The past and today
Mennonite: faith and community life
Mennonites are a Christian faith group that began in Europe in the 16th century when a small group of believers challenged the reforms of Martin Luther and others during the Protestant Reformation, saying they were not radicalenough and calling for adult rather than infant baptism. In 1525, several members set themselves apart from the official church by publicly declaring their faith in Jesus Christ and re-baptizing each other. Currently there are over one million members world-wide. Mennonite beliefs and practices vary widely, but following Jesus in daily life is a central value, along with peacemaking. Mennonites are also known for their strong commitment to community and interest in social issues. Membership continues to be voluntary, with adult baptism upon declaration of faith.Menno Simons was an early prominent leader and eventually the group became known as "Mennonites" because of his name. Though Dutch Mennonites name themselves "Doopsgezind" (literally, baptism minded).
Mennonite presence in Groningen
Since the early beginnings of the Protestant Reformation the city of Groningen has hosted a faith-community practicing Mennonite beliefs. Church-State structures did not tolerate these Anabaptists or "Anabaptizers," meaning re-baptizers. Over the course of two generations, thousands were persecuted. Many met death as martyrs. In order to preserve the movement, the survivors went into hiding. Gatherings took place in private homes. Since 1677 a Mennonite congregation gathered in a house that was located just in front of the actual church. In 1809 different Mennonite congregations reunited and erected the current church building. The house in front was then torn down. The church continued to outgrow its facilities and several additions to the building were made until the building reached its present dimensions and became equipped with a pipe organ, built in 1961 by the famous Danish organ building firm Marcussen. Inside the church, one can admire a contemporary piece of art created in 1991 by the Groninger artist, Jan Steen.