Visitors from around the United Sates and several other countries gathered in the meeting room (located in the barn on the left) at Camp Mensch Mill in 1978 to honor the 100th anniversary of Dr. Frank Buchman’s birth.
“There is an answer to crises and it must be made known. Crisis shows our failure. Before crisis end in catastrophe, have we the courage to face its real cause? We ourselves are the cause. It is the way every nation and every one of us has been living that has brought us where we are.” – Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman
It’s been almost 35 years since the Upper Perkiomen Valley Buchman Centennial Committee hosted a “Buchman Retreat” in the hills of Berks County, near Huffs Church.
The overnight event was held at Camp Mensch Mill in 1978 and featured group and panel discussions. Among the many local folks who attended the conference were local educators and school administrators that included Dr. James E. Mullen, Dr. George Bonekemper, Dr. Hubert Seemann, George Allison, William Baker, Dr. Thomas Persing, and Ed Mosheim.
The featured speaker was Dr. Anthony Campolo, chairman of the sociology department at Eastern College in St. Davids. The agenda item that Buchman would have approved of most was the “quiet hour” afforded those who gathered for the retreat. Buchman always emphasized a daily quiet time for listening to God for specific directives or guidance.
Buchman was born on Main Street in Pennsburg in 1878 and died in Fruedenstadt Germany in 1961. He was a graduate of Perkiomen Seminary, today known as The Perkiomen School. He went on to become an ordained Lutheran minister and worldwide luminary.
Among his greatest achievements was forming the worldwide idealism known as the Moral Re-Armament Movement (MRA). It had no religious, race, or nationality boundaries and is based on four basic principles: 1) Absolute honesty; 2) Absolute purity; 3) Absolute unselfishness; 4) Absolute love among men and nations. Today it is known as Initiatives of Change and based in Caux, Switzerland. The type of gathering held at Camp Mensch Mill was typical among MRA members and many are still held throughout the world today.
There are eight such gatherings scheduled over the next two months in places like Richmond, VA. Tulsa, OK and Washington D.C. in the United States, and in the countries of Sudan and Switzerland.
Many biographers have written that Buchman was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In fact, Buchman was nominated six times (1951 – 1956). Biographers missed the post-1951 nominations because the Norwegian Nobel Committee has a secrecy rule that does allow them to make the nomination database public for 50-years.
Dr. Hubert Seemann, retired Upper Perkiomen School District administrator, recently reflected on the 1978 Mill Hill event.
Chatting in the sitting room of his home, with its exquisite cathedral ceiling and photos and memorabilia from his birthplace in Germany, it was easy to feel comfortable in the museum-like setting.
Asked why he attended the conference, Seemann said he “wanted to learn more about Buchman and was curious as to why people from other countries came here [to Mensch Mill].” Seemann spoke fondly of the people in attendance and that just “meeting and talking to one another was a learning experience.”
One could hear the educator coming out in Seemann’s words as he shared his interest in the words spoken by others. The experiences of people within the MRA and of Buchman in particular emphasized to the retired educator that anyone can be anything and “you don’t have to be an important person to have an impact on the world.”
Three-and-a-half decades ago Camp Mensch Mill played host to group of locals who joined with people from around the U.S. and the world to learn more about Pennsburg native Frank N. D. Buchman, and ended up learning something quite a bit about themselves.