When Andrew and I visited St. Jacobs this past summer, we suddenly found ourselves standing in front of a shopfront declaring itself to be “The Mennonite Story”. My jaw dropped. Whoa! So cool. I turned to Andrew and said, “I wonder what they have to say about Mennonites.” There was obviously only one way to find out. We barrelled on in there!
The people inside greeted us with a line I’m sure they recite to everyone who crosses their threshold: “Have you ever heard of Mennonites?”
We gleefully replied, “We ARE Mennonites!”
They were a bit surprised, and we quickly explained ourselves, paid admission, and eagerly ventured forth to learn about our own people group.
Join us for a jaunt through “The Mennonite Story”!
Naturally, the first image we saw was that of Dirk Willems:
“Dirk Willems, an early Anabaptist, returned to rescue a law officer who broke through the ice while pursuing him. Willems was arrested by the same officer, imprisoned and later executed for his beliefs in 1569.”
We sat here and watched an introductory film about Mennonites. I tried to pretend I’d never heard of Mennonites before; as if this was the first time I was learning about them.
“The Old Order. The most visible members of the Mennonite family are a group called the Old Order. They have chosen to resist many of the changes of modern life. They dress plainly, travel by horse and buggy and seek to live quietly in peace. In this room you’l see their simple yet distinctive Mennonite faith depicted in photos and text from ‘Us Little People’, a book by photographer and best-selling author Carl Hiebert. Later on you’ll see how they and other Mennonites came to be. This diverse family has spread around the world in many different expressions of culture and lifestyle, all while holding firm to a common thread of Christian belief.”
A Mennonite timeline. Whoa!
A-ha! Enter the Kleine Gemeinde!
1874: an epic year for our Kleine Gemeinde forebears!
It’s Menno Simons himself!
A replica of the cave in Switzerland where early Anabaptists hid, in an effort to avoid being killed.
“Persecutions. The established governments of Europe, alarmed by the threat of peasants, revolution, social unrest, and religious change, clamped down harshly on the Anabaptists. Though the Anabaptists by 1527 had declared themselves as followers of Jesus Christ and totally non-violent, they were distrusted and harassed for centuries. The first recorded execution was in 1525, the last in 1616.”
“Following an exploratory trip to Russia by Jacob Hoeppner and Johann Bartsch in 1787, hundreds of Mennonite families made the long trek from Danzig to Ukraine. Migration from Prussia to Russia continued for more than sixty years. This passport and safe conduct to Russia was issued to ‘Der Mennonit Jacob Dyck’ in 1853.”
“The Mennonite map has shifted, thanks to the vibrant energy of newcomers attracted by generations of witness and service. No longer are Mennonites mostly of white European ancestry. In 2015, they numbered 2.1 million members in over 80 countries. A third of them are in Africa, now the largest and fastest-growing region. The second and third fastest-growing regions are Latin America and Asia. Economically, however, the map is still lop-sided; Mennonites in the global south are much less affluent than those in the north.”
“Washing of another’s feet is part of the Mennonite communion ritual.”
Our own hats, on the hat rack above the pews.
The many faces of Mennonites today… including our own.