on the slippery road (wonder what went through their minds while they were sitting and waiting for a ride to safety there was over a foot of water in the ditch) maybe should have stayed south longer? We made it to Fargo at 8 pm after having driven 450 miles in 6 hours and only 120 more miles to go, almost home! Surprise! Got to Fargo just as they closed the Interstate to all traffic. So after refueling and picking up some survival gear and grub, we headed up hwy 75 as it was near-zero visibility at times and 6 inches of snow on the ground and the radio was blaring 'no travel advised' as power lines were snapping and a high voltage line was hanging within 8 feet of the ground at the Highway 200 and 75 junction. I needed to cross that road, so after 2 hours of driving 40 miles, we made it to the junction only to find a sheriff's car sitting there with his lights blinking, but he let us cross. I told Greg that it didn't make sense to try and drive in zero visibility and that we should stop in Crookston for the night.
We got to Crookston at 3 in the morning and the motel was booked full. A crowd of our friends from Fordville were sitting in the lounge and drinking beer to try and drown their sorrows. Not liking that kind of crowd, I told Greg if we had made it to Crookston in 7 short hours, we should be able to make it to Grand Forks in short order (by now you can tell my mind was numb). We took off and after 4 hours we got to a sign that said 'Rest Area Ahead.' I told Greg we are only 5 more miles from Grand Forks and there we'd hang it up for sure. By now the wind was raging at 70 miles per hour. My wife called my cell phone to see where we were and I promised her I would call her when I got to Grand Forks.
By the time we got to the last curve at East Grand Forks, we saw a semi in the middle of the road. When I walked up to the front to check how we would be able to best maneuver around him, the driver said there was one more semi ahead of him with his nose in the ditch. I took a run on the shoulder of the road where the snow was only 4 feet deep for the length of the semi and just barely made it through before our pickup started to run erratically. I put some anti-gell in the fuel tank but that didn't solve the problem, so I turned the pickup downwind and pounded on the hood to break the ice that coated the hood. When I finally got it open I then had to break more ice on the plastic intake case of the air cleaner. What a job at 70-below wind chill! I have never seen snow so compacted as it was in the air cleaner I was able to lift it out in one chunk. After passing the second semi, I had to make one more decision: should I take the bypass on Highway 2 or go through town? I did the latter and at the junk dealer in town, I saw one 15-foot drift but thought that with enough speed I could make it We made it by the skin of our teeth only to find a dead town, because 90 percent had lost power already.
It was a real circus to see all the small cars stalled in the middle of the streets and people trying to shovel their way out with no place to go. My loaded 4X4 was already having a hard time. I thought the south end of town was my best chance to find a motel but was wrong, so we headed up to the north end and had to take a few back streets as the main ones were full of stalled cars. I made it to the junction of Highway 2 and I29 and got stuck going into the driveway at Ramada Inn. I left the pickup and walked 300 feet to the Inn only to find about 60 or more people sitting in the lounge area and no more rooms.
The lady at the desk mentioned that they had been out of food for thirty-some hours already and a man was looking for some Coke or fruit as he had 2 diabetic children and was afraid they might have an attack. I mentioned I had some fruit in the truck, so I put on my frozen coveralls and face mask and went out to bring in an apple box of fruit and nuts I had bought because Karen and children were staying at our place for a week and wanted them to have a little fruit. When the clerk saw all the food, I mentioned she should cut it up in small pieces and everybody could have a little. I even had to loan her my pocket knife to cut the fruit as all she had was throw-away plastic ones. Then she whispered in my ear that she had a room for Greg and me because one of their workers could not make it in to work anyway. Boy, you should have seen the smiles on our faces!
By the time we had showered it was 8 am and all the cell phone towers had collapsed or lost power so there was no way to notify my wife that we had made it to town all right except to stand in line for the one pay phone in the non-heated hallway of the motel. After asking somebody at the middle of the line how long they had been waiting and they said 30 minutes, I decided to go shower and get some sleep lucky they had natural gas water heaters and the city had a generator to provide water pressure. After a hot shower we went to sleep for two hours, and then decided that if we had to stay one more night in town, we would bring in our generator set. We could supply the motel with lights and power for the microwave oven as they had plenty of popcorn we could pop, but when I went out to try and shovel the truck out, I heard Jonty talk with Joe JR. saying he was almost in Grand Forks looking for me. I
then got on the radio and told them were I was and Jonty said we would be able to go west on the eastbound lane of Highway 2 because the high voltage wires and poles were blocking the westbound lane for 25 miles west of town. So off we went with a revolving light on the roof of the pickup and driving slowly on the north shoulder of the four-lane highway. After 5 miles, we met two snow plows and an ambulance following them, but they didn't seem to mind us or we looked official enough with the yellow flashing light. So we made it home 26 hours after starting out from Chamberlin, normally a 7-hour drive.
I worked at home for four days getting the power restored and had to spend $2200 to buy a 4000-watt generator for the neighbor because we were using his large one to run our hog barn. Because our farm is so spread out, we need to have three generators going when we have long power outages. So after a short week's vacation at home, I headed back to Chamberlin, South Dakota, only to find that the storm had dumped 2-1/2 inches of rain on them and then 12 inches of wet snow, killing thousands of cows that thought they had made it through the winter and only to see thousands of newborn calves die also.
The pipes we had dug out and had not hauled out of the field were now covered with snow and the trenches were all full of snow. The loader had not been able to drive in the field because of the wet spring so the only way to backfill the trenches was with the track backhoe. They were forecasting more rain, so we started running the backhoe 24 hours a day and on the last morning, I finished filling in the trench in the middle of a large lake. Then I loaded the machinery because I was getting frantic calls from home to come to Grand Forks and help evacuate our friends' homes because they were expecting the dikes to break. By the time I got to Fargo, I29 was under water and the North Dakota scale was not supposed to let any trucks over 80,000 lbs go north. I was 1500 pounds over, but promised I would unload some parts in Fargo so they let me through.
By the time I got to Grand Forks, the town had been evacuated and the downtown was already on fire. So the next four days were spent helping Simplot save their processing plant and freezer with thousands of semi's of frozen fries. We were able to hold back the water with a four-foot dike but were concerned as we were watching the rising water take under all the new cars across the street at Hansen Ford. Next job was to dig out 500 porta-potties that were frozen into six inches of ice. The only way to break them loose was to undermine the frozen gravel they were standing on. I set the loader bucket to the right height and then pounded 6 inches at a time till I was able to break ice and potty loose all at the same time. When I dropped them on the street, the ice broke loose and you had two porta-potties that the forklift could load. I had some National Guard men happy as they were only given a forklift to try to get them loose and when they put the forks under, the toilet would come out in pieces and not very usable. Next job was to save $400,000 dollars of frozen meat in Laddies Meat Market after they dumped about $400,000 dollars worth from their coolers that had been out of power for three days, so you can imagine the loss the town will have when you add it all up.
Today I have 500 feet of pipe left to dig in then the pipe laying project will be done for this year again. Next is plowing power to all four pivot points, then tree clean up so the fields can get planted. Planting is going good with 2 Quarters of Corn in, 2 Quarters of Sugar beets in, and 1,1/2 of potatoes in, so in one more week we should be 80 percent done with planting. All the news for now,
A Bruderhof Memoir
by Ramón Sender Barayón
In September, 1957, Tad Wiser arrived at my Manhattan apartment, my ride to the Bruderhof. A tall, shy, twenty-year-old with an unsmiling
demeanor, he was obviously relieved to have someone accompany him on his trip to "Woodcrest," the Bruderhof community near Kingston. My friend Daniel
(who had just visited Macedonia) saw us off the following morning with a final few remarks about Christian fanaticism versus Marxist ideology. Once out in
the crisp September countryside, I lost myself in green vistas of hillsides whose tentative orange and yellow hues promised the explosion of colors to
come. Once again I left Manhattan with relief, the concrete catafalque upon which, in my imaginings, the dismembered corpse of my marriage lay on
My life seemed littered with dead loved ones. I thought of Spain, that shadowed land of machine-gun fire and bombs buried somewhere in my psyche. Not until our teens did my sister and I learn that our mother had been jailed and shot by the fascists, but it wasn't until I returned to Spain after my father's death in 1982 that I was able to interview family members and friends of Amparo and hear her tragic story.
We passed a Thruway sign signaling the Newburgh exit. I sighed and shifted in my seat, stealing a glance at Tad at the wheel. We had not talked much, but I learned that he had returned recently to the U.S.
"Almost there," Tad announced fifteen minutes later, taking the New Paltz exit from the Thruway.
A few miles north, we turned onto a side road, past a covered bridge that spanned a river, and up a hillside driveway beside a sign that read 'Community Playthings The Society of Brothers.'
"They make children's toys," Tad explained. "The business started at the Macedonia community with hollow pine blocks. When the original membership split occurred in '53, the business was divided. Macedonia still makes hollow blocks, but here they've expanded into a line of maple toys that's doing very well." He smiled. "I'm sure they'll put us to work in the shop."
"Okay by me. I like working with wood. Were you at Macedonia long?"
"No, I just got back from two years with an Episcopal mission in Nigeria. My grandparents were missionaries in India." He frowned. "I'm sure my brother Art's going to join these people. I want to see what they're like before I start college."
We parked beside a row of cars below the hilltop, and walked towards what looked like an administration building. To the right, a large Victorian mansion dominated the bluff, obviously the original house of the old estate. Children played on a set of swings, laughing and shouting while they took turns pushing each other. A young woman glanced up and smiled. She wore a black skirt patterned with small flowers, a kerchief on her head of the same material. If only Xavie could be as secure and happy as these children! I worried about her growing up in the city with a mother intent on a high-pressure career. A pang of guilt arced through me. May my absence not cause her any pain, I begged whatever God might be listening.
At the administration building, Tad and I were referred to the brother on Guest Duty, a sober-faced man named Dick Domer who directed us to rooms in the 'Bughouse' and told us to report back to him. Despite its name, the Bughouse turned out to be a tidy cabin in the woods occupied by the single men. We dropped our things before returning up the hill. On our right the Shop resonated to the hum of saws and other machinery. Lunch was about to begin when we reentered the 'Carriage House,' as the administration building was called, and we made our way through a crowded foyer into a small side room where those on lunch duty were already eating.
Dick Domer greeted us from one of the two tables. "Either of you know how to install fire hydrants?" he asked, a twinkle in his eye belying the soberness of his expression. "See me after the meal. I'm putting you to work this afternoon digging a hole."
Older children joined the adults in the anteroom area.
"Why are you growing a beard?" a twelve-year-old boy asked me, wrinkling up his nose.
"Why not?" I countered.
"You look like a Hutterite is why," he replied.
"What's wrong with that?" I asked, not knowing who the Hutterites were.
He shrugged. "Nothing."
The double doors swung back to reveal a large square room with windows on three sides. We picked a table and found we were sitting with other recent arrivals, one a young student from Antioch College named Mike Brandes, another a college-age musician, Andrew Szilard. Beside them sat a prematurely grey, curly-haired man with glasses named Vince Lagano who was answering their questions He explained that as 'Singles,' unmarried men and women eighteen years or older, we would eat our breakfasts together in the 'Snuggery,' the small dining room where Dick had spoken with us.
I estimated one hundred and fifty people in the dining room. A rustle of movement, and the food began to be served, bowls of macaroni and cheese and a vegetable dish. Plates of bread and pitchers of reconstituted milk were placed within reach. Not a gourmet repast, I thought, but obviously these people were here for other reasons
After lunch we walked to the Bughouse with a few of our new friends to continue our conversations during the nap hour. Mike, a heavy-browed Jewish boy from the Bronx, I liked right away. He brought with him from Antioch College a Marxist viewpoint that had attracted him to the "all things in common" communism of the group. Andrew, a nephew of Leo Szilard the atomic scientist, was a well-trained pianist from Westchester County.
My roommate, a Hutterite teenager named Josh Maendel, joined us in the large bedroom at the end of the hall. He was a black-haired, silent lad with a strong nose shadowing full lips. He only entered the conversation when someone asked him a direct question about the life at Woodcrest.
"You'll just have to live here with us and experience the life," he said in response to one I asked about the underlying philosophy of the group.
At two o'clock we met Dick uphill by the swings as prearranged. Shovels over his shoulder, he walked us to the future fire hydrant site between two of the dormitory structures that housed some of the families. We stripped off our shirts and worked for a few hours before quitting for 'juicetime' in the Snuggery. Tea, milk and lemonade were served along with bread and jam. That evening, after another proletarian meal, we made our way back down the lane, muscles sore and more than ready for bed. Streamers of color lit the western sky, silhouetting the tops of the sugar maples. I thought of my ecstatic communion with nature just a few weeks earlier in California and the promise I had made to make it a permanent part of my life. Here at Woodcrest I thought I perhaps could find both worlds, the countryside as well as the company of others.
Josh was seated on the lower bunk when I entered. I climbed into the upper, fluffed up the pillow and settled down for the night. In response to my question, he told me his story.
"I joined in Forest River, a Hutterite community in North Dakota. Under the leadership of my Uncle John he's here at Woodcrest we moved away from the old-fashioned, closed society of the Hutterites along with my brother and his family." His English had a strange, almost Germanic cadence to it.
Josh went on to explain how their North Dakota farm colony had invited Bruderhof families to share their life with them for a trial period. During that visit they came to a crisis. The community split, half joining the brothers and half returning to their more traditional life style. He and his mother both had
opted to go to Woodcrest, but his mother had died before she could move there.
The Hutterites had immigrated from Russia in the eighteen hundreds and were similar to the Bruderhof in many ways. Later I discovered how the Bruderhof during the 1930's had joined the Hutterite Church before disagreeing over a number of points including smoking, dancing and details of dress.
"Are you Christians?" I asked, peering down at him.. "I haven't heard much religious talk since I arrived."
Josh returned my gaze, a solemn expression on his dark features. "There's much talk of Christianity in the outside world, but little action," he replied in his curious accent. "If you want to find out what we believe, you must live and work with us."
I found out he was a novice member, having been recently initiated.
"It's a very serious step," he explained. "You give everything you own to the Brotherhood your possessions everything. It's a lifetime commitment."
The Bughouse buzzed with youthful male energy. Along with Mike and Andrew, there was Hans Wiehler, a German exchange student, Harold Goree, a tall bearded youth from the Midwest, and a young physicist from Cornell, Richard Thompson, who played the cello. Aside from my roommate Josh, and Vince and Richard who shared a room with a teenager Dave Ostrom, they all had arrived a few days ago and had as many questions about the life as I had.
At seven the following morning, we ate breakfast with the Singles , two tables of young people sharing a convivial atmosphere.
"How do you feel about meditation and retreats?" I asked, glancing at their faces. "I like to spend time in the woods by myself now and then."
My remark was greeted by merry laughter by the old-timers, and my face reddened. What was so funny about my question? All religions recognized the salubrious effect of solitude.
Afterwards, Dick Domer led us back to work. My sore muscles soon warmed in the sun and our hole assumed impressive dimensions. Tad told me he had heard that the Macedonia community had reached a unanimous decision to join the Bruderhof. Their members would arrive the following week, others from Woodcrest leaving to work the farm in Georgia. I had detected an undercurrent of excitement within the community. Obviously Macedonia's decision healed a rift of long standing.
Seated across from Dick at lunch, I tried my question about meditation again.
"We're not much on time alone," he replied with a frown. "I think it will all come clear after you've been here a while."
The dining room filled with adults and older children, the younger ones taking their lunches at the mansion that had been turned into a schoolhouse. When someone suggested a song in honor of the decision reached by the Macedonians, the mimeographed songbooks stacked on each table were passed out to the newcomers. Obviously the members knew the words by heart.
He is speaking to the North, 'O come!'
He is calling to the South, 'Withhold no more.'
Come, oh come, to where the King is calling,
Sending out a wind to wake the sleepers and the poor.
The melody was modal and exotic to my ears, the singing relaxed. People's voices fell naturally into two and three-part harmonies obviously they sang a great deal together. I noted all this with approval, thinking how my musical talents would be put to good use. Seated between Tad and Josh, I listened with interest to a conversation Dick was having with an angular, animated older man named Wendell Hinkey about plans for a new Baby House.
"What's a Baby House?" I asked Josh.
"It's where the babies and toddlers go each day. They start when they're a few weeks old. Mothers here have much more freedom from their children than in the outside world."
As I left the dining room, I was accosted by a rotund, grey-bearded man.
"Growing a beard, eh?" he crowed in accented English. "You'll look just like a Hutterite!" He winked at Josh standing beside me.
"That's my Uncle John," Josh explained. "Pay him no mind. He likes to tease."
Tad and I returned to finish up our now-awesome hole. He seemed melancholy, and I tried to draw him out about his feelings.
"I guess it's all right here," he said at last. "But not for me. I'm off to college in a week."
"I'm impressed!" I replied. "I feel something indefinable here, a deep undercurrent of happiness. I mean, think of it! No money worries, every-thing taken care of! And the kids are so secure, so well, it's an idyllic life for them."
"They don't consider those aspects important," Tad muttered, stooping over his shovel. "For them, what matters is the deep commitment to a Christian way of life. But I don't trust the power structure of this place."
"I haven't seen much evidence of that," I said.
"Well, I've heard about it," he grunted.
"I'm thinking of coming back for an indefinite visit," I confided. "These people know how to be happy, how to make relationships work. God knows I could use a few lessons!"
We finished our excavation by juicetime. At the Snuggery, I filled a quart jar with tea, following our boss Dick's example.
"My wife Lois Ann and I would like to invite you for breakfast tomorrow," he said.
I thanked him. "How long have you been here?"
He explained how they had discovered Thoreau's writings and become great enthusiasts. Following his example, they had built themselves an isolated cabin in the woods.
"How many places do you have?"
"Nine altogether." He ticked them off on his fingers. "Woodcrest, Oak Lake and now Macedonia, in this country. One in England and one in Germany. In South American there's Primavera in Paraguay which is three separate villages, and then a house outside Montevideo."
"How many people?"
"Roughly two thousand."
I whistled in amazement. "How long has this been going on?"
He returned my stare, eyes bulging slightly. "You should read some of our literature. We have a magazine called The Plough that will fill you in on the background better than anything I can say. Check the lounge across the hall or the Bughouse shelves. I'll see if I can dig up some of the scarcer issues for you to borrow."
I nodded. "I'd appreciate it!"
An older woman with a salt-and-pepper feathercut leaned towards us. "I'm Florrie Potts," she said. "Why don't you come for Family Supper with us tomorrow?"
I turned to Tad. "When do you want to leave?"
Tad shrugged. "Monday morning's okay."
I accepted her invitation with pleasure. What hospitality, I thought. What warm people!
"It's customary to share Sunday breakfasts and Family Suppers with our guests," Dick explained. "Tomorrow morning there's a Family Meeting and then a Household Meeting. Sunday afternoon's a quiet time, and in the evening there's 'Gemeindestunde,' our well, worship service, I suppose you'd call it. It's open to all serious-minded guests, but you have to ask to attend."
"I'd like to come," I replied. "But I'm only here for the weekend. However I want to come back for an extended stay. Perhaps you'd rather wait and see how I work out."
"You're right," he said with a brief smile.
"From everything I've seen so far, I'm very impressed!"
"What particularly impresses you?"
"Well, I get a feeling of almost euphoric happiness here. And the children seem so content. It's such a perfect life or them."
"We place great emphasis upon their well-being," he replied. "But they too have to struggle with the human frailties of selfishness and egotism."
After supper that night, the Singles pushed the dining room chairs and tables against the walls. An Israeli folk dance record began to play, and we gathered in the center of the floor to dance the Mayim. I participated as a beginner, gradually learning the steps. One girl especially attracted my attention, a slender light brunette with a wide mouth and large eyes set in a fresh-scrubbed, high-cheeked face.
"More fun than I've had in ages," I panted to her, moving hand-in-hand into the hub of the circle.
She nodded and smiled before whirling back towards the circumference. "Dairy Queen!" someone shouted from the doorway. Amidst cries of delight, everyone stampeded outdoors.
"Josh managed to get Dairy Queen money from Howard, the Steward," my favorite girl explained. "Come on, get on the truck!"
We careened downhill in the back of the community's two-ton flatbed, swinging against each other, holding onto the stake sides. Fistfuls of stars twinkled overhead like cosmic confetti thrown by some giant hand. Two girls began to sing a round.
This was the life, dancing and singing along the highway with a happy crowd! I felt my cares and worries slide over the horizon with the wheeling planet. At last, a way of life independent from the Great American Night-mare! At the Dairy Queen, we lined up for our treat and afterwards gathered in the parking lot to sing and dance the "Hora." Bare feet padding on the asphalt, we moved to the music of our own voices while the townies gaped in amazement. How exciting to be out in public together, presenting a shining example of how life should be lived! Something different from anything I had experienced was happening at Woodcrest. I had to come back to find out what it was.
That night I lay in my upper bunk, Josh's snores resonating through the small room. This close-knit tribal existence was what I had been looking for. It
resolved so many problems I had anguished over. If only Rosemary and Xavie could have found this with me before it had become too late! And my sister Andrea too, who seemed to be caught in her own growing-up pains. Hugging my pillow in my lonely Bughouse bed at the Bruderhof, I forced my thoughts away from the past, frowning at the one icy splinter of starlight penetrating the small window at my feet. Life remained as much a mystery as the vastness of the cosmos. Still pondering the unanswered questions of my existence, I fell asleep.
At breakfast at Dick Domer's, I tried to express my feelings about my Woodcrest visit to his attractive wife Lois Ann, a small-boned woman six months pregnant. Their one-year-old son Christian played quietly under the table.
"It's something indefinable you've got here," I said. "There's such a feeling of joy, as if you're all part of something greater than yourselves, which in turn gives you the security to be who you really are."
Lois Ann shook her brown curls. "It's not security we're after," she said. "If you knew the history of the Bruderhof, you'd know that we've been called to a life of trials and tribulations. Right now, everything is smooth, but who can tell when the world will erupt in another war? And then, what will be our witness?"
Dick looked up from where he was washing the breakfast dishes in two plastic tubs he had filled from the communal sink in the hallway. "We're pacifists," he explained. "We give up everything to follow this life. But the paradox is that, in giving up everything, we are given everything and then some."
"I'm going back to the city tomorrow." I said, smiling wistfully at their quiet contentment. "But just long enough to get my things. I think I'm going to be here for a quite a while!"
Sunday morning at nine, the Family Meeting was held in the dining room. The tables had been stacked against the walls and the chairs arranged in a three-row circle. My 'favorite girl' selected Oscar Wilde's tale of the selfish giant to read to the assembled children and parents. The ogre chased the children out of his garden and, when springtime returned, winter remained ensconced behind the walls of the estate until the children found their way inside. Only the ending puzzled me, dissolving as it did into a Christian allegory. Afterwards, a song was sung by the lower grades.
You are such a pretty sight.
Blue and yellow, black and white.
Take care what you do,
Robins are a-hunting you;
Take care what you do,
Sparrows are a-chasing you!
I was moved whenever I looked around that circle of solemn, innocent faces.If only little Xaverie's had been among them, my happiness would have been complete!
After the meeting, the younger children went into their play groups while the adults re-gathered to sit in silent, Quaker fashion until one of the older men cleared his throat. He began to read a Bruderhof article on the challenge of living together. I recognized him as the brother Wendell Hinkey who had discussed the Baby House plans with Dick.
"How deeply we are infected with the virus 'individualism' one learns only in community. But there is another and more essential quality which Bruderhof people have in common and that is an inner 'must' which calls us to this life. In response to this we feel we must turn away from all within ourselves that wants to hinder or destroy brotherhood be it pride, jealousy, touchiness, opinionatedness, talking behind other people's backs, or whatever it may be not to mention outer possessions (which, actually, are much more readily given up than our self-will in its various forms). As far as we hold on to anything as our own and refuse to share it, so far do we stand in the way of brotherly community. We must 'practice community,' then, by giving all we have and are every day anew. Individualism is so deeply rooted in our hearts that we must continue ceaselessly the 'exercise' of putting our selves out of the way."
('My Brother's Keeper,' The Plough, Vol IV #1)
When he finished, another long silence settled over the circle until at last a kerchief'd Hutterite woman spoke up. She wished to share her 'concern that it would be given' for the Brotherhood to reach out to more and more people. Afterwards, someone suggested a song, and I was provided with the text from the same songbook we had used at the meals.
That cause can neither be lost nor stayed
Which takes the course of what God has made
And is not trusting in walls and towers
But quietly growing from seeds to flowers.
I estimated that during the average day, five or six songs were sung at meals and meetings. Sunday lunch was more elaborate, consisting of sliced pot roast with a full complement of vegetables and potatoes. People sat in family groups for the most part, with no particular seating arrangement. I was on the look-out for the leader of the group, although I had been told there were no 'leaders' in the usual sense. One tall, lanky man with a bristling mustache and balding head caught my eye because he carried himself with an air of authority. I asked who he was.
"Heini Arnold, one of the sons of the founder of the Bruderhof," I was told.
I suppressed a grin, because I understood 'heini' as a euphemism for 'rear end.' "Is he the minister or something?"
"We have no ministers, only brothers who have been given more responsibility because their shoulders are broader."
The quiet time that followed I spent at the Bughouse in another chat session. Mike's Marxist theories were countered by others who were more religiously oriented. I stuck up for the mystical individualist's approach, although I agreed that somehow it would have to harmonize with the needs of the group as a whole. Whenever a question about the Christian aspects of the life came up, the young novices participating always refused to answer directly, merely saying the answer had to be 'experienced' rather than theorized about. I decided that was good enough for me for the time being.
Late that afternoon, I walked with Florrie Potts to the dining room to pick up Family Supper. A tiny woman with short, graying hair and an intelligent, college-bred manner, she matched her stride to mine. Sliced cold cuts and cheese, relishes and salad makings had been laid out, along with the inevitable tea and reconstituted milk. Coffee was considered a luxury, available only as jars of instant for breakfast use.
With our trays, we joined Florrie's three children on the hillside above the settlement, two girls in their early teens and Tony, twenty. "My husband Tom is away at Macedonia," she explained. "He was part of the group that went down there."
She explained how they were among the Philadelphia Quakers who had been first contacted by the brothers during their original visit to the States eight years earlier.
"We were challenged by the radical commitment their lives demonstrated. So, after a few months of soul-searching, we dropped everything and traveled to the Paraguayan communities." She smiled. "What a contrast with our luxurious existence! Tom was a part owner of the family steel business and we were wealthy by most anyone's standards. Suddenly there we were, living the pioneer life on a twenty-thousand-acre cattle ranch where water had to be hauled and all our food grown." She glanced at her children. "But they acclimatized, and ended up enjoying the life there."
"Especially the animals," one of the girls said. She spoke in the quaint German-accented English I later discovered was common among all the 'Paraguayan' teenagers. Yet they could easily switch to idiomatic American, treating each as a separate language.
Tony, a square-jawed teenager with deep-set eyes, attended the local community college. Florrie explained how the children went to the Woodcrest school through the eighth grade before transferring to Kingston High.
"I imagine it's quite a jolt for them," I commented.
"It is," she agreed. "But it's necessary for them to experience the outside world before making up their minds to ask for the novitiate."
"Are there any who don't?"
Her expression sobered. "Yes. Unfortunately, adolescence is a difficult period, even here." She smiled, and I decided I liked this serious, gentle woman. "Now tell me about yourself."
I described my refugee beginnings, my arrival in Julia's family and growing up.
Another silence followed while she held my eyes in a stare. "We live in such terrible times. War has scarred so many people. The early Bruderhof had to deal with the rise of Hitler in Germany. That was the reason they finally moved to Paraguay."
I stared at the clouds collecting over the distant Catskills. "Why can't everyone live in peace together, like here?" I asked. "It's so simple, really. I wonder where it all went wrong."
On the drive to the city Monday morning, I tried to share my excitement with Tad. He adopted a cautious attitude, nodding now and then in mild agreement but obviously not about to rearrange his plans and return to Woodcrest.
"The children's meeting was very moving," he agreed. "But the rest of it left me cold."
"I loved every moment," I said. "Those first-graders singing their songs, and then the story Deborah read was so beautiful! But I was most touched by the families themselves. The Maendel family must have at least a dozen kids!"
"They don't believe in birth control," Tad replied.
At my apartment, Tad accepted my invitation to stay the night and left on a round of errands. I opened my mail and phoned a few friends. One offered practical advice.
"What are you going to do with the apartment?"
"Give it up, I guess. Although I don't know what to do with my books and the baby grand piano."
"My roommate and I are looking for a place. Why don't we sublet it from you? That way, it will be there when you come back."
I thought it over. My impulse was to get rid of everything at once and make a permanent move to Woodcrest. Yet hadn't I just made a total change of plans? Only three days earlier I was convinced I should move to a California mountain top. The suggestion allowed me to leave my options open. "Do you mind living with all my stuff?"
"Of course not."
I made arrangements to leave them the keys, and then dialed Rosemary at the magazine.
"I'm moving to the Bruderhof community," I told her. "Something very exciting's going on there."
"Oh God, Ramón! Another of your crazed schemes!"
"But everyone's so happy there," I insisted, a little deflated. "At least you'll let Xavie come up and visit. You really should see the children!"
"What?" she exploded, and burst into laughter. "Can't you get it through your head that your harebrained nonsense doesn't interest me in the slightest?" Click!
That was that. I replaced the receiver with a scowl. Why did I let her wield such power over my feelings?
That same afternoon I took the subway uptown to visit my American mother Julia. She greeted me at the door with an affectionate kiss, although eyeing my sprouting beard and shaggy hair with disfavor.
"I'm leaving tomorrow for this Christian community upstate," I told her, and plunged into an enthusiastic description of the weekend.
"Oh my!" She reseated herself in her chair and picked up her needlepoint. "Are you sure you know what you're doing? They sound a bit strange."
"I'm a bit strange," I replied. "If it wasn't for them, I'd be going back to California forever."
Two days later I escaped Manhattan once more, returning to Woodcrest via an Appalachian Trailways bus. The driver let me off beside the old covered bridge and I walked the half-mile uphill with my two suitcases. It had frosted the night before and the sugar maples blazed with crimsons and yellows. The howl of the planer penetrated into Josh's room as I unpacked. In jeans and a work shirt, I reported to Wayne, the shop foreman, a tall, thin man with a blue-and-white striped carpenter's cap on the back of his head. He assigned me to the large jointer on the ground floor, a machine the size of a large ironing board. It stood between the planer and the molder, the latter a huge contraption of belts and blades.
"We had a guest who lost two fingers on this baby," Wayne told me, patting the jointer's steel surface. He gave me a fierce stare. "No loose clothing, and for heaven's sake stay alert. Take a breather if you get drowsy, "
Over the juicetime break, I heard more of the gruesome story. The man lost the tip of one finger and went to the infirmary. Returning, he demonstrated over the whirring blades how it happened and whammo! lost the first joint of the neighboring finger. Impressed, I returned to work. Although I no longer yearned for the rootless, on-the-road existence of the concert pianist, I still hoped to continue playing with all ten digits. For the next two months I pushed the edges of maple boards across the cold steel, learning to read the grain in order to present the correct end.
During my absence, the first Macedonians had arrived. Some of their guests who were seriously considering joining the community had been dismayed by the decision to join the Bruderhof en masse. They faced the choice of either following the members' lead or going elsewhere. The Macedonia members were divided up between Woodcrest and Oak Lake while a crew of brothers and sisters went to Georgia to occupy the farm. Thirty new guests appeared on the hill, and another Bruderhof community was added to the list, the final chapter in the intense, four-year-long relationship between the two groups. Art and Mary Wiser, founding members of Macedonia, (and Tad's brother and sister-in-law) had been the strongest hold-outs when the membership originally split in 1954 over its relation to the Brothers. Thus it was an emotional moment when the couple arrived at Woodcrest. The large outdoor church bell was rung, and the whole community gathered by their car to shake hands and sing a welcoming song, set to Sibelius's "Finlandia:"
We would be building temples still undone
O'er crumbling walls their crosses scarcely lift
Waiting til love can raise the broken stone,
And hearts creative bridge the human rift;
We would be building, Master, let thy plan
Reveal the life that God would give to man
I fought down a lump in my throat. These were people of a type I had never met before, men whose pacifist convictions had condemned them to internment in Civilian Public Service camps during World War II, a euphemistic alternative to spending the war in jail. They had strong ties to other radical Christian groups such as The Catholic Worker of Dorothy Day as well as the beleaguered Koinonia community. The latter, located in Americus, Georgia, was suffering intense neighborhood persecution at that time because of their black members.
Others Macedonia members who had arrived included my friend Daniel's friends Staughton and Alice Lynd. Staughton, tall and ascetic-looking, was notable for his concerned expression, which I learned later expressed his misgivings about the life. Alice, a picture-pretty brunette, was a few months pregnant. I began to feel I was living among revolutionaries, the cutting edge of a new social movement. The solutions we were discovering at Woodcrest could be applied to Black Harlem, the Puerto Rican ghettos and the spiritually drought-stricken upper-class suburbs with equal efficacy. Meanwhile, the English Bruderhof also was experiencing a large influx of new people. Everyone agreed it was a special time.
Guest Meetings began to be held in the Schoolhouse, concurrent with the almost nightly members' meetings in the dining room. At one of these, Dick read an excerpt from the writings of Eberhard Arnold, the founder, entitled "A Power We Seek:"
"Our community has a special task, a life task. We are not simply a colonizing society, intent on founding a new village settlement, as if without a new one being started there were not enough villages where people stand in just the same relationship to each other close or distant as anywhere else. We do not aim at a general community of mankind that would bring all men together in community as they are. If we had wanted to found a community based on interrelationships, each of us could have stayed where he was, for there are people to be found everywhere. And we find here people who are no better than elsewhere and no worse. We find people here and we found them there. If we had thought that community was merely fellowship among people, then we need not have come to the Bruderhof. We could have found that anywhere. But we should also have failed anywhere, for all attempts founded on the present state of men must fail. Such attempts are bankrupt from the beginning; they are not capable of true community...
"What we believe in is a religiously based community, one that rests not upon human character and human 'being' but upon the eternal character of the Divine Being, a community which is fed by divine strength and which comes to true unity in God, not by reason of individual strength or by the collective strength of many, but through power given from above, from the divine world. That is our faith."
"But does that mean we have to cut ourselves off from the world completely?" one of the Macedonians asked.
"No, of course not," Dick replied. "One of the reasons for selecting this particular property was its nearness to Manhattan."
Mike the frowning Marxist shook his head mournfully. "I don't know about that 'Divine Being' stuff," he muttered. "Frankly I've never found any evidence that God exists."
Later I learned that the responses of individual guests were reported at the brotherhood meetings and scrutinized closely.
In the Bughouse, we often stayed up late to hash out puzzling aspects of the life. As my days there lengthened into weeks, the Christian principles of the life came more and more to the fore. Mike became a close friend, and often we sat together at meals or during work breaks. He was finding the Christian aspects difficult to accept. Whenever he openly expressed his doubts to a brother, he was encouraged to be patient and continue in the life. I, on the other hand, approached the Christian experience through its mystics. Although I still held deep reservations about the divinity of Jesus, I was able to go along with most of the material I heard at meetings or Eberhard's essays in The Plough:
"If we want community, we must want the spirit of community. For this reason I reject the so-called communist society. My faith rests solely in that society and commune that has faith in the Spirit. The collective soul of community is the Holy Spirit. In this Spirit the Church-community is unanimous and united, is rich in gifts and powers and finds many ways of expressing the life that inspires it. We must remember, however, that just as the unity of the body cannot be maintained without sacrifice, so the unity of such a fellowship demands sacrifice if it is to be maintained. If this community could endure without any sacrifice on the part of its members, it would after all be nothing but the gratification of self-will. Every individual in the community must be prepared to sacrifice himself and all his powers, to dedicate his whole life."
There were three basic stages to becoming a member, the Novitiate, the 'firm Novice' or 'Wider Brothers' and the baptized full member. A Wider Brother was given increased responsibilities and could participate in discussions affecting Woodcrest as a community and the organization as a whole. These meetings occurred three or four evenings a week, and perhaps every two weeks a Society Meeting was called for baptized full members only.
To become a full member necessitated going through a baptism preparation group experience, an intense period of self-searching and readings that traditionally had lasted a few months. Woodcrest innovated a week or ten-day retreat during which the participants had to take a definitive step: a death to their old individual selves and a rebirth in Christ. If the initiate passed this test to the Brotherhood's satisfaction, he was baptized into the Church and became inextricably wedded to the Bruderhof for life. For a member to leave was considered a shocking sin. Although cases had occurred, they were never discussed openly and the individual might just as well have been dead. It was excommunication in the utmost sense of the word.
Not all these matters were clear to me at the time. Members were very circumspect about mentioning the deeper aspects of the life to a newcomer. Only gradually were the intensely Christian elements unveiled, first through the Guest Meetings and the Household Meeting. If these created no problems for the guest, only then was he or she encouraged to apply for permission to attend the Gemeindestunde, the worship service Sunday evening. The Brotherhood eschewed pietistic, mystical or theological discussions, and visiting ministers and church groups often had difficulty finding anyone willing to chat up religion on their terms. Usually it was the guests without any previous Christian experience moved the most quickly into the life.
In the midst of my absorption into the community life, my sister Andrea visited me for a weekend. At first she seemed interested, but fell into a theological discussion and, for the rest of her stay, she retreated into her shell. Meanwhile I had begun attending the Gemeindestunde Sunday evening worship services in the dining room. The readings were more Christian in orientation than at the Household Meetings.
Afterwards, several members would speak from their seats in the circle, either mentioning personal hardships they were experiencing or else offering gratitude for help or God's goodness. I felt a subtle pressure to express my thanks for my acceptance into these gatherings. Red-faced, I mumbled something about how happy I was. Finally we 'came to prayer.' On our knees, we raised our hands to the ceiling while Heini Arnold voiced an appeal to God to help newcomers find their way to unity with the membership. Afterwards, another hymn was sung while we circled the room in opposite directions, shaking hands.
Florrie Potts' vitality and warm-heartedness I found very appealing. It was she who finally laid down the party line on my marital status. Once again we were seated on the hillside up by the water tank on a warm Indian summer evening. The deep red and purple sunset seemed like heaven's participation in nature's harvest festival. The honking of a southward-bound V-line of geese blended with the distant shouts and laughter of children in the Schoolhouse yard. At her prompting, I launched into the details of my devastated marriage, making it as light-hearted as possible to mask the depth of the pain I felt.
"After a month's honeymoon, Rosemary and I decided to get practical and search for a job. A want ad advertised for young people to sell magazine subscriptions door-to-door. It sounded like pleasant outdoor work we could do together, so we signed up. It took only one day to realize we had to convince people to buy trashy magazines they had no need for and probably couldn't afford. So we resigned, but were alerted to another door-to-door scam distributing dry-cleaning coupon booklets for a dollar apiece. At least it didn't conflict so directly with our ideals.
"The new job triggered our move to Boston's Beacon Hill. We rented an apartment at a reduced rate by agreeing to serve as managers for the small building. So finally we had our own three-room place in a most romantic setting. Myrtle Street boasted the largest and fattest cats we had ever seen. The dry cleaning coupon job went well for Rosemary, who found she could enter a neighborhood bar and sell eight or ten booklets just on her sex appeal. I had to overcome my Latin dark looks and heavy eyebrows to convince suspicious housewives to shell out a buck. More often than not, the door slammed in my face."
Towards the end of one dreary door-to-door afternoon, I promised one housewife that if she paid for the booklet not only would she get twenty dollars worth of dry cleaning, but the mayor would personally congratulate her and the local high school band would play under her window. Slam! The following day, dressed casually in jeans and sneakers, we showed up at the Copley Square office of our boss Mr. High Pressure and quit.
He seemed dumbfounded. "Why?" he asked. "Rosemary's been doing so well!"
"Because we don't believe in what you're doing," she said. "The Great American Dream is a delusion."
The ensuing discussion confirmed some basic differences in our world views, and we left, satisfied that we had struck a blow for Reality and the preeminence of Intellect. For the next few weeks, we slid back into sleeping late and wandering the Boston Common in the noonday sun. Our nest egg disappeared as if sucked away by an invisible vacuum cleaner at times I thought I could hear it roaring in some other dimension. Time to find a job. I went downtown and returned having been hired as counterman for the 5 P.M. to 1 A.M. shift at a restaurant in The Boston Globe building. A few days later, Rosemary found work at The Human Engineering Laboratory, an aptitude-testing organization, through a young man named Eric she had met. I visited and was pleased with the high IQ environment for her, although a little suspicious of her relationship with Eric whose interest in her seemed more than just casual. An ongoing elevated temperature she was experiencing was checked by a doctor who reported her pregnant. Pregnant! Well, at least my new status as a father-to-be would keep me out of the draft board's clutches, now that I had lost my student deferment. The baby was due in February.
"Rosemary's really a witch of sorts," I said to Florrie, who had been listening patiently to my recital. "She's able to hex things so that they fall apart. Outside our kitchen window there was an air-conditioner for the business downstairs. What with the hot weather, it ran constantly and the fan just got noisier and noisier, driving us crazy during the day. I phoned the two Polish Amazons who ran the plumbing concern downstairs and complained, suggesting that perhaps the fan needed replacing. They told me to mind my own business and hung up. So Rosemary decided to jinx it, something she has proven she can do on other occasions. She muttered some mumbo-jumbo, and we moved to the living room for the rest of the afternoon. About an hour later, there was a tremendous clatter and then silence. I looked out the kitchen window and saw the fan had exploded in pieces. She really is amazing." I shrugged and gave a lop-sided smile. "But really, it's best to leave things the way they are. I'm too vulnerable to her moods. She just winds me around her little finger. She always has."
Somewhat abashed by my obsessive outpouring, I gazed into the deepening blues of the distant Catskills. Florrie remained silent for some time, as Woodcresters were apt to do, before giving me a somber glance. "You seem very serious about the life here," she said. "Am I right?"
I nodded. "In fact, I'm thinking of asking for the novitiate at the next Gemeindestunde."
Her eyes widened. "Do you know we don't believe in divorce? The marriage vows are sacred bonds, even if they were taken in the outside world. If I were you, I'd contact Rosemary and invite her to visit."
"I tried after my first weekend here," I replied. "She just laughed and hung up on me."
"Try again. If she won't listen to you, perhaps I can see her next time I go to the city."
"That's very kind," I said, moved by her obvious concern.
Later, I mulled over her words. If they didn't believe in divorce, they didn't believe in remarriage. If they didn't believe in remarriage, my horsing around with the young ladies in the Singles group must seem shocking to them. Suddenly I realized my life-of-the-party jokes and mild flirtations must have come to the attention of the brotherhood. A rather plain, hairy-chinned sister at the Singles' breakfasts often gave me a steely glare when my manic mood got out of hand. Better slack off, I decided.
The Woodcrest atmosphere intoxicated me. No longer did I have to worry about my career, or money or a job. Out from under the oppressiveness that had hung around my neck for so long, I trotted around the place humming one or another of the merry German wandering songs to myself. One afternoon I came galloping down the outside stairs of Primavera House in high spirits. Swinging around the corner, I almost ran down Heini and Annemarie Arnold. They smiled warmly and nodded, but I had yet to meet this man whom I sensed held the spiritual reins.
Heini Arnold, tall and angular with his father Eberhard's high forehead and apple cheeks, sported a trim mustache under piercing eyes and a balding scalp. In his mid-forties, he functioned as Woodcrest's Servant of the Word. He usually kept his distance from guests, only smiling vaguely when I stared at him in the dining room. I had noticed him seated next to the brother in charge of a recent Household Meeting and had been struck by the unmistakable aura of authority surrounding him. After this, I began to study him more closely. On my treks up the hill for meals, occasionally I caught sight of him staring down into the parking lot from the window of his corner office on the second floor of the Carriage House.
(to be continued)