The Ältester

The Ältester

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

by Bruce L. Guenther

Published by: University of Regina Press

300 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in

  • Paperback
  • ISBN: 9780889775725
  • Published: October 2018



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 Saskatchewan. During the 1910s and 20s, the government was pressuring Mennonite communities to send their children to province-run schools. Rather than acquiesce, many 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, or Bishop. Instead of organising another migration, Friesen opted to help his community adapt to the changes taking place in the province.

Included in the book are Friesen’s original sermons, translated for the first time from German, providing a rare glimpse into the Old Colony Mennonite theology that aided him in guiding the church in a strategy of gradual cultural accommodation.