A People with a Calling
In the Church of the Brethren, members are received by baptism, transfer of membership, and reaffirmation of faith. Most of the time those thinking of membership will participate in a membership class to learn about the history of the Church of the Brethren and the significance of membership and baptism. Baptism is a very important tradition in the Church of the Brethren, as the baptisms performed for the founding members of the church were illegal in their time. The Brethren chose believer’s (adult) baptism through immersion to signify their belief in Christ and their will to follow in his footsteps, rather than the accepted practice of baptizing infants. Today most members will not be baptized in a river as the founders were, but a newly committed person will follow tradition and kneel in the water of the baptistry, being immersed three times forward, to symbolize the father, the son, and the holy ghost.
Joining the Church of the Brethren is an exciting and momentous step. More than the end of a journey, it is the beginning of a new life adventure and responsibility. It is also a step to be taken after study and prayerful meditation. If you are considering membership please do not hesitate to contact the church to learn more about the process. Here, briefly, is what membership means in the Church of the Brethren.
It is Joining a People
When you become part of a people of faith you not only experience God’s love and presence, you join hands with others who are changing the course of the world. A gathered and Spirit-empowered people will help you grow in faith and make a difference in the lives of those around you. The faith community can support you and your family in difficult times, or in the costly steps that discipleship and faithfulness to the gospel sometimes require. It will help shape life’s priorities and mold your values.
For these reasons and others, the Church of the Brethren provides an appropriate setting for Christian nurture, praise and worship. Members are urged to attend worship services regularly and participate in prayer and Bible study groups as well as church school classes. Your local congregation will doubtless provide you will opportunities to discover your spiritual gifts and then use these God-given talents within the life of the church for the benefit of all.
It is Living a Faith
Brethren have emphasized that Christian faith begins with receiving Christ, but that the process continues. A maturing faith means discipleship. It means following Christ. It is being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit into new persons who live lives directed by Christ. One newcomer to the Brethren explained the difference this way: “people in the church… try to live a Christ-like manner daily- not just on Sundays.”
This way of life will mean new directions. Integrity, compassion, and faithfulness will increasingly guide the believer’s choices. Christ’s way of loving, giving, and serving will often lead to a stand clearly apart from the popular values of modern society. It will also mean living as responsible stewards of God’s good creation.
It is Serving the World
Faith is personal, but never private. Jesus spoke of two great commandments: to love God and to love one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39). An evidence of discipleship, of how much we love God is found in how deeply we love and care for others.
The Church of the Brethren encourages its members in the disciplines of an active prayer life and regular Bible study, but never as ends in themselves. They are spiritual preparation for loving others, for service. You will be becoming a part of a church family that cares about giving clothing, food, shelter and other forms of aid to those in need. The Brethren are a people who have cared about sharing their faith with others, whether they live next door of in distant lands. We are Christians who have taken seriously Jesus’ summons to love our enemies. Many members, therefore, find military service incompatible with a Biblical faith and work at forms of alternative service. Many feel led to witness for peace and justice in other ways as well.
The faith that warms our hearts, Brethren believe, must strengthen out hands and set our feet on a path of devotion and compassion. “To do justice… love mercy… and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8) – this is the vision and mission of the people in the Church of the Brethren.