Down by the river
we gather for baptism
Our faith to God we proclaim
by our dunking in the water
Our austere code of dress
allows our love of God to shine
No jewelry to detract or
announce a bond to humankind
Our true marriage is to the Divine
our home forever will be in Heaven
This poem is to honor the significant number of my ancestors who belonged to the Church of the Brethren. This group was also known as Friends or Dunkards, because of their ritual of baptism by dunking. Historically, the Brethren were against slavery and war. They were tolerant of other groups, but it was easy to be cast out from their own community if they did not follow the strict code of conduct. Women wore a cap to church that my grandmother told me was called a “dunking cap.” This one belonged to my grandmother’s grandmother. It is basically a fine net skull cap.
Jewelry was forbidden, including wedding rings. My great-grandmother did not get a wedding ring until after she and her husband moved away from their families. She could, however, wear the watch around her neck.
Although they left the Church of the Brethren, they remained devoutly religious throughout their lives.
My mother’s family also had a line that were Friends.
My mother’s grandmother left the Friends’ church when she married her husband, whose family was Methodist.