Ask a Hutterite

The blog of a real, live Hutterite.

Questions & Comments

Please use this page to ask questions. I’ll respond as inspiration and time permit.

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45 thoughts on “Questions & Comments

  1. OK, I’ll start with an easy one. Q: What (in your experience) is the most common misconception about Hutterites?

  2. 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?

  3. Best wishes on your new endeavor, Kenny! Blogging changed my life!

  4. Kenny what is the real purpose that we as a Gemeinshaft have the men and women sitting on opposite sides of each other in the dining room ? I have heard different ideas and want to know your take on this Thanks.

  5. Is it possible for someone who is not a Hutterite to join the church and become one?

  6. Ken

    I just was led to this wonderful blog a few hours ago via a personal message I sent to you. I have spent most of my time in the past two hours reading through most to the things you have personally written and also what others have submitted.

    I am delighted that you have revived a Hutterite discussion site.

    I want to thank you for filling in on a tremendous gap left in my own life by the cessation of the HSN on April 1. (Yes, I really thought, at first that it was a rather cruel “April Fools” prank when I first saw that the Hutterite Social Network was coming to an end on April 1.) The HSN was my daily contact with active Hutterites, Wanna-bees, and Can’t Get it Out of My System types–or simply interested and concerned friends–such as I was.

    I know this is a huge task and you are a person who seems to be unafraid of huge tasks. So, I sincerely hope when this whole National Geographic “Hutterite reality TV” mess blows over, you will find time to keep this post running for other issues of immediate concerns to the Hutterite community. (I have faith that you will not let it get somewhat out of control and devolve into arguments over whether or nor the Calgary Flame are better then the Edmonton Oilers as sometimes happened in the Hutterite Social Network.)

    As my friends from New Zealand would say: “Good On You, Mate!”

  7. Ken,

    I have been asked by four different people to try to do something about the “American Colonies” series. Actually, its simply too late to try to ask National Geographic to cancel the remaining episodes or to put some sort of a disclaimer at the beginning and the end of each episode that would in some way or another indicate that what is seen might not reflect the majority of Hutterite colonies. Also, on the National Geographic web page, there is a rather long discussion written my Wesley Hofer (the older, non-married major character in the series) that from his involvement on the project nothing was contrived and that everything that was broadcast was dome with the full knowledge of all people who were involved. He then goes on to say that it is unfair to depict the people of King Ranch Colony as being too innocent and naive to not really know what where doing as they were being filmed.

    Actually, I am a very close friend of Wesley’s aunt and uncle and they told me that both Wesley and his mother, Rita, said they had no idea that the “end product” of the NGS series would come out so heavy-handed and critical of them or anyone else in the colony. When I think of the sad reality that Wesley’s grandmother, Anna “English Anna” Stahl (Ayres Ranch Colony) just passed away in February of this year–and for him to pretend that high school AND college education puts a sad reflection on a woman who stood for education and self-improvement throughout her long life. All I can say is: “Shame on you Wesley Hofer–shame on you!!!”

    In light of what seems to be a complete denial by National Geographic that what they did was only what they saw during the filming, was unscripted, and was only recorded as it actually happened, I have been trying to think of another way to get the truth out to an interested public. (E.g.: Yeah right. Hutterites never switch back to “Hutterisch” even in close and personal discussions between siblings; between closely related women in the kitchen; and when the field boss giving unpopular orders to some guys who seem to be just lazy “Colony Boys” who don’t want to break into a sweat. Anyone who has spent even one night in a colony knows that “Hutterisch” is the rule in Hutterite discourse and English is the exception.

    All I can think of is a “follow-up” discussion at the end of the series that would invite some Hutterites from other colonies to add their opinions and insights on the series, it self, and on Hutterite life itself. I do not mean a well-orchestrated “pi;ing on”, but a moderated discussion with individuals representing all sides of the debate.

    Many of us have probably seen fair and open discussions of Hutterite life. (in contrast to the claim made at the beginning of each episode of “American Colony” that this is “…the first inside look at Hutterite life in their 500 year history.” (Or, something close to that statement.) Never mind the excellent documentaries made by The Canadian National Film Board (The Hutterites) in the 1960s or John Ruth and Burton Buller’s Film (The Hutterites: To Care and Not to Care) in the early 1980s. Or, the films recently made at Pincher Creek Colony and aired in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Hutterites have also appeared–as Hutterites–in the rather sensationalist propaganda film (Forty-ninth Parallel), and in the BBC film of Flat Willow colony in the 1990s (How to Get to Heaven in Montana) and non-Hutterite actors have appeared as Hutterites in the Leonard Nemoy fantasy (Heavenly Matrimony) with a scene by scene rip-off of John Ruth’s (The Hutterites: To Care…). The series: “American Colony” has probably been seen my more people than all of the other previous Hutterite-involved combined. The Hutterites deserve to be more than thought of as they have been depicted in this recent NGS series.

  8. I am researching family history and stumbled on something that warrants more investigation. My relative moved to South Dakota about 1877, surname of Tchetter or Zschetter. We are investigating the possibility of a Hutterite Linage, but there is a reference to “Prairieleut” in out family archives. Do you have any information on what this Prairieleut might be referencing? With that question is it something I should be noting while researching?

  9. I wonder why Hutterites don’t seem to see the value ‘English’ people can add to your community.. It is almost as though you are wanting a clean blood line rather an amazing commune. Having the same genes may even be contributing to the problems the colony faces. It’s been proven time & time again that doing the same thing just to do the same things, doesn’t allow growth.

    I’d appreciate your thoughts,
    Robi

  10. I would really like to see a book of true stories, sayings and practical wisdom from the Hutterites. There’s a book called, The Amish in their own Words. Why not have a Hutterie book like that? Christians everywhere today need to learn more about sharing and working together. So many suffer physically and emotional in the Body of Christ because their churches aren’t good at helping others–maybe they try hard, but they aren’t efficient or effective. An open, honest book of wisdom from the experiences of Hutterites throughout history could inspire Christians to love and help one another more.

  11. Thank you for sharing and allowing an intelligent discourse about Hutterites.

    I’m contacting you because I’m sad to see no new posts. I hope tht you will continue to share some insight into a fascinating way of life

    Thanks again!

    • Thanks for your comment. Life is a bit too busy on my end right now, so the blog is staying behind. I am working on AC reflections as I can, and look forward to tackling more questions from readers.

  12. Would you accept a person of color in your colony?

  13. What happened to the Prairieleut? I’ve read that four different Leuts emigrated to America. One, the Prairieleut, did not practice the community of goods. What became of them? Are they the “Society of Brothers” in New York (and other states) that I’ve seen references to? Thanks. – John

    • John: The Prairieleut are not the Society of Brothers. In the mid-1900’s the PL mostly joined Mennonite congregations in South Dakota, and eventually assimilated into mainstream society. There are a few people in the Freeman, SD area who still strongly identify with their Hutterite Prairieleut roots.

  14. I’m reading accounts of the very early days of the Hutterites. The “proto-Hutterites” were being led by various people (Jakob Hutter is just beginning to become involved as a leader beyond his own congregation) and I’ve been mention of some of these leaders being accused of being an “Ananias” or “Sapphira.” Initially, I was very confused. I looked them up and that certainly clarified what said people were being accused of, but now I’m wondering if “Ananias” and “Sapphira” is just colorful language on the part of the author or if that’s an accusation a Hutterite might actually make…. Thanks! – John

    • No, I wouldn’t say that it was mere literary license on the part of the chronicler. The offenders were quite likely sharply admonished and compared to Ananias and Sapphira as per the early church story in the Acts of the Apostles.

      Even today, when teachings caution against withholding resources and energy from the community this story is references. Hope this helps.

      • Yes. No. I’m not really sure exactly what my question is per se.

        I’ve been curious about the early history of the Hutterites, specifically at what point they gained a cultural identity separate from the other Anabaptists of the time. I spoke to another kind Hutterite gentleman about the subject, but he didn’t have a lot of information. Now I have a book whose first 118 pages cover the Hutterites’ journey before North America and while it is answering many of my questions, I’m struggling to internalize the rather dry, academic facts so that they “come alive” for me. – John

  15. I’m still reading the same book. I’m slow. I’m digesting the material like a fine meal. Also, it’s a big book. And I’m slow (about 30 pages a month slow). Shrug.

    Here’s what I’m confused about. As I understand it: The year is 1857 or so. The Hutterites are living in Russia. They had been living with the Mennonites, but although the two groups shared some similarities, they also have their differences as well. As a result, the Hutterite Brethren have decided to found a new bruderhof. If I understand correctly, this was Hutterdorf.

    Before the Hutterites leave for Hutterdorf, George Waldner, the minster at Hutteral, where they have been staying, dies. Three new ministers are elected in his place: Michael Waldner, Jacob Hofer, and Darius Walter. At Hutterdorf, the three ministers are interested in renewing communal living – the Hutterites have not been doing so for some time. Waldner and Walter are able to do so and end up founding the first two Leuts, one at each end of the hof.

    Throughout this book, I’ve seen the term Gemeinschaft. As I understand it, “Gemein” means church. Gemeinschaft is, to the best of my knowledge, living together as a Godly community. Willingly being part of a community that lives together, worships together, comes to each other’s aid, because that is God’s plan or the path to redemption or both.

    As you can imagine, I’ve also run across another term quite often: Gütergemeinschaft. I believe this mean the community of goods, all things in common, etc..

    This is my question: How could the Hutterites have been living together and not be practicing Gemeinschaft? That is, it seems as I am missing some vital element to understanding Gemeinschaft because at the time the Hutterites were said not to be practicing it, they were all still living together, still helping each other, still worshiping together. In the book, there are accounts of some ministers omitting references to Gemeinschaft from the sermons – thus there was still church and the (almost) traditional sermons and the togetherness.

    What am I missing? Is it me? Is it the book?

    Thanks again!

    John

  16. Do people work outside of the community?

  17. Can Hutterite women participate equally in ALL aspects of Hutterite life, e.g. can they have positions of leadership in the colony (governance, church leadership), are they free to aspire to any and all types of work, may they travel outside the colony on their own and are they “allowed” to remain unmarried?

  18. Some days in the common world, where women are working and shuffling their children to daycare each day, it’s intriguing for me to find out how women’s workdays unfold on the colony. To harried and busy Moms, it sometimes seems idyllic to think about having a role set out for you each day and the kids are looked after.

    1) What would a typical women’s day look like on a Colony?

    2) Is there a hierarchy in the kitchen or other jobs and how is it determined who does what?

    I’m just curious about how that works. Thank you very much for your blog. I have gained a lot of insight as to how Colonies operate, but always have more questions!

  19. I very much enjoyed your interview on CBC radio with Nora Young. It was very informative for me as I have made the acquaintence of members of a couple colonies in Saskatchewan. Thank you for your insight and sharing.

  20. LOVED listening to you on CBC’s “Spark” today!

  21. I heard the interview tonight on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) made me look for this blog. Are there Hutterite communities in Australia or New Zealand?

  22. http://thecommonlife.com.au/c/community-in-action-old/

    Ken the above link directs to a community in Australia that has much in common with Hutterite communities in North America.

    • That’s very interesting! I haven’t read the whole site yet, but it seems as if some of their members come from the Habaner, other European Hutterite groups, etc.. I wonder if their group have family surnames that no longer appear in North America…

      John

  23. I am not aware of any Hutterites living in the south eastern parts of the U.S. however I hope they will one day. They are a beautiful people.

  24. Hi Dear Hutterites , I hope you are having a beautiful day .

    I became really interested in Hutterites and how they live their lives .

    I would appreciate if you can tell me if there are hutterites colonies in Australia ? can a non hutterite come and live with Hutterites in their communities ? taking into consideration that this new comer is not a christian nor a jew ?

    yoursupport is highly appreciated

    Respectfully

    Ahmad

  25. I’ve started reading the Rechenshaft. I ended up checking two copies out of the library and in the appendices of one copy, there is the reproduction of the text of a pamphlet. It’s called The Hutterian Brothers, Four Centuries of Common Life and Work and was written by Eberhard Arnold. It makes a couple of assertions that confuse me.

    First, it refers to the Schmiedeleut as the Schmiedegruppe. The names of the other two Leut (or is the plural Leute?) remain the same. Is it – or was it common – to refer to Michael Waldner’s group that way? I’ve done a fair bit of reading about the HBC and never encountered Schmiedegruppe before.

    Second, the pamphlet says that “Hutterite” is a term used by the Protestant and Catholic enemies of the early Hutterites, along with Wiedertäufer. It says that the Hutterites prefer the term the Brothers or Brotherhood. Was that the case? Is that the case? Again, I don’t recall hearing that before. I don’t want to be rude to people, so…

    If I understand correctly, what I’ve stumbled across is something written by the founder of the Arnoldleut or the Society of Brothers. From my understanding, they’re not Hutterites per se. If I recall, at times they’ve been considered by one or more of the Leut to be part of the HBC and at other times they’ve been considered to be…something else. Is that correct?

    Thanks again!

    John

  26. Great BLOG Kenny. Very well worded and intelligent. Im writing a novel actually with the subject matter centered on a Colony. I have many questions that have come up during the course of my research …none of which will be answered through the NG “documentary” . Not a documentary at all in my view. Just another lousy reality show that oversimplifies a complex issue and no doubt caused a lot of problems for the people involved. I would encourage you to keep writing. You have a gift for it and I think it’s needed for your community to be understood.

  27. Hi there! I was wondering if it is possible for an outsider to become a huterrite and how. Thank you

    • The Bruderhofs are almost identical to the Hutterites and very open to outsiders becoming members. Try there first, if you find life too difficult on a Bruderhof, know it would have been even more so on a Hutterite colony.

  28. Hello Ken,

    I enjoyed hearing your interview with Nora Young today. The focus on technology made me wonder how the Hutterites view the issue of conflict minerals finding their way into our cell phones and computers, which Nora dealt with in the second part of the program. And more broadly, is there a Hutterite policy regarding political involvement in issues outside the community, including those which don’t immmediately impact the community; things such as climate change, income inequality, etc.; the list could go on. May we see a Hutterite running for office at some point?

    Best regards,
    Tim Nickel

  29. I am grateful to the Spark team for bringing you to us.

    I have had curiosity about communitarian sects for a long time, because I admire the commitment to the common good demonstrated by them. Sadly for the world, individualism abounds and the effect is the systematic destruction of the planet by enterprises and governments seeking wealth for the wealthy over health for people, life and the planet. Sadly for the world, establishment of communities which embrace the communitarian ethic is difficult beyond utility.

    The individualist formula doesn’t work for me. I have cognitive disabilities which makes keeping a job in the extremely competitive employment marketplace difficult. The result is employment instability and perpetual insecurity. I am troubled by the idea that, not in the Hutterite world but mostly otherwise, we are each individually exposed to the raw vicissitudes of nature. While the fate of an individual is subject to so much randomness, we are expected to somehow manage without help. I have Social Security Disability, but the amount paid to me is contingent on the wages I managed to earn in my tortured, unpredictable work life, and is in no way sufficient. What if I had not worked at all? What if I had been so learning disabled that I didn’t have any social security wages? Could that be the actual story of so many homeless persons? Why is it that it is only those able to power up into the privileged class through the merits of their own accomplishments, like ducks who survive the blasts of hunters’ shotguns, while others fall around, who are valued and deserving of a decent life? Does it make sense to expect every person to be perfectly adapted to the world as it is? Is there even enough room in the privileged class for everyone?

    The irony is that, even as I longed for community, before I began to feel the insecurities of maturity, I doubted I could give up my prerogatives as an individual. I wanted the chance that white North American culture offers to learn, travel, meet strangers, achieve, and perhaps acquire status. I worried too of being captured in a dysfunctional communalist experiment. And I still want to get a degree and make my personal contribution to knowledge. Now as I struggle to create meaning in the latter third of my life, I long for the comfort of a community, of acceptance and embrace.

    I would, in simple terms, like to have a life couched in community. As an atheist, I am keenly aware of the religious framework which makes your communities possible. I tend to doubt, in the present rich stew of individualist powers, and without the discipline imposed by “the word of God”, that such communities can survive. The record of communal experiments favors this conclusion. What would I and my comrades have to say to each other if someone were to be tempted to follow an individualist path? That we have a social contract? That we have committed to the ideal of a shared fate? That they’ll never have friends again? That other individualists will not trust them? That that individualist opportunity is worth less than the life with the group? These appeals to self-interest just don’t seem to provide the bulwark necessary to maintain group boundaries. In the world we live in, with the opportunities it offers, the boundaries of community must be entirely internalized, and that may take a religious mind, a zealous mind, a mind not captured by modern objective critical individualistic thinking.

    My story is not just my story. The quest for the goods and luxuries bestowed upon the privileged of the west, which is so common in the world and pits all against all, suits the super rich just fine, because that hunger for stuff and status keeps so much of humanity enslaved to their economic system. The Native Americans had to be removed from the land because they were too independent. Indigenous people today in North and South America are being killed and marginalized, because they are not beholden to the global economy and are uncooperative when the miners want to dig up their land. Many elsewhere in the world are just trying to eat. But the vision they have is consumerist. So get on board with consumerist enslavement, or get killed.

    My vulnerability is what they demand when they say “People need to be motivated to work.”. But we are all motivated to work if it means eating and being housed and having dignity! No, that reason is a lie. The real purpose of that vulnerability is to keep the poor poor, so the rich can continue to control the economy and manage it for their own wealth. They know we cannot all be rich. And they who have will do what ever they need to to keep what they have, no matter what destitution results for the others. Individualistic personal gain is a promise which, for most of us, cannot be kept, and it is by hiding this impossibility that the super-rich endeavor to control us. Only your communitarian societies have enough force to succeed against the tide of individualism.

    I have never visited a Hutterite community, nor an Amish nor a Menonite. I am unnerved by the degree of social control and loss of creativity. But I admire deeply that you would aspire to a common good. The world needs what you do. You may be among the survivors of the next great holocaust.

  30. Dear Mr. Hutterite,
    I am curious what is the attitude and treatment of Hutterite people with disabilities? If someone needed a wheelchair and was blind, how would the colony include them? What kind of jobs could they do on the colony?

  31. Stephen, I’m not sure what cognitive disabilities you could possibly have, as this entry of yours is at university level for sure. And it seems you are able to express some rather deep insights and complex political matters exceptionally well. Personally I think you have been misdiagnosed. I wish I could write as well as you.

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