Mennonite Heritage Village

Flocking to Great Teachers

April 4, 2024

By Gary Dyck

One of life’s great experiences is to sit under a teacher whose understanding and presentation of a subject stirs your mind and inspires your heart. At the University of British Colombia numerous Arts students flocked to take a Math Science course just because they all loved the teacher so much. On April 18th, Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) will be hosting a livestream of one such great teacher. Dr. James Urry is an anthropologist, historian, author and a former professor and current adjunct research fellow at the School of Social and Cultural Studies at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. Urry is also a world authority on the history of Russian-descended Mennonites.

Dr. James Urry

Former Grebel University College President, Henry Paetkau, had this to say about a James Urry lecture: “James Urry is unfailingly engaging, witty and stimulating. His subject matter is always substantive and fascinating. Whether the Mennonites agree with his perspectives or disagree, they cannot deny that they are fortunate to have a scholar like Urry probing into the manner in which they have thought about their histories and identities throughout the past century and beyond.”

Former Grebel Professor Hildi Froese Tiessen goes further, “The last time James Urry delivered a series of lectures at Grebel, he enthralled and delighted the full-house audience night after night.”

Recently, he has published the book On Stony Ground: Russländer Mennonites and the Rebuilding of Community in Grunthal. This is what the publisher says: “On Stony Ground presents a historical ethnographic account of a generation of Mennonites from the Soviet Union who, following Russia’s revolution and civil war, immigrated to Manitoba during the 1920s. James Urry examines how they came to terms with a new land and with their new neighbours, including other Mennonites, Ukrainians, French Canadians, and Indigenous Peoples. The book discusses the impact of the Great Depression and how the immigrants struggled with their identity in Canada as Hitler and Stalin rose to power in Germany and the USSR. It reveals the immigrants’ desire to maintain their faith, language, and culture while encouraging their children to take advantage of an education conducted mainly in English. On Stony Ground explores how prosperity following the Second World War helped the immigrants to build a community in conjunction with others, including Mennonites and non-Mennonites, and to accept their new home in Canada.”

Over several decades, Dr. Urry has lectured and published extensively on the Mennonite experience in Russia and now that interest has expanded to include their experience in Canada, particularly Manitoba. Don’t miss this time to honour his hard work and enjoy a great presentation at the same time. Like the geese at our pond, it is time to flock together and hear a great oration.

Upcoming Events:

It Takes a Village… Spring Gala 2024, May 24th. Celebrate the MHV’s 60th anniversary and the 150th anniversary of Mennonites in Manitoba by contributing to this ongoing legacy. Tickets are on sale now at

Volunteer Orientation, April 25, 6pm. Ever wonder what it takes to run a printing press? Want to learn how to churn butter or bake bread in a brick oven? Whether serving ice cream in the short order booth, face painting, or blacksmithing, we have plenty of unique volunteer opportunities for you to explore. This is your chance to try something new! Join us for a BBQ at 6pm with a brief orientation of the volunteer opportunities to follow. New and returning volunteers are welcome – bring a friend!

MHV Spring Market, April 27, 10am – 4pm. Join us for our first Spring Market at Mennonite Heritage Village! Explore the work of local artisans and creators. There will be a lunch canteen, wagon rides and kids activities! If you are a vendor, space is limited to between 25-30 booths, so please contact or call 204-326-9661 for details about reserving a booth.

Mennonite Village Photography Exhibit, open now till summer 2024. See a beautiful collection of never-before-seen photographs left behind by four Manitoba Mennonite photographers who lived and worked in the early twentieth century. The images are from glass and film negatives from 1890 to 1940. After being scanned and given a new life in print, the photos provide a clear view into Mennonite life and early settlement in Manitoba.