A unique characteristic of the community to which I recently moved is life shared with Old Order
Mennonites. It is quite common to see horse drawn buggies and carriages on the
highways and backroads; they are verboten on the Interstate. Enroute to church
on my first Sunday after moving here, I passed five Mennonite families, all dressed in black.
Invariably friendly, they all smiled and waved as we passed. The scene
keeps recycling in my thoughts: no matter the critics of their old fashioned ways, how marvelous to witness their ethic of
nonviolence and abstinence from what they believe to be worldly indulgence.
The Bridgewater Mennonites are a group of Christian Anabaptist denominations named after the Frisian
Menno Simmons (1496–1561), who, through his writings, articulated and formalized the teachings of earlier Swiss founders.
The teachings of the Mennonites were founded on their belief in both the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ, which they
held to with great conviction despite persecution by the various Roman Catholic and Protestant states. Rather than fight,
the majority survived by fleeing to neighboring states where ruling families tolerated their rejection of infant baptism.
In the Bridgewater community, some of the Mennonite people do drive cars and use modern technology for farming.
Bridgewater College adjoins the Bridgewater Retirement Village where I live. Both were founded by the Church of the Brethren. Many of my
neighbors are former ministers in the Brethren Church. I became acquainted with the Brethren while working alongside many
of them on Red Cross disaster operations. Historically, they have partnered with
Quakers and Mennonites in their peace efforts, declining to engage in military service as conscientious objectors. They emphasize peace, simplicity, and equality of believers and consistent obedience to Christ. During the Second World War, many worked as volunteers for various civilian government agencies as alternatives
to combat and some did serve in the military in non-combat status.
dates back to 1740 when the first settlers arrived from Scotland and Ireland, followed soon by German settlers. Several early families built mills and the settlement was first known as Bridgeport. On February 7, 1835,
the settlement was chartered as the Town of Bridgewater. The name was derived from its proximity to the North River and the
bridge that was built there in 1820. The original land area within the town was approximately twenty acres. On a relief map
of the Shenandoah Valley, Bridgewater is almost right in the middle, so both the Blue Ridge to the East and the Alleghenies
to the West are in view.