Christian Brethren/Open Plymouth Brethren

Miss Hannah K. Burlingham, a Plymouth Brethren hymn writer

As noted in a recent post, we sang, “Everlasting Glory unto Jesus Be” by Miss Hannah K. Burlingham. In researching that post, I found out that the author was a Plymouth Brethren. Of course, our hymnal has songs from believers from many Christian denominations, but I found this interesting.

Miss Burlingham (1842-1901) was raised a Quaker, but in early adulthood became a Brethren. She then wrote many hymns and poems, including the one we sang last Sunday.

You can you read a brief biography of her at STEM Publishing

(There are different kinds of Plymouth brethren. We are open Plymouth Brethren, also called Christian Brethren. Briefly, our beliefs are within conservative evangelical Bible believing Christians and if you visit, you’ll find our worship service very similar to other churches with a hymn singing worship service. You can read other posts about this What are Open Plymouth Brethren (Christian Brethren) – Part 1: practical notes for newcomers and What are Open Plymouth Brethren (Christian Brethren) – Part 2: A Brief Introduction)

What are Open Plymouth Brethren (Christian Brethren) – Part 2: A Brief Introduction

Here is a brief introduction to the Plymouth Brethren using the 5W’s  and 1H.

Who? Of the original founders, John Nelson Darby is the best known.

Other Plymouth Brehtren include “Praying” George Mueller (founder of the Bristol Orphanage), Sir Robert Anderson (apologist and evangelist, and head of the criminal investigation division of Scotland Yard during the later the Jack the Ripper murders), missionary Jim Elliot (1 of 5 missionaries who died in Operation Acura and husband to Elizabeth Elliot), missionary Hudson Taylor (founder of the Chinese Inland Mission), Harry Ironsides (preacher and teacher), Ada R. Habershon (hymn writer “Will the Circle be Unbroken” and writer on biblical typology and symbolism), bible commentator F. F. Bruce, and Watchmen Nee (pastor in Communist China).

There are different types of Plymouth Brethren, such as Open and Closed Brethren. We are Open Plymouth Brethren (Christian Brethren).

What? There is a focus on the Bible, the Lord’ Supper (Breaking of Bread), and the  Christian life. There is also an interest in the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. (This makes sense to me, as this is a focus of the New Testament that is often overlooked.)

Where? They first started meeting in Dublin, Ireland. The first meeting in England was in Plymouth. This is where they got their name. This movement has spread around the world.

When? The Plymouth Brethren started in the late 1820s.

Why? They originally met for a place for Christians to get together from different denominations who were serious believers. From the beginning, they had a focus on biblical prophecy.

How? They believe in the “priesthood of all believers”. Usually there is no pastor, and there is an emphasis on the congregation participating in the Breaking of Bread and in ministry.

For more details about of our beliefs, see our Statement of Faith

If you have any questions, please email us on our Website Contact Form or directly at

What are Open Plymouth Brethren (Christian Brethren) – Part 1: practical notes for newcomers

Would a worship service at Mission Valley Community Chapel be that different than going to non-Open Plymouth Brethren worship services? The short answer – No, we are a conservative Evangelical Christian church with a worship service of prayers, hymn singing, a musical special, and a sermon from the Bible. People wear everything from shorts and slippers to business suits. We have a communion service after the worship service on the first Sunday of the month. We also have communion services before Sunday school on other Sundays that is unique, but if you went, you could follow along easily, see below.

As someone who has been a member of a few Baptist churches, when I started going to the chapel there were no significant bumps in the road. All churches do their services a little differently, and the Chapel’s worship service is not significantly different from other conservative Evangelical churches with a traditional worship service. A minor difference may be that a man from the congregation is asked to give the first prayer.

On the first Sunday of the month, we have our communion service. In our first Sunday communion service, we do things a little differently. It’s slower paced with hymns spontaneously announced for singing. When the bread and cup are given in individual servings, we eat and drink as soon as we receive them. Most churches wait until everyone has received them. (I believe we do this from when originally there was one loaf and one cup and people ate or drank when it came to them.) This is the most significant difference you will run into in a worship service.

Our half hour Breaking of Bread service/Communion service are on the other Sundays of the month at 9:30 a.m. before Sunday school. This is something that is unique to the Plymouth Brethren, something I’ve come to appreciate. We may write about this more in another post, but if you were to just go, it’s easy to follow along. Briefly, it’s an informal service with men standing up with prayers, Bible readings, and hymns to sing before the taking of the Lord’s Supper.

If you were to ask, you’d find out that none of the leadership is paid, and the majority of our giving goes to missionaries and evangelists worldwide. As I’ve said before, I first went to the Chapel because I agreed with their statement of faith, and I stayed because of the kind people and the focus on missions and evangelism.

We do call ourselves a chapel instead of a church; when I find out why, maybe I’ll write a post about that, too!

Lord willing, future posts on this topic will discuss the history of the Plymouth Brethren movement, beliefs common to it, why we do things the way we do, and well-known authors, theologians, free books online, and evangelists and missionaries associated with the Plymouth Brethren movement, and why we identify with the particular strand of this history called Open Plymouth Brethren (Christian Brethren).

If you have any questions, feel free to email us on our or Website Contact Form or directly at

On the History of Mission Valley Community Chapel

I found some interesting notes on the history of Mission Valley Community Chapel in this study on Brethren (Plymouth Brethren) assemblies in North America –

“James Mader had been saved while serving in the U.S. Army Air Corp in World War II…he came to San Diego as the Assistant Director of the Christian Servicemen’s Center (CSC), with a desire to go full-time into the Lord’s work…Mr. Barker, having observed James Mader preach at the CSC, asked him to preach to the adults, and this was the start of what would soon become the Mission Valley Community Chapel.

In the early 1950s, Mr. Barker replaced the barracks with a purchased submarine trainer, which after remodeling became the present home of the Chapel. Mr. Mader was by then teaching Bible classes in various homes…One by one, people were saved and the need for a church home became evident. An assembly was formed and incorporated in 1953 as the Mission Valley Community Chapel…”

You can read it all starting on page 3 of 37 HERE

This is an excerpt from a much larger 323 page study of North American Brethren assemblies –

More On the History of Mission Valley Community Chapel

I (Paul) only started coming to the Chapel about five years ago. I’ve spoken with Jean Mader, Pastor Jim Mader’s wife. She mentioned that while he worked at the Christian Servicemen’s Center he would play games like ping-pong with the servicemen, serve snacks, and gives short sermons.

She also mentioned when they got the submarine trainer for the Chapel building, it had to be moved from its original location elsewhere. It was put in final position by being rolled on logs.

I had also heard from other folks at the Chapel how much of a praying man Pastor Jim was. One told me that he prayed several hours a day at the Chapel. When I ask another how they built up the Chapel, he replied “We prayed them in and we prayed them out.” “Prayed them out” referred to people going onto the mission field. Jean Mader also noted how much of a practical man he was, too. I guess he was too busy not to pray!

Here is a blog post with a link to Past James Mader’s Obituary

When I first started coming, the Chapel building was just finishing having some renovations. Here’s a picture as to how it looks now –

Mission Valley Community Chapel front
Welcome to Mission Valley Community Chapel

Pastor James Mader’s obituary

Pastor Jim founded Mission Valley Community Chapel about 70 years ago. Though he pastored the Chapel before I came, I’ve heard many positive stories about him, especially of how much of a man of prayer he was.

Here is his obituary: “James Mader, 87, completed a 60 year pastorate before he died January 20, 2012. Jim won a Bronze Star in World War II…”

Read the rest HERE