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Mennonite Historian -- Volume XVIII, No. 3, September 1992
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According to available records, my grandfather Martin Klaassen's family history dates back almost to the Reformation and the beginnings of the Anabaptist movement. My Klaassen ancestors were among the many other Anabaptists (Mennonites) who made their way to the marshy lowlands of the Vistula delta, in the mid-sixteenth century. The first-known Klaassen ancestor was Behrend Klaassen, born in Schönsee at the turn of the century, ca 1598. His descendants lived in various villages as Schönsee, Petershagnerfeld, Fhrstenwerder, Schoenberg and Tiegenhagen. The names of my Klaassen forebears were as follows: Behrend Klaassen; Hans Klaassen (1658-1734); Ida (Klaassen) Andres (1688-1734); David Klaassen (1700-1780), son of Hans Klaassen, married Anna Andres, daughter of Ida Andres; Dirk Klaassen (1765-1843); Jacob Klaassen 1793 - 1879); Martin Klaassen (1820 - 1881) and Michael Klaassen (1860 - 1934), (my father). After my father, there are five more generations, beginning with his oldest daughter, Helena (Klaassen) Dalke (1889 - 1978), (of his first family), to her great-greatgrandchildren. From Behrend Klaassen to the latest member of my father's first family there are therefore, 13 generations. I am the youngest daughter of Michael Klaassen's second family.
In our Klaassen history we have many accounts of the living conditions, vocations and faith of our ancestors. Records tell us that Behrend Klaassen was a teacher and active in educational work. David Klaassen had 16 children, of whom only 4 survived to adulthood, the last son being Dirk. Dirk Klaassen, who inherited an estate from his father, was elected as minister of the Fhrstenwerder congregation in 1800. The photo of the Fuerstenwerder Mennonite Church appeared in the Mennonite Historian (Vol XV,No 4, Dec.,1989). Unfortunately, fire destroyed this building in 1991. Dirk Klaassen's son Jacob served as a minister for well over 50 years, first at Ladekopp, then Tiegenhagen, W. Prussia, and finally at the Köppenthal Church, "Am Trakt", Russia. Jacob and Helena (Hamm) Klaassen also celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at K`ppenthal.
My grandfather Martin Klaassen was born at Schönsee, then lived at Tiegenhagen, W. Prussia with his parents, until he moved to Russia in 1853, settling at the Trakt. In 1855 he married Maria Hamm, great-greatgrandaughter of Martin Hamm (1690-1750). Martin Klaassen served as school teacher, first in the village of Hahns-Au, then in Köppenthal until 1880. We are very privileged to have his personal diary of 1852-70, and again 1880-81. Martin Klaassen's father began a family register, which Martin continued. This contains many accounts of the ancestors and their activities, as well as the total family register.
Martin Klaassen was a man of diverse interests and talents which is very evident through his diary. When he arrived at the Trakt, he was employed as a surveyor, measuring off land for the new settlers, and drawing the plans. He was also somewhat of an architect and carpenter when buildings needed to be constructed. As teacher he found many ways to interest the children, writing his own textbooks and lessons in various subjects: Russian History in both German and Russian, World History, Church History, Russian Grammar, German Grammar, an Atlas for Nature Study, a chart of the stars and planets. He made his own globe. Evenings he taught the Russian language to adults. The study of botany fascinated him so made many trips to a ravine to collect plants and flowers for his school. His students enjoyed the nature hikes he took with them. He was artistic in many ways: musically, poetically, linguistically and fine arts. He led the church choir, taught singing in harmony, sang solos for special occasions. In his diary he made use of 4 languages: German, Russian, Greek and some French. A booklet of 49 pencil drawings of the Holy Land has been handed down to us, as well as a painting of the village of Tiegenhagen, W. Prussia. This painting hung on our diningroom wall as long as I can remember.
Above all, Martin Klaassen loved to write. He wrote five notebooks of poetry, one of which has been preserved. His reflections and prayers in his diary show that he was a deeply devoted man of faith. He had strong conviction in the principles of peace. At various occasions he was a mediator in settling a dispute. Through Martin Klaassen's 400-page diary we feel we learn to know him as a person. He shares his faith and his inner convictions, as well as his longing to serve God and the community. Unfortunately, Martin Klaassen died on the Trek to Central Asia, at the early age of 61, but he left his descendants a wonderful legacy through his writings.
Martin Klaassen's wife, Maria and her two children Jacob and Helena, together with a number of other families, migrated from Central Asia to the USA in 1884, settling first in Nebraska, later in Oklahoma. My father Michael Klaassen and his wife Margarethe Jantzen came a year later, also settling in Nebraska and Oklahoma. He taught German school in Oklahoma for 17 years, and also served as minister and elder of the Herold Mennonite Church at Bessie. After Michael's wife Margarethe died, he married Katherina Dalke. Towards the end of World War I, his only son was imprisoned as CO in Leavenworth, KS, where he died of pneumonia in October 1918. The peace position held by the Herold Mennonite Church prompted a number of families to move to Canada. The Michael Klaassens settled at Morden, Manitoba, while Michael's brother, Jacob, also a minister, settled at Rosthern, Saskatchewan with his five sons. Jacob and Helena (Klaassen) Jantzen, (Michael and Jacob Klaassen's only sister), and their family, stayed in Oklahoma. Jacob Jantzen continued to serve the Herold Mennonite Church at Bessie. Michael Klaassen organized a church at Morden, (Herold Mennonite), serving as elder until his death in 1934. His brother Jacob Klaassen served the Eigenheim Church at Rosthern.
The records of our Klaassen family history cover almost 400 years. Their paths led from Holland to W. Prussia to Russia, to Central Asia to the USA to Canada. Their experiences demonstrate an unshakable faith in God, as well as a practical application of the principles of non-resistance. May the descendants learn from them and follow in their footsteps.
Readers are advised to consult the "Klaassen" historical material stored in the Archives at the Mennonite Heritage Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba
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The activities and adventures of the two deputies Jacob Hoeppner and Johann Bartsch during the early period of the immigration of the West Prussian Mennonites to Russia in 1786-90 are well-documented by Hoeppner's son-in-law, Peter Hildebrandt. However, rather little is known about the deputies themselves. Jacob H`ppner is the better known of the two, partly due to his relationship with Peter Hildebrandt, but also owing to his own energetic and outgoing nature. Johann appears to have been a quiet, reflective man, later becoming somewhat withdrawn after his humiliation at the hands of the Lehrdienst.
Johann Bartsch was born in 1757, likely a son of Jacob Bartsch and his wife Kristina (nee Phillipsen). The family held membership in the Frisian Gemeinde at Neugarten, Danzig. If this speculation is correct, then he was the brother-in-law of Jacob Wiens, the first minister elected by the immigrants during their stay at Dubrovna (Russia) in 1788. He was elected by the largest number of votes. Johann's sister was apparently admitted to the Flemish Gemeinde at Danzig without any formalities, prior to her marriage on December 26, 1787 to Jacob Wiens. Likewise, Johann Bartsch's brother Jacob (b. 1761) later became Lehrer (minister) of the Danzig Flemish Gemeinde at Neunhuben, apparently before the union of the Flemish and Frisian Gemeinden at Danzig. It was this Jacob Bartsch who was a signatory to the letter of authority given to Aeltester Kornelius Regier and Lehrer Kornelius Warkentin for their visit to New Russia in 1794, to resolve the conflict between the factions led by Jacob H`ppner and (?ltester) David Epp.
Johann Bartsch married Susanna Lammerts (bpt. in 1773), a daughter of Jacob Lammerts of Tiegenhagen, of the Orlofferfelde Gemeinde (Frisian) in 1779. Jacob Lammerts is listed in the census of 1776 as of middle-class economic status, with two sons and three daughters. In the Bauernverzeichnis of 1772, he is listed as the owner of 14 Morgen of land in Tiegenhagen. Franz Lammerts (Lambert), apparently a brother of Susanna (born 1774, bpt. 1790) immigrated to New Russia in 1804, settling at Rosenthal (Old Colony), the home village of Johann Bartsch.
The Johann Barsch family appears to have had no particular economic problems. His wife Susanna seems to have been a capable manager of the family affairs and very able to handle their dairy entreprise during the long absence of her husband on the first trip to New Russia in (1786-87).
Among the talents of Johann Bartsch was the ability to make shoes. It was he who made a pair of boots for Aeltester Bernhard Penner, prior to the first baptismal service in the Old Colony.
Susanna probably died before 1792. The writer is unaware of the name of the second wife of Johann Bartsch, who was a certain Helena, born in 1770. Johann Bartsch originally settled at Insel Chortitza, but very shortly thereafter moved to Rosenthal where he is found in the official and unofficial lists of 1793, 1795, 1802, 1803, and 1808. This was also the village of Lehrer Jacob Wiens (his brother-in-law ?).
The children of Johann Bartsch include the following: Susanna (born 10.2. 1782, d. 2. 1809) who married 1) Heinrich Epp (b. 1775, d. 25.11.1805); 2) Jacob Isaac (b. 1.8.1784, bpt. 1803); Maria (b. 1783); Sara (b. 1786); Margaretha (b. 1794) who married Abraham Krhger (1791-1872) in 1815; Jacob (b. 1798). Heinrich Epp was a son of Aeltester Peter Epp of Danzig and was an immigrant of 1796-98. He had previously married 1) Anna Penner on 30.10.1775 (b. 19.3.1757) 2) Margaretha Epp (b. 13.3.1777, d. 1800) a daughter of Aeltester David Epp of Chortitza.
(Some of the information regarding Heinrich and Margaretha Epp was compiled by Margret Kroeker and Anna Ens, andpublished by D. Plett in the reference cited.) Jacob Isaac was a son of Jacob Isaac (1756-7.7.1798) of Milentz (Heubuden Gemeinde) and immigrated to Russia in 1804.
Abraham Krhger (also Krueger) was a son of Johann Krhger, an immigrant of 1804. The Krhgers were members of the Frisian church of Orlofferfelder in West Prussia. Descendants of this family produced the famous Krueger clocks in the Old Colony.
It is interesting to note that the main protagonists in the disputes during the early years were Jacob H`ppner and Aeltester David Epp. Petitions signed by supporters of H`ppner particularly mentioned David Epp. Peter Hildebrandt, while avoiding all mention of David Epp, is somewhat unsympathetic to the latter in his narration concerning the delegation of Gerhard Willms (and David Epp) to Petersburg in 1798-1800, to obtain the well known Privilegium. It has been speculated that David Epp was also a relative of Peter Epp, a supporter of the immigration to Russia.
This does not however, seem to be the case. The parents of David Epp were Kornelius Epp and Sara Andres (according to the Danzig Familienbuch). The Danzig church records also indicate that Sara Epp (nee Andres) d. on Oct. 23, 1764.
Aeltester Peter Epp did have a brother Kornelius (b. 6.8.1723, d. 19.10.1805) who married Kristina Fast (b. 27.10.1739, d. 9.12.1796) on 22.10.1758, per the Danzig Familienbuch. It therefore follows that David Epp's father was not the brother of Peter Epp. It is of course possible that some other relationship existed.
This is worth mentioning in that, despite the humility of Johann Bartsch, the Lehrdienst was nevertheless unsympathetic to him. Bartsch's family was apparently musical,but Bartsch was required to give up his fiddle, of which he was fond. Playing of musical instruments was regarded by some as irreligious.
The Bartsch family apapears to have prospered in later years. A son Jacob
was twice Oberschulz of the Old Colony (1832-38 and 1841-54).
A monument originally dedicated to Bartsch's memory in Russia, now stands
in the Mennonite Village Museum in Steinbach, Manitoba.
1. Danzig Gemeinde (Flemish) Church Records (including Baptism, Marriages and Deaths of Baptised Members, as well as a two-volume Familienbuch, begun circa 1789 by Johann Kauenhowen and Peter Thiessen), Microfilms #82 and 83 at Mennonite Heritage Centre Archives (MHCA), Winnipeg, MB.
2. Orlofferfelde Gemeinde (Frisian) Church Records, Microfilm #286, MHCA, Winnipeg, MB.
3. "Trauungen 1772-1816 in der Mennoniten Gemeinde Orloffelder", A. Goertz, Altpreussische Geschlecterkunde, n.12, 1779.
4. Peter Hildebrand. Erste Auswanderung der Mennoniten aus dem Danziger Gebiet nach Russland. (Halbstadt, Ukraine; 1888).
5. D.H. Epp. Die Chortitzaer Mennoniten. (Rosenthal, Chortitza; 1889).
6. B.H. Unruh. Die Niederlaendisch-Niederdeutschen Hintergruenden der Mennonitischen Ostwanderungen. (Karlsruhe, 1955).
7. H. Penner. Die Ost- und Westpreussischen Mennoniten. (Weierhof, 1978).
8. N.J. Kroeker. Erste Mennoniten-Doerfer Russlands. (Vancouver, 1981). This work originally published in both English and German.
9. D. Plett. Pioneers and Pilgrims. (Steinbach, MB; 1990).
Henry Schapansky lives in Burnaby, BC, and has done extensive studies of the first immigrants from Prussia to the villages of Einlage and Neuendorf in Chortitza (the Old Colony), Ukraine.
QueriesMartens - Seeking information on Paul Martens (1812- ) married to Helena Fehr (1812- ), and their family. Four sons are known to have come to Canada in 1875 -- Kornelius (1835-1905) homesteaded in Schoenfeld, MB; Peter (1837-1910); Johann (1843- ) and Jakob (1853- ). Jakob Martens later moved to the Swift Current Reserve. Contact: Queenie Martens, 4435 Cascade Drive, Vernon, BC V1T 8J7.
Remple - Anna Remple married Jacob Hoeppner, a watchmaker, and came to Canada in 1874/75. They left Canada and settled in the United States, most likely in the 1880s. Looking for any information about the relatives of Anna Remple. Contact: Elmer Dyck, Rt. 1, Box 329, Stapleton, GA 30823.
Abrams - Krahn - Searching for the birthplaces and ancestry of Peter Abrams and his wife Margarethe Krahn, the parents of Peter (1827-1874), Jacob (1829- ), Heinrich (1837- ) and Reinhard (1840- ) Abrams. The latter three sons appear in the Schoenhorst Church Register. The sons married, respectively, Sarah Penner, Elizabeth Neudorf, Katherina Ensz and Elizabeth Rempel. In 1892 some members of the family are believed to have moved to Ignatewo. Contact: Clifford E. Schink, 300 Santa Rita Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301.
Cornies - Wishing to make contact with the relatives of Philip David Cornies (1884-1961/62?). Philip D. Cornies was the son of David Cornies and Anna Dueck. He was a school teacher and lived in Rosenort, Molotschna 1911-1922. He died in the city of Doksehetow, Kasachstan, USSR. Contact: Heinrich Cornies, Nelkenweg 6, 4937 Lage-Kachtenhausen, Germany. (in German)
Bergen - Wishing to make contact with the descendants of our Bergen family which left the Ukraine for Canada during the 1920s. Isaak Bergen was born in Schonhorst, Abram Bergen was born 1858 in Schoneeberg. From 1864 to 1920 they lived in Kronsgarten, Chortitza. Abram's children were: Heinrich b. 1884, Maria, Abram, Susanna, Johan, Anna, Jakob and Sara. Contact: Andreas Bergen, Anleser-str. 26, 6400 Fulda, Germany. (in German)
This book begins with Heinrich F. Janzen (1849-1920) of Einlage, known as der kleine Janzen, who married 1) ? Kehler (1848-1886), 2) Elizabeth Dyck (1864-1895) of Gruenfeld, 3) a Mrs. Giesbrecht (1845- ) and, 4) Katharina Letkemann (1865-1955) who was born at Osterwick and died at Aberdeen, Saskatchewan. Contact: John J. Janzen, Box 207, Hague, SK S0K 1X0.
The Descendants of Ohm Abraham Wiebe 1831-1991 (Winkler, MB : Wiebe Family History Committee, 1992) 304 pp. $35.00.
This book traces the family history of the descendants of Abraham Wiebe (1831-1900) who was born in Neuhorst, Russia, moved to Fuerstenland in 1864 and then to Canada in 1876, where he died in the village of Reinland, Manitoba. The book contains valuable background information Abraham Wiebe's parents, grandparents, siblings and uncles and aunts. Abraham Wiebe was a brother to the Aeltester Johann Wiebe of the Fuerstenland Colony and later of the West Reserve in Manitoba. Contact: Wiebe Family Book, P.O. Box 367, Winkler, MB R6W 4A6.
Peter B. Maggs, President of Urbana Technologies has given the following additional information:
Specific inquiries should be sent to the above address, where they will be transferred to the Moscow office by electronic mail. If you have electronic mail (MCImail, Sprintmail, ATTmail, etc.) you can contact the Moscow office directly. The electronic mail address there is "firstname.lastname@example.org". You may need to contact your electronic mail service representative to find how to send electronic mail to this address.
The basic fees are $12 per hour and $1 for photocopies. Where specific local archives charge substantially more for photocopies, these fees are passed on. Often the local archives do not have photocopying machines, in which case, a professional photographer is hired to make a special trip to the archive. The copying charge is then $13.00 per page. For certified copies, notarial fees are also passed on.
The Moscow office can arrange all details for customers' visits to the archives to view family history documents, including visas, inexpensive housing, and services of English-speaking professional archivist-guides.
It was a very sudden decision. Early in July, LaVerna and I received an invitation to become MCC's country representatives in Moscow - to begin in early October (1992 not 1993). We decided it was a most interesting opportunity - even for the one-year duration proposed in the invitation. We are asked to open an MCC office there and to direct the new programs in Russia from that site.
When Peter Rempel, the MHCA assistant archivist agreed to become acting director for the period of my absence, one major question was answered. A second one was dealt with when we were able to rent our home to a suitable family for the period of our absence.
We will have a little time, we hope, to look for new archival sources and perhaps to get copies for our holdings. Some of you may be wondering when we are getting the Odessa materials. As we see it now, the first deposit will happen this fall. We hope to inform you on the exact details as soon as possible.
In the meantime, we hope you will continue to find our services helpful. An address of our new location in Moscow will be available, we hope for the December issue.
Thank you for your support and encouragement along the way!
Since the sudden passing of Ben Horch this summer, my mind has travelled over 45 years of memory trails. Already as a child, I was acutely conscious of Ben as a conductor, partly, I realize now, because I was subconsciously making comparisons with other Mennonite conductors, particularly with K.H. Neufeld. K.H., as he was known in the rural communities of southern Manitoba, was a family friend and so stories about him abounded in our home. We had no family stories about Ben except one, and that one about Ben's father and his piano playing. Perhaps we got that story from Ben's younger brother, Albert, who in 1942 married my father's step-sister.
So for me, Ben had to create his own stories, and create them he did. I remember hearing him "finesse" his way through familiar church hymns and gospel songs -- songs he called "Kern-lieder". They were well-known to us and I was both surprised and elated at the magic he worked into these songs with MBBC's A cappella choir. I was also, dare I say it, slightly annoyed at the thought that congregations would never again, after hearing this, be able to sing these songs as they had until this point. What a loss, I thought, as a sentimental eleven year old.
Ben's work in oratorio is a magnificent memory for me. I was 18, attending the Manitoba Normal School in preparation for a life of teaching. I heard Ben was forming a "Liebhaber" Choir for the purpose of singing Haydn's "Die Schoepfung". I do not remember where the rehearsals took place but I remember going for an audition. And I remember his wide smile when he said, "You're a singer. I want you in the choir." It was my first experience singing a major work and my enthusiasm has been rewarded in that I still know the complete work from memory to this day. Not only was Ben great fun at rehearsals, he was also a perceptive musician, presenting insights into music-making that I have not heard elsewhere. His clarity of perception was evident many years later when as conductor of the Winnipeg Singers I received several notes from him which were not only encouraging, but also analytically instructive.
Today, regrettably, much of amateur community music-making is either abandoned or relegated to the professionals. Ben's work with the Mennonite Symphony Orchestra, as it was called in the forties, was his expression of the importance of getting instruments into the hands of amateurs -- teenagers and adults. The Mennonitische Rundschau from this era carries numerous advertisements and some pictures of this ensemble which at times had approximately 100 players. A farmer friend tells of playing a Beethoven symphony as a member of this ensemble. To his concern about the complexity of this piece, Ben had simply said, "Play the notes you can." The effort and energy Ben expended in giving community people a chance to play and sing was enormous; we, today, still owe him many thanks for that. And of course Ben was centrally involved in reviving the Mennonite Community Orchestra in the mid seventies.
Ben never lost his touch with and his heart for young people. While music program director of new-born radio station in Altona in 1957, he immediately set about forming the Southern Manitoba Choral Society. Fittingly, this past spring that organization honoured Ben and Esther Horch at their 35th anniversary. Ben's pioneer efforts have brought lasting benefits to a whole generation of music lovers.
As producer at the CBC, Ben gave opportunities for young musicians like Irmgard Braun-Baerg and myself in recitals on that network. In such endeavours, his humour was unfailingly present. A well-timed joke from behind the glass released impending tensions. Particularly I remember his play on the word "Horch" when I was about to sing Schubert's "Horch, horch die Lerch". Years later, in the fall of 1987, as we approached Ben's 80th birthday, I invited Ben to come to an MBBC A cappella rehearsal (I conducted the choirs that year). The two Mennonite college choirs had been asked to join a community choir in a birthday celebration for Ben at Portage Avenue Mennonite Brethren church. It took some coaxing but Ben came to the rehearsal. Most of the college singers, of course, did not know Ben. Yet in his casually interesting yet intellectually stimulating conversation with the choir, it was as if the 60-year age gap evaporated. This is my favourite memory. Here was a man in a body that had slowed down but whose heart and mind had kept growing! The celebrations over, I watched with a chuckle as Ben and George Wiebe did wonderful impersonations of favourite characters including K.H. Neufeld, Robert Shaw, and J.B.Toews.
One could continue talking about Ben's tireless efforts in the cause of bringing music into the lives of ordinary people. His efforts to have the vitality and validity of folk music recognized within Manitoba's ethnic mosaic will, I hope, someday be realized more fully than it now is. His interest in new music led him to sponsor major commissions, one of which has become very successful. His dream to see an orchestral ensemble established within the music programs of the two Winnipeg Mennonite colleges will hopefully someday be realized as well.
Some six weeks before Ben passed on, he and I had lunch together. I don't know if he was aware that an 85th birthday celebration was being planned for him, but I do know that his dreams were still there, intact, and his enthusiasm for life was still thriving. And he shared a joke with me! Thanks be to God for Ben Horch!
The only thing Russian about the village is its name: Neodachino. That means "No Happiness". The language spoken there is Low German. Almost all the inhabitants are Mennonites of German and Dutch extraction.
In 1987, the Russian Germans acquired the right to return to Germany. Of the 800 inhabitants, 200 have already left. And the exodus continues. In the end, 80 - 90 % of the inhabitants are likely to leave... for economic but also for religious reasons. Is it not written in the Good Book that the end of time is nigh and all peoples must return to their homelands?
Dozens of families in Neodachino are "waiting for a number". Those with a number can leave, although it can be months before the actual departure. But there are still some who plan to stay -- people who don't want to join the end of the line in Germany, who think that Neodachino has everything that you could ever need to lead the good life. The dividing line bisects families. Every family has at least one emigrant. Those who stay behind can dote on the video tapes they receive through the mail from Germany ) tapes bursting with all the comfort the West has to offer: luxurious houses, the new Audi standing out front, the autobahn, the supermarkets brimming with produce.
There is a second dividing line through the village, that of religion. The Mennonites of Neodachino are divided into two groups: the Kirchlichen and the Brudergemeinde. The "Bruders" are rigid and see the Bible as their only point of departure. They don't read newspapers and regard television as the talking animal from Revelation 13:5-7. The "Kirchlichen" are more open to the worldly ways. They put more emphasis on personal conscience and responsibility. The two communities have little to do with each other. They pray apart, a mixed marriage is still unusual and they celebrate their religious feasts separately.
The documentary "Geen Geluk" (No Happiness) is a portrait of the Mennonites of Neodachino, in all their diversity and divergence. It is more than the story of a village. Based on the stories of inhabitants it reveals how their history symbolizes the history of Mennonites of Russia.
The film focuses on the family of the elder of the Kirchlichen, Gerhard Neufeld. Gerhard and his wife Mariechen have nine children. Much of what divides the village also divides the family. Gerhard is deeply religious and his will is law, for the present: His children won't marry Russians. That's that. And there is no question of leaving Neodachino.
The film was expected to be shot in the month of September 1992 and should be available in VHS video format before long. It is being produced by Dutch film producers, Carol Kuyl and Rob Hof.
A group of Mennonites and Baptists met for a fourth and final session from August 1 to 6 in Amsterdam, the location of the first dialogue between Baptists and Mennonites almost 400 years ago (ca. 1609). The dialogue between Baptists and Mennonites is one of a number of bilateral and multilateral dialogues that have taken place between various Christian communities for several decades. Much of the initiative for this series was taken by Baptist Noel Vose of Australia, the former President of the Baptist World Alliance. His first awareness of Mennonites came around 1960 while studying in Chicago, when his professor referred him to Harold S. Bender, who has been referred to as the dean of Mennonite historians.
The Mennonite team was sponsored by the Mennonite World Conference and was headed by Ross Bender of Goshen, IN. Unfortunately, illness prevented him from attending the final session. Other members of the Mennonite team included Anna Juhnke (North Newton, KS), Daniel Schipani (Elkhart, IN), Ed van Straten (Holland), Beulah Hostetler (Elizabethtown, PA), Abe Dueck (Winnipeg, MB) and staff member Larry Miller (Strassburg, France), who replaced Paul Kraybill as Executive Secretary of the Mennonite World Conference.
The discussions this year focused on preparing a final report consisting of brief summaries of the histories of the two groups and the points of intersection between them and more detailed statements concerning theological issues such as conceptions of authority, the nature of the church and the mission of the church in the world. The most intense aspect of the dialogue involved preparing concise statements on convergences and divergences between Baptists and Mennonites. Mennonites were particularly interested in exploring the Baptist sucess in missions and evangelism, whereas Baptists showed a keen interest in Mennonite emphases on peace and service as fundamental to the Christian life. A series of recommendations will also be part of the final report to the respective world bodies In addition to the intense discussions around the table in the Singel Mennonite (Doopsgezinde) Church in Amsterdam, the participants also enjoyed the warm hospitality of Amsterdam and the Dutch Mennonites. Of particular significance for Baptists was seeing the name of John Smyth on the list of names of congregational leaders in the entrance way of the Singel Church, as well as visiting other cites of historical interest relating to the English Baptists who spent a number of years in Amsterdam and contemplated joining the Waterlander group of Mennonites. The significance of contacts with Mennonites for the later history of Baptists is still a matter of debate among academicians.
Baptists and Mennonites have continued to intersect in many times and places over the centuries. German Baptists played a significant role in the origin and early development of Mennonite Brethren in Russia. Many Mennonites have also become involved in missions through Baptist agencies and others have studied in Baptist schools. Later this year of early in 1993 a book on Mennonite Brethren and Baptist relationships, edited by Paul Toews, will be published by Kindred Press. A growing awareness of common roots and an appreciation for each other's contributions should result in more cooperation in the future.
Reviewed by Ken Reddig
Published diaries, while useful for research and of great interest to relatives, are most often viewed as supplementary information on broader historical themes and discourses. Whether or not such a view of diaries is appropriate is debateable. But, I would venture to say that the generally low esteem to which most published diaries have fallen has more to do with their editing and inadequate contextualization, than with their contents.
From time to time a truly exceptional published diary appears which defies even the most cynical of diary readers, and this volume is certainly one of those. Cast into its historical context by an excellent 72 page introduction and analysis, Harvey L. Dyck has gone far beyond a careful editing of one individual's diaries, and has provided the reader of Russian Mennonite History with a succinct, readable, historical sweep of the mid 19th century. Throughout this introduction he places the diarist, his family, church, community and geographic region into their broad national and international context. Written with skill and strewn with enticing quotes, the reader is led eagerly to leap into the diaries themselves.
As with many private diaries, one is let down almost immediately by the mundane and ordinary entries of a lay minister who struggles with finances, feelings of inadequacy, the heavy weight of pastoral duties, constantly having to keep his flock in line and the inevitable spectre of death at every corner. The reader is provided the rare opportunity to share in the down-to-earth debates over issues and problems of concern to the Mennonite community. The debates of the landless, the Judenplan, wealth, poverty, sexuality, immorality, church polity, religion are all seen from the eyes of someone who is moving through this passage of time and space with only his unshakeable rudder of faith to keep him headed towards a hopefully brighter future.
There are many points at which readers of Russian Mennonite history will find insights of Jacob Epp truly illuminating. One is the remarkable insight into the day-to-day life of Mennonites living as "model farmers" within Jewish communities. The "Judenplan" was first, an attempt to give the landless Mennonites property on the one hand, and secondly, an attempt by the Russian government to relieve pressures among impoverished Jews in the northwestern provinces and to engineer a more normal social structure by turning some of them into peasants. The rub came when the two isolated communities were forced to interact with each other. Contrary to popular family myths, the interaction was characterized more by toleration than friendliness, as Epp notes in his diaries.
For anyone interested in the story of Mennonites in Russia this volume is a must to read. While the existence of these diaries has been known for some time, Harvey Dyck must be commended for making these diaries readily available to the interested public. This book is beautifully bound and attention to every detail is shown by inclusion of maps, photographs as well as illustrative watercolour paintings by one of Jacob Epp's former students, Cornelius Hildebrand.