Thursday, April 2, 2015

Christian Brethren

Several of Francis and Janet (Kerr) Riddell's children married according to the forms of the Christian Brethren. The Brethren movement is a form of evangelical Protestantism and members of the movement referred to each other as 'brother' or 'sister.' Brethren was the name that stuck with them as a result. All forms of Brethren subscribe to four tenants of evangelicalism:
  1. Conversionism -- the call to change one's life
  2. Activism -- a vocal expression of faith
  3. Biblicism -- tremendous regard for scription
  4. Crucicentricism -- the importance of Christ's atoning death
The 19th century was a time of political and social change and upheaval in England, Ireland and Scotland. Many feared a revolution, similar to the French Revolution was brewing. The Industrial Revolution and the depression that followed brought unrest and economic hardship to many. People became dissatisfied with their religious life and Scotland's church hierarchy. They longed for a more personal and spiritual experience.

Several movements began around 1830 including the Brethren movement which started in Ireland and Plymouth, England. They wanted to provide an environment where like believers could worship together and study scriptures without being divided by denomination. From 1850 up until World War I the Brethren movement saw much growth. It is believed this occurred due to the community's increased commitment to evangelism.

The growth, though, led to division. There was a schism in 1890s, which led to the formation of the Church of God, which rejected the thought that each congregation should be autonomous. Just after World War I, the general evangelicalism movement became disillusioned and defensive. The Brethren offered a different path. They were ably led and their lay leadership had a strong grasp of the issues of the day among the working class.

This was the time when Francis and Janet (Kerr) Riddell's children were getting married. Only their oldest daughters, Jane Laidlaw Riddell and Martha Muir Riddell married according to the forms of the Established Church of Scotland. Most of their other children were married by Robert Struthers, Pastor, Christian Brethren, Hebron Hall in Larkhall.

I found an interesting book about the Brethren that mentioned Hebron Hall. Though the description is of a time a decade before most of Francis Riddell's children were born, he was alive and may have similar experiences:

"A visit in 1883 by William Montgomery, evangelist, was long remembered. Quite a revival took place when both saint and sinner received blessing. And not only were young converts seeking to be baptized but a few believers who had come into fellowship unbaptized were stirred up to the realization of a joy which up to that time had not been theirs. One Sunday afternoon fourteen brethren were baptized in the River Avon at Millheugh, when a vast crowd gathered on the bridge and along the banks of the river to witness this unique spectacle. People came from the neighboring villages, and it is estimated that about two thousand people were present. From that time considerable development has marked the forward movement of the testimony in this Lanarkshire stronghold, a pleasing feature being a progressive work among the young, where the register of the joint Sunday schools contains the names of nearly one thousand children. Today the Hebron Assembly in Larkhall with its many activities in the Gospel, is one of the largest in Scotland."

Avon River with Millheugh Bridge in the distance c1900; photograph
courtesy of

"A Brief History of the Brethren," Grace Magazine, Dr. Tim Grass, Spring 2008, 
Beattie, David J., Brethren: The Story of a Great Recovery, published on the Online Library of Brethren Writers, 2008

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