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Mennonite settlements in Poland

Author: Michał Targowski

The Mennonites who migrated to Poland from the mid-16th century were mostly peasants. Their excellent skills in farming on marshy lands allowed them to settle down in low-populated areas in the delta of the Vistula river.

Choosing to live in the countryside

Although communities of  Mennonite craftsmen and merchants existed in Elbląg (Elbing) and in the suburbs of Gdańsk, most followers of Menno Simons chose to live in the country. The first Mennonite settlements were situated in the delta and valley of the lower Vistula, only a few lived at the Baltic sea coast and on the marshes of the river Noteć. In the early 17th century the Dutch organized their colony on one of the river islands which is now within the borders of Warsaw. Further development was hindered by wars until the late 18th century, when new generations of Mennonites, born in Poland, began to migrate again and to colonize new areas upstream of the Vistula and its tributaries.

 

Established in demanding locations with a high possibility of floods, villages settled by Mennonites had a unique form and character - wooden cottages usually built along a dike or an edge of dry land close to the marshes, the houses spaced out evenly. Fields were divided into regular long lots, perpendicular to the dike or a road and bordered by ditches. Linear villages of that type are called ’row villages’. Their design, preserved in many locations in Poland, is one of the elements of the heritage left by these immigrants.

 

Integrated communities

Mennonite settlements in Poland formed local groups which allowed cooperation between smaller communities. They organized common prayers and services which were attended by inhabitants of several villages. A lot was done to protect a Mennonite’s farm from being seized by Catholics or Lutherans. This is why the Polish Mennonites formed close-knit communities which were able to preserve their identity and religion for a long time, at least till the time of Germanization in the 19th and 20th centuries, and sometimes even until their dramatic migration from Poland in 1945. These centuries-old Mennonite settlements include dozens of villages in Zulawy and the Lower Vistula Valley, such as Wielka Nieszawka (Nessau), Sosnówka (Schonsee), Przechówko (Wintersdorf), Mątawy (Montau), Grupa (Gruppe), Bratwin, Jezioro (Thiensdorf), Kazuń (Deutsch Kazun) and Wymyśle. There, as well as in many other places, one can still find traces of the Mennonite history, preserved in lowland landscapes, in old examples of wooden architecture or in silent cemeteries.

 

Colonies

Author: Svietlana Bobileva
Translator: Katerina Revunenko 

Catherine the Great invited the Mennonites to Russia to develop the new lands of the empire. Chose for being skillful farmers they were given land, and money for travel and adjustment. They were exempt from military service and got some civic and self-government rights.

 

Colonies in Ekaterinoslav,  Alexandrovsk and Molochansk

The first 228 Mennonite families arrived in the Ekaterinoslav province  from Prussia. They established eight colonies: Chortitza,  Einlage, Rosenthal,  Kronsweide, Neuendorf, Shoenhorst, Neuenburg and the Insel Chortitza settlement. The next immigration group (118 families) arrived in the Novomoskovsk and Alexandrovsk area in 1793–1796. At the beginning of the 19th century, 150 Mennonite families were settled in the Tavria province (1804) where they set up their villages along the eastern bank of the Molotchna River. In 1804–1806 another 365 Mennonite families settled in this district.  During the first decades of the century the Mennonites founded 27 colonies in Molotchna: Halbstadt, Tiegenhagen, Schoenau, Fischau, Lindenau, Lichtenau, Muensterbeg, Altonau, Tiege, Orlovo, Blumenort, Muntau–Ladekop, Mariental, Rudnerweide, Franzthal,  Pastva, Grossweide and Blumstein.

 

In 1835 five more Bergtal colonies (145 families) settled in the Alexandrovsk area. In 1852 they were united into the third Mariapol Mennonite District.   When in 1836–1866  Doukhobors,  Russian sectarians, left for the Caucasus, the representatives of the Gnadenfeld Old-Flemish congregation  from Prussia took those vacated land, founding Gnadenfeld Mennonite Volost in the Molochansk Mennonite District.

 

Samara and Volhynia

Mennonites  from Danzig, Marienburg and Elbing settled in the Samara province from the 1850’s. By 1874 there were 16 colonies. Some Mennonite settlements were located in the Kiev province (Mikhalin village) and in Volhynia (Karlsweide, Swiss Mennonites settlements). By 1870 the total number of Danzig and Prussian Mennonites, who had  arrived in Russia, amounted to 2300 families.

 

New migration due to land problems

Economic development and population growth caused land problems. ‘Inheritance Law’ (1866) allowed fragmentation of land holdings but could not solve the lack of  land. However, the Mennonites bought the nobility’s lands after 1861, when serfdom had been abolished . Some new groups of colonies were established in new parts of Russia. At the beginning of the 20th century the total Mennonite population in the Russian Empire was 104.000. The Mennonites mostly lived in the Ekaterinoslav, Tavria and Samara provinces. The largest Mennonite colonies were: Chortitza (1800 people), Rosenthal (1226), Neuendorf (1121), Osterwick (3100), Einlage (1258) (in Ekaterinoslav province); Halbstadt (915) and Waldheim (946) (in the Tavria province).

 

Photo: Wally Kroeker, An Introduction to Russian Mennonites: A story of flights and resettlements to homelands in the Ukraine, the Chaco, the North American Midwest, Germany and beyond. (Good Books, PA, 2005).

 

Menno Simons’  Hiding Place

Author: Hans-Jürgen Goertz
Translator: J. Jakob Fehr 

On the north side of the village of Bad Oldesloe in Germany there is a whitewashed cottage with a thatched roof under a majestic linden tree, the Menno Kate. The Kate stands as a memorial to the last years of Menno Simons (1496-1561), the namesake of the Mennonites. After Menno was expelled from the city of Wismar in 1544 he found shelter in the estate of Wüstenfelde, where he could work on his publications in peace, writing to his congregations and discussing controversial issues of church discipline with fellow church leaders.

 

The secret printing press

Menno Simons lived on the Fresenburg estate with a group of Anabaptists who had been permitted to live at a nearby estate. The village of Wüstenfelde was later destroyed during the Thirty Year’s War, and so it is not clear whether the Menno Kate was rebuilt on exactly the same site or not, or perhaps even survived the war. He may have lived right in the Menno Kate when he was supervising the printing of his works. He was permitted to use the printing shop in the spring of 1554 and the summer of 1556. In spite of the general prohibition on printing Anabaptist literature, we know that four of his books, including his famous Foundation Book, were published in this time frame. Menno remained in Wüstenfelde after the printing shop was closed. He died there on January 13, 1561 and is said to have been buried in a cabbage patch five kilometres from the Menno Kate.

 

From hide-away to museum

Since 1902 a memorial stone and a bronze plate honour the memory of Menno Simons at the Menno Kate. The cottage is a listed historical monument. It is leased by the Union of German Mennonite Congregations and cared for by the Mennonite Historical Society of Germany. In the 1960s it was restored and turned into a small museum, displaying books, maps and images from the lively history of the Mennonites. It opened in 1986 and after further renovation it has been available to visitors since 1999.

 

Symbols of reconciliation

The aged linden tree that was supposedly planted by Menno himself is called the ‘Menno-Linde’. Several years ago Mennonites planted two beech trees, one in Wittenberg and one near the cottage. Both trees reaffirm the recent act of reconciliation between the Lutheran churches and the Mennonites.

Zulawy – New beginnings

Author: Łukasz Kępski
Translator: Michal Targowski 

Zulawy - the fertile green lowland at the mouth of the river Vistula, with its unique traditional architecture and incredibly complex drainage system, was a home for many generations of Mennonites from the 16th to the mid-20th century.

Tolerance

The first Mennonites settled in Zulawy in the mid-16th century. The area, called also Werder, was then a part of Royal Prussia, one of the provinces ruled by Polish kings. In earlier centuries,  Poland had shown tolerance towards people of different religions: Jews, Roman and Orthodox Christians who lived in the Kingdom. The first half of the 16th century, a time of religious conflicts in Western Europe, brought a peaceful victory of Reformation in big Polish cities, especially in wealthy harbours like Gdansk (Danzig) and Elblag (Elbing), connected by busy sea trade routes to the Netherlands. This situation gave hope to persecuted Dutch Mennonites. Migration to Poland via Gdansk seemed a way to save their own identity.

 

Skillful farmers

Mennonites did not find a warmly welcome in Gdansk where local merchants and craftsmen were afraid of competition with the newcomers. However, their skills in farming on marshes enticed administrators of the marshy Vistula lowlands to invite Dutch migrants to settle in the rural, sometimes even uncultivated areas of Zulawy. The region became inhabited by Mennonites, with a developed network of settlements, canals and dikes to allow effective agricultural development of the region. Newcomers were usually given a privileged status with long-term lease contracts called emphyteusis, which protected their religious freedom, self-government and customs. From the 1540s the Mennonite population in all parts of Zulawy grew in number and area. They settled in old villages and established new ones on the lowlands between Gdansk, Elblag and Malbork.

 

Another migration

The peaceful existence of Mennonites in Zulawy was disturbed by Northern wars in the mid-17th century and by the annexation of the area into the Kingdom of Prussia in 1772. Restrictions of freedom and a growing demand for military service forced by new authorities caused another migration - to the Ukrainian steppes. Many Mennonites found a new home there. However, they did not forget their roots and called several new settlements after their villages left in Zulawy.  Those who stayed along the banks of Vistula had to flee from their country in World War 2, leaving behind a beautiful landscape and a cultural heritage developed during 400 years of Mennonite existence in the area.

‘Foyer Grebel’

Author: Neil Blough

Because of France’s colonial history, tens of thousands of French-speaking Africans come to study at her universities.  As a continuation of the collaboration between French and North American Mennonites in Paris, a welcoming centre for African students, the ‘Foyer Grebel’, was founded in Saint Maurice in 1977. Dutch and Swiss Mennonites soon joined the project, which became an interesting example of missionary partnership.

 

Cross-cultural

The Foyer offered temporary housing and assistance with looking for the stable conditions necessary to study.  Foyer staff members quickly became acquainted with the social and economic difficulties of the students.  How could such problems be solved? How could mistrust between the North and South be overcome?  The Foyer became a meeting-place of mutual learning.  Sunday evenings became a time of a shared meal and cross-cultural sharing.  New relationships, cross-cultural bridges were born from being together, mutual discussion, sharing one another’s cooking, and a common search for solutions to problems.  All of this helped those involved to learn about compassion and justice.  For many, this was the first occasion of real sharing with the “Other”: black, white, European, African.

 

The merciful

Many of the African students were Christians and did not always feel welcome in Parisian churches.  Some of the meetings became occasions for Bible study, singing and prayer.  New ways was of doing things were sometimes puzzling, but always a source of enrichment. Out of these meetings a multicultural congregation was born , hungering for new relationships among people of different origins.

 

The Gospel calls people to compassion: ‘blessed are the merciful’.  In this case, those who wanted to be ‘compassionate’ often learned what that meant from those who were to be ‘helped’.  The Foyer Grebel helped Mennonites to discover the world of foreigners in Paris.  It helped those who worked there to learn about cultural differences, colonial history and its legacy.  It was also a means to discover the global Christianity that was taking shape outside of Europe.

 

Multicultural heritage

An even bigger centre was built in the neighboring city of Maisons-Alfort. Temporary housing was offered until 1998, when an urban renewal project forced the closing of the project.  The Foyer Grebel nevertheless gave birth to two ‘children’ who still survive: the Foyer Grebel Christian Community, which has become the Mennonite Church of Villeneuve le Comte, and the Paris Mennonite Centre, started in the original facility in Saint Maurice when the Foyer moved to Maisons-Alfort.  The multicultural heritage of the Foyer Grebel lives on, as a constant appeal for compassion and justice among peoples.

Celebrating Christmas Together

Author: Paul Hege

For someyears, the Mennonite Church of Strasbourg has participated in ‘Vivre Noël Ensemble’. This eventallows us to put ourfaith in action at the service of ourneighbor, to renewour vision on Christmas, to team up withothers and be active in our city.

Togetherness

Eachyear, 15 to 20 people fromourchurchchoose to spend the night of December 24th togetherwith about as manyguests, people on the marginswhootherwisewould have a verysad and lonely Christmas. None of us regret thisexperience. Somedepict the delight of a different Christmas thatis more turnedtowardourneighbor and enriched by the spontaneous contributions of ourguests. Others are grateful for the richness and depth of conversations withourguests, despite the languagebarrier, sometimes; some contacts continue and evenbecomefriendships. Many point out thatthiskind of time allows us to becomeaware of the needs and povertythatweoften come across on the daily basis withoutseeingthem.

For the church, itis a beautifulproject in whicheachmemberfindstheir place, couples and single people alike, children and parents, and older people. We encourage eachmember to participate and we notice thatmany are ready to do itagain the followingyear.

Ecumenical

‘Vivre Noël Ensemble’ wasinitiallylaunched by a solidarity Christian institution. Today, itis an organisation in whichvarious Christian and non-Christian associations and severalchurches are involved, and with the support of the City of Strasbourg, they help about 300 marginalized people to celebrate Christmas in dignity.

They are welcomed by the differentpartners, each in their venue, according to theirmeans. The cluster isresponsible for the meal, the gift for everyguest, and the dispatch of guests to different venues: thus, the different host teams focus their attention and energy on an entertainingwelcome. The organisation alsoorganizes a friendly time downtownunder the tall Christmas tree, whichstarts off the feast, with hot drinks, pastries and music: in this place the guests and the hosts meet up before the groups separate and the party goes on in different venues.

As a smallchurch in ourbig city, we are verypleased to have foundour place in thisproject, whichwasinitiated by Christians and thensharedwithothers, and webelieve,  throughit, our Lord ishonored in Strasbourg.

Key moments in the history of the Polish Mennonites

Author: Michał Targowski

From the hopeful moment of their arrival in the 16th century until the sad time of departure in 1945, Mennonites were an important part of the difficult history of Poland which was once home to the biggest Mennonite population in the world.

 

Welcomed and feared

In the mid-16th century the first Mennonites settled down in Poland. Their migration from the Netherlands to the delta and valley of the Vistula River evoked various reactions in the local people. On the one hand, they were seen as a threat to Catholic and other Protestant churches and as dangerous competitors for urban jobs. On the other hand, they were welcomed because of their skills in farming on marshy lands. From time to time towns, bishops and nobility wanted the Mennonites gone, but they stayed in Poland, supported by kings,  landlords and administrators of land estates.

 

In contrast to other states in early modern times, Poland was famous for its legally guaranteed religious tolerance. In 1642 Polish Mennonites received a special privilege in which they were promised freedom of belief and protection from persecution. This, however, did not save them from Northern wars taking place in the area in the 17th and 18th centuries, which caused decimation or even annihilation of many Mennonite settlements, destroyed by wandering troops and epidemics.

 

Lost Freedom

For more than two centuries the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was a place where Mennonites could exist according to their traditions and beliefs. This changed completely with the partitions of Poland in 1772 and 1793, when the areas they lived in were incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia . The new monarchy imposed new regulations on the Mennonites, who were forced to pay a great sum of money annually for exemption from obligatory military service and were not allowed to buy farms which had not been in Mennonite hands before. This resulted in a  new migration from Żuławy and the Lower Vistula Valley to the East. Some Mennonite families settled near Płock and Warsaw, but most of them responded to the invitation from Czarina Catherine II to colonize Russian steppes. Families who stayed in Prussia identified themselves more and more with the Germans and in the 1870s they finally lost the struggle for exemption from military duties. Meanwhile a new stream of migration took many Mennonites from Prussia to the Northern and Southern Americas.

 

After World War I the Mennonites who lived in Żuławy and the Lower Vistula Valley were separated by the new borders of the Republic of Poland, Germany and the Free City of Gdańsk. Treated as Germans and therefore later charged with responsibility for the disasters of World War II, they were forced to leave their homes in the beginning of 1945. They fled, mainly to Germany or the USA. This way, the more than 400 years of their existence in Poland were brought to a dramatic and painful end.

 

 

Mennonite wandering and settling in Prussia, Poland and Russia

Author: Peter Klassen

When the Anabaptist-Mennonite movement arose in 16th century, its emphasis on adult baptism and  a theology of peace soon brought severe persecution.  A haven, however, was provided in Poland, where good farmers and skilled businesspersons were welcomed. And so a number of Mennonite communities arose, especially in the Vistula delta, a region that was remarkably tolerant in an age of religious intolerance. Here the Mennonites' skills in land drainage techniques greatly increased income from lands they quickly protected through a network of canals and dikes. Other Mennonites, skilled in business techniques, settled in the outskirts of Gdansk (Danzig) and in towns in the Vistula delta. 

 

Heretics or true believers?

Not surprisingly, sometimes charges of heresy were brought against these nonconformists, and in one dramatic setting in Gdansk (Danzig), Mennonites were asked to disprove this assertion. In 1678, with the bishop of Wloclawek (Leslau) presiding, Mennonite leaders appeared before the bishop to be questioned on various theological issues. When the  hearings were over,  Georg Hansen, minister of the Gdansk Flemish church, noted that the churches had been freed from suspicion.  At the same time, some religious authorities let it be known that they opposed Mennonite settlement. But Poland remained remarkably tolerant.

Among other valuable skills that Mennonites brought to the Vistula delta, the ability to control flooding by constructing strategically placed dikes, stood them in good stead. Following an invitation from the local landlord  of the Nowy Dwór (Tiegenhof) area, a number of Mennonites came to settle there, and soon a number of Mennonite settlements arose in the Vistula Delta. The reputation of Mennonites as farmers who could conquer the swampy lands led to numerous open doors for new settlements.

 

New soul-searching

New challenges arose when Prussia gained control of the Vistula delta. The new rulers had little sympathy for Mennonite peace beliefs, and pressure to have Mennonites serve in the army led to new challenges for the Mennonite community. Some leaders urged Mennonites in West Prussia to abandon their peace position.  Gradually, a division arose, and by the end of the 18th century, several hundred Mennonite families had moved to Russia, where Catherine II promised them freedom to practice their faith. Soon another large group of Mennonites emigrated to America.  But among those who remained in the expanding German state, more and more Mennonites abandoned their peace position.  Later, with the defeat of Germany in 1945, Mennonites joined in the effort to escape to West Germany and only very few found ways to remain in their historic home.

When death is a guide to new life!

Author: Martin Podobri

It was on October 10th 2010, when the leadership team of the Mennonite Church in Salzburg came together to dissolve the church. It was the lowest point in the 50-year history of the Mennonite conference in Austria.

The big question within the board of the Mennonite conference was: Does it make sense to keep the conference alive?

 

In January 2011 the five oldest Mennonite Churches met in a conclave. There  they saw, that all churches are struggling with the same problems: there are conflicts in the church, it is difficult to find workers, it is difficult to appoint elders.

And so the question came up: how could a conference help to solve these problems? It was the beginning of a process, called ‘MFÖ new’ (=Mennonite Conference in Austria).

 

With the result of this conclave the board of the MFÖ started a process and they found 5 points where the conference should help the churches:  

 

To create identity

‘Who are the Mennonites, what do they believe and where do they come from?’

The conference should help the churches to find their own identity and also the identity of the conference.

 

To support the offspring of the leadership

The oldest are often not able to support a second generation of the leadership. The conference should help to keep the next generation of leadership in their focus as well

 

To realize biblical leadership

If there are troubles in the leadership team or they are involved in  the wrong things, who is there, to help them? In the New Testament the Apostles helped the churches to realize biblical leadership. Today the conference should help the leadership teams of the churches to realize biblical leadership.

 

To help the church to grow

The conference has many links to missionary organizations and to other conferences in other countries, so that they can bring in good ideas.

 

To plant new churches

For one church the mission to plant a new church is too big. But if all 5 Mennonite Churches help together, it is possible to realize it. So the conference should help here as well.

 

It is sad, that we have to close the church in Salzburg. But we have seen, that the death of the church in Salzburg has brought new life in the conference.

 

The Great Patriotic War (1941–1945)

Author: Svietlana Bobileva
Translator: Katerina Revunenko 

Political oppression was rife in the 1930's Soviet Union. Stalin’s regime supported NKVD (political police) activity, initiated a campaign against ‘the Fascists’ – German speaking population, abolished national regions and worked out plans for the deportation of the German–Mennonite population in 1939. Arrests and physical assault on the clergy and teachers undermined the Mennonites and their spiritual, national and cultural identity. This affected the Mennonites’ attitude towards those in power.

 

Mennonites and the authorities

The war between Germany and the USSR broke out in June of 1941. Some  Mennonite youth representatives volunteered for the Red Army. Some just waited for the end of the struggle between the warring parties. However, it was almost impossible to stay neutral and  uninvolved. Some politicians and  Communist Party activists were exiled to the East of the Soviet Union. The law ‘About the German population in the Ukrainian SSR’ was established in August 1941. According to that law anti-Soviet elements had to be arrested and male German speaking people (16–60 years old) had to be called up to ‘build battalions’. The German–Mennonites from the Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhe, Stalin (now Donetzk), Voroshilovgrad (Lugansk) provinces and the Crimea region had to be evicted. However, the Wehrmacht army advance did not allow for fulfillment of  these plans.

 

Between Bolshevism and Nazism

About 163.000 Mennonites and ethnic Germans lived in Ukraine before the war. The aim of the Fascist authorities was to use the human potential of the occupied territories for their own purposes, to rely on the local German speaking population. In order to do that, they provided congregations with material support and pretended to restore the ethnic schools and religious life. At first they got some result. However, the Mennonites soon became disappointed because the collective farms, organized by Stalin, were not disbanded and  instead of Bolshevist ideas, Nazi-ideology was being taught at schools.  The Mennonites also couldn't put up with the Nazis’ racism, where the local non-German population was regarded as subhuman.

 

Strangers in their own land

The Nazis failed to divide the local multinational population. History has many examples of friendly relationship between the Mennonites and their Ukrainian neighbors. However, the Nazi propaganda influenced the Mennonites psychologically. During the occupation they found themselves ‘strangers in their own land’. However, their return to the Soviet Union shows that they did not feel responsible for the Nazis' atrocities.

Remembrance of Mennonites in today’s Poland

Author: Michał Targowski

The disaster of the WWII forced Mennonites to leave oland, their homeland of 400 years. The heritage they left is now being re-discovered and fascinates new generations of Polish people and visitors from abroad.

Respect

Farms and houses left by Mennonites who emigrated from Poland were taken over by Polish families exiled from eastern Polish territories that were annexed by the USSR. The new inhabitants’ attitude towards their predecessors was negatively influenced by the painful experiences of the war and Polish-German antagonism. However, they had great respect for the Mennonites because of the buildings, devices and systems they left, which allowed farming on the wetlands.

 

Educational and cultural exchange

The period of the Cold War made it impossible for Mennonites to come back to their homeland. Remembering their roots, they managed to organize substantial help for Poland many times , especially in the first post-war years. It was not until the 1970s when, as a result of the normalization of some Polish-foreign relations, a few Mennonites were allowed to visit their former churches and settlements for the first time. This was also the beginning of an educational and cultural exchange organized by the Mennonite Central Committee. The developing contacts led to a closer, though informal, cooperation which resulted in the restoration of forgotten cemeteries,  historical research on Mennonites in Poland and material support sent to Poles in difficult times.

 

Muzeum Zuławskie

In today's independent Poland one can observe a growth of interest in Mennonites. Relics of their existence are recognized as precious elements of the far reach and diverse heritage of the Polish territories. There are many organizations and associations which take care of the remembrance of Mennonites through exhibitions, cultural events, restoration of cemeteries and the saving Mennonite buildings. Since 1993 the International Mennonite Conference is organized by the Klub Nowodworski in Nowy Dwór Gdański. This association opened the Muzeum Zuławskie with a rich exhibition describing the story of local Mennonites. Their heritage is promoted by official tourist routes (Szlak Mennonitów) and also by the Mennonite Weekend in Chrystkowo near Chełmno. In the near  future the Olęderski Park Etnograficzny (Dutch Colonization Open Air Museum) will be opened near Toruń, with original houses and pieces of art left by Mennonites who lived in the Vistula Valley. Last, but not least, in 2007 the Agape Mennonite Fellowship was established in Mińsk Mazowiecki as a community of Christians continuing the beliefs and traditions of Polish Mennonites.

 

Diversity of Mennonites with Russian background

Author: Hermann Heidebrecht

Of the approximately 2.5 Million Russian-born Germans who immigrated to Germany since the 1970s, about 200.000 have Mennonite roots. Many persons with a Mennonite background when entering Germany declared their confession as Mennonite, but many of them lived in regions of the Soviet Union where no Mennonite congregations existed after World War II. They were not baptized and never belonged to a Mennonite or Mennonite Brethren church (in the Soviet Union, these were the two dominant Mennonite branches). In the past decades, many of those ‘up-rooted’ people found their way back to the faith community. The more than 100 congregations of Russian-born Mennonites have 35.000 to 40.000 members.

 

Brotherhoods and associations

Almost all of the Mennonite churches with approximately 35 gathering places joined into an Association for Spiritual Support of Mennonite Churches (Arbeitsgemeinschaft zur geistlichen Unterstützung der Mennonitengemeinden, AGUM). The Mennonite Brethren churches, however, joined various different associations. A big part of the Mennonite Brethren churches found themselves in associations with Russian-born Evangelical Christian-Baptists: 25 congregations, including branches, in the Brotherhood of Christian Congregations in Germany (Bruderschaft der Christengemeinden in Deutschland, BCD), and 7 Mennonite Brethren churches joined the Union of Anabaptist-minded Churches (Bund Taufgesinnter Gemeinden, BTG). One larger group of Mennonite Brethren churches with 23 gathering places comprises the so called Frankenthal Circle, a non-formal brotherhood. One Mennonite Brethren church joined the Brotherhood of Evangelical Christian Baptists (Bruderschaft der Evangeliums Christen Baptisten), and several congregations did not join any association. A certain amount of Russian-born Mennonites are part of other associations (AMBD, VMBB, WEBB).

 

Statement of Reconciliation

During the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Mennonite Brethren Church in 2010, several Mennonite Brethren congregations that belonged to the Union of Anabaptist-minded churches (BTG), to the Association of Mennonite Brethren churches in Germany (AMBD), and to the Association of Evangelical Free Churches of Mennonite Brethren in Bavaria (VMBB), published a Statement of Reconciliation, in which they asked for forgiveness for inappropriate behavior against other Mennonite churches during their history, and expressed their desire that in the shared future the cooperation should be defined by brotherly love and mutual appreciation. Though the majority of Mennonite Brethren churches did not join this statement, the relations between churches of both kinds has been  brotherly and often even cordial for many years.