|This document may be reproduced, only if remaining intact, with prior acknowledgement to the author. |
In America today we honor many distinguished persons: former presidents, military heroes, actors and actresses, athletes, and pop singers. We honor them by naming buildings, streets, airports, and cities for them. We inscribe their names on sidewalks in Hollywood or immortalize them in various Halls of Fame.
Religious leaders have also earned places of honor. Stained glass windows in beautiful cathedrals honor many saints of the early church. A monumental wall in Geneva Switzerland honors Protestant Reformers, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin.
In his letter to the Christians in Rome, St. Paul counseled them to give honor to whom honor is due. (Romans 13:7) As the organizer and first minister of the small religious group in Germany who called themselves New Baptists, Alexander Mack (1679-1735) is one deserving high honors. Today the Brethren Church, the Church of the Brethren, the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, and the Old German Baptist Brethren, as well as a number of groups in Asia, Africa and South America all trace their denominational origins back to Alexander Mack and a baptismal service of eight persons in the Eder River at Schwarzenau, Germany, in August of 1708.
Mack was born in the obscure agricultural village of Schriesheim, a few miles from Heidelberg, Germany in 1679, more than 300 years ago. His ancestors had been political and religious leaders of the village since their arrival there in 1560. His father was twice mayor of Schriesheim and a successful mill owner. Although Alexander had hoped to attend the University at Heidelberg, the death of an older brother made him a logical heir to the large mill, cutting short his educational aspirations. Schriesheim suffered from successive occupations by invading German and French armies. Three times the Mack family had to flee to nearby hills for safety. Growing up Mack became disillusioned by war and war-making states, and confused by the participation of Christians on both sides of a conflict.