This summer, Miriam Beck, AHS ‘16 and daughter of Kerry and MaryBeth, explored 16th Century Radical Anabaptism in Austria, Switzerland, and Germany with a focus on the crosscurrents of gender and class that shaped the movement.
The cross-cultural trip was one of five offered by Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va., which has required some form of crosscultural study for more than 30 years.
Anabaptism was a 16thcentury movement in Europe to separate church and state.
At a time when the dominant religion of Catholicism and infant baptism was tied to government, founders believed that church should be free of government inference, and that adults should be baptized on a confession of faith.
The starting point was Vienna. The group then proceeded west through the Austrian Alps into Switzerland.
After a stop in Weierhof, Germany, the group stayed in Berlin, with side excursions to Lutherstadt and Wittenberg.
The ecclesiastical and magisterial authorities of the day regarded Anabaptism as a radical and dangerous sect, as it challenged the authority of both church and state.
Those who aligned themselves with the movement– which encouraged people to read and interpret the Bible for themselves– risked imprisonment, torture, and death.
The students were interested to learn, however, that far from being a movement only of the most desperate and downtrodden, the early Anabaptists represented a broad cross-section of society.
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