Jesus said, ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these’ ” (Mark 12:30-31).
The Rainham believers, at the time they settled in Canada at the end of the 1700s, had no other desire than to live out all the values and teachings of the Lord Jesus. This, above all, involved the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ teachings on repentance, humility, peace, simple living (separation from worldly trends) and wholesome family living. They used the complete New Testament as their guide.
On this foundation they preached, instructed their young, and established strong relationships with other believing fellowships far and wide. Visiting Mennonites from the Niagara and Twenty Mile Creek settlements kept in contact through the mail and through visits. Quakers, Primitive Methodists, Tunkers and Disciples of Christ, in the early years, also had much in common with our Anabaptist families during the 1800s. But as time passed on, while Canadian Christians dropped one value after the next, the distinctive convictions of the “plain people” stood more and more in contrast to the world around them.
Some of these writings, loved and much used by Anabaptist families in Rainham Township, will describe what they believed and hoped for:
Early Christian Beliefs
Christians, living at Antioch in Syria, first developed a series of questions and answers that described succinctly what they believed about God, about Jesus the Saviour, and about the Holy Spirit’s work in the Christian Church. Centuries later, a Dutch-German Anabaptist, Gerrit Roosen (1612-1711), built a larger work out of this Early Christian writing. First published in Germany in 1702, and in Pennsylvania by 1769, it was often reprinted by Anabaptist believers. Popularly known as the Christlichtes Gemüths-Gespräch, every young teenager received a copy when he or she entered the stage of responsibility (durch Jahre und Verstand). Through personal Bible study, encouraged by this book, often brought new applicants for baptism and membership in Church communities, a blessing that still continues to happen regularly amongst descendants of the first Rainham settlers.
In 1857 this book was translated to English and it is still published, as needed, under the name, Christian Spiritual Conversation on Saving Faith. Read an excerpt.
In February 1527 a number of Anabaptist believers met to discuss and agree on what they believed, regarding housekeeping within the house of God (the Church).
These agreements, patterned on the teachings of Jesus and his Apostles, still bring unity and peace among many Rainham descendants today.
You may read more about what happened at Schleitheim in 1527, or else you may read on the articles in English translation: On the Sword.
Anabaptist Beliefs in Pennsylvania
Christian Burkholder (1746-1809) arrived in Earl Township, Lancaster County, as a boy in 1755. Baptised and chosen to church leadership, Christian became a widely loved counsellor and friend to many, especially to the young people he instructed for baptism.
Before he died, Christian Burkholder wrote up what he felt most important: Addresses to Youth on True Repentance and Saving Faith in Jesus Christ. First published in German this small book was translated in 1857 to English, and its enduring value continues among many families with roots in Rainham Township, Ontario. Read one part of this writing.
During the mid and late 1800s the Anabaptist families in the Rainham Settlement gradually became familiar with the English language. For some members of the congregation, especially the elderly, this switch was painful and spiritually unsettling. Prayers, songs and teachings in English did not carry the same conviction and flavour. But, thanks to the Lord, those who truly shared the hope of everlasting life with Jesus, they found new words and expressions to share what they believed.
The, anonymous writing, most likely of the late 1800s, describes the hopes and joy of the Anabaptist settlers. Read more.
What We Believe and Hope For Today
Through two centuries of drastic change and social evolution, our families who settled in Rainham Township have needed to readjust our practices, over and over. But, thanks to our Lord Jesus, the Truth itself never changes! “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
To know what many of us continue to believe and practice today, read more.