The Church of the Brethren is part of the same German Pietist and Anabaptist movement that produced the Mennonites and the Amish, and the Brethren have tended to settle in the same places in the US as their Mennonite and Amish cousins. They don't dress differently or avoid modern technology like the old order Amish and Mennonites, but they do put a strong emphasis on simplicity and peace. They have a strong tradition of pacifism and non-violence and are recognized by the US government as legitimate conscientious objectors, like the Mennonites and Quakers, and are absolved from military service. They have a strong presence in the Shippensburg area; there are two congregations that I know of, one on Washington St. in Shippensburg and this one out on Newburg Rd. at Ridge Rd.
The Ridge Church of the Brethren's congregation was organized in 1842, and its original church was built in 1853. The current sanctuary was built in 1958; the original sanctuary, marked by the above plaque on the original site, burned down after being struck by lightning not long after.
The cemetery itself is as old as the congregation, and the stones here go back to the mid 1800s. The farther away from the road, the newer the graves, and I stuck with the oldest section of the cemetery. These gravestones are very simply carved local limestone, much like the ones in the Myers Old Order Mennonite cemetery we visited last year. While not quite as stark and small as the stones in the Myers cemetery, they're still very simple - just name, dates, and familial relationships (Beloved Daughter of, Husband of, etc.) with no epitaph, not even a quote from the Bible. And little or no ornamentation; any ornamentation is simple, and much of it has suffered the ravages of time because of the softness of the limestone from which they're carved. Even the more modern granite stones, which appear here and there in the older section and dominate the newer end, follow the same rules of "just the facts, ma'am" and simple or no ornamentation. For somebody like me, who came from New England with its carved slate stones with lots of carved decoration and pithy epitaphs from the Bible and the classics, this kind of simplicity causes a high degree of culture shock!
In any case, here are scenes from the Ridge Church cemetery:
On the way back I paused at the intersection of Ridge and Newburg Roads to get these panoramic shots looking over the outlying farms and ridges and Shippensburg to South Mountain:
As you can see from the haze, it was a fairly hot and humid day. The hike was four miles out and four miles back, so I was quite happy to get back home and start pouring iced tea into me!
© 2012 by A. Roy Hilbinger