Ask a Hutterite

The blog of a real, live Hutterite.

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Coping with Comfort and Convenience: Living Courageously as Hutterites in the 21st Century

gewagt-muendig-leben-Themenjahr-2020-einseitig cHutterites of the 21st-century live in an era of unprecedented prosperity. Never have we experienced such an extended period of peace and plenty as in the last century on the Great Plains of North America. The political and religious persecution of Moravia, Ukraine, and the early years in North America are but a distant, vague memory in the collective Hutterite psyche. That is not to say that these memories are not important or have no influence at all. It is to say, however, that with this significant shift come different challenges that must be confronted if we are to remain faithful to the Gospel of Jesus and our foreparents’ legacy. Continue reading

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Jacob D. Maendel Lecture Series

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of permanent Hutterite settlement in Manitoba, the Hutterian Brethren Book Centre is pleased to host the inaugural Jacob D. Maendel Centennial Lecture series.



Lecture 1: Beginnings: Coming to Manitoba
Date: June 1, 2019
Time: 1:00-2:30 pm.

Lecture 2: “Like the World, Only Later in Time”: The Struggle with Acculturation
Date: June 8, 2019
Time: 9:30-11:00 am.

Lecture 3: (Dis)Uniting: Sources of Hope Amid Conflict
Date: June 8, 2019
Time: 1:00-2:30 pm.


Trinity United Church
15 Tupper Street S.
Portage la Prairie, MB


Ian Kleinsasser

Ian Kleinsasser is an independent researcher based out of Crystal Spring Hutterite Community near St. Agathe, MB. He holds a Bachelor of Arts and an Education after degree from Brandon University. Ian has given numerous presentations at the annual conference for Hutterite German teachers and at the International Conference for Hutterite Educators. His groundbreaking article on the 1992 Schmiedeleut church schism will be published in Navigating Tradition and Innovation on the Hutterian Brethren Book Centre imprint this summer. Ian’s research focuses primarily on the Hutterianism of the 19th-20th centuries. Ian is the busy father of five lively children who are a constant reminder of why he pursues historical research. His work would not be possible without the dedication and support of his wife, Jolene. Jacob D. Maendel, the namesake of this lecture series, is his maternal grandfather.

Lecture Synopses

Lecture 1 | Beginnings: Coming to Manitoba

The first lecture will focus on the early settlement period (1918-1930). Main themes include:

  • The factors which caused Hutterites to leave South Dakota and settle in Canada, including a description of the actual settlement process in Manitoba.
  • The discrimination Hutterites encountered, such as the Order in Council which temporarily halted their emigration into Canada, and the significant changes to the Hutterite education system imposed by the provincial government.
  • The first contact between North American Hutterites and the German Bruderhof movement.

Lecture 2 | “Like the World, Only Later in Time”: The Struggle with Acculturation

The second lecture will focus on the period between 1930-1974. Its main themes include:

  • The impact of the Great Depression, the return of Eldership among the Schmiedeleut, the visit to Germany by two Hutterite ministers, and the subsequent Bruderhof exodus from Germany.
  • Hutterites’ experience during WWII and how this led to the passing of discriminatory legislation in Alberta and a Gentleman’s Agreement in Manitoba.
  • The Bruderhof’s move to Paraguay, the breaking of relations with the Hutterites in 1955 (Forest River Incident) and the reuniting in 1974.

Lecture 3 | (Dis)uniting: Sources of Hope Amid Conflict

The final lecture will develop some of the topics briefly introduced in the second lecture, beginning with the Hutterite-Bruderhof reuniting in 1974. Its main themes are:

  • The struggle for higher education, increased mission work, and the mixed bag of ‘blessings’ that come from increased interaction with “the world”.
  • A renewed interest in communalism, which brings outsiders into the Hutterite movement.
  • The Schmiedeleut schism of 1992 and the separation of the Bruderhof and Hutterite movements.

Biography of Jacob D. Maendel

Jacob D. MaendelJacob D. Maendel was a Hutterite teacher, pastor, and community leader. Born in 1911 at Rosedale Community near Alexandria, South Dakota, he migrated to Manitoba in 1918 when Hutterites fled political persecution because of their commitment to nonviolence. He was chosen as minister in 1949 at New Rosedale Community and went on to become widely regarded as a leader ahead of his time.
In an era when it was considered good economic sense to clear wooded land for use as fertile farmland, he insisted that strips of forest be conserved as ecological buffer zones. Both the task of selecting the site for a new community and the work of establishing Fairholme Community (1957–1959) was informed by his deep appreciation for nature: Jacob insisted on an acreage of bush above the Assiniboine River, and ensured that the natural environment remains as intact as possible, thereby gaining a reputation as “a staunch defender of trees.”
Jacob Maendel also had an ecumenical vision. Although Hutterites of the mid-20th century were characterized by exclusivism and sectarianism, Jacob was open to learning from non-Hutterites in a way that was enriching for the larger Hutterian Community. His outward-looking vision of faithful Christian discipleship lead to newcomers—families, as well as single adults—visiting New Rosedale: some stayed briefly, while others became permanent members.
Despite his basic grade seven education, he was a self-educated life-long learner who read widely and introduced his students to great thinkers like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sigmund Freud, Helen Keller, and John Milton. Maendel understood the value of a culturally sensitive education and his vision lead to the teaching career of Peter Maendel—the first Hutterite to attend and graduate from the Manitoba Teacher’s College. This resulted in the unique dynasty of Maendel educators among Manitoba Hutterites today.
Ultimately, Jacob’s vision and focus were the impetus for a surge of interest in education among Schmiedeleut I Hutterites that has culminated in nearly one hundred Hutterite teachers holding Arts and Education degrees and teaching Hutterite children in their respective communities.
Jacob Maendel died in 1972. With gratitude to God for the work, witness, and inspiration of Jacob D. Maendel, we name this centennial lecture series in his honour.

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Interview: Sunday@CMU

Founder's Hall in Autumn.

Founder’s Hall in Autumn.

From September to December 2014 I lived in residence at the Canadian Mennonite University while I worked through an intensive course of study primarily in the area of biblical and theological studies. Towards the end of my stay I was interviewed by Aaron Epp for Sunday@CMU, a short program aired on Golden West Radio stations throughout southern Manitoba.  The episodes aired on February the 15th and 22nd. Continue reading


Hans Decker: Orthodoxy won’t get you into heaven

Prediger Hans Decker was not your ordinary Hutterite minister. The text below is a prime example of his visionary thinking—thinking that occasionally got him in trouble with the status quo thinkers of his day. This document was first published in August of 1985. The German was modernized by Lothar Korff, and the English translation is my own. Continue reading

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Reflection: Elder Gerry Oleman on “Healing from Colonization”

Elder Gerry Oleman. Member of the St’at’imc Nation from Tsal’alh (Shalalth B.C.)

Elder Gerry Oleman is a member of the St’at’imc Nation from Tsal’alh (Shalalth, B.C.)

Last fall Elder Gerry Oleman spoke on campus at Brandon University. After my last class of the day, I struggled with whether or not I should bother checking it out because I had errands and needed to make it home on time for Susan to use the car for her weekend classes. Besides, I was exhausted and running on mere fumes of my last caffeine fix–an unfortunate addition to my life since I’ve gone back to school. Since noon, I was mixing up my lowercase Bs and Ds: a sure sign that my brain wasn’t in learning mode anymore. Yes, it was Friday afternoon. Continue reading


Reflection: Interview with CBC’s Nora Young on Spark


“Being interviewed guarantees being misunderstood.”

So says the Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell in a rare interview with Jian Ghomeshi aired in early June on CBC Radio’s Q. My own experience with a variety of media corroborates this. Continue reading


In memoriam: Prediger Samuel Gross

Sam Vetter's Obituary

Last week the Manitoba Hutterite community mourned the loss of a beloved Servant of the Word. Prediger Samuel Gross passed away on June the 12th following a struggle with cancer. He served the church and his community for over 40 years as a leader and minister. Sam Vetter was widely respected for being well-read and his gift for communicating the gospel message. Continue reading


Question: Hutterites and musical instruments

Question: What is the Hutterite stance with regard to the use of musical instruments, e.g. piano, guitar, violin, saxophone, etc. in your homes, schools and worship services?

A handwritten Hutterite hymnal. [photo: Kelly Hofer]

Response: Hutterites have an uncomfortable relationship with musical instruments. Considering that several key personalities in the Reformation and early Anabaptist movement were against all forms of music, this is to be expected. Regarding instruments and other issues, Martin Luther said, “If it isn’t expressly forbidden in Scripture, you may do it.” Ever cautious, Konrad Grebel countered, saying, “If it isn’t directly commanded in Scripture, you may not do it!” Aiming a direct critique against the Catholic liturgy, which wasn’t in the vernacular, Huldrych Zwingli said that corporate worship should focus on helping people understand scripture. Balthaser Hubmaier, however, was OK with singing: he felt singing texts that are understood by the singers is pleasing to God. Continue reading


Reflection: American Colony (Episode 3: Rockin’ Road Trip)

A special evening

Photograph by National Geographic Channels / Collins Avenue Inc.

American Colony: Meet the Hutterites
Episode 3: Rockin’ Road Trip
Aired: June 12, 2012

There are two stories unfolding alongside each other in this episode. To begin, the young people of King Ranch secure permission to attend a wedding in Canada. Secondly, the married ladies of the community are planning a weekend get-away with their husbands. Both storylines are fraught with challenges and conflict. In this reflection I will only discuss themes presented by the first strand, but also explore discoveries regarding the integrity and authenticity of American Colony‘s filming and editing process. Continue reading