About the Jacob D. Maendel Lectures
On June 1 and 8, 2019, Hutterites in Manitoba made history. For the first time since settling in the Canadian Prairie Provinces, a Hutterite with an academic background in history interpreted and presented part of the Hutterite story in front of a public audience. The inaugural Jacob D. Maendel Lectures Series was presented by Ian Kleinsasser in three one-hour lectures at Trinity United Church in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.
The Jacob D. Maendel Lectures were conceived and planned by an ad hoc task force working to commemorate the centennial of permanent Hutterite settlement in Manitoba, Canada. The purpose of the lectures is to bring the academic fields of history, theology, and literature, broadly conceived, under the discipline of, and into the service of the Church. In other words, the scholarship presented is to be of high calibre, but not merely an academic exercise for its own sake. Rather, the scholarship is to have direct ecclesiological implications, in the spirit of the motto, “Ecclesia semper reformanda est [the church must always be reformed].” The church can and must learn from the academy and, in turn, offer a witness and a prophetic critique to the academy and the wider world.In the years to come, the series is expected to stimulate learning and invite discussion about topics of interest to the Hutterite community. The lectures attempt to cultivate something of Jacob D. Maendel’s vision for the church; this vision, as we understand it, includes a deep appreciation for Hutterite history and the broader Christian tradition, an openness to non-Hutterites and new ideas, a reverence for creation, and a boldness in putting convictions into action.
About the Jacob D. Maendel
Jacob D. Maendel was a Hutterite teacher, pastor, and community leader. Born in 1911 at Rosedale Community near Alexandria, South Dakota, he migrated to Manitoba in 1918 when Hutterites fled political persecution because of their commitment to nonviolence. He was chosen as minister in 1949 at New Rosedale Community and went on to become widely regarded as a leader ahead of his time.
In an era when it was considered good economic sense to clear wooded land for use as fertile farmland, he insisted that strips of forest be conserved as ecological buffer zones. Both the task of selecting the site for a new community and the work of establishing Fairholme Community (1957–1959) were informed by his deep appreciation for nature: Jacob insisted on an acreage of bush above the Assiniboine River, and ensured that the natural environment remains as intact as possible, thereby gaining a reputation as “a staunch defender of trees.”
Jacob Maendel also had an ecumenical vision. Although Hutterites of the mid-20th-century were characterized by exclusivism and sectarianism, Jacob was open to learning from non-Hutterites in a way that was enriching for the larger Hutterian Community. His outward-looking vision of faithful Christian discipleship led to newcomers—families as well as single adults—visiting New Rosedale: some stayed briefly, while others became permanent members.
Despite his basic grade seven education, he was a self-educated life-long learner who read widely and introduced his students to great thinkers like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sigmund Freud, Helen Keller, and John Milton. Maendel understood the value of a culturally sensitive education and his vision led to the teaching career of Peter Maendel—the first Hutterite to attend and graduate from the Manitoba Teacher’s College. This resulted in the unique dynasty of Maendel educators among Manitoba Hutterites today.
Ultimately, Jacob’s vision and focus were the impetus for a surge of interest in education among Schmiedeleut I Hutterites that has culminated in nearly 100 Hutterite teachers holding Arts and Education degrees and teaching Hutterite children in their respective communities.
Jacob Maendel died in 1972. With gratitude to God for his work, witness, and inspiration, we name this lecture series in his honour.
Ian Kleinsasser delivering the inaugural Jacob D. Maendel lectures on June 8, 2019 at Trinity United Church, Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.
The Jacob D. Maendel Lectures are sponsored by the Hutterian Brethren Book Centre with financial support from Providence Christian Services and donations.