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The Ältester

Herman D.W. Friesen, A Mennonite Leader in Changing Times

About the Book

Offering a unique window into the Old Colony Mennonite community in Saskatchewan, this biography of Herman D.W. Friesen reveals the life of a man who attempted to modernize his community, often in opposition to traditional religious beliefs. The story begins on the Hague-Osler Mennonite reserve in the 1910s and 20s. At this time the government was pressuring Mennonite communities to send their children to province-run schools. This set off a series of migrations, in which Mennonites left for Mexico, Central America, and other parts of Canada. During the watershed decade of the 1960s, Friesen was elected as a minister, and later as the Äeltester (Bishop). Despite growing up in an environment filled with intense governmental conflict and considerable suspicion towards “the English outsiders,” he did not try to organize another migration out of Saskatchewan. Instead, taking a unique approach to leadership, Friesen tried to navigate a gradual process of accommodation to the changes taking place in the province. Included in the book are Friesen’s sermons, translated from German, providing a unique glimpse into the Old Colony Mennonite theology that aided him in guiding the church in a strategy of gradual cultural accommodation.

About the Author

Bruce L. Guenther is Professor of Church History and Mennonite Studies at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Langley, BC. His research interests include the Mennonite experience in Canada, history of theological education in Canada, and the history of evangelical Protestantism in Canada. He and his wife, Lois, have three adult children.

 
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