Mennonite history

Ted Regehr

Photo: The Canadian Mennonite / Mennonite Archives of Ontario

At the Public Archives in Ottawa in 1968, Ted Regehr, head of the Government Records Section, standing, helps research assistant Ernie Dick locate government files related to Mennonites. The two were assisting historian Frank H. Epp with a monumental history of Mennonites in Canada project.

Rosengart church

(Photo: Mennonite Heritage Archives / Lawrence Klippenstein photo collection)

Mennonites lived in Prussia/Poland for more than 400 years, but our understanding of the Mennonite experience in this area requires further study. This is the former Mennonite church at Rosengart (now Rozgart), near Elbing (now Elblag). Peter Klassen (1930-2019) has worked hard at shedding light on the Mennonite experience in Prussia.

Event explores Jews, Mennonites and the Holocaust​​​​​​​

Wally and Millie Kroeker of River East (MB) Church talk to presenter Aileen Friesen, right, at ‘ Jews, Mennonites and the Holocaust,’ a public presentation at the Asper Jewish Community Centre in Winnipeg on Nov. 5. (Photo by John Longhurst)

About 80 years ago, Jews and Mennonites lived peacefully together in the Ukrainian city of Khortitsa. Then the Nazis came, and everything changed.

In 1941, before the invasion, Khortitsa had about 2,000 Mennonites and 402 Jews out of a population of about 14,000. A year or so later, the Jews were all gone, killed by the Nazis.

Speed sprayer

Photo credit: The Canadian Mennonite / Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Readers raised on fruit farms—including this archivist—may remember the high-pitched whine of an orchard pesticide sprayer in action. Pictured, Peter J. Sawatzky of Ruthven, Ont., is operating a “speed-sprayer” in his apple orchard.

Bethel Bible Institute

Photo: By Rudy Regehr / Mennonite Heritage Archives

Can you help identify these three men at Bethel Bible Institute (BBI)? Is John Poettcker in the centre? The formation of Bethel in Abbotsford, B.C., was proposed in 1937 at the ministers conference of the Conference of United Mennonite Churches of B.C.

Centennial celebration

Photo: Mennonite Heritage Archives / Lawrence Klippenstein photo collection

New Canadian initiatives around multiculturalism in the 1970s—celebrating anniversaries like Canada’s centennial in 1967, Manitoba’s in 1970, and the arrival of Mennonites in Manitoba in 1974—created a new energy and appreciation for history in Canada. During these years, the Mennonite Heritage Centre and the Archives of Ontario hired permanent staff.

Cayuga church

Photo: James Reusser / Mennonite Archives of Ontario

From halfway across the world, a loyal MAID watcher noticed an error. This was not the Rainham church in 1965, as originally labelled by the photographer, but South Cayuga Mennonite Church, Dunnville, Ont. Comparing it to another photo of South Cayuga, he urged us to “look at the west end of this meetinghouse.

Namaka cutting wheat

Photo: Mennonite Heritage Archives

A farmer cuts wheat on a farm in Namaka, Alta., in the 1920s. Food and its production continues to be a central driving force in society, affecting our health, quality of life and where we live. Forces such as mechanization, urbanization, and globalization have impacted the food matrix and our connection to the food we grow and eat.

Nipawin streetscape

Photo: Mennonite Heritage Archives

Streetscape of Nipawin, Sask., in the 1920s. Mennonites first began moving to Lost River in the Rural Municipality of Nipawin in the early 1900s. By 1906, they were meeting in homes for worship. In 1913, Bishop Abraham Doerksen of the Manitoba Sommerfeld Mennonite Church travelled to the Nipawin area, where he baptized 42 people and ordained Aron Doerksen and Abram R. Bergen as pastors.

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.

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