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With CMU professor John J. Friesen (back row, far right) are Hutterite students (back row, from left) Jacqueline Maendel of Fairholme Colony; Josh Waldner, Sunnyside; James Waldner, Wingham; Jonathan Waldner, Silver Winds; (front row) Eileen Waldner, Green Acres; Andrea Maendel, Fairholme; Karen Waldner, Springfield; and Stanley Kleinsasser, Wingham.

University Helps Hutterites Reconnect With Their Heritage

Cummings, Duane. "University Helps Hutterites Reconnect With Their Heritage." Mennonite Weekly Review, 25 March 2002, 1 & 3.


Winnipeg, Manitoba - Manitoba Hutterites are rediscovering their heritage and a sense of community with help from Canadian Mennonite University.

CMU is in the second year of a pilot project in cooperation with the Hutterian Brethren Education Committee. More than 80 pastors, teachers, young people and others from 35 Hutterite communities recently spent eight weeks learning "Anabaptist and Hutterite History and Beliefs" from CMU history professor John J. Friesen.

"To the Hutterites, studying their history is not only an academic exercise," Friesen said.
"It deeply matters to their faith that they understand the importance of communal living, why their forbearers chose communal living, and that communal living and communal sharing is biblically based."

Eight Hutterite teachers are also taking the course for credit with letters of permission from Brandon University's Hutterite Education Program. The for-credit students are writing papers and making class presentations.

The course has grown from four weeks to eight since its inception last year.

"The presentations turned out to be a significant aspect of the course," Friesen said. "These students take responsibility for organizing some of the material into presentations."

Hutterian Brethren Education Committee president Arnold Hofer, a minister and teacher at Riverbend Colony near Carberry, said the course is enriching Hutterite communities.

"This brings a more thorough picture of our history and Theology," Hofer said.

The Hutterites first connected with Friesen five years ago after he produced a new English translation of Peter Riedemann's Hutterite Confession of Faith from the German original. Friesen's translation is now used in many Hutterite education programs.

Friesen was asked to create a course to help Hutterites better understand their basic beliefs.

The course follows the two-volume Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren, which narrates Anabaptist and Hutterite experiences from the time of the Reformation to the Hutterites' migration to North America in 1874.

Hofer is encouraged by participation in the course at a time when some Hutterites are considering other expressions of faith.

"In the time we live in today, with all the mainline churches, there is a shift, we feel, on our young people," Hofer said. "I feel God has given us some insight as a committee to get on track, to bring to our classes and schools that faith is also based in communal living."

Despite the growing influences of modern society, Hofer said there is great interest in preserving the Hutterite experience.

"I see [this course] strengthens many of our teachers and young people," he said. "Now we need to maintain and keep establishing the faith our forefathers left behind for us."

Friesen said having the course at CMU strengthens ties between Mennonites and Hutterites.

"I think it's an opportunity to connect with, serve and learn from the Hutterite community," Friesen said.

Reprinted with permission of the Mennonite Weekly Review

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