Mennonites Sing Wrong Hymns, Entire Village Loses Church Membership

I know. It sounds like a Daily Bonnet headline. Well, what can I say? Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. And sometimes things are funny because they’re true.

The other day we were visiting Andrew’s grandma, and I couldn’t help but examine the books she had on her coffee table. One such book was From Russia With Music: A Study of the Mennonite Choral Singing Tradition in Canada, by Wesley Berg.

Seeing me pick up the book, she was pleased and encouraged me to continue reading. “Oh no, I couldn’t,” I protested. “We’re here for a visit.”

After some thought, I allowed myself just one quick peek inside the book.

I opened it at random and this line jumped out at me: “…Hoffnungsfeld, a village near Winkler that was dropped from the membership rolls of the Reinlander (Old Colony) Church between 1880 and 1883 for singing hymns from the new section of the hymnbook and establishing Bible Study groups. The man responsible for these radical activities was Jacob Hoeppner…” “…He was able to find a more congenial community in Schanzenfeld…”

I’ve heard a lot about how conservative the Old Colony Church was (is?) but I’d never been aware of any specifics. I hadn’t realized they had a scandalous “new” section of the hymnbook.

Also, due to my lack of studying and awareness, I tend to find it easy to imagine that all these little villages were filled with people who agreed and got along.

Guess not.