NEBRASKA STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY MANUSCRIPT FINDING AID
RG3415.AM: Nebraska Brueder Konferenz
Nebraska: Religious fellowship
Size: 7 items, microfilm
Between 1763 and 1768, Catherine the Great recruited German emigrants to settle in the Russian steppes along the Volga River. Her promise of free land and exemption from Russian taxation and military service came at a propitious time for thousands of Germans who sought escape from the economic dislocation which followed the Seven Yearsí War in Europe. A large segment of those who immigrated to Russia felt the need to band together. This tendency was stimulated by the distressing social and economic conditions in Russia, a scarcity of professional religious leadership capable of ministering to the people, and the apparently lethargic and rigid character of the dominant churches, which did not permit the type of emotional and inspirational experience the pietistical Reformed churches desired.
In this milieu German Russians relied heavily on their Christian faith, which was expressed through worship in their congregations and participation in non-institutional prayer groups. The latter were designed to cushion and protect the emigrants in their new country. The proliferation of prayer meeting groups produced the BRUEDER, or Brotherhood, movement. This was the systematic organization of the local groups, which furnished this element of the VOLGADEUTSCH with needed external protection and internal stability. The first KONFERENZ, or Conference, was established in Russia in 1871 and was a union of individuals from several different denominations, i.e., it was a non-sectarian, lay religious fellowship.
Emigration to the United States from Russia during the period 1872-1914 included the transplantation of the movement to new soil. The flow of this settlement was to the western part of the country, and Lincoln, Nebraska became a major terminal for German Russian settlers on the Plains. The Brotherhood movement first took root in America in Sutton, Nebraska, in nearby Clay County. In 1887 a small group met in the newly-erected barn of one of their fellows to hold the first Brotherhood Conference in this country. Its functions were the same as in Russia: to provide external protection and internal stability for this ethnic and religious cluster of people.
Membership in the Brotherhood in the United States, as in Russia, is open to members of established churches, regardless of denomination. These individuals must have had a conversion experience and thus confess Jesus Christ as their Savior. Members must demonstrate Christian character and support their local prayer groups and congregations. There is a strong emphasis on mission work, and members are required to support this endeavor. Conflict within the group is minimized by the operation of the principle of “admonition,” which gives the Brotherhood the right to discipline its members, both in personal and prayer group contexts. For example, brethren are forbidden legal recourse against each other, i.e., disputes must be settled on a personal, not juridical, basis. Similarly, points of contention within the organization are resolved through the office of a “committee of admonition” which addresses itself to the problems.
The local group conducts several meetings each week which feature hymns, scripture, short religious addresses, personal testimonies and group prayer. Women may attend these sessions, but may not fill any role in which they could exercise authority over men.
The local groups are affiliated with district conferences which, in turn, constitute a state conference. These units meet several times annually. As Brotherhood members moved and settled in other states new conferences on each level were established, the Nebraska Conference serving as the Mother Conference.
Originally meetings were conducted exclusively in German, but the English language may now be used. Although the Brotherhood appears to have passed through its greatest phase of expansion, the older members who remain active conduct its affairs with vigor and dedication.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
This collection consists of the records of the Nebraska Brueder Konferenz. The records relate to the activities of the organization from its inception in 1887 to 1974. The collection is divided into two series. Series one consists of one reel of microfilm containing five volumes of minutes of general and executive meetings. Series two contains printed programs relating to the history and annual meetings of the Nebraska Brueder Konferenz. The proceedings of the meetings are recorded in German, with a few exceptions in the later period in which the English language was used.
The official records were made available for microfilming by Rev. J.H. Wacker and Mr. Gus Johns, both of Lincoln, Nebraska, July, 1974.
Series 1 – Conference records, 1887-1974
- Minutes of Conference Meetings, 1887-1916
- Minutes of Conference Meetings, 1916-1943
- Minutes of Conference Meetings, 1944-1962
- Minutes of Conference Meetings, 1963-1973
- Minutes of Executive Committee Meetings, 1915-1974
Series 2 – Printed matter
- Seventy-fifth anniversary commemorative booklet, 1962
- Annual meeting program, 1973
Germans from Russia
German-Russians. Nebraska Russian Germans
Nebraska Brotherhood Conference