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Candle FUNEREAL JOY

This morning I attended my first-ever Hutterite funeral. It moved me. But first things first:

GLOSSARY:

  • Hutterite describes a group of pacifistic, separatist, German-speaking, religious dissenters from 16th-century Moravia (of the same Anabaptist rootstock as the Amish and Mennonite) who fled persecution and now live communally in agriculturally based, one-hundred-soul colonies clustered mostly throughout the prairies of western Canada and northwestern U.S. I am proud to call the Hutterites my neighbours and friends. (Here’s a set of photos and more info for the curious.)
  • Funereal is not a typo but the adjective describing the character “appropriate” to a funeral–generally thought synonymous with words like morose, doleful, or bleak.  The service I attended, with an estimated thousand mourners in attendance, honoured the financial manager of our local colony, an influential Hutterite leader. The character of his funeral was not “appropriate” by this definition.
  • Joy (not gloom) was the attitude pervading the very black-clad gathering of cousins, brothers, offspring, and all manner of extended family who attended from sister colonies as far away as Peace River (fourteen hours’ drive). Tears flowed but joy abounded.

So, with definitions out of the way, I have a simple observation: Death brings hope. 

Of course, this is anti-intuitive and I’m not making light of the sorrow experienced by those who will miss the face and voice and wise counsel of their beloved. But what I saw in that huge crowd of interconnected family (though the words of sermon and song were almost all unintelligible to me) was a founded belief that Christians know where we are going when this life is over.

The preacher’s brief English homily applied Scripture so beautifully, reminding us that blessing follows those who die “in the Lord” (which assumes a life having been lived “in the Lord”).

My Christian friends, in this new year (which has already begun dying), be filled with hope that our future is sure!

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6 Comments

  1. Adena Paget
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your thoughts and information. Being of Mennonite roots, I can identify with the belief and faith of the Hutterite people. It is quite wonderful to know the hope and faith we share with these people.

    • Posted January 3, 2016 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      Adena, thanks for your comment. It’s so true. Hutterites (as a group) live a life very different from “the world” and from most of Christianity (they show us one form of communal living I find very interesting and workable, at least in the colonies I’m familiar with). Yet, different as we “post/moderns” are from them in lifestyle, we do share a common faith in Jesus Christ. I really enjoy the friendship of the Hutterites in our neighbourhood.

  2. Posted January 3, 2016 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this, Deb. In recent years I’ve been learning more about, and appreciating, our Christian siblings with Mennonite roots. I’m glad you opened another window!

    • Posted January 3, 2016 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Ron. The website I linked is really lovely, isn’t it? The Hutterites have historically been very shy about allowing photos to be taken, but that and some other areas of lifestyle are changing. Unlike the Amish in your part of Canada, the Hutterites here don’t disapprove machinery–they are amazing farmers and run HUGE equipment. The women all sew their archaic-looking outfits on top-end Bernina and Janome machines, and the new schools are stocked with computers. Watching the society evolve while they keep strictly to 16th-century dress codes and fashion rules is fascinating. I believe they don’t send their teachers/preachers to seminary, and their sermons are all read from the texts of Jacob Hutter, if I have it right. Just a really interesting society.

  3. Posted January 4, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Isn’t it a little confused to voice admiration for the Hutterites across the board? We can legitimately admire their orderliness, work ethic, efficiency and resistance to fashion trends. But we ought to openly decry their laughably inconsistent legalism, their apparent satisfaction with religious form rather than heart transformation and their serious neglect and suppression of Bible study and evangelism.
    And if someone is trusting in their works to give them hope of heaven, do we actually share the same faith?
    Wycliffe has translated the Bible into Hutterische, which might make a wonderful gift for our Hutterische friends.

    • Posted January 4, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      I absolutely agree, Eleanor, that we can’t claim the Hutterian “way of life” as being anything more than a cultural expression, just another religious society. Don’t read me wrong–I’m not admiring them “across the board.” Individual heart transformation and not groupthink is the only way to understand the Bible and have a relationship with Jesus Christ! However, I personally know many people in this particular colony (each colony being different, even if of the same “denomination”). And these are fine people who by and large love Christian principles (as far as I’ve seen in getting to know them–confirmed by this funeral). Legalism is always a problem, no less with Hutterites than with Amish or Mennonites or, in fact, with other “theocracies” such as what we see in South Africa with that somewhat closed society of Reformed believers who seem to me to connect their doctrine with political positions. But I do ADMIRE that, when societies like this are built on the essentials of Christianity and the Bible, they have a great starting point we can relate to and support and even learn from. So no, Eleanor, I’m not confused, but I do hope I’m not confusing others. Thanks for drawing the conversation in this direction!

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