Village News

Spring at the Museum

   For the last three years, our Spring on the Farm festival on Victoria Day has suffered severely due to inclement weather. Last year the weather was so bad we actually cancelled the event. It had snowed overnight, and there was ice on the walk to the front entrance of the Village Centre.

   Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) and the Southeast Implement Collectors (SIC) club have worked together for years to combine MHV’s Spring on the Farm with the SIC’s annual Tractor Show. Since both groups seemed to be experiencing similar frustrations with long-weekend weather trends, we both began assessing future options immediately after last spring’s event cancellation.

    Obviously, one can’t predict and dodge inclement weather as far in advance as event planning requires. However, the frustration resulting from the weather disruptions to this particular event have created conversation around new opportunities to celebrate spring in a farm environment. As a result, this year’s spring celebrations at MHV will have a different configuration.

   Thursday, May 12, is provincially designated as Manitoba Day. As in the past, MHV will again offer a reduced admission rate of $2.00 per person that day. We will also conduct a formal flag-raising ceremony with greetings from various dignitaries. Many of our heritage buildings will have interpreters present for part of the day. Horse-drawn wagon rides will also be available to our guests.

   New to our Manitoba Day event this year will be the Craft Sale which will take place in the Auditorium. Local artisans have been invited to promote their made-in-Manitoba crafts to our visitors. We are expecting approximately 20 craft tables and there are still some spots available. The MHV Auxiliary will support this event by serving “Beaver Tails”, a deep-fried pastry treat.

   On May 23, Victoria Day, the museum will be open from 10:00 to 5:00 as usual, although our planned activities will be scaled down considerably. The village buildings will be open, guided tours of the village will be available, and the Livery Barn Restaurant will be open. Weather permitting, we will also offer horse-drawn wagon rides.

   On Saturday, June 11, we will conduct our annual Tractor Trek fundraiser. This joint venture with Eden Foundation invites vintage-tractor owners to raise support for a 50-kilometre tractor ride in the country. This year we hope to have 50 tractors, each 50 years old or older, traveling a route through the RM of Ste. Anne and the Giroux and Richer areas.

   The Southeast Implement Collectors’ Tractor Show will take place at MHV the following day, Sunday, June 12, from 12:00 noon to 5:00 PM. The club will be inviting all vintage-tractor owners in the Southeast to exhibit their machines on our village’s Main Street. They will conduct a parade of these vintage machines, which will provide observers with information about each tractor. There will also be “tractor games,” which are primarily intended to demonstrate the driving skills of their operators.

   As an added feature that day, if the weather and field conditions are suitable, the Southeast Draft Horse Association will do some fieldwork demonstrations with their heavy-horse teams. This will be a great opportunity to appreciate the progress that has been made in modern agriculture.

   Plan to celebrate spring at MHV at these featured events!

Calendar of Events

- Apr. 21 – Volunteer Orientation – 7:00 PM

- May 1 – Outdoor Village and Livery Barn Restaurant will open for the season.

- May 12 – Manitoba Day – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

- May 23 – Victoria Day – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

- June 11 – Tractor Trek fundraising event

- June 12 – Tractor Show – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Village News

Museum Week

   It's that time of year again - Spring Break, yes, but it's also #MuseumWeek. According to the #MuseumWeek website, this is a "worldwide cultural event" on Twitter (as you could probably tell by the hashtag), where museums around the world celebrate art and culture. This is a chance for us to connect with other institutions around the world, it's a great way to tell the world about the Mennonite Heritage Village, and it's a great hashtag to follow if you're at all interested in museums. Last, but certainly not least, it's a lot of fun!

   #MuseumWeek is an intriguing way to connect with museums that you might never have heard of otherwise. Last year on #secretsMW day during #MuseumWeek, I connected with a museum in England who mentioned some of their "secret" passages in one of their tweets. Maybe I read too many Nancy Drew books as a child, but I just think secret passages and hidden rooms are very, very neat. So I asked if they had any pictures. Sure enough, the museum posted pictures a couple days later!

   There are seven hashtag themes that museums use during the week: #secretsMW, #peopleMW, #architectureMW, #heritageMW, #futureMW, #zoomMW, and #loveMW. My personal favourite is #secretsMW, which for this year was highlighted this past Monday, March 28. This is the opportunity for museums to post behind-the-scenes pictures of their collections or feature little-known facts about their artifacts. Have you ever wondered how the British Museum stores its artifacts? Do you want to know what mummies look like under their wrappings? If so, this is the theme for you to follow.

   Tuesday was #peopleMW day, where we honoured the people who have helped make our museum great and those who continue to do so.

   Wednesday was #architectureMW day, where museums posted about their buildings and the surrounding areas. To highlight MHV, we posted pictures of our heritage buildings and told the stories behind them. Personally, I had no idea that mortise and tenon joints (as seen in some housebarns) were so interesting (or so photogenic).

   Today, Thursday the 31st is #heritageMW day. This is when we focus on our tangible cultural heritage - i.e., artifacts we hold in our collection - as well as our intangible cultural heritage - i.e., the stories behind our artifacts, and activities or concepts that might be lost if we didn't preserve them. This is particularly important to MHV, as preserving and exhibiting Mennonite heritage is a large part of our mission.

   On Friday you'll get a glimpse of our upcoming projects. For #futureMW, I'll be sharing information about our 2016 theme exhibit, Beyond Tradition: The Lives of Mennonite Women, opening in June.

   #MuseumWeek will almost be over by the time this article goes to print, but I encourage you to check it out. You can see our posts on Twitter @MHVSteinbach, and some posts will also show up on our Facebook page. Our website,, has links to both. For more information on #MuseumWeek, check out

Calendar of Events

- Apr. 3 – Vespers Service – 7:00 PM

- Apr. 21 – Volunteer Orientation – 7:00 PM

- May 1 – Outdoor Village and Livery Barn Restaurant will open for the season.

Village News

Annual General Meeting

   The Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) was held on Tuesday, March 22, at the museum. This meeting, required by law, provides members the opportunity to hear about museum events and activities, evaluate the success of MHV in achieving its mission, elect directors to the board, and participate in other decision-making regarding the museum’s governance.

   Reports from each department of the museum addressed our various programs, reflecting on the past year and also providing some information about plans for the upcoming season.

   The Curatorial report indicated that 104 artifacts had been received from 34 donors in 2015. Last year’s exhibit in the Gerhard Ens Gallery, Mennonite Food: Tastes in Transition, is about to be replaced by a new exhibit, Beyond Tradition: The Lives of Mennonite Women, to explore MHV’s 2016 theme. This department is also preparing to do a major restoration of the Waldheim House in 2016 and 2017, for which we will receive funding through the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program. Both our windmill and the Old Colony Worship House are scheduled for restoration work this year.

   The report from our Programs Department indicated strong attendance on our festival days in 2015 but somewhat less in our Summer Education Program. Members were reminded of the significant role volunteers play in the success of museum programing. Our Programs Department will be introducing some changes this year. Our usual one-day Spring on the Farm festival will be replaced by a number of special-focus spring activity days, each highlighting a particular activity.

   Our MHV businesses all performed well, bringing in net income of just over $134,000 to help pay some of the museum’s operating expenses. Our facility rentals, the Livery Barn Restaurant, and Village Books and Gifts all contributed to the museum in this way, while also providing goods and services to the community.

   In the MHV Auxiliary’s report, members were informed that this fundraising arm of the museum raised over $44,000 toward various projects and initiatives at MHV. Beyond these significant dollars raised, the Auxiliary generates goodwill through their various activities, particularly their waffle production on festival days.

   In addition to our usual fundraising events throughout the year, MHV rolled out a new development initiative last fall -  Foundations for a Strong Future. This complex project is designed to strengthen the base on which the museum is built by providing a permanent building to replace the tent that serves as the venue for our festival entertainment; by restoring the Waldheim House and a number of other heritage facilities; by replacing all the furnaces and air conditioners in the 26-year-old Village Centre; by paying off our remaining debt; and by adding to our Endowment Fund. Each of these components of our Foundations campaign will strengthen the museum for its ongoing role in the community.

   Thanks to revenue already received in 2015 toward the Foundations campaign, our Audited Financial Statements indicate that our corporate fund balance improved by $67,608 during 2015.

   Six people were elected to the MHV Board of Directors. Doris Penner, Scott Barkman and Scott Reimer were each reelected for another three-year term. Glen Klassen, Marlene Reimer and Waldemar Ens will be new directors on the board. John Klippenstein, former Board Chair, was recognized for his contributions to the board during his almost six years of service.

   As usual, the evening ended with socializing over coffee and homemade doughnuts, compliments of Dora Penner.

Calendar of Events

- Apr 3 – Vespers Service – 7:00 PM

- Apr 21 – Volunteer Orientation – 7:00 PM

- May 1 – Outdoor Village and Livery Barn Restaurant will open for the season.

Village News

They’re Back!

   One of the most important things I need to attend to at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) at this time of year is the hiring of leaders for our summer season. I am happy to report that our two major management positions have been filled.

   Dora Penner is returning for a fourth consecutive year to lead our Food Services functions. This includes managing the Livery Barn Restaurant, the Short-Order Booth and our catering services. Over the years many people in our community, as well as guests from other countries, have come to know and appreciate Dora’s brand of culinary excellence. Her ethnic dishes are delightful, and her Saturday brunch and Sunday buffet are top-tier experiences. Cinnamon buns, homemade soup and bread, vereniki and farmer sausage are all just a little more than six weeks away!

   Managing our Food Services functions is a large responsibility, and Dora is already assembling talented staff to support the work in the kitchen. In addition to providing high-quality food, her crew will also offer topnotch customer service. And do remember that guests may access the Livery Barn Restaurant for a fine lunch in a rustic setting without paying admission, unless they plan to also visit the rest of the Village.

   Jared Nickel will be returning to MHV for his fifth season as our Facilities Manager. Jared brings with him a great love for old things, particularly cars and trucks, and a real interest in things mechanical. These qualities serve him and us well at MHV.

   Facilities management is also a very large job. With acres of lawn to be cut; dozens of buildings to be maintained; a barnyard of animals to be cared for; crops to be planted, tended and harvested; and many old vehicles and tractors to be refurbished, there is no end of work and opportunity. So Jared needs many helpers. We are thankful that Enns Brothers has again made it possible for us to have a new line of yard equipment, which makes riding a mower so much more comfortable. Anyone interested? Jared will again be looking for volunteers to help with this work, as well as the other tasks, and will be happy to take applications after April 4.

Annual General Meeting

   What are the reasons people might choose to attend the Annual General Meeting of Mennonite Heritage Village on March 22? Those who have a passion for what the museum is all about would want to be informed of the latest happenings and have a part in making decisions about its future. Those who appreciate the services our museum offers to the community would want to be involved in those initiatives. In light of recent publicity about our Foundations for a Strong Future campaign, some will want to hear how that project is coming along. Perhaps some folks would take this opportunity to volunteer to work at the museum or on one of its committees. And maybe some simply want to enjoy Dora Penner’s doughnuts with a cup of coffee while visiting with friends. All of these are good reasons to attend! Everyone is welcome, although decision-making will be the responsibility of MHV members.

Calendar of Events

-   March 22 - MHV Annual General Meeting, 7:30 PM

April 3 – Vespers Service – 7:00 PM

Village News

A Community Meeting Place

During my years as a student at the Burwalde School, located between Winkler, Morden and Carman, the Burwalde School District was my primary community. While this had much to do with the fact that I spent every weekday in a classroom with all the other children living within a three mile radius of the school, there were other factors that contributed to the creation of this community.

   The school also served as a meeting place for the families of the school district. For years there was a Sunday School session at our school on Sunday mornings. Our mothers would gather there periodically for fellowship, food and service projects, as was common in many churches during that era. When our fathers dropped us off for classes, they would often pause to visit with each other on the schoolyard. This camaraderie extended to the farm yards and fields where they frequently helped each other with farm work. And from time to time, our teacher would plan a skating party or a family night at the school. The family night might include some Three Stooges films, skits by students, and music by parents. All of these activities built community.

   Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) plays a significant role in building community in Southeastern Manitoba. Our summer festival days attract 12,000 to 15,000 people to this place annually. On these days, young families come for a day of fun activities, such as barrel-train rides and a petting zoo, as well as a variety of yummy food options. Adults bring their lawn chairs and their bag of sunflower seeds and spend an afternoon enjoying our musical entertainment. Hundreds of volunteers of various ages donate one or more three-hour shifts as interpreters in our heritage buildings, short-order cooks, parking-lot attendants, cashiers and other helpers. It’s always gratifying to see our community come together like this to socialize and to serve.

   MHV is a gathering place on other days as well. From May through September, many people come to our Livery Barn Restaurant with colleagues, friends or family, particularly enjoying homemade soup and bread on Thursdays, brunch on Saturdays, or the lunch buffet on Sundays. Families enjoy various types of gatherings on our grounds, in the restaurant, or in one of our meeting rooms. Teachers bring students on field trips for hands-on history lessons and a healthy outdoor experience. Many people bring out-of-town friends and relatives to our museum to socialize, relax and enjoy a meal. Without question, MHV is a beautiful and versatile gathering place for thousands of people annually.

   On a more commercial level, our museum is also a meeting place for our business community. Many local organizations hold meetings, training sessions, picnics and parties in our meeting rooms and on the grounds. Businesses bring out-of-town clients to the Livery Barn Restaurant to introduce them to local culture and cuisine.

   MHV has become a popular wedding venue. Weddings are held on the grounds, in our heritage churches or barns, and even on the deck of the windmill. Our auditorium is frequently used for wedding receptions, sometimes for entire wedding celebrations. Our Village and our campus in general frequently provide the setting for wedding and family photo-sessions.

   In times past, the Burwalde School and many other country schools of that era created strong community ties which generated strength and health within their communities. Similarly MHV, along with other local organizations, creates community strength and health by offering meeting spaces and occasions to meet. The added benefit is that MHV itself becomes stronger and healthier as these activities generate interest and income to fund ongoing museum operations.

Calendar of Events

March 22 – 7:30 PM, MHV Annual General Meeting

Village News

A Community Place

   Seven years at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) have helped me understand what a significant “community centre” this museum is. MHV depends on our community for volunteer help, cash and in-kind donations, and goodwill in various forms. In turn, the museum gives back to our community through preservation of local history, education of school-age children and adult visitors, community festivals, and the broader economic spinoffs of tourism generated by this facility.

   In just two months we will again open the Village to the public, offering our full complement of features from May through September. One of the most popular features among our youngest guests is the barnyard with all of its animals.

   Every year we bring in chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, pigs, sheep, goats, cows, donkeys and horses. Wherever possible, we try to bring in both mature and young animals. Feeding these birds and animals through the wire cages is a popular (albeit somewhat scary) activity among children. Most children rarely have the opportunity to interact with farm animals, so this is a unique learning experience for them.

   Our interactive barnyard is successful primarily because of the support of community individuals and businesses. Many of the animals that spend the summer with us are owned by others and are generously here on loan. Len and Jane Penner provide us with goats and also house some chickens for us through the winter. Tim Schmidt and James Barkman bring us a couple of sheep with their lambs. Not many people have donkeys, but Robert Krentz does, and he always brings us a donkey with her newborn foal, as well as a cow with a calf. Juergen Schubert loans us two of his Texas Longhorns, who spend the summer here playing the role of a team of oxen. Ed Peters provides us with a few hogs, which are fed here all summer and then “participate” in the butchering demonstration at Fall on the Farm in September. Ivor Asham from Birdshill Park Ranch loans us a team of heavy horses, which provides many hours of horse-drawn wagon rides for our guests.

   All of these animals must be fed substantially more than the tufts of grass and dandelion leaves that the children feed them. Here’s where a number of community businesses pitch in. We appreciate the generosity of Eastman Feeds, Maple Leaf Agrifarms, Steinbach Hatchery, Masterfeeds, Unger Feeds and Pet Valu, who all provide nutrition for our barnyard residents, keeping them healthy and happy. We also thank Henry Martens, Corneil Blatz, Ron Andres, Ray Lange and others who have provided baled hay to round out the diets.

   Our community provides us with animals and feed; we provide housing and care; and our community comes here to enjoy and learn from the animals. Without a supporting constituency, a museum could not exist, nor would there even be a purpose for having one.

Calendar of Events

March 6 – 7:00 PM, Vespers Service

March 22 – 7:30 PM, MHV Annual General Meeting

Village News

VN 2016 02 25 Alexander and Anna Schilstra croppedThe Schilstra Collection

   Since the end of November, when I joined the staff at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV), I have been working with the Schilstra Collection. The Schilstra family (alternately spelled “Shilstra”) were not Mennonites themselves but served the Mennonite community around Steinbach for many years.

   Drs. Alexander J. (1872-1962) and Anna McConnell Schilstra (1871-1942) were the first licensed medical doctors in the Steinbach area. They moved here from Gretna in 1909 and stayed for two years until they moved to British Columbia in 1911. Following the First World War, they returned to Steinbach. Alexander acted as the first Health Officer of the Hanover Municipality from about 1918-1936. Anna was a licensed medical doctor and practiced medicine under her husband's license, often assisting him as a consultant and anesthetist. She was much in demand for her services in the areas of childbirth and childcare. Whereas her husband was known to be rough and demanding, Anna was remembered for her kindness.

   They had two children, Marie (1906-1989) and Urquhart (1908-1984). Marie’s education was halted when she needed to drop out of the University of Manitoba, reportedly due to mental-health issues. She lived with her parents until they passed away and likely took over the ownership of the family home until her death. Urquhart married Lillian Poleson of St. Boniface (1914-1972), moved to Toronto, and became a Hawaiian steel-guitar virtuoso by the stage name of Uncle Tom Alexander. He did not get along with his father and only reconciled with him after his mother's death in 1942. He died on a Toronto golf course in 1986.

   The Schilstra Collection is large and varied. There are letters, medical textbooks, and appointment books. If you follow us on Facebook (, you'll probably have seen a picture of their obstetrical record for 1936-37. There are also a surprising number of books on how to raise poultry. Personal items include gloves that probably belonged to Dr. Anna, as well as Dr. Alexander's Medical Corps uniforms from the First World War. Perhaps most poignant are the books and toys that belonged to the Schilstra children.

   None of the items in the collection have been donated by the Schilstras themselves. They came to MHV as donations from several different people but primarily from the Reimer family. The Schilstra property on First Street (just east of Elmdale Street and Friesen Avenue) was purchased by P.J. Reimer after Marie Schilstra's death in 1989. He cleared out the house before it was demolished. Items of interest which he had removed were then donated to Mennonite Heritage Village by his family after his death in the mid-1990s.

   We are currently in the process of researching and re-organizing this collection. How interesting it is to learn about the lives of people from the very objects they owned!

Calendar of Events

March 22 – 7:30 PM; MHV Annual General Meeting

Village News

Volunteers Needed

   Are you looking for opportunities to volunteer in the community? Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) has many options for you to consider, requiring a variety of different skills and time commitments. Our museum would not be able to function were it not for the involvement of many volunteers.

   We have a number of projects that could be adopted by a person or a group and worked at over a period of time. One such project would be repairing and painting the wooden fences in the Village. These fences have aged, and in some cases poles need to be pushed back into the ground, boards need to be replaced, and entire fences need to be repainted. This is clearly a summer job and would make an ideal family or small-group project.

   Cutting grass is almost a daily task at MHV at the height of the season. Two riding mowers make the task quite comfortable and efficient. The need is greatest in spring and early summer when the grass grows so rapidly. It’s a great way to enjoy nature and do meaningful work at the same time.

   In the months of May and June our Education Program will require up to a dozen volunteers daily to serve as interpreters in various of our heritage buildings. The shifts are typically about three hours long and take place between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM. These roles are suitable for people who enjoy interacting with school-aged children.

   MHV owns a number of very old trucks and tractors. Unfortunately many of these vintage units have not had the attention they need in the recent past and are not operational. We would like to be able to start them, drive them around the Village from time to time, and maybe even drive some of them in the Pioneer Days parade. They need someone with mechanical skills and available time to cajole them into operation again. We have a heated shop for this kind of work.

   We have an electronic database in which we keep records of MHV members, donors and volunteers. Maintaining this database is an ongoing role that involves editing contact information to note address changes, recording donations, receipting donations at the end of the year, sending membership renewal notices, and running reports for staff as needed. This role would involve the equivalent of two or three days per month.

   The MHV Auxiliary is a strong and valuable partner to MHV, carrying out a variety of activities to raise funds for the museum. These activities include catering, quilting, volunteering as interpreters, guiding tours, and serving special food items at MHV festivals, such as waffles with vanilla sauce, rollkuchen with watermelon, and apple fritters. The Auxiliary is always looking for new members to join their ranks.

   There are a number of benefits to volunteering at MHV, not the least of which is the opportunity to spend time in a warm and friendly workplace, doing work that has value both to MHV and to our community. During the months when the Livery Barn Restaurant is operational, volunteers can purchase meals for half price on days when they are volunteering. Last but not least, registered volunteers receive a season pass to enter the museum as often as they wish without paying admission.

   The opportunities at MHV to make a difference as a volunteer go well beyond these few examples. Anyone wanting to enrich their lives with this type of service should contact Anne Toews at [email protected] or 204-326-9661.

Village News

The Value in Artifacts

   Recently a friend dropped by Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) to donate a couple of beautiful old shawls to the museum. When I inquired about the stories accompanying them, I was informed that their history was unknown, as they had been purchased at a garage sale.

   Because we didn’t know their origins or the story of their journey prior to the garage sale, we happily and gratefully added those lovely shawls to our MHV costume collection. This is not an artifact collection but rather an assortment of “props” to be used by our volunteer interpreters when hosting guests in one of our heritage buildings. Costumes enhance the authenticity of the experience for our guests.

   In contrast, let’s look at the Waldheim House, the first heritage building to be brought to the MHV site and currently the oldest building in our Village. A file was created for this building when it first arrived here, and anything we’ve learned about it since then has been added to the file.

   Last summer we were awarded $100,000 in funding by the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program. This funding will contribute to the cost of carrying out major restorative work to this 140-year-old building. The log walls are in need of some repairs, and the thatched roof needs to be replaced.

   At the time we received this funding, we wrote about the house in this column to inform our constituency of the work being undertaken. In response to the column we have heard from members of the Julius Dyck family, the family that built the Waldheim House. They have graciously provided us with new information about the house, including a sketched floor plan from the past, complete with furnishings as they were located at that time, and a picture of a wood stove that provided heat for the house in a previous era.

   This is valuable information to add to our database. It assists us in developing complete and accurate stories for the file and for use in our interpretive activities. Also valuable is the connection with the family members, who will provide whatever information they have. Our Curator, Andrea Dyck, also made a trip to the Waldheim Cemetery recently to examine the final resting place of the original owners, acquiring further information about this family.

   We like to tell stories about our artifacts and the lives of the people who owned them. These stories can only be as accurate as the best information we have. We try to glean that information from donors when we take ownership of the article. This is why we discourage people from simply dropping artifacts off at the front desk. Instead, we ask people who are interested in donating an artifact to gather as much background information about it as they can and then arrange to meet with our curators. This allows time for our curators to learn and document some of the history related to the object being donated and is also a good opportunity for both MHV and the donor to complete the necessary paperwork to legally transfer ownership of the donated object.

   We would encourage anyone possessing documented and verifiable information about any artifact that has been donated to MHV to pass it on to us. We want to maintain accurate information in our files. Storytelling at family gatherings and cleaning up boxes of old items and documents can yield new historical information; please share it with us.

Louis Riel Day

Mennonite Heritage Village will be closed on Monday, February 15, to observe Louis Riel Day.

Village News

   Every year, January 25 marks a significant anniversary for Anabaptists, those who have chosen to be baptized as adults. It was on that day in 1525 that George Blaurock was “re-baptized,” upon his own request, by Conrad Grebel at a prayer meeting in Zurich, attended by a number of radical reformers.

   As Alexandra Kroeger wrote in this column last week, Martin Luther initiated the Protestant Reformation in 1517 by challenging some of the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church of the day. This took place in a period when the church essentially controlled the state.

   Both the church and the law required that infants be baptized shortly after birth. However, the group of radical reformers had come to the conclusion that baptism should be a choice made by an adult on the basis of one’s faith. Hence the re-baptism of Blaurock on January 25 as described above.

   This action introduced two of the basic tenets that set Anabaptists apart from other Christian faith systems: baptism by choice on the confession of one’s faith, and the separation of church and state.

   These radical departures from what was then the norm created much conflict and suffering. Society at that time tended to be considerably less tolerant than our Western culture is today. As a result, these reformers and many of their followers suffered significant persecution and even martyrdom.

   This persecution caused some of the early Anabaptists to seek refuge in other countries, such as Poland and Prussia at that time. That exodus became the first of a several migrations undertaken by Anabaptists, always in search of freedom to live out their faith according to their beliefs.

   Clearly there was a notable lack of grace in that era when people risked losing their lives because of something they believed. Few of us in the West have any sense of what it would be like to publicly declare our beliefs and convictions at the risk of being tortured or killed.

   Hopefully we are able to worship in churches where the teaching most aligns with our personal understandings of scripture. And hopefully we are able to enjoy fellowship and friendships with others even when their understanding of scripture differs from ours. These current freedoms are, at least in part, the result of the courage of our forebears, the radical reformers of the sixteenth century. We are grateful for, and inspired by, their courage.

Calendar of Events

February 7: Vespers Service – 7:00 PM

The views expressed in Community Blogs are those of the author, and are not necessarily shared by is Steinbach's only source for community news and information such as weather and classifieds.

About the Author

Barry is the Executive Director of the Mennonite Heritage Village. While he does not consider himself to be a historian, he places a high value on the preservation and interpretation of the Mennonite and pioneer stories that help people of all ages understand and appreciate their heritage. Learn more about the MHV.