Mennonite Heritage Village

Flexible Foundation Part II

Last week I wrote about how the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) Chortitz housebarn needs some work done on its foundation. Fortunately, the foundation can be fixed and then the central clay oven heating system can be used again! Please donate!

Did you know that Manitoba has the premier collection of housebarns in North America, possibly the world? The first Mennonite villages in Canada had a wide centre road lined with Housebarns with the fields and pastures behind them or just outside of the village.

Housebarns are symbolic of how Mennonites valued community and keeping life close. Living connected to a barn of warm-blooded animals helped them to survive the cold winters of Prussia, Russia and Canada. It also helped them to hear if anything was going wrong with the animals in the barn. Perhaps a predatory wolf coming for a midnight snack or a cow needing help in birth. Those warm animals helped Mennonites survive many centuries of harsh winters in Prussia, Russia and Canada! Foundations to build a village on.

Recently one quiet Saturday here at MHV, these thoughts stuck out to me:

“Your foundation, the key to your future.” This sounds like it could be a university motto, but I think a museum-like MHV can also be very relevant for our future and what our young people need to know as they go out into the world.

“Your future begins here.” Again, I’m not talking about a university, but museums! Museums are not just about talking about origins, otherwise, the phrase should be ‘your future began here’, but I say ‘begins here’ because history is past-continuous, with more to discover and that we get to help establish! The more we know our foundations, the more we can confidently build on them.

“Past, but Present.” Same idea, just another way to put it. Sometimes we are too linear in our thinking of time. MHV is not just about history that is completed, but a story and community of people that is present and still on-going! Like a flexible foundation that is always with us.