Local Council Minutes
In order to better understand the early Brethren and the degree to which church leaders at the local level, especially the Elders, actually influenced or regulated the life of its members, let us step back in time to a former era when the authority of church elders was beyond question. The following excerpts are condensed from the minute books of the Lost Creek Church of the Brethren founded in 1790, Pennsylvania Southern District. This congregation originally had four different geographically located meeting houses; the remaining two, Bunkertown COB, and the Free Spring COB amicably divided in 1989. The membership of the congregation over the general time period of these citings varied between 275-325. In most cases the original wording is not reflected exactly (unless retained within quotes) but has been carefully revised in order to be more understandable to the modern reader. Most persons recording these church minutes often used colloquial words or expressions and variant spelling. Each item was selected because of its unusual character.
The reader will no doubt be amazed, or even astonished with the degree of authority that earlier Brethren church leaders exercised over the life of their members. This was a time when infractions of the faith might compel one to stand before a local Council Meeting to give explanation and even apology for one's behavior. In a modern age preoccupied with civil rights and personal freedom, this kind of authority is openly challenged. We have been conditioned to not pass judgement on the lifestyle or behavior of others, which only blurs the lines of acceptability. We are no longer a nation that sees black and white issues. Everything is becoming a gray area. One person's opinion is only that - an opinion. No longer does the Bible retain a sense of authority for most non-Christians, and far too many Christians. We are becoming a nation under little more authority but ones' own personal interpretation. History modestly shows that once a nation has lost it's sense of decency and respect for authority, it propels itself on a path of self-destruction. This web offering is not intended to suggest a return to any previous cultural period, but to emphasize with objectivity that in former times when the Bible and church leadership affected behavior, even non-believers, it was a period devoid of: drive-by shootings, letter bombs, serial killings, divorce in two of three marriages, skyrocketing illegitimacy, public bestiality, epidemic child kidnappings and molestations, total collapse of civility in many urban areas, the dysfunction of the judicial system, the death of 30 million infants, growing poverty and helplessness, enormous criminal misconduct, release of hardened criminals because of prison overpopulation, gross political corruption, plus widespread biblical illiteracy in a nation of Christians. One might convincingly argue that the pursuit of individual freedom without restraint of judgement has not preserved the safety or integrity of family and community, but may have actually contributed to the dismantling of our social guard-rails.
- October 1847
- Brother was cited before the Council for taking part in a military funeral.
- January 1861
- Decision for congregation to pay $8.00 for member's wood and board until March 31.
- January 1865
- Sister was admonished for wearing hoops under her skirt.
- January 1865
- Men were told not to use sleigh bells if they wished to be retained (as members).
- February 1881
- Motion passed enjoining members from holding life insurance.
- June 1899
- Mustache wearers visited and instructed to shave them off.
- May 1901
- The Moderator confessed to playing checkers and stated that he would not do it again.
- October 1901
- Brothers horse trade was referred to a committee for investigation.
- January 1902
- Committee reported that the Brother (previous) did not feel accountable for the dead horse.
- March 1903
- Brethren asked permission to build an extension onto the existing meeting house. Council placed the matter into their discretion, but "cautioned them not to contract any debt."
- November 1915
- Motion to consider the advisability of securing "ministerial help." And that "we employ a salaried minister from a distance to serve the entire congregation."
- January 1916
- Brother read a letter from Rev. John Rowland stating that he would come and serve the congregation, but
"thought he should have $600 a year for support of self and family."
- May 1923
- Brother was given opportunity to give explanation of his case before Council. Though he plead innocence, his defense was not convincing and he was expelled.
- January 1925
- Members were urged to be moderate in their apparel. Sisters are to wear the coverings, and not to "follow the foolish passions of the world."
- April 1948
- Motion approved the installation of an inside baptistry.
- September 1955
- Motion approved the budget for the following year at $8,150. ( Bunkertown COB 1998 budget: $180,217 )