Village News

Fall on the Farm

   The last “festival” event of our 2016 season has now taken place at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). After our Canada Day celebrations, then Pioneer Days on the August long weekend, Fall on the Farm has once again completed our trio of annual MHV festivals. We still have a number of other events on our calendar, but this brings to a close the high-intensity preparations and volunteer recruitment that are part of every MHV festival season. Now it’s time to focus on planning next year’s festivals.

   Despite heavy rain this past Sunday and a somewhat uncertain forecast for Monday, we were pleased to see how many people chose to spend their Labour Day holiday with us. We wondered if perhaps Sunday’s rain brought some people home early from their cottages and campgrounds, allowing them to participate in our Fall on the Farm festivities.

   Once again the village was teaming with small children, who found great pleasure in the face painting, barrel-train rides, horse-drawn wagon rides, inflatable play structures, petting zoo, pony rides and other children’s activities. As usual, Mr. Ken made an appearance on our main stage under the tent with his latest family magic-and-comedy show. This popular entertainer has become quite a hit with many children and their parents.

   The main stage also featured two other bands: Hollis Brown entertained us with a set of Blue-Grass and Folk music, and 5 Acres provided both classic and contemporary Country music. While our tent is a wonderful venue for these slightly informal concerts, we are looking forward to having our new Summer Pavilion in place for our 2017 season. While many people sit inside the tent to enjoy to the performances, many are also able to listen from the picnic area just outside the tent. Our new Pavilion is intended to replicate that type of open environment.

   The local Steam Club worked hard to catch up on the threshing that didn’t get done during Pioneer Days. They processed four loads of sheaves, which yielded almost two wagon-loads of grain and a large pile of straw. Our animals will be well fed again next summer. Because the steamer was needed for the threshing machine, the sawmill operators enlisted a gas-powered tractor to operate the sawmill.

   One of the unique and most-popular features of this fall festival is the butchering demonstrations. Hog and chicken butchering were both carried out, as these were common fall activities on many farms. It’s quite remarkable how many people gather round to observe. MHV volunteers also made butter with an old-fashioned churn, baked bread in an out-door clay oven, quilted, made dill pickles and provided various other demonstrations.

   Food is always an important element in each of our festival events. The Livery Barn Restaurant serves the ethnic Russian Mennonite dishes like Vereniki, Cabbage Borscht, Farmer Sausage, Rhubarb Plautz and various other tasty dishes. The MHV Auxiliary faithfully bakes their famous waffles and serves them with vanilla sauce. During the fall festival, they also serve fresh deep-fried apple fritters in place of watermelon and Rollkuchen. The other unique food item that makes an appearance at Fall on the Farm is corn on the cob. Freshly cooked and rolled in butter, it’s a nice snack.

   Although our festival season has now come to an end, there are a few other events still on tap at MHV in 2016. On September 18 we will again offer Supper from the Field. This is a dinner highlighting locally grown items, presented in conjunction with Open Farm Day, an annual event sponsored by the Manitoba Association of Agricultural Societies. And on September 22 we will be celebrating our many volunteers with a Volunteer Appreciation evening. In addition to these events, the MHV Auxiliary will be hosting a dinner on September 29, with The Right Honorable Janice C. Filmon, Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, as our special guest. So we will continue to see a lot of activity at MHV for the next few weeks.

   Today someone asked me why a festival like Fall on the Farm is important. In addition to the fact that it helps us remember and learn from the history that got us to where we are today, it also provides a gathering place for the community. We get together to celebrate, to eat good food, to enjoy one another’s company and to build community. The festivals at MHV contribute to the health of our community.

Calendar of Events

- September 18: Supper From the Field – 5:30 PM

- September 22: Volunteer Appreciation Event – 7:00 PM

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner

Village News

Signature Museums

   This week a couple of my online news feeds informed me that the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre has been appointed to the province’s Signature Museums Program. This program, administered by the Historic Resources Branch of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection, “assists selected museums that showcase special collections related to Manitoba’s unique historical development, and that have the potential to be significantly enhanced heritage attractions.”

   With this appointment, there are now seven Signature Museums in our province. The other six are the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum in Brandon, the Manitoba Agriculture Museum in Austin, the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach, the New Iceland Heritage Museum in Gimli, the Saint-Boniface Museum in Winnipeg and the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada, also in Winnipeg. Each museum collaborates with the Historic Resources Branch to develop programing that is then supported with funding from the department.

   The Signature Museums Program focuses on five key result areas: the sustainability/visibility of the museum, the accessibility and quality of its programs, the museum’s stewardship practices with respect to its collection, the economic partnerships within its community, and the involvement of the community in supporting the museum’s operations. Goals and objectives are established in each of these areas, and funding is provided each calendar quarter. Capital projects are not eligible for funding under this program.

   This is a beneficial program for a museum to participate in, as it directs focus into areas that are significant to the growth and development of an institution. Expertise in museum operations is also provided as part of the package. We value the opportunity to consult with these knowledgeable resource people.

   We also value our collaboration with the other Signature Museums. Representatives from each usually meet together several times annually, sometimes just to share ideas and experiences and sometimes to strategize about joint marketing endeavours under the Signature Museums name.

   The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre will be a good addition to our group. It has demonstrated creativity and assertiveness in promoting its programs to the public. One of its feature activities is a Fossil Dig Adventure Tour, where the participant has the opportunity to dig for fossils on one of their sites in the region. This is the kind of “experiential tourism” that many people are looking for today.

   As is the case with the other Signature Museums, the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre will challenge each of us to explore new opportunities that will help keep our museums alive and vital in a very lively and exciting tourism market. To be sure, healthy museums also bring positive influences to the communities in which they are located.

Calendar of Events

- September 5: Fall on the Farm - 9:00 – 5:00

- September 18: Supper From the Field – 5:30 PM

- September 22: Volunteer Appreciation Event – 7:00 PM

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner

Village News

VN 2016 08 25 model

   This summer we were pleased to accept into our collection three models built by Harold Fast. About thirty years ago, he made models of the houses his maternal grandparents and his wife's paternal grandparents built around Gruenfeld, Manitoba (now Kleefeld), as well as a model of an ice slide built on the Gruenfeld school yard for several winters.

   Gruenfeld was the first Mennonite village established after the 1874 migration from Russia to Canada. It was settled by families from the Kleine Gemeinde (now Evangelical Mennonite Conference), the same group that founded Steinbach. Both Harold's family and his wife Nettie's family were among the original settlers of the town.

   Harold's great-grandparents, Jacob L. (1839-1893) and Maria (Rempel) Dueck (1840-1917) came to Canada in 1875 with one of the first waves of Mennonite emigrants from Russia. They settled in Gruenfeld, where Jacob’s father, sister, and brothers were already living. Jacob and Maria built the Schein, or barn annex used as storage (not pictured), on their lot in the village in 1886 and built the barn in 1898. When the Duecks' son Heinrich (1873-1944) and his wife Katharina (Reimer) Dueck (1878-1921) purchased their own rural property in 1907, they left his parents' house in the village but moved the Schein and the barn onto their new property. They built a new house and attached it by way of a summer kitchen to the relocated outbuildings to make a housebarn - a traditional Mennonite dwelling, two examples of which can be found at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV).

   One thing that intrigued us about the model of the Fast homestead was its mixture of traditional Mennonite architecture and more modern architecture. Judging by the model, the new house had a traditional layout at first, but over the years Heinrich and Katharina built two additional stories and a porch on the front, eventually making it a far more "modern" design.

   Heinrich and Katharina’s daughter Elisabeth (1904-1976) and her husband George Fast (1901-1993) bought the housebarn after Heinrich's death in 1944. They moved in there with their six children, Harold included. Harold didn't live there for long, as he got married four or five years after moving there, but he still remembers the house well. By the time the Fasts moved in, there was modern plumbing and mostly-modern heating; Harold still remembers shoveling wood into the furnace.

   This was the last housebarn built in the Gruenfeld area. George and Elisabeth lived there until Elisabeth's death in 1976. George remarried a year or two later and moved out in 1978. The house is still standing and is still owned by this family. 

Calendar of Events

- September 5: Fall on the Farm - 9:00 – 5:00

- September 18: Supper From the Field

- September 22: Volunteer Appreciation Event

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner

Village News

Along the Road to Freedom

   On August 9 we celebrated the opening of our latest exhibit in the Gerhard Ens Gallery. Along the Road to Freedom is a collection of 26 paintings created by artist Ray Dirks, who is also the Curator at the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery in Winnipeg. This exhibit is on loan to Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) and will occupy our temporary gallery till October 12, 2016.

   In 2008 a group of four people approached Alf Redekopp, then- director of the Mennonite Heritage Centre in Winnipeg, and Ray Dirks with a vision to preserve the stories of Mennonite women who brought their families out of Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution and during World War II. In most cases the husbands of these women had been killed or taken from their families in horrific ways. Alf and Ray accepted the challenge, and the project began. And now, eight years later, the completed exhibit has arrived at MHV.

   On opening night, MHV Curator Andrea Dyck created the context in which these stories took place by providing an overview of the conditions Mennonites faced in the Soviet Union during the Russian Revolution and World War II. Eckhard Goerz read a poetic narrative of his family’s experiences during this time. Ray Dirks talked about the process of collecting these stories and turning them into works of art.

   To remind us that the plight of refugees is still very real and current, Pastor Shadrach Mutabazi, attending with his wife Miriam and two daughters, talked about the family’s experiences as refugees from Congo.

   Pastor Shadrach’s stories and those of the women depicted in the paintings are moving and often horrific. Those of us who have not lived through such experiences can only be grateful that we have been spared.

   Many Russian Mennonite refugees journeyed for years before reaching Canada or Paraguay, where they were finally able to settle and create a new home. Family members sometimes became ill and died along the way. Anna Goosen Giesbrecht, grandmother of Wanda Andres, lost her husband and her son in the Soviet Union and led her remaining six children to freedom in Canada over a period of years. In an act of desperation, she eventually sold her wedding ring in order to purchase food for her family.

   It is remarkable how so many of these people held onto their faith in a loving God throughout their extremely difficult experiences. One can’t help but ask the question, “How would my own faith come through similar circumstances?”

   The United Nations Refugee Agency reports that globally 65.3 million people are currently displaced from their homes. Of these, 21.3 million have fled the country in which they were living and are now refugees. Many Canadians are once again responding to this crisis with generosity, as has been the case in the past.

   Along the Road to Freedom is a moving exhibit, to say the least, especially for the four individuals whose vision led to its creation-- Wanda Andres, Henry Bergen, Nettie Dueck, and Hans Funk. All four were able to attend the exhibit opening on August 9.

   The Gerhard Ens Gallery is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. until the end of August, and then to 5 p.m. through September and October.

Calendar of Events

- September 5: Fall on the Farm - 9:00 – 5:00

- September 18: Supper From the Field

- September 22: Volunteer Appreciation Event

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner

Village News

Alternative Service

   Last weekend my family held our twenty-ninth annual family gathering at Clear Lake, in Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park. Our first gathering at this location took place in 1988 to celebrate my parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary. We enjoyed it so much we decided to do it again the next year, and have gathered at the same place every year since then. While my parents are no longer with us the group has doubled in size from 13 to 26 members.

   As we spend time in the park I am reminded of my father’s stories from his time as a Conscientious Objector (CO). Mennonites, and other faith groups, have often been exempt from military service based on their religious convictions. This was the case in Russia and also in Canada.

   During the Second World War COs were given the opportunity to serve their country through various forms of alternative service. The areas in which they worked included construction of national parks, forestry services, and healthcare. They were typically given room and board, some of which was quite Spartan, and an allowance of $25.00 per month. The balance of their wages went to the Red Cross.

   There were several initiatives in Riding Mountain National Park. A decision had been made to build a detention camp in the park for German prisoners of war. Firewood was in demand at the time and this camp was built to produce firewood from trees that remained after forest fires. Conscientious Objectors participated in the construction of the Whitewater Camp on Whitewater Lake, northwest of Clear Lake and Wasagaming.

   Road and dam construction was also a part of the contribution of the COs. A dam was built at Whirlpool Lake just northeast of Clear Lake.

   My father spent a relatively brief time in Riding Mountain National Park. From there he was sent to the Campbell River area on Vancouver Island to plant trees, fight forest fires and cut down snags, the trees that remained standing after a forest fire.

   While many COs chose, because of their belief system, not to enlist in the military, they did make significant contributions to Canada during a time of war. Consider the impact our national parks have had, not only on tourists but also on the Canadian economy. Consider the value of the millions of trees planted in reforestation programs during that time. It is important to appreciate all the contributions made to our country, especially during the time of distress that war brings. To me, Clear Lake represents a tribute to the courageous men who stood firm on their convictions but still found ways to serve their country.

Calendar of Events

- September 5: Fall on the Farm - 9:00 – 5:00

- September 18: Supper From the Field

- September 22: Volunteer Appreciation

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner

Village News

   As you may be aware, Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Manitoba by concentrating on Mennonite women both, in our exhibits and in our interpretation of the Village. As part of this theme, we are welcoming a traveling exhibit, Along the Road to Freedom, to MHV from August 9 to October 10, 2016. Featuring twenty-six paintings by artist and curator Ray Dirks, Along the Road to Freedom pays tribute to the women who led their families out of Russia in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution and in the midst of World War Two, often in the absence of their fathers, husbands, and brothers, who had been conscripted, killed, or arrested.

   Each painting from this exhibit, which has never been shown in its entirety in southeast Manitoba, creates a memory mosaic of the woman it features. Alongside the paintings will be artefacts from the MHV collection showcasing objects that immigrants from the 1920s and 1940s deemed too necessary or too precious to leave behind in the Soviet Union.

   The paintings and artefacts ask us all – not just Mennonites of European heritage – to remember and honour the stories of the women, strong or frail, certain or unsure, forging ahead or struggling to survive, who are responsible for our living good lives at peace, far from lands and times of uncertainty and fear.

   Some of the women featured in this exhibit include:

  • Judith (Dyck) Epp (1835-1906) was a widow when she came to Canada in 1893 with her grown children. Even though women were not typically able to have large roles in their churches at this time, Judith was involved in founding the Eigenheim Mennonite Church in Saskatchewan, and was active in her congregation until her death.
  • Anna (Dick) Bergmann (1880-1961) lived on an estate in Russia with her family. She and her family lost everything after the Russian Revolution, including her husband and all male relatives over the age of eighteen. She left Russia with her six children in 1924 and settled on a farm in Glenlea, Manitoba.
  • Katja Goerz (1916-2013) and her family fled to Germany in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, but were not able to immigrate to Canada, so they settled in a Mennonite colony in Brazil instead. She and her husband returned to Germany with their two children in 1939, just was World War Two was breaking out. They fled Poland with the retreating German army in 1945 and spent time in a refugee camp. They were finally able to immigrate to Canada in 1948.

   Join us on Tuesday, August 9th at 7:30 p.m. for the official opening of Along the Road to Freedom (free admission for the evening). Artist Ray Dirks will speak about the exhibit, and Curator Andrea Dyck will provide historical context. Others will speak about their individual experiences as refugees. All are welcome. 

   Along the Road to Freedom opens to the public on Wednesday, August 10th, and will run until Monday, October 10th.

Calendar of Events

- August 8-12: Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 9-12

- August 9: Opening of exhibit in Gerhard Ens Gallery – 7:30 PM

- August 10: Heritage Classic Golf Tournament at Quarry Oaks

- September 5: Fall on the Farm - 9:00 – 5:00

Village News

Pioneer Days

   Pioneer Days is one of Steinbach’s signature summer festivals and the climax of our summer season at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). This year the festival runs from July 29 through August 1, beginning at 9:00 a.m. and closing at 6:00 p.m. daily. As usual, we will pack as much fun and education into those four days as we possibly can.

   There are a number of reasons why we host this summer festival. One of the primary purposes is to promote the work of MHV within our constituency. With cooperation from the City of Steinbach and the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce, this festival is always initiated on Friday morning with the Pioneer Days Parade. As usual, this year’s parade will start at the Fire Hall and make its way downtown along Main Street. Thousands of spectators will likely gather on the sidewalks to enjoy this event. Assuming suitable weather, we expect to see up to 7,000 guests visiting our museum grounds during those four festival days. While many of our guests will be from Southeastern Manitoba, there will also likely be many from Winnipeg and other parts of the province, as well as other provinces and countries.

   Another significant reason for holding Pioneer Days at MHV is to expose our guests to the culture and heritage of the Russian Mennonite people. Our heritage buildings will be staffed by volunteer interpreters who will explain to our guests what a worship service was like in the Old Colony Worship House, how a school classroom functioned differently in the Public School as compared to the Private School, and what unique features can be found in the Chortitz House Barn. Volunteers will also do pioneer demonstrations such as bread baking in the outdoor oven, steam-powered threshing, blacksmithing, log sawing, and butter making. In some cases, guests will be given the opportunity to try their hand at some of these activities.

   Organizing and staging Pioneer Days also creates meaningful activity around which our community can gather and nurture community spirit. In addition to parade involvement, people are invited to volunteer for a wide variety of roles during this festival. There are opportunities to welcome guests at the admission gates, help guests find a place to park their cars, prepare and serve food in the Short-Order Booth, drive the barrel train and the horse-drawn wagons, and many others.

   There will be bands playing in the tent each afternoon, providing entertainment for those who are enjoying waffles and vanilla sauce around picnic tables, as well as those who bring lawn chairs and sunflower seeds to sit in the shade and enjoy the music. Children will be busy running from the petting zoo to the barrel train to the kids’ activity tent to the horse-drawn wagon rides. And when their energy begins to wane, they will stop at the candy booth to refuel.

   With 7,000 guests coming through our gates, we will expect a significant cash injection into our coffers. While this has a considerable impact on our cash position, Pioneer Days actually generates less than 10% of our total operating revenue. Since MHV is a charity, every dollar is important, and we value every admission ticket, souvenir, meal and ride purchased here.

   Our upcoming Pioneer Days festival will again give us the opportunity to share stories and information from our past, attract thousands of tourists and other guests to our community, and provide local residents with a celebratory summer festival.

Calendar of Events

- July 29–August 1: Pioneer Days - 9:00-6:00 daily

- August 8-12: Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 9-12

- August 10: Heritage Classic Golf Tournament at Quarry Oaks

Village News

   This year’s first session of Pioneer Day Camp at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) was a great success! The camp ran July 11-15 for 5- to 8-year-olds. Each day, all participants were able to dress up in costumes that we have here at the museum: dresses, overalls, aprons, bonnets and hats. They loved it!

   The first day, the kids got a tour of the Village. They learned all about “Pioneer Life” as we journeyed from the Semlin to the housebarn, with stops at the schoolhouse, windmill, and Old Colony church.

   “Life in the Village” day involved the kids going to work in the blacksmith shop, and learning about making flour at the windmill. They also got to visit the private school, where they practiced math and writing on slate boards. Each child was able to help make a cup-and-ball game, which is a simple handmade game that was common for pioneer children.

   “Life at Home” day consisted of learning to bake Schnetje biscuits, playing a washboard laundry relay game, helping out with farm chores, and then enjoying our freshly baked Schnetje with strawberry-rhubarb jam in the summer kitchen!

   On “Transportation” day, the children experienced a variety of different transportation modes. Some were old-fashioned, such as the horse-drawn wagon and old fire engine, and some were more modern rides, such as the barrel-train ride! The kids were thrilled to be able to sit on all the old tractors and trucks!

   One of my favorite activities of the week was the creation  of quilt journals. Quilting patterns can represent different meanings or tell a story, and we thought this would be a great way for the kids to reflect on their week and have something to show their parents at the end. Each child was given a large piece of cardstock, divided into sections. Before the end of each day, the kids got time to journal a highlight of their day or something they learned. Some wrote a short line with a drawn picture, while others wrote full paragraphs of all their fun. We used scraps of patterned paper to make quilt-like patches as a flap over their journal sections. We had been taking pictures during the various activities throughout the week, and I got a bunch of those developed so they could be added to the quilt journals to help the kids tell their stories and share their experience.

   I was excited for this activity – but I wasn’t sure if the kids would be as thrilled about it. They LOVED it! It was so neat to see them get excited about writing and piecing together their quilt stories. And by the end of the week, all the patches were complete and they looked amazing!

   On the final day, the kids were able to showcase a craft and share a highlight of their week with the parents. We ended off the day with rides for everyone on the horse-drawn wagon and the barrel train. It was a wonderful way to end a wonderful week! And now we look forward to our next Pioneer Day Camp session, to be held the week of August 8-12! This camp is for children ages 9-12. Spaces are still available, so call me at 204-326-9661 to register your child or grandchild.

Calendar of Events

- July 29–August 1 – Pioneer Days - 9:00-6:00 daily

- August 8-12 – Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 9-12

- August 10 – Heritage Classic Golf Tournament at Quarry Oaks

Village News

Museum Governance

   It is not uncommon to be asked, “Who owns Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV)?” This is a reasonable question, in light of the size and complexity of our museum and the fact that museums are often owned by municipal governments. However, MHV is incorporated and is owned by its members.

   Membership is available to anyone who is interested in the mission and vision of MHV. Our stated mission is “to preserve and exhibit, for present and future generations, the experience and story of the Russian Mennonites and their contributions to Manitoba.” Our stated vision is that “MHV will be the premier interpretive centre for the Russian Mennonite story.” Interested individuals and families may purchase either annual or life-time membership.

   MHV communicates with its members several times a year through its mailed newsletter, Village Voice, and provides an annual overview at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) each spring. Our AGM is also the time when members are asked to make some decisions regarding the governance of the museum. Such decisions include the election of a board of directors, the acceptance of bylaws, and the approval of a new budget. Any proposed changes to MHV’s stated mission or vision would also be presented to the members for approval at an AGM.

   With these fundamental pieces in place, the board is then charged with the responsibility of governing our museum. At MHV, the board functions as a governance board as opposed to a management board. This means the board is not involved in the day-to-day management of the operation but rather oversees the fundamentals of mission, vision and values. In other words, our board addresses the purpose of our museum and the way it goes about pursuing that purpose.

   The board of directors is also responsible to hire a senior manager (referred to as the Executive Director), to monitor and evaluate the work of that manager, to develop and approve strategic priorities, and to approve an operating budget. The implementation of the strategic plan within the context of the approved budget then becomes the responsibility of the senior manager.

   MHV’s Nominating Committee looks for a variety of qualities and skills when recruiting new board members. First and foremost, directors on our board need to be passionate about the work of this museum. While it is desirable to have strong representation from our local community, it is also valuable to have some members from the broader Mennonite constituency. While curatorial staff at our museum are typically well-educated historians, it is important to also have a few more historians on the board. Since we are not large enough to have a Chief Financial Officer, it is essential to have a skilled accountant or two on our board. In many respects, MHV operates as a business, so seasoned business people bring value to the work of the board. It is also important that there be individuals who are willing and able to accept board leadership roles (President, Vice-President, Secretary), as well as chair committees.

   MHV’s board of directors meets for quarterly reporting meetings and for two additional meetings specifically scheduled to process things like the strategic plan and the budget. These are evening meetings, which typically start with supper and wind up by 9:00 p.m.

   While our Nominating Committee works hard to find people who have all these skills plus the time and willingness to do the work, they are always open to suggestions from outside the committee. Contact Barry Dyck at [email protected] to pass along the name of a potential candidate. It takes a “community” to own and operate a museum.

Calendar of Events

- July 11-15 – Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 5-8

- July 29–August 1 – Pioneer Days - 10:00-6:00 daily

- August 8-12 – Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 9-12

- August 10 – Heritage Classic Golf Tournament at Quarry Oaks

Village News

Faith and History

   We are grateful for the many generous financial donations we have been receiving recently. This week one of those gifts was accompanied by a card in which the donor expressed gratitude for the work we do at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) and specifically reminded us not to forget the faith of our forebears.

   I appreciated that reminder because it is the faith element in the Anabaptist story that makes our work most compelling and important to me. I do enjoy the historical and ethnic elements of our work as well. The ethnic food we serve in the Livery Barn Restaurant is always a treat. I enjoy the old houses, barns, schools and churches, as well as the old tools and farm implements. So many of these things remind me of my youth, and despite all the hardships we experienced, these memories are by-and-large positive ones. But were it not for the profound and courageous faith stories that accompany the tangible things and are in fact the foundation for our history, I would find our work much less significant.

   To remind ourselves of the faith movement that initiated “Mennonite” faith, we should review some of the key elements adopted by the original Anabaptist reformers who eventually formed the Amish, Hutterite, and Mennonite sub-groups.

   As the name “Anabaptist” would suggest, the matter of baptism is a key defining element of that faith movement. The Anabaptist reformers of the 16th century believed that a Christian should make a personal request for baptism based on one’s faith in, and commitment to following, the teachings of Jesus. The practice of that day was infant baptism, enforced by both church and government. So this created some significant conflict, even persecution, for these radical reformers.

   The separation of church and state became another key tenet of this early faith movement. In a time when church and state enjoyed joint authority in society, they held to the belief that governments should not have authority over matters of faith and conscience.

   The early Anabaptists were also pacifists. Based on the life and teachings of Jesus, it was their belief that Christians should deal with conflict in non-violent ways, as retaliation and revenge did not align with His exemplary life.

   The reformers promoted what is often referred to as “the priesthood of all believers.” This tenet of Anabaptist faith states that all believers have equal access to God. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, there is no longer another intermediary required in one’s relationship and communication with God. Therefore, these radical reformers organized themselves into congregations where members were involved in the teaching and leadership of the church. Leadership hierarchies had no place in these groups.

   These early elements of Anabaptist faith still exist in varying degrees in our current Mennonite faith groups. Many of our forebears paid a very high price in defending these beliefs. It is important to remind ourselves of their courage and tenacity again and again, so that we will continue to be inspired to teach that faith and courage to future generations.

Calendar of Events

- July 11-15 – Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 5-8

- July 29–August 1 – Pioneer Days - 10:00-6:00 daily

- August 8-12 – Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 9-12

- August 10 – Heritage Classic Golf Tournament at Quarry Oaks

The views expressed in Community Blogs are those of the author, and are not necessarily shared by SteinbachOnline.com

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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.

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