If life was a battle for Emmy Arnold, it was also a celebration. This is the secret to her joy: she lived an undivided life, a life where the practical and the spiritual, the personal and the political, were one. Her memoir is a challenge to faith and commitment against all odds, and a testimony to the leading of a uniting Spirit stronger than everything that keeps people apart.
Not many people talk about "joy" these days. Emmy Arnold's memoir radiates just that - an enthusiasm for life and an unflagging optimism grounded in faith. In a genre awash in sordid sex and dysfunctional relationships, she offers a refreshing account of a hard life lived victoriously, of people brought together, despite their own weakness and turbulent times, to experience new levels of freedom, trust, and unity.
The setting is the tumultuous aftermath of World War I, when thousands of young Germans defied the social mores of their parents - and the constricting influence of the churches - in search of freedom, social equality, nature, and community. Hiking clubs were formed and work camps organized, and hundreds of rural communes sprang up across the country. In the 1930s Nazism swallowed this so-called Youth Movement virtually whole.
A Joyful Pilgrimage is the story of a remnant that survived: the Bruderhof, a community movement that began when Emmy Arnold and her husband Eberhard, a well-known writer and lecturer, abandoned their affluent Berlin suburb to live a completely different life. It is her own story, candidly told, of a venture dared and realized, in spite of poverty, persecution, skepticism, and trust betrayed. Through it all Arnold clung to her belief that we can break free from the structures of power, greed, and injustice that divide us.
Emmy Arnold (1884–1980) was born in Riga, Latvia, to a prominent family of academics. As an adult she turned her back on the middle-class milieu of her upbringing and married Eberhard Arnold, a revolutionary public speaker. In 1920 the couple left their Berlin home and founded a rural commune in the village of Sannerz.
Softcover, 5.5 x 8.5
[This is a] powerful, elegant memoir. ... By starting with her formative years rather than dropping us in the middle of things, [Emmy] does herself and her audience a service by giving us grounds to see her as a separate persona, a figure with both similar and different characteristics form her husband, which should inoculate us from the patriarchal tendency to wrap a wife up entirely in her husband's work.
This matters especially in the case of Emmy, because the founding and running of the Bruderhof (German for "a place of brothers") commune was very much a joint effort between her and Eberhard, and if you are searching for a case study of both the great joys and great obstacles of trying to create an intentional community from scratch, Emmy's memoir is a fantastic place to start. ...
From someone else's story we learn about what we as children of God value and why. And from Emmy Arnold's story, we learn about the necessity of building up one another, even if the unjust and broken systems around us continue to conspire to have that holy work come crashing down around us.