Mennonite history


(Photo: Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

There is a lot to take in on this photomontage of the Mennonite Brethren Church Choir from Badamsha, Kazakhstan—in Soviet parlance, a “closed city”—in 1971.

Queen in Manitoba

(Photo: Gerald Loewen)

In 1970, the province of Manitoba celebrated its 100th birthday, and celebrations included a visit by the queen and her family. Among the many stops and events in July was a visit to the town of Steinbach, and the Milltown Hutterite Colony, near Elie.

Amish bicentennial

(Photo: Christian and Annie Bender Collection / Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

You are looking at one of the oldest original photographs in the Mennonite Archives of Ontario, likely taken in 1867. The father and daughter are John (or Jean) and Anna (“Annie”) Kennel. John was an Amish immigrant from France, like many of the first Amish settlers in Canada, who began arriving here 200 years ago.

J.J. Thiessen

(Photo: Heinrich M. Epp Fonds / Mennonite Heritage Archives)

“All beginnings are hard” said J.J. Thiessen. He began his public ministry in 1930 in Saskatoon, hired by the General Conference Mennonite Church to operate the Maedchenheim, helping young women find work and providing spiritual guidance, and to give leadership to the emerging congregation in Saskatoon.

MCC responds to its entanglements with National Socialism

Benjamin Unruh was instrumental in helping Mennonites flee the Soviet Union in the 1920s. In the 1930s he lived in Germany and negotiated with the Nazi government on behalf of MCC regarding a debt the relief organization owed. (Mennonite Heritage Archives photo)

Over the past several years, numerous historians have highlighted how different Mennonite communities in Europe before and during the Second World War were entangled with and even actively participated in National Socialism, with some Mennonites helping to perpetrate the Holocaust. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) intersected with this broader Mennonite history in multiple ways.

Bergthal church

(Photo: Conference of Mennonites in Canada Photo Collection)

The Ontario Mennonite businessman Jacob Y. Shantz established rough housing for newcomers and promoted immigration to a place he called Didsbury, N.W.T., in 1893. In the following two years, Mennonites from Ontario and Manitoba arrived to what became known as Didsbury, Alta. The Bergthal Church was established there in 1903 and became part of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada in 1910.

Evangelism congress

(Photo: Conference of Mennonites in Canada Photo Collection)

In 1966, Christianity Today magazine sponsored the World Congress on Evangelism, held in West Berlin from Oct. 26 to Nov. 4. It brought together 12,000 invited delegates from a hundred countries. The events were chaired by Carl F.H. Henry and Billy Graham. John M. Drescher reported on the event in a series of articles in The Canadian Mennonite.

MWC Kansas banners

(Photo: Commission on Education of the General Conference Mennonite Church)

The variety of banners at the 1978 Mennonite World Conference assembly in Wichita, Kan., is a representation of the diversity of people at the assembly, with 9,500 people registered from 44 counties, including Canada.

Ukraine immigrant

(Photo: Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

What would you carry if you emigrated to another country? Twenty-three-year-old Anna Neufeld wore this locket in 1917 when her fiancé, Cornelius Tiessen, left, and brother Peter, both pictured in their Red Cross uniforms, served on medical trains during the First World War. Anna lived near present-day Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, now site of another war. Anna would marry Cornelius in 1918.

Kitchener MWC Assembly

(Photo: David L. Hunsberger / Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

Mennonite Publishing House occupies a corner in the Kitchener (Ont.) Auditorium with its bookstand at the Mennonite World Conference assembly in 1962. Three women in the foreground gravitate towards the parenting books and the bestselling Mennonite Community Cookbook, while two men browse titles related to missions.

Waldemar Janzen

(Photo: Mennonite Heritage Archives / Photo by Rudy Regehr, Canadian Mennonite Bible College Photo Collection)

At the 1970 Conference of Mennonites in Canada annual sessions in Winkler, Man., Waldemar Janzen, a Canadian Mennonite Bible College professor, gave a report on young people, stating: “Not everything is wrong with young people today. There is a great openness and honesty among youth today. There is a remarkable depth of insight into self and society.

Klippenstein house

(Photo: Mennonite Heritage Archives / Lawrence Klippenstein Photo Collection)

This is a photo of the home of Bernhard Klippenstein (1880-1973) and Maria (nee Dyck) Klippenstein (1882-1956) in Waldheim, Northwest Territories. They moved from Altbergthal, near Altona, Man., to Waldheim around 1902. They returned to Altbergthal around 1907.

Key 73

(Photo: Mennonite Heritage Archives / Conference of Mennonites in Canada)

The banner at the Conference of Mennonites in Canada gathering in Vancouver in August 1971 read, “That the world may believe,” based on John 17:21.

Dancing problems

(Photo: Mennonite Heritage Archives)

Problems with dancing have been discussed at numerous times in many church settings. On July 3, 1951, the Northwest Mennonite Conference delegates discussed the Alberta education system that offered lessons in various types of dancing. Delegates approved a resolution that read: “Such teaching encourages the sensuality of our age.

Oakella Prison Farm

Photo: The Canadian Mennonite / Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Herb Wiebe, facing camera, visits with an inmate at the Oakalla Prison Farm in Burnaby, B.C., in 1970. A growing number of British Columbia Mennonite men volunteered to befriend inmates through the M-2 (Man to Man) program, a prison visitation program then in its early days in Canada.

Gluten free

(Photo: Waterloo North Mennonite Church / Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

“Gluten free” proclaims the sign on one of these desserts at a Waterloo North Mennonite Church potluck in 2011. How have the offerings at your congregational potluck changed over the years? What traditions have endured? If you could convey the history of your congregation through a potluck table, what dishes would be on it?

What does it mean to be a Mennonite?

In I Am A Mennonite, filmmaker Paul Plett begins his journey at home in Manitoba, then travels around the world—including to the Netherlands, pictured—in search of his Mennonite roots and identity. (Photo: Paul Plett / Ode Productions)

Paul Plett’s new film explores his Mennonite identity and heritage at home in Manitoba and across the ocean. (Photo courtesy of Ode Productions)

“What does it mean to be a Mennonite?” This is the question Winnipeg filmmaker Paul Plett seeks to answer in his latest film, I Am A Mennonite.

Plett has been creating an extensive catalogue of movies for 10 years through Ode Productions, the company he founded that focuses on “conscious entertainment.”

Grace Lao

Photo: Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Women at Grace Lao Mennonite Church sing at a “ladies’ revival” in 1999. This was an important year for the congregation of about 90 people, as they also dedicated their own independent church building in Kitchener, Ont. Previously, they worshipped nearby at St. Jacobs Mennonite Church. The church grew from the efforts of refugee families sponsored by St.

Memories of migration

Ingrid Moehlmann is the instigator of the Memories of Migration: The Russlaender 100 Tour, a weeks-long train trip across Canada, coming in 2023. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

The tour will commemorate the work of David Toews, Moehlmann’s great-grandfather, who organized the migration of Mennonites from the Soviet Union to Canada beginning in 1923. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

David Riesen, Moehlmann’s father, requested on his deathbed that the Russlaender migration be remembered. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

It’s been almost 100 years since 1923, when thousands of Mennonites from the Soviet Union began migrating to Canada. A train tour commemorating their journey will wind across Canada in the summer of 2023 to mark the anniversary.

Hula hoop

(The Canadian Mennonite / Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

Breaking with its usual formal style, The Canadian Mennonite decided to print a candid photo of church leaders in 1958. While lining up for the typical serious group photograph, men gathering at St. Catharines United Mennonite Church in St. Catharines, Ont. were interrupted by a young girl unselfconsciously swinging a hula hoop.

Egg collection

Photo: The Canadian Mennonite Collection / Mennonite Archives of Ontario

We wish we knew more about George Hamm of Didsbury, Alta., and his egg collection. This photo was found in The Canadian Mennonite files from the 1960s, but it was not published in the newspaper. His collection was later listed in the Royal Alberta Museum inventory. Even in this side view, we sense his pride and passion for these marvels of the natural world.


Subscribe to RSS - Mennonite history