Linda Maendel is a member of a Hutterite colony in Manitoba. We last looked at Hutterites back in January in an interview with Mary-Ann Kirkby, the author of I Am Hutterite.
Hutterites live primarily in Canada and the Upper Midwest, and have some similarities to Amish. Hutterites share the same Anabaptist roots as Amish and Mennonites, maintain a plain form of dress, and live lives heavily shaped by their Christian faith.
There are some key differences between Hutterites, and Amish and plain Mennonites, however. These include greater use of technology, sharing of goods, and separation from the world (Hutterites live physically apart on colonies).
I thought it would be interesting to hear more about Hutterite life from someone who belongs to a Hutterite community. Thanks to Linda for taking the time to describe her life and people for us.
Questions for Linda are welcome in the comments section (which is working fine now).
Amish America: Where do you live? What branch of Hutterites do you belong to?
Linda Maendel: My colony is in central Manitoba and there are 120 adults and children in our community. I’ve lived here all my life. I belong to the Schmiedleut group and we’re in Manitoba, Canada and in the Dakotas in the USA. There’s also a small community in Nigeria that belongs to our group.
Could you describe a typical day in your colony?
We usually get up around 7:00 AM and have a communal breakfast. By 8:00, those of us who work away from our homes, go to work. We’re largely farmers, so most of the men are employed in barns, raising geese, chicken, pigs, dairy and beef cattle. We also raise various crops: wheat, oats, barley, canola and potatoes. These, of course vary from colony to colony. So during growing seasons some will be busy with that. A farm manager oversees this area and each barn also has a manager and several other workers.
In recent years Hutterites have diversified. For our colony it’s a carpenter shop – we manufacture custom made kitchen cabinets. The communal kitchen employs mostly women. A head cook, who’s there all the time, along with two different women, who help her prepare meals. All women between the ages of 17 – 45 take turns with this. It’s similar with clean up after meals, we have 4 groups of 8 women per group who help with clean up in a rotational basis. E.g. if I’m on dishes this week, the next 3 weeks I will not have to, unless I’m filling in for someone else.
During the summer months we have a daycare for preschool children run by four women taking turns looking after the children for the day, when moms may be busy in the garden or canning. For the most part babies under 2 1/2 years, who don’t come to day care, are cared for at home by the mom, grandma or some other relative.
At our colony we have our own teachers. (Not all colonies see the value of this.) We have three certified teachers, a student teacher, an educational assistant, teaching K-12 English subjects and a German teacher who teaches, Hutterite History, Religion and German. I’m an Educational Assistant and teach German and English.
Hutterite life has been described as “plain”. To what degree is that accurate, and how might the term be misleading?
I suppose that would depend on what one means by ‘plain’. If it means dressing modestly, with little to no jewellery, females wearing long dresses and males usually dark trousers and button down shirts, then, yes, we’re plain. If it means living simply, without modern conveniences or technology, nothing could be farther from the truth, at least as far as the Schmiedleut are concerned.
We drive modern vehicles, farm with the best machinery; have state-of-the-art shops and barns, spacious modern homes and large communal kitchens with the latest cooking and baking appliances. Some would deem our church plain as there’s nothing on the walls and doesn’t have stained glass windows. For us, it’s a place of worship and as such is kept rather simple, although most do have upholstered pews.
What other technologies are used in the colony?
Most of our barns, tractors and shops are computerized. Our schools and some homes have computers as well. We also use GPS, cell phones, internet…. I’m not speaking for every Hutterite colony, because we’re not all the same, but most do use technology to some extinct, on a daily basis.
How much time does the average person spend outside the colony? What reasons would take someone to town or elsewhere?
This depends largely what type of work you do. As I work in our school, I attend meetings, workshops and conferences pertaining to education. A few years ago I had the chance to go on a study trip to Berlin.
When we’re in need of medical care we visit clinics/hospitals for appointments with doctors, dentists, optometrists….. But we also sometimes go to local towns to shop or visit places like the library.
What kinds of foods do you eat? Do you do the cooking or is that someone else’s job?
We prepare/serve a wide variety of food: many kinds of soup and lots of home grown vegetables and some fruit like apples, strawberries, and raspberries. We buy different kinds of fruit as well. There’s also pizza, pasta, Chinese dishes, beef, pork, chicken, turkey, duck, geese and fish. Traditional Hutterite meals such as dumplings, borscht and pierogies are always favourites among the Hutterites [ed. note: viva pierogies!].
Sharing goods in common seems the antithesis of the Western mentality. When you mention shared goods, people tend to think of “communism” and all the negatives associated with it. How–and why, do you think–does it work in a Hutterite colony?
We live communally because we believe that’s what Acts. Chapter 2 teaches and also because we feel that is the ideal way to show love for your fellowman as taught in the New Testament. Community of goods simple means that we do not have personal bank accounts. Nor is there any need for it as our needs are supplied by our colony and we take care of our own from the cradle to the grave.
The reason this works well and has been in existence since the 1500’s, stems from the fact that this way of life is Bible based and we’re here because, as our expression of faith, we choose to serve God by living communally.
What is church service like in the colony?
Most of our services are conducted in German, although sometimes part of it would be in English in some colonies, especially when there’s a visitor who doesn’t understand German. Evening services (Gebet) are usually about a half hour long and Sunday Morning service (Lehr) an hour or longer.
Each service begins with a German hymn. The sermons were written in Old High German and have scripture readings which are then explained in detail. A prayer is always part of the service. (For more detailed information on this topic see http://hutterites.org/religion.htm )
Where can people find you online? And how do you access the computer–is that something anyone in the colony can do? Are there restrictions?
Some communities have limited or no computer/internet excess. That is not the case with many others, mine included. We have computers in schools, barns, shops and homes who have a need for it or want it. Many Hutterites simply have no desire to spend time on computers and the internet.
Having said this, we’re very careful, especially where children are concerned and not to leave them unattended when they’re on the internet. We do have filtering systems in place, but it’s still important to be vigilant as there is no perfect system. Furthermore, we try to instil in our children that as Christians we should always be mindful which sites to visit and to resist the temptation to frequent sites that are harmful to our spiritual and moral well-being.
I have my own blog, hutt-writevoice.blogspot.com which you’ll hopefully find not only interesting, but more importantly, educational. I write about different aspects of my life as a Hutterite, do book reviews and share websites/blogs where you’ll find a lot more on Hutterites and probably even have questions answered better than I just did.