Conrad Beissel, A New Kind of Leader
Peter Becker's vision of starting over in the new world was starting to happen for the Dunkards. Martin Urner, one of the first baptized in the new world, started to do missionary work with Peter Becker. Martin
started to share his new experiences with neighbors and friends. He started to have church in his home; as a result, they baptized more members into the new Dunkard
church. In 1724 they had enough members to start Coventry, the second Church of the Brethren. As the missionary work continued and more people were baptized, Peter Becker started to have some concerns about all the people they were baptizing. Usually Becker would call upon the members present to ask if there was any reason why this person should not be baptized and if the answer was no then they were baptized. At one of these meetings a man by the name of Conrad Beissel decided at the last minute to be baptized. He was an outstanding leader among them and was chosen as the leader for the third Brethren church, Conestoga.
On July 7, 1729, Alexander Mack and a group of about thirty families decided to come to America. This gave the newly established churches a real boost. Alexander was hoping to find peace in the new churches after dealing with all the troubles he faced in Europe. However, it was not to be the peace he wanted. Conrad Beissel, who
needed the thrill of power, was causing trouble in the new Dunkard church. Beissel was the kind of person who went along with any new idea that came along without thinking about the consequences of his actions. He soon started to preach that worship should be on the seventh day of the week which was Saturday. Sunday was considered the first day of the week and was usually the day most people go to worship services. He taught that celibacy was the way to live and that marriage was sin. In 1728 he withdrew from the church taking members with him. Peter Becker and others tried to reason with Beissel, but it did not work. When Alexander Mack arrived he too tried to heal the wounds, but nothing seemed to help the separation that had developed among the members. Conrad Beissel left and went to Ephrata and started
a cloister system of life spending much time with the writing of music. Eventually they formed another church called the Snowhill Nunnery near Waynesboro. Later some of those people came to our area and formed the Germany Seventh Day church in Salemville.
The Ephrata Cloisters is an interesting place to visit and would make a nice day trip from our area.