Monday, August 5, 2013

Visiting the Dunker Church Building at Antietam National Battlefield

Our family recently visited the Antietam National Battlefield near Sharpsburg, MD. The battle of Antietam was the single bloodiest day of the American Civil War. One of the primary landmarks at the battlefield is the Dunker Church building (that's me above standing in the doorway).

The Dunkers fascinate me. Their name stems from their mode of baptism: immersion. It was likely a derogatory term thrust upon them by other Christian groups. According to the Antietam website, "The Dunker movement began in Germany in the early eighteenth century. The peace treaty that ended the Thirty Years War (1618 –1648) recognized three state churches. Dissenters were persecuted and forced to meet in communities where some degree of tolerance prevailed. In 1708 the denomination was formed with the baptism of eight believers by full immersion. The name Dunker derives from this method of baptism. However they were more commonly known as the German Baptist Brethren. In 1908 the official name became Church of the Brethren."

The Dunkers intrigue me in large part because they stem from the Anabaptist heritage. I'm increasingly drawn to the simplicity and nonconformity of the churches that follow in the Anabaptist tradition. The website goes on to say of the Dunkers, "(They) practiced modesty in their dress and general lifestyle. Other Christian principles which the Dunkers stress are: pacifism, members both North and South refused military service; the brotherhood of man, including opposition to slavery; and temperance, total abstinence from alcohol. A typical Dunker church service supported their beliefs in simplicity. Hymns were sung with no musical accompaniment from organ, piano or other instruments. The congregation was divided with men seated on one side and women on the other. The churches were simple with no stained glass windows, steeple or crosses."

We can all learn a great deal from believers who came before us. The Dunkers, who happened to live in an area that suffered through one terrible day, had many positive characteristics. I'd like to live a little more like they did.

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