Faith and History

   We are grateful for the many generous financial donations we have been receiving recently. This week one of those gifts was accompanied by a card in which the donor expressed gratitude for the work we do at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) and specifically reminded us not to forget the faith of our forebears.

   I appreciated that reminder because it is the faith element in the Anabaptist story that makes our work most compelling and important to me. I do enjoy the historical and ethnic elements of our work as well. The ethnic food we serve in the Livery Barn Restaurant is always a treat. I enjoy the old houses, barns, schools and churches, as well as the old tools and farm implements. So many of these things remind me of my youth, and despite all the hardships we experienced, these memories are by-and-large positive ones. But were it not for the profound and courageous faith stories that accompany the tangible things and are in fact the foundation for our history, I would find our work much less significant.

   To remind ourselves of the faith movement that initiated “Mennonite” faith, we should review some of the key elements adopted by the original Anabaptist reformers who eventually formed the Amish, Hutterite, and Mennonite sub-groups.

   As the name “Anabaptist” would suggest, the matter of baptism is a key defining element of that faith movement. The Anabaptist reformers of the 16th century believed that a Christian should make a personal request for baptism based on one’s faith in, and commitment to following, the teachings of Jesus. The practice of that day was infant baptism, enforced by both church and government. So this created some significant conflict, even persecution, for these radical reformers.

   The separation of church and state became another key tenet of this early faith movement. In a time when church and state enjoyed joint authority in society, they held to the belief that governments should not have authority over matters of faith and conscience.

   The early Anabaptists were also pacifists. Based on the life and teachings of Jesus, it was their belief that Christians should deal with conflict in non-violent ways, as retaliation and revenge did not align with His exemplary life.

   The reformers promoted what is often referred to as “the priesthood of all believers.” This tenet of Anabaptist faith states that all believers have equal access to God. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, there is no longer another intermediary required in one’s relationship and communication with God. Therefore, these radical reformers organized themselves into congregations where members were involved in the teaching and leadership of the church. Leadership hierarchies had no place in these groups.

   These early elements of Anabaptist faith still exist in varying degrees in our current Mennonite faith groups. Many of our forebears paid a very high price in defending these beliefs. It is important to remind ourselves of their courage and tenacity again and again, so that we will continue to be inspired to teach that faith and courage to future generations.

Calendar of Events

- July 11-15 – Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 5-8

- July 29–August 1 – Pioneer Days - 10:00-6:00 daily

- August 8-12 – Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 9-12

- August 10 – Heritage Classic Golf Tournament at Quarry Oaks

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About the Author

Barry is the Executive Director of the Mennonite Heritage Village. While he does not consider himself to be a historian, he places a high value on the preservation and interpretation of the Mennonite and pioneer stories that help people of all ages understand and appreciate their heritage. Learn more about the MHV.

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