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Strange religious sect or a way of life?

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[The Bruderhof community in Sussex has 300 members who live a back-to-basics lifestyle. Photo/courtesy]

Ankle-length skirts, no mobile phones, and permission needed to “court” – that’s actually the way of life in one of a community in England today.

Nestled on some rural land in a quiet village in Sussex is the Bruderhof community, which has 300 members and a back-to-basics approach to life.

New members have to give up their worldly possessions and finances before joining the radical Christian group.

Rules for women are fairly strict – their dress code comprises high-necked shirts, headscarves, and plaid long dresses or skirts.

According to one woman who is a member of the community explained: “We don’t want anything slinky that will show your figure.

“We should not try and attract attention to ourselves, especially not to the opposite sex. And be modest.”

And the men in the group – who wear contemporary clothes themselves – believe that the strict dress code for women actually helps to protect them.

“When you’re living in a community like this where we uphold sexual purity, uphold marriage, it is very important. I want my wife, all women, in fact, to come to work knowing they are never going to be sexually harassed in the workplace.” Community member Bernard said.

When it comes to dating, community members need to ask permission before becoming romantically involved with the opposite gender.

Teenage “courtship” is banned to “avoid the hurt that comes with dating”, and if you wish to become involved with someone, you must typically wait until after baptism in your early twenties.

Relationships are monitored by parents and community leaders – and sex before marriage, divorce, and same-sex relationships are prohibited.

Mobile phones, video games, and laptops are banned, and entertainment takes the form of swimming in lakes, camping, and playing outdoors.

There is plenty of time for social interaction, as the Bruderhof’s eat together at least once a day, and at lunch will often sing hymns or listen to a community leader read aloud a children’s story.

Bruderhof members are free to come and go, and youngsters are encouraged to leave at 18 and spend a year in the outside world, before deciding if they want to commit.