By Barry Dyck
Local History Lectures
On Saturday, May 6, approximately 70 people gathered at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) to listen to three presentations on Family, Food and Spirituality. This was the second annual lecture event hosted by the Eastmenn Historical Committee of the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society. This year MHV was a co-sponsor. It was a privilege and pleasure to join the committee in offering these lectures to the community.
The first speaker was Dr. Val Hiebert, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Providence University College. Her topic was Changing Perspectives of Marriage & Family Throughout the History of the Church to the Present. The first part of her talk described the various models of family that have existed through time. She covered the eras of the Old Testament, New Testament, Early Church, Middle Ages, Protestant Reformation, Colonial Period, Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century, and Twenty-First Century. It was interesting to observe how family dynamics and values changed from one era to another. The place of children and the role of women in the family saw particularly significant changes over time.
In her discussion about the nineteenth-century family, Dr. Hiebert referred to research done by Winnipeg archivist Conrad Stoesz which explored unique Mennonite family values and practices of that era, some of which were rather startling.
In light of all of the changes in family values throughout the centuries, Dr. Hiebert pointed out that “traditional family values” has meant different things in different eras. She encouraged us to consider the over-arching principles taught throughout scripture, particularly the two major reoccurring themes of love and justice.
Daphne Thiessen, a self-proclaimed homemaker, provided wonderful reflections of her joy in planting, growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing food as spiritual exercises. She spoke of her satisfaction with the way that preparing and sharing food causes her to slow down. To Daphne, the preparation of food is much more an art than a science, ensuring that each effort has a unique outcome. The fact that all plants and animals must die before they become food reminds her of the sacrificial gift of salvation.
Local historian and author, Ernest Braun, rounded out the evening with an interesting discussion on the Waisenamt. This was a mechanism of the early Mennonite communities, going back to the time when Prussia/Poland was home to Mennonites, that sought to ensure that widows and orphans would have the economic means to care for themselves when a spouse/parent died. Braun suggested that this Waisenamt was one the earliest forms of a Credit Union. It was particularly interesting to note that this organization accumulated enough money over time to fund a significant portion of the migration costs for Russian Mennonites coming to Canada in the late 1800s.
Several of the sessions included a question-and-answer period following the lecture. The organizers intend to publish the content of these lectures sometime in the future to make them available to those who were not able to attend.
We at MHV are grateful to the Eastmenn Historical Committee for the initiative taken to plan and host these events.
Calendar of Events
May 12: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM - Manitoba Day
May 14: 11:30 AM – 2:00 PM – Mother’s Day Buffet
June 4: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Heritage Classic Car Show
June 10: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM – 8th Annual Tractor Trek
June 11: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Southeast Implement Collectors Tractor Show