An interview with Manitoba Hutterite Linda Maendel
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.
Do Hutterite colonies engage in agritourism?
We don’t engage in agritourism in a big way, where we’d do whole days of it. However we do tours, somtimes it’s just a few people other times it would be a busload. Most of enjoy sharing our unique way of life with others.
I am very interested in Hutterite life, having seen Hutterites when crossing Canada, and I found Mary-Ann’s book enlightening. It is a model that the groups that call themselves “New Monastics” could use. Similar Christian groups have been formed but did not always succeed; the Shakers did not marry, expecting the return of Christ imminently; the Oneida Colony had financial and organizational problems. I think one of the challenges is that modern people grow up with a kind of individualism that is hard to sacrifice, with a way of life that has encouraged private ownership as an unalienable good. At mid-life, and as Plain-living Christians, my husband and I could adapt to Hutterite life, but I think our life circumstances would not be acceptable to Anabaptism, and although I learn languages quickly, my husband does not. Otherwise, Hutterite life is very appealing to us.
Interesting! The Hutterites have an interesting history. Peter Riedemann (one of their early leaders) happens to be a hero of mine.
Other sites that include information on Hutterites are http://www.thecommonlife.com.au/ and http://www.elmendorfbelievers.com/
The key to understanding Hutterites (and other Anabaptists) is that they hold to the concept of “laying aside the pursuit of the good of the individual in preference to the pursuit of the good of the whole.”
About why Marxism (“Communism”) failed while the Hutterites havent, I think the main difference is that Marxism tried to accomplish its goal with machine guns, while brotherhood and community among Anabaptists is (theoretically) totally voluntary. There is a big difference in attitude between the man who voluntarily gives up his selfish pursuit of wealth, and the man who has his wealth stripped from him at gunpoint.
And it is not just about material wealth, it is also about giving up egoism in all its forms to become the man truly out to benefit the community as a whole, rather than benefit himself.
Of course, Jesus was the prime example of all this, the Man who took on a human body and came to this messed up world to be an example of condescending to the poor and giving them a helping hand.
Community of Goods
Very well said!! Thank you so much!
First thanks for doing such a great article! Very informative and eye opening.
Linda I have since bookmarked your blog page. I purchased “I Am Hutterite” but have yet to start reading it. I am now even more eager to get started on it.
Again thanks for the lesson in Hutterites!
Thanks Allyson! You may also find some interesting reads at http://hbbookcentre.com/
HB Book Centre
Linda, the HB Book Center is a great resource. My only complaint is that they dont seem to answer emails in a timely manner. Is that your colony? I have emailed them a couple of weeks ago about the CD of digital Hutterite books, and never did get a response. Not the first time it has happened. Maybe they are busy harvesting or something. 🙂
HB Book Centre
No, it’s not my colony. But rest assured I will pass this message on to them. No, don’t think harvesting is a valid excuse either.
Hi Mike, sorry that your emails have not been answered. Can you try sending it again? I don’t recall receiving it; though I may be a few days behind in responding at times, I do try to respond to each email.
Hey, that was fast! I sent an email to the “orders@hbb…” address with my question. Mike
Which dialect of German do the Schmiedleut speak? Is the German of the Hutterites and the Deitsch of the Amish mutually understandable?
We speak Carinthian German a dialect orginating from the Carinthia province in Austria, and which we fondly call Hutterisch. I’ve never heard the Amish dialect spoken, but when I see it in books, I can make out some of it.
My mother Margaret Maendel grew up as a Hutterite in Canada. My grandmother Sarah Maendel is buried in Oak Bluff Colony. I have explored the Hutterite roots from the Tyrol region in Austria where Jacob Hutter was. I hope one day I will be able to visit the Hutterites and gain a better understanding of my mother’s history. Thank you for what you have shared.
Interesting!! I wonder if I know your family. I would love to hear more from you, if you don’t mind. You can go to my blog, (mentioned at the bottom of the interview) and email me from there.
Does each family have their own home or do y’all live together in a type of dorm setting? Do individuals get to decide what they want to do (farm, carpentry, etc.) or is that decided for them? Do the women make the clothes? If so, do they make them for just their own family or for the whole community? Are individuals free to come and go as they want? Are the cars for the community or do individuals own their own cars? How much free time do y’all get and what kinds of things do you do with that free time?
Hutterites are a very mysterious group to me, partly because living in the south we don’t have any, and partly because so little is written about them. Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. 🙂
It’s managed by the colony secretary, each colony has a bank account. If it’s something needed in the kitchen the headcook will decide and the same for other work places. sometimes a group of people in a barn or shop will make decide, then bring it to the brotherhood for approval if it’s a large item such as a vehicle. We pay taxes like everybody else and as far as I know we’re considered a corporation. Selfishness: there would probably be discussions about it, or if need be someone would be admonished. In other cases the selfish person would just leave. This is not to say, that there are no selfish people living in the colony. We try to live so others see an example of unselfishness and learn from it.
Each family has their own home. sometimes you’re asked if you want to do a certain job, other times you may be appointed. We learn from young on that we’re here to serve the community and for the most part it doesn’t bother us when we’re appointed to a job. If the job is not to your liking, you would still try to do it, and more often than not, you learn to like it and accept it since the colony has entrusted you with it and saw you as a good person for it. Yes, each family sews most of their own clothes, some are store bought as well. No, we don’t come and go as we please, because we do have work that needs to be done and if someone needs to go someone they would ask the leadership. The vehicles belong to the colony. There’s quite a bit of free time and people use it differently, could be sports, sewing, crafts, reading, blogging….
If you do not have personal bank accounts, how are personal finances managed? Is personal incomed pooled into a group account? Who decides which purchases are made for the good of the colony? How are indifferences to purchases handled. How are income taxes paid? From a goverment standpoint, is a colony viewed as a corporation or separate entity? If selfishness developes within a colony, how is it handled. Perhaps you could elaborate on this topic.
How is the dress code decided? Also, is there any significance to the polka dot pattern of the Hutterite head scarves? 🙂
We’ve been dressing modestly, with mostly the same style of dress, although changes have been made over the years. Can’t say who decided, as they were gradual changes….No, the polka dots have no significance at all. In fact, today many wear completely black head coverings.
Linda, thank you so much for answering our questions! Your responses are fascinating. I have two questions:
1) At what point does a young person raised on a Hutterite colony make a formal commitment to be a Hutterite? Are youngsters encouraged to explore the outside world a bit before formally joining, as the Amish do with “rumspringra”?
2) Do Hutterite colonies ever accept new converts? How often does this happen? (I ask this out of curiousity, not in an attempt to join).
Your welcone, Ed!
Young people usually ask for baptism in their early twenties, thus making a committment to God and the church. No, we don’t encourage anybody to explore the outside world, and most have enough exposure to it anyway. But some leave and return after a time, others never return. Nobody is forced to stay, as it doesn’t work to live here half-heartedly.
Yes, some have joined the life, and are very happy. It doesn’t happen very often, though.
Linda, I’ve really been enjoying your follow-up answers. Thanks for taking the time for us here.
Your welcome! Thanks for giving me this opportunity! It’s an interesting experience.
working with the neighbours
What is colony/church policy (generally at any rate) about working with the neighbours, other farmers particularly, and sharing the use of property – equipment etc, outside the colony when needed or seasonally? Has this changed over time, it used to be said that Hutterites were reluctant to help at various times during the various seasons (because of prejudice on both sides of the fence, I suppose)? I wonder if this has changed.
Please don’t take that as rude of me, or prejudiced. This was a viewpoint held in my family (I have many relatives who still live in the west of Manitoba), and I wanted to find out for myself, if it is, or was the case.
I enjoyed the interview and look forward to viewing your blog! You are doing a great service here!
working with neighbours
Again, I can’t speak for all colonies, but ever since I remember, we’ve always worked with neighbors, as have many other colonies that I know. That would include helping them fix farm equipment, clearing snow on their property, fighting fires and this list can go on. Don’t worry, it’s not rude to ask.
Oh, and tell your family, too, no worries, when they need help with something just go to a nearby colony.
Sounds a bit like the ol’ hippie communes, to me. did not see any pics of humans?
If you wish, Wilson, you may come for a visit. Plenty of humans here who’d be more than happy to introduce you to this wonderful way of life – never mind pictures…see the real thing!
Lifstyle of Hutterite.
Everyone is not suitable for “public life” and I often wonder why people who do not adopt the public life style may be considered different.
I live alone and am told that I should socialize more often.I am very happy.I did have some friends that I spent most of my free time with.Unfortunately they have passed on to a greater place.If we had more real communities and colonies the world could be a better place.
Hi Linda, I love your interesting blog. How do holidays work in the colony? Which are celebrated? Which aren’t celebrated? Are gifts allowed for Christmas, Birthdays and Anniversaries or Weddings? Do you work on holidays aside from normal feeding of the animals?
What are weddings like? what food is served? what clothes are worn?
Thanks again Linda and have a great weekend.. 🙂
Dar, Thanks for stopping by my blog. For most of your questions, you’ll find answers there as well. Aside from going through the labels to find what you’re looking for, I’m not sure how to help you get to the right posts from this comment.
We celebrate all church Holidays, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving… We do not celebrate Halloween. Yes, of course gifts are allowed. Not too much work happening on holidays.
Thanks for taking the time for us here.
I was wondering if you knew of any Hutterite carpenters around Brandon, Manitoba that would be willing to build a hope chest for my daughter, we are starting to gather the items she will need for marriage and we are having a hard time finding a traditional hope chest. Any information you can provide would be great, thank-you in advance.
Carmen, if you’d email me (linda[dot]maendel[at]gmail[dot]com with more information, I could try to put you in contact with someone.
Sadly Most Hutterites are NOT Born Again!!!
The Hutterian way of life is fascinating and Biblical … it is just too bad that the actual Hutterite individuals, for the most part, are NOT truly “born again” and if they truly repent of their sins (to Jesus, rather than an elder), become born again and live for the Lord before the church, they are harassed and EXCOMMUNICATED!
I recently found out that the above is exactly what happened to many of the brothers and sisters at the community in Fort Pitt, Saskatchewan … that is the ONE AND ONLY Canadian Hutterite colony in all of Canada that I know of that has actual born again Christian members and the rest of the Hutterite colonies know it and every year more and more seem to be leaving their colonies to try and join those at Fort Pitt.
A colony is NOT “the ark” and water baptism is not salvation … JESUS CHRIST is the foundation of the church and He and He alone must be the FIRST LOVE of all the Hutterites!
The Fort Pitt website is: http://www.fortpittfarms.ca/main_page.html
Mary Thomas, it seems to me that you’re somewhat misinformed. Never judge any group of people, or way of life by what a few people tell you. Because that is seldom accurate and very unfair. Go visit other colonies, in all Hutterite groups and you’ll soon know what I mean.
I grew up Hutterite and I love my Hutterite roots. I was a born again Hutterite and know many who are born again and live the colony life. There is a difference in being born again and living your life …..being gentle, quiet, humble and showing love to others…..and being born again and living your life as a lion….bold, loud, brash, in your face and turning others off. Some folk have an experience that really changes them from night to day and they take that freedom as meaning now they don’t have to be subject to colony rules. They have a right to leave. If you are part of an orginization but no longer want to conform, it is time to move on. If a whole colony decides to part ways with how the Hutterite church does things, than they should expect to be ex communicated. Why would they be surprised? It is how it has always been done. It is the same way, well maybe not quite so radical, but basically the same way with any church on the outside of the colony. If you change your policies or ways of preaching and teaching in a Mennonite church, well than, you might be asked to remove the name Mennonite from your church name. It all boils down to playing by the rules of the enemy…..building walls, instead of tearing them down. It is all over the world….and it doesn’t mean one side or the other isn’t born again. Christians all have one goal, spending eternity in Heaven. We just get so caught up in wanting to be right and wanting to prove it, that we kind of lose sight of that goal.
“Christians all have one goal, spending eternity in Heaven. We just get so caught up in wanting to be right and wanting to prove it, that we kind of lose sight of that goal.” VERY WELL SAID.
Do Hutterite women drive ?
Yes, Jewely, some do. Most, like myself, prefer not to, though.
Very interesting reading. Would you happen to know where in Manitoba most Hutterites aside?
They’re spread over a large area, but most are in the Brandon, Portage and Winnipeg areas.
I’m from Europe, but I will be working in Winnipeg area this summer, so I will try to ask around and meet some Hutterites 🙂
An interview with Manitoba Hutterite Linda Maendel
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