Mennonite history

Didsbury drawing

Photo: David L. Hunsberger / Mennonite Archives of Ontario Mission Photo Collection

In 1893, Kitchener, Ont., businessman Jacob Y. Shantz secured land from the government and railway, and he promoted the Didsbury, Alta., settlement to eastern Mennonites.

Graduating class

Photo: Mennonite Archives of Ontario

This adorable, and very formal, group is the “graduating class” of the Steinmann Mennonite Church Kindergarten in Baden, Ont., in 1964. The Kindergarten was started in 1962 by the married couples fellowship at Steinmann. Enrolment in the first year was 23; by 1964, it was 58.

Chesley Lake accordion

Photo: David L. Hunsberger / Mennonite Archives of Ontario

An accordionist serenades a literary society meeting at Chesley Lake Camp in Ontario, in 1949. Chesley Lake was the first Mennonite church camp in Ontario and one of the first in Canada. Literary societies were common in Ontario Mennonite churches at the time, as social outlets and avenues for artistic expression.

Ukrainians witness amid suffering, hope

Seven women ages 16–22 were baptized at a nearby pool the day the European leaders visited Mennonites in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. (Photo by J. Nelson Kraybill)

This former Mennonite school served 130 hearing- and speech-impaired children at Tiege in the Molotschna region. When the German army swept through Ukraine, soldiers took the students out to a field and shot them. (Photo by J. Nelson Kraybill)

In a region of Ukraine that thousands of Mennonites left generations ago, two dozen of today’s Mennonite leaders from across Europe gathered for three days of fellowship in October 2018. 

Called to bleed and die for the sake of the nation

Some members of the seventh Mennonite World Conference Presidium, held in Kitchener, Ont., from Aug. 1 to 7, 1962. Pictured from left to right: Paul Showalter of Germany; Hendrik W. Meihuizen of the Netherlands; Erland Waltner of Elkhart, Ind.; Peter Wiens of Paraguay; Harold S. Bender of Goshen, Ind.; and Jesse B. Martin of Kitchener. (David L. Hunsberger / Mennonite Archives of Ontario photo)

Harold S. Bender of Goshen, Ind., speaking at the Church and State study event, which he chaired. The event, held in 1957 at Chicago Temple Methodist Church, was sponsored by the Mennonite Central Committee Peace Section. (The Canadian Mennonite / Mennonite Archives of Ontario photo )

H.G. Mannhardt was a Mennonite pastor and writer in northeastern Germany during the First World War. He espoused the values of German nationalism and exceptionalism that were prevalent in his day. (Mennonite Library and Archives/Bethel College)

H.G. Mannhardt was a Mennonite pastor and writer in northeastern Germany during the First World War. He espoused the values of German nationalism and exceptionalism that were prevalent in his day. (Photo: Mennonite Library and Archives / Bethel College)

As a minister of the Mennonite church in Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland), Hermann Gottlieb Mannhardt knew how to challenge and encourage his congregants in matters of faith and moral conduct. He also knew how to energize a crowd in matters related to politics and patriotism. 

Conscientious objectors tree planting

Photo: Conference of Mennonites in Canada Photo Collection

During the Second World War, Canadian conscientious objectors (COs) planted 17 million trees in British Columbia between 1942 and1944. Some COs questioned the use of working in the “bush.” Pictured from left to right: Frank Dyck, Jacob Wiebe, Menno Wiebe and Rudy Regehr returned to Campbell River, B.C., in 1966 to see the trees that they had planted.

Historical Society quietly contributes to national identity

Laureen Harder-Gissing, archivist at the Mennonite Archives of Ontario, at Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ont., is the new president of the not-so-new Mennonite Historical Society of Canada. (Conrad Grebel university College photo)

Historian Laureen Harder-Gissing does not want to be heard saying, “You should know your history,” the way someone might say, “You should eat your vegetables.”

She does not want people to feel badly if they do not know their history; she just wants it to be available at those “points in our lives when the past will suddenly matter,” and we want to know the larger story we fit into.

World Fellowship Sunday: A communion of 500 years

From the World Fellowship Sunday worship resources: Venezuelan migrants welcomed to the Iglesia Menonita de Riohacha, Colombia. (Photo by Iglesia Menonita de Riohacha)

Every year on the Sunday closest to January 21, Mennonite World Conference (MWC) invites its 107 member churches to join in a celebration of World Fellowship Sunday. (See the 2019 worship resources here.

Experiencing Christmas by lamplight

Oil lamps light the sanctuary of the little church as guests arrive to experience ‘Christmas by lamplight.’ (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Guests arriving for ‘Christmas by lamplight’ at the Mennonite Heritage Museum’s church building in Rosthern, Sask. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Guests enjoy singing carols, listening to stories, drinking hot chocolate and eating peppernuts at the Mennonite Heritage Museum’s ‘Christmas by Lamplight.’ (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Organist Barb Wolfe accompanies the carol singing on the church’s pump organ. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Old-fashioned oil lamps graced each windowsill in the tiny sanctuary, their steady flames bathing the room in warm light as people filed into the pews. The people came to experience “Christmas by lamplight.”

Women in church vocations

Photo: The Canadian Mennonite / Mennonite Archives of Ontario

To encourage women to enter church-related work, the General Conference Mennonite Church began the “Women in Church Vocations” program in 1957. Pictured, Elmer Ediger discusses the new program with interested young women at Canadian Mennonite Bible College in Winnipeg.

‘Bring us beyond our own stories’

Case descriptions for thousands of Mennonites who disappeared in Ukraine are now available online. This one shows an Abram Klassen.

Among the voluminous lists of those disappeared during the dark times in what is now Ukraine, researchers have found roughly 400 pages of Mennonite names, with five or six names per page. That is just for Zaporizhzhia province. The lists for all Ukrainian provinces are available online, though printed in Cyrillic script.

Bicycle trip

Photo: Almeda Kolb / Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Did your summer include a bicycle trip? In 1891, 19-year-old Fred Coffman, far left, his brother William, and their friends Abram and Aaron Kolb biked more than 700 kilometres from Elkhart, Ind., to Niagara Falls, Ont. Fred would become Bishop S.F. Coffman, an influential Ontario Mennonite leader. Abram would become a publisher of Mennonite periodicals, choir director and hymnwriter.

Family tradition goes back 500 years

Making peppernuts for Christmas are, from left to right: granddaughters Kishina and Anaya Toews, and Oma Marion Toews. (Photo by Dave Toews)

Pfeffernusse,” Dora repeated after me in amazement! She couldn’t believe that my Christmas treats were the same as hers.

It was Nov. 7, 2002, and we were sitting around the pool at Toddy’s Backpacker Hostel in Alice Springs, Australia. Nostalgia crept among us; we had wandered far and wouldn’t be home for Christmas.

Johnny Kehler

Photo: Conference of Mennonites in Canada / Mennonite Pioneer Mission Photo Collection

Johnny Kehler, left, with his plane and George Groening, at Matheson Island, Man. Groening grew up near Lowe Farm, Man., and served the Mennonite church community for decades. As a long-serving leader, he not only witnessed change but instituted changes as well.

From grief to gratitude

Historian Aileen Friesen speaks to a full house at St. Catharines United Mennonite Church at an event commemorating the centennial of the Russian Revolution. (Photo by Randy Klaassen)

Moments in time can change the course of history. Decisions made in Russia in the years following the Russian Revolution in 1917 changed life for thousands of Mennonite families.

Patricia Beach baptism

Photo: Selkirk Christian Fellowship Photo Collection

Malcolm and Esther Wenger moved to the town of Selkirk, Man., in 1979. Malcolm worked for the Conference of Mennonites in Canada’s Native Ministries program and pastored the small Selkirk Christian Fellowship. Pictured, Malcolm baptizes Gillian Thororanson at Patricia Beach, Man., on July 22, 1979.

‘The more we get to know each other’

Uzbekistan hosts Mr. and Mrs. Karimov, standing, share warm hospitality with a TourMagination group visiting Serabulak. Mr. Karimov is a descendant of a merchant who gave Mennonite pilgrims a farewell gift of money and other gifts. (TourMagination photo by John Sharp)

The Kyk-Ota Mosque in Serabulak, Uzbekistan, was used by Mennonites as a church during the winter of 1881-82. (TourMagination photo by John Sharp)

Historical experiences of ordinary people living out their faith were shared at a travelogue presentation of Russian Mennonite migrations in Europe and Central Asia.

Peace Factory

Photo: MCC Ontario/Mennonite Archives of Ontario

“Groups keep pleading for Peace Factory,” said a Mennonite Central Committee memo in 1996. An interactive exhibit, Peace Factory was a cooperative Mennonite project. Its goal was to “help all Christians connect their faith in God with a life of peacemaking.” In 1997, it toured southwestern Ontario.

George Neufeld’s letters

Photo: George Neufeld Collection / Mennonite Heritage Archives

George Neufeld worked in England, France and Germany after the Second World War, from 1946 to 1948. He wrote in his diary on Monday, Jan 7, 1946: “Received letter from Helene dated Dec. 6. I wonder what all has happened since then.” Sunday, Jan; 13: “Wrote a 20-page letter to Helene. Am lonesome for her.” Monday, Jan.

Sexsmith dormitory

Photo: Der Bote Collection / Mennonite Heritage Archives

This is a photo of the dormitory duplex at Sexsmith Bible Institute in Alberta. The building used to function as the meeting house of the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren at Bear Lake and the General Conference Mennonites at Wembley Ranch. What was the official name of the Bible institute that used this building and the church that used it?

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