Book Review: Over The Mountains

Over The Mountains: A Story Based on The Second Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren and other contemporary records

Author: Compiled by Eileen Robertshaw

Publisher: Walden, NY: The Plough Publishing House, 2012

184 pages, plus maps and an addition entitled: The Hutterite Mission Machine by Dean Taylor & Jake Gross

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson


I’ve not read much Hutterite history. However my sister and brother-in-law who own a business, have numerous Hutterite colonies as their customers. A Hutterite customer gave this volume to them, and they passed it on to me.

Over The Mountains chronicles the life of Hutterites in the eighteenth century from Austria and eastern European countries such as today’s Czech and Slovak Republics, Hungary, Rumania, and Ukraine. As the title suggests, it focuses on a flight of a group of Hutterites from Transylvania from the persecution and conversion tactics of Delphini, a Jesuit priest, sent by Empress Maria Theresia to do away with the Anabaptists. The flight was from Transylvania over the Carpathian Mountains into Wallachia, contemporary Rumania. Later they would emigrate from Rumania to Vishenka, Ukraine and Radicheva, Russia.

The work highlights a recurring cycle. The Hutterites because of their beliefs in communitarian living, based on Acts 2:42-47, pacifism, and re-baptizing those who were baptized as infants; they were regarded as heretics by other Christians, were persecuted, and invading enemy Turks plundered and destroyed their property. They were offered the opportunity to recant and return to the Roman Catholic and sometimes Lutheran churches. When they refused, they were imprisoned, even beaten, children were taken from their parents, and families were separated from one another. The Hutterites then sought out other countries where religious freedom would honour their way of life. Princes and other wealthy landowners from such countries would promise them religious freedom, and then they would immigrate. Whenever the civic or religious authorities of that land began to persecute them; or a war tax was imposed on the Hutterites; or they were expected to serve in the military; or the land on which they lived was disputed because of war; the recurring cycle would begin again.

One of the developments amongst the Hutterites was an underground communications system whereby one or more would secretly travel to visit their imprisoned family or community members, and then return with news as to their circumstances.

Periodically there would be disagreements in the community whether or not to observe all of Sunday as a day of worship and rest; and what type of prayer was permissible.

According to The Hutterite Mission Machine, Hutterite missionary ministers met in 1527 at Augsburg, Germany for what came to be known as the Martyr’s Synod. At this meeting, the focus was on evangelism and missions; and the missionaries divided up certain regions of Europe and agreed on where each missionary would go. Of the 60 missionary ministers who attended the Synod, only two were still alive five years later.

This is an interesting fact for at least two reasons. First, it underscores the priority and commitment to missionary work among the Hutterites in the Reformation era; as well as the courage and faith of the 58 missionaries who were willing to be martyred for what they believed was the work Christ had given them. Second, it is quite a contrast with contemporary Hutterites here in Canada, who seem to have given up on evangelism and missions.

This volume would be most beneficial to those interested in eighteenth century Hutterite history.



Sermon for Pentecost Sunday Yr C

Read my sermon for May 15, 2016 here: Pentecost Sunday Yr C

Sermon for 7 Easter Yr C

Read my sermon for May 8, 2016 here: 7 Easter Yr C

Today in history

Today-April 23-marks the 400th anniversary of the most famous British playwright, William Shakespeare’s death, who died on this day in 1616.

The following is perhaps “the,” if not one of the bard’s most popular passages reflecting on the stages of human existence by Jacques, in his melancholic monologue from As You Like It:

The Seven Ages of (Hu)Man(s)

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then, the whining school-boy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like a snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then, a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then, the justice,
In fair round belly, with a good capon lined,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Sermon for 4 Easter Yr C

Read my sermon for April 17, 2016 here: 4 Easter Yr C

Dim Lamp blog 10th anniversary today

Ten years ago today, I entered the world of blogging with my first post ever on my WordPress Dim Lamp blog. Needless to say, much has happened in the world at large and in my personal world since then.  One of the constants in life is change, and this blog has gone through a few. If anyone actually reads this post/blog anymore, I’d appreciate hearing from you in the comments below about the content of Dim Lamp.

Here, once again, is the first blog post from April 5, 2006:

My weblog name, Dim Lamp, is a variation from verse three, chapter forty-two of Isaiah, or referred to by scholars as Second Isaiah. This is the first of four Servant Songs in Second Isaiah (see Isa 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-11; and 52:13-53:12). Scholars hold a wide range of views about the identity of the Servant–everything from a contemporary prophet (perhaps Second Isaiah him/herself, or a child of the prophet’s), to collective Israel, to one of Judah’s kings or future kings, to the Messiah. Many (perhaps most) Christian scholars have viewed the Servant as Jesus, hence interpreting the Servant Songs as references to the future rather than the historical circumstances out of which they were written.

I love the picture of the Servant’s tenderness and compassion towards those who are suffering or in exile. The Servant shall not break a bruised reed, he will not quench a dimly burning wick. This is a classic example of God’s “preferential option for the poor,” as the liberation theologians speak of it. It is a reminder to all that God loves and has a special place in his heart for the underdog, the outcast, the forgotten, those who suffer, those who feel life is waning, the weak and the dying. I like this Servant Song because I think it speaks to my existential state of being. I am a sinner-saint, who stumbles and falls, my light is not very bright most of the time. Sometimes I wonder if it’s even a dim light. Yet, I’m encouraged by the Gospel parables of Jesus concerning salt, yeast and light. Too much salt and yeast ruins things. Too much light can be blinding, and death-dealing, life-threatening hot. Yet no light or hidden light is not an option either. So, here I am, a dim lamp, living with life’s greys, complexities and ambiguities, and realising that God works in rather unorthodox, mysterious ways in, through, with and often in spite of me/us.

Sermon for 2 Easter Yr C

Read my sermon for April 3, 2016 here: 2 Easter Yr C