Annual German Baptist Conference Concludes

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One of my earliest acquaintances with the “Plain People” wasn’t with the Amish, it was with the German Baptists who live in large numbers just to the west of my hometown. I met many while I was writing a feature story about them for The Middletown Journal when I was a young reporter back in 1991.  With their plain dress, women’s head-coverings, and bearded men, locals around here often mistook them for Amish, but their religion is actually rooted in a whole different movement. The German Baptists don’t have much sociologically in common with the Amish and while it’s not unusual for Amish and Mennonites to go back and forth between faiths, there is very little “cross-traffic” among the Amish and GBs.  German Baptists celebrate services in a plain meetinghouse like this one near New Carlisle, Ohio instead of home worship like the Amish.

The annual conference of the Old German Baptist Brethren as they are formally called (informally known as Dunkers because of their practice of triple full-body immersion at baptism) was held in Virginia over the holiday weekend. I would love to attend some time and report back to all of you. But the local paper in Franklin County, Virginia did a pretty good job of setting the scene this year.  Read about the conference here.

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The Discussion

  1. I was raised around the German Baptist. In fact I lived beside the church in our community. My great grandfather was german baptist, (my grandmother joined the Church of the Brethren). I can remember when Annual Conference was is our backyard I was about 6 or 7 (that was 40 plus years ago). It was back in our area a few years ago. All the tents, people, cars, and food. Can’t ask for better neighbors and friends.

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  2. Mary Beth Northrup says:

    I was born and raised German Baptist and this brings back memories! I well remember the fun of going to Annual Meeting as a youngster, hanging out with my girl cousins, eating in the cook tent (helping out with the dishwashing between sittings), and sleeping on make-shift beds on the floor of a relative’s home. We were expected to attend worship services, but the rest of the time was fun and socializing! I remember buying sno-cones at a vendor stand, which was a special treat — there’s no shade in the open field other than the tents themselves, and the sun could be HOT!

    One year, we were one of the host districts, and I remember watching my dad and others erecting the large tents and setting up the plain board benches. A lot of logistics goes into the conference; just the food preparation alone is a massive undertaking.

    Even though I left the denomination many years ago, my mother recently gave me an updated verson of the “Indiana Cookbook”, a compilation of recipes from Indiana GB districts. It includes a section all about being a host family during Annual Meeting — tips for arranging sleeping accommodations, large-scale prep-ahead recipes and suggestions for helping everything flow smoothly on such a busy long weekend. Fascinating reading!

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    • Mary Beth, always good to hear from you! And thank you for such a vivid account of the meetings…It does seem a good-time for the kids! Would love to see that cookbook, is there an exact title for it and a publisher? – Kevin

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