I found myself in rural Darke County, Ohio yesterday and decided to make the most of it by stopping at The Flour Barrel, 8138 US Rt. 36 West ,a bulk food store outside the town of Gettysburg, although its mailing address is considered Bradford. The store has a deli with fresh meats and cheeses, bulk foods, candies, spices, a selection of Christian-themed books, and other goodies. The store is co-owned by two German Baptist women. The store moved to its present location 2 years ago.
"We just outgrew the other location" said co-owner Linda Frick, who ran the store for 18 years from a backroom of her home before moving.
The area around Gettysburg is a true melting pot of different Brethren groups, illustrating the church's many divisions over the years. In the span of an hour I met New Conference Old German Baptist Brethren, Old Conference Old German Baptist Brethren, Old Order German Baptist Brethren, and those who simply go by Old Brethren. All groups consider themselves Plain but have split over the years along various fault lines, in some cases the splits have to do with acceptance or rejection of various technologies, in other cases the splits are due to internal church structure. Even in the Flour Barrel store itself, there are workers from almost all the Brethren groups, including OOGB, indicating the relatively amicable nature of the splits.
While I find the whole Brethren movement appealing and interesting, the group that I am most eager to find out more about is the Old Order German Baptist Brethren, sometimes known as "the horse and buggy group." There are not many of these church districts. I was told there's one around Gettysburg and two more around the Painter Creek area of Ohio. I also am aware of two other horse and buggy GB churches, one in Indiana and the other in Hot Coffee, Mississippi (yes, there is a town so named). The style of dress of OOGB is strikingly similar to Old Order Amish (at least at first cursory glance), but I am sure there are differences. I do plan to visit Painter Creek or Gettysburg again soon to do a more indepth exploration of the OOGB church. Many outsiders, regardless of what sect of German Baptist one belongs to, mistake them for Amish. But the style of dress of other German Baptists really isn't too similar to the Amish, even the head-coverings the women wear are quite different.
The horse and buggy German Baptists do, as their name implies, eschew cars, but they are similar to the Amish church in Partridge, Kansas in that they permit church members to use tractors for transportation. In fact, I spied one Old Order German Baptist young lady deftly handling and swiftly driving a John Deere down Gettysburg-Southeast Road yesterday.
The Brethren church shares a lot of commonalities with the Amish, but they do come from different religious roots (Pietism vs. Anabaptism, although the German Baptists do practice adult baptism). You really can find a decent treatment on the subject at Wikipedia (what would we do without it?).
Rosanna Bauman, our Plain Kansas columnist, is a part of what is known as the "Old Conference" or "original conference" German Baptists.