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    Emmy Arnold

    • Founder of the Bruderhof community
    Emmy Arnold (1884–1980) was born in Riga, Latvia, to a prominent family of academics. As an adult she scandalized her parents by receiving believers’ baptism and marrying Eberhard Arnold, a revolutionary public speaker. In 1920 the couple turned their backs on the upper-middle-class milieu of their Berlin home and founded a Christian community in the village of Sannerz that eventually grew into the Bruderhof, an international communal movement. Emmy Arnold recounts that experience in a memoir originally titled Torches Together and now available as A Joyful Pilgrimage: My Life in Community.

    After Eberhard Arnold’s untimely death in 1935, the Nazis expelled the Bruderhof from Germany in 1937 and its members emigrated to England. There the movement grew rapidly, and by 1940 the community had more than doubled in size. However, tensions with neighbors who feared the presence of “enemy aliens” forced another emigration – this time to Paraguay, South America, where Emmy remained for the next twenty years. 

    In 1960, Emmy moved to Woodcrest, the first North American community, in Rifton, New York. Though seventy-six, she was rejuvenated by the influx of young seekers who had flocked to the community. She loved to talk with guests and new members. A great listener, she was sensitive to their questions and struggles, and often had an encouraging word for them. At the same time she did not hesitate to express her conviction that the “first love” – the love of God that had inspired the founding of the community – must be kept alive. “The rule of the Holy Spirit in our life has to be proved over and over.” 

    Though Emmy missed her husband throughout her forty-five years of widowhood, her sense of loss only strengthened her resolve to keep his vision alive. In Paraguay this cost her more than a few battles, when Eberhard’s witness was criticized and even rejected by some members as unviable or unrealistic. She was determined to hold faithfully to the way of Jesus shown to her and Eberhard from the very beginning of their life together. “In times of struggle, I am strong,” she would say, or: “That is our life: a fight, or a celebration!” Emmy spent years reading through notes and transcripts of the several thousand talks Eberhard gave between 1907 and 1935, gathering and sorting his books, essays, articles, and letters, and copying out excerpts she found significant, often in beautiful calligraphy. Several of these collections became books: Salt and Light, When the Time was Fulfilled, Inner Words, Love and Marriage in the Spirit, and Seeking for the Kingdom of God.

    Emmy Arnold died at Woodcrest Bruderhof on January 15, 1980, at the age of ninety-five.

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