The Church of the Brethren
by C. F. Messer
from Atlas of Grundy County, Iowa, 1911, pg 92-93
Early history in Europe: Led by a desire to follow more closely in the Master's footsteps, eight persons, in the year 1708, met on the banks of the Elder River at Schwarzenan, German, for baptism. This was the beginning of the church.
The object of this organization was that they felt that in none of the religious organizations of the times could they worship God as they thought right.
The first minister was Alexander Mack, one of the eight charter members. Although organized in Wetgenstine, a home for refugees from religious persecution, their lives were made bitter by opposition and oppression. In spite of this they increased in numbers rapidly and held tenaciously to their new faith. Mack and Hochman traveled and preached in many parts of Germany. Later they met William Penn who then was interested in his colonization scheme in the New World. The desire to escape from persecution prompted them to take up with his urgent invitation and cast their fortunes in America. In 1719 large numbers of them began to immigrate to Pennsylvania.
Early history in America: The first church in America was organized at Germantown, Pa., December 25, 1723, with Peter Becker as first elder. On the same date the first love feast was held and the first new members baptized. Alexander Mack came to this county in 1729. The first church was built in 1770 at Germantown, Pa. Up to this time services were held in private houses.
The old church at Germantown still stands as a monument of pioneer days of the Church of the Brethren. Since then they have scattered over the entire United States and have missions in Denmark, Sweden, France, India and China.
Their Teachings: Their creed has been marked by very little change though a century and three quarters have passed since they landed on the shores of the "land of peace." The New Testament is accepted in its entirety as their only creed. Faith, repentance and baptism are considered essential to salvation. They believe in trine immersion, and receive none as members without baptizing them in this way.
In 1708, at the organization of the church they returned to the original Apostolic method of practicing the Feast of Love. This was immediately preceded by feet-washing in which the brethren washed the feet of the brethren and the sisters the feet of the sisters. In connection with the Feast of Love they receive the communion of bread and wine. After the supper before leaving the tables, the right hand of fellowship and the kiss of love are extended by the brethren to the brethren and by the sisters to the sisters.
Brethren are not allowed to take oaths, go to war, or go to law with each other. In case of going to law with outsiders, consent must be obtained from the local congregation. They teach and practice plain dressing and forbid the wearing of gold for ornament. They do not believe in secret societies and believe that the marriage tie can be broken only by death. They take a strong hand against tobacco and forbid the manufacture and sale as well as use of strong drinks. They keep their own poor, having homes for old people and orphans. The practice of anointing the sick with oil as taught by James is still carried out.
The Grundy Center Congregation
The Brethren Church in Grundy Center was bought from the Congregational denomination in 1883 and is still used for religious services. It is located on South Main street, west of the County court house. This building was purchased for $1,200. It is a frame building, without basement, 50x20 feet in size.
In the years preceding 1883, services were held by Elder H. P. Strickler in an old school house where the present Lincoln building now stands.
The church has never had a separate organization for it is still a part of the Grundy County church in Melrose township.
The Clemers from Mt. Carroll, Ill., and Wetsels from the same state were the earliest settlers. In 1894, Susan Albright (commonly known as Grandma Albright) moved into this vicinity. At the present writing she is still living and is one of the oldest persons in Grundy county.
During the twenty-eight years of the existence of the church the following ministers have held active work: H. P. Strickler, Paul Wetsel, John Snider, Abraham Hawbecker, Chas. Garner, J. Edwin Jones and Silas Gilbert.
The present membership of the church is 20. The growth of the church has been greatly hindered on account of deaths and the removal of families to different localities. At present the church is without a minister but services are usually held twice a month, conducted by H. A. Guagey of Dysart, Iowa, and Dr. S. B. Miller, of Cedar Rapids. The Sunday School has a membership of 35. There is a well organized christian Workers' Society.
Church of the Brethren in Grundy County
The Ivester Congregation.
The church of the Brethren in Grundy County was organized at the home of Daniel Sheller in September, 1867, Henry Strickler being made elder and Daniel Sheller, deacon. At that time there were twenty members in the district. The first five, Jacob Shirk and wife, Louis Hess and wife, and Joseph Strickler having moved here in 1865 and the remaining fifteen coming the two following years. Of these twenty only three now remain in the district. Sixteen have been removed by death and the other one moved away. In the spring of '76 the work of building the church was begun. The building committee was Elder Henry Strickler, Daniel Sheller, George Moore, Louis Hess nd Simon Arnold. George Moore was foreman and treasurer. When the work was commenced but fifteen hundred dollards was on hand, but the balance of the cost, seven hundred dollars, was obtained by soliciting. In the autumn the church was dedicated. Elder Henry Strickler was the first minister. The church was not incorporated until February 8, 1894. Elder Henry Strickeler, Daniel Sheller and George Moore were the first trustees.
In 1877 the Sunday School was organized with John Rudy as superintendent. At first there were six classes. Now there are nine classes in the advanced and two in the primary department. The latter was formed last spring. Mrs. Chas. Messer is superintendent of the primary, and Clarence Schrock of the advanced department. The school is gradually increasing in numbers and is throwing out a strong influence to the young people of the community.
In 1870 Daniel Sheller donated one acre of land, two miles north of the church for a cemetery. The first grave was made for little Harry Moore, November 12, 1870. Four weeks later another grave was made for the little daughter of John Bemisdorfer. Now the cemetery contains two and a half acres of land and many graves.