A patty, tenderloin, boiled potatoes, Brussels loaf, stewed pears, pudding and an apple. That is the menu that members of the Mennonite Church in Steenwijk will be served on Saturday afternoon, November 11, during the anniversary meal in honor of the church’s 175th anniversary.
It seems like a very specific menu that Jan Lubbinge makes and it is. 75 years ago, when the church existed for a hundred years, the faithful and friends of the church community were presented with exactly the same thing, not in the exhortation on the Onnastraat in Steenwijk, but in Fredeshiem. The crowd of believers was much larger then, now there are about sixty.
Marten van Buren, Femmie Scholten and Reverend Gerke van Hiele are on the anniversary committee of the church community when it comes to the celebration of 175 years of Mennonite exhortation. “It is a meal, but also an ode to the history of the monumental church and the church community,” says the pastor. “How nice it is to eat exactly the same as our predecessors 75 years ago. The menu of that festive day had been preserved,” adds Femmie Scholten. The culinary journey into the past starts at 4 p.m. in the church.
A day later, on Sunday, November 12, the Mennonite Community officially celebrates the 175th anniversary of the church, also known as exhortation. Interested parties are welcome from 2 p.m. to connect past and present. An anniversary booklet made by Reverend Gerke van Hiele will also be presented. There is a copy available for everyone, containing many interesting facts.
The picturesque white house of worship in the center of Steenwijk has been the stone foundation of the Mennonite believers for one and three-quarters of a century and it remains so. Despite the decline in members. Entrepreneur and former politician Wirt Groen from Steenwijk bought the building at the beginning of this year, but the official and festive transfer will take place on Sunday afternoon, November 12. He takes over the building to preserve it for the Steenwijker community.
The number of members of the church community has been declining for years. There are now 65. A service takes place in Steenwijk once every fourteen days. “The aging population is increasing and it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep the community and especially De Vermaning going,” says the chairman of the church council, Eint Ockels. “We are now freed from that worry.”
The faithful may use the building for a minimum of ten years for only the costs. The church community may continue to hold the services and other parties may also continue to use them. “It is a beautiful building in the heart of the city and it would be nice if it could continue to be used for religious and cultural matters, such as performances, exhibitions, you name it,” says new owner Wirt Groen.
The Mennonite Community had been thinking for years about a good solution for the sweet white church on Onnastraat, built in 1848, which also has a historic organ. The fact that the Steenwijk entrepreneur bought the house of worship, with the clause that the church community can continue to use it, as has been the case for 175 years, is of course a wonderful solution and reason for gratitude. Especially because it is allowed at minimal cost and the church community is freed from expensive maintenance.
Reverend Gerke van Hiele has been pastor of the Mennonite Congregation of Steenwijk and Giethoorn for five years. The church in Giethoorn is now a so-called Open Church with a silence center where fellow villagers and tourists can visit. The building is at the service of the village, just as the exhortation in Steenwijk is at the service of the city, with meetings related to faith as well as all kinds of other activities.
The intention is to further intensify the cooperation between both church communities, with alternating services in both churches. A merger is not yet possible. The Mennonite Community in Blokzijl, with a beautiful admonition, ‘t Lam from the 17th century, is also involved in this collaboration. ‘t Lam has also been at the service of Blokzijl for years, as the number of believers is still small.
The Anabaptist movement has its origins in Switzerland. Around 1530 we also find this religious community in the Netherlands. In the beginning the movement was radical, led, among others, by Jan van Leiden and Jan van Batenburg, in the 16 e century mayor of Steenwijk. He ended his life at the stake.
In the Netherlands, the moderate Anabaptists united under the leadership of priest Menno Simons (1496 -1561). It is therefore the oldest Protestant church in the Netherlands. These ‘Silent Baptists’ abhorred violence and lived a virtuous life. Adult baptism and liberalism are two characteristics of the Mennonite Church. “We are averse to dogmas, explains Pastor Van Hiele, but we are convinced of the deep spirituality of the Bible stories. It is important that the freedom of choice about how you want to experience faith lies with the believer himself.”