By Alexandra Kroeger
Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is pleased to announce that we are installing a new exhibit in our Permanent Gallery. At long last, we are updating our world Mennonite membership map! This has been several years in the making, and we are so pleased that it is nearing completion. Our new exhibit will be called Mennonites Around the Globe.
Our current map was installed in 1990 and hasn't been updated since, so it's sadly out of date on a few levels. First of all, Mennonite World Conference membership numbers have changed drastically since 1990, and secondly, it still references the USSR and East/West Germany! It is more than time for a change.
Mennonites Around the Globe is an interactive touchscreen exhibit showing up-to-date statistics on Mennonite membership around the world. MHV partnered with several organizations and individuals on this project. Mennonite World Conference shared their membership numbers. Designer Anikó Szabo made our exhibit look nice. PeaceWorks Technology Solutions designed the software. The Historic Resources Branch of the Government of Manitoba and the MHV Auxiliary provided funding. Because the map is now connected to MWC's database, the numbers will be updated automatically, so we won’t have the same issues we have had with our current map. The touchscreen has been installed and the software activated, so it is technically ready to use; we are just waiting for the interpretive panel to be printed and images chosen for the screensaver.
Visitors will find our new map located near the end of our Permanent Gallery. Progressing through the gallery, we introduce broad concepts in Mennonite history and then focus on more specific themes. Placing our new exhibit near the end brings our visitors' focus back to the larger view. Even though MHV focuses on the specific story of Russian Mennonites, this is far from the whole Mennonite story.
In southern Manitoba, when we think of Mennonites, many of us tend to think about people with the last name of Reimer or Janzen or Ens who say "oba" and eat vereniki. If we're feeling generous, we might also acknowledge the existence of Swiss-German Mennonites with last names like Yoder, Schwartzentruber, or Bender and eat popcorn. Up to approximately a hundred years ago, these stereotypes would have been roughly accurate, as the Mennonite faith initially grew because Mennonites had large families, not because they converted other people. This is due to historical circumstances and the origins of Anabaptist groups. Mennonites were persecuted in the 16th century, and later on were only allowed to worship as they pleased as long as they worshiped unobtrusively. At that point, they could not share their faith with their neighbours without the threat of punishment. As there was safety in numbers, and as Mennonites believed strongly in the separation of church and state, they maintained a distance from the "world," living in their own communities. This meant that Mennonites primarily lived with and married other Mennonites, passing down family names and traditions that we think of as "Mennonite."
By the late 19th century, they no longer feared punishment for sharing their faith and began to evangelize outside of their own communities. Since that time, Mennonites have primarily spread their faith through personal relationships and missions organizations, not by having lots of children. Currently most of the people who identify as Mennonite have no idea what vereniki are. According to Mennonite World Conference, about two-thirds of the baptized believers who belong to Mennonite or Anabaptist-influenced churches are African, Asian, or Latin American. North America only accounts for just under a third of Mennonites around the world.
Would you like to see this for yourself? Come visit MHV any time during the week between 9 and 5 to try out our new Mennonites Around the Globe exhibit.
Calendar of Events:
- February 5 – Vespers Service 7:00 PM