Who are the Hutterites?
Hutterites live in colonies located in middle and western Canada, and upper Midwest and northwest United States. Each colony has approximately 100 members with a total population of about 45,000 Hutterites. Hutterites, together with the Amish and Mennonites, originated during the Reformation in the 1500s out of the Anabaptist movement. Hutterites are similar to the Amish and Mennonites in doctrine and dress but differ in their communal way of life. Hutterites all speak a German dialect unique only to themselves. Hutterites have a strictly regulated dress code. Traditionally, men wear black pants, suspenders and a homemade buttoned shirt, and women wear a homemade dress and black head covering. Married men are required to wear a beard.
Hutterite colonies are rural and most of their income is agriculturally based. Colonies are male-managed with women participating in traditional roles such as cooking, housekeeping, gardening, and sewing. Women have no formal vote in the decision-making power in a colony.
Each colony has three or four high-level leaders to include one or two ministers, the secretary, and the farm boss. Everything is owned by the colony and all individual efforts are for the furthering of the colony. All earnings go to one or more bank accounts, which are controlled and accessed only by the leaders. Individuals are paid an allowance of $3.00 to $5.00 dollars per month. Basic necessities are provided for by the colony: food, clothing, and shelter. In turn, it is demanded that one’s life be fully devoted to the Hutterian way of life.
Hutterite life is very structured and ruled by tradition. Daily church services are conducted in High German. Men sit on one side and women on the other, in order from oldest to youngest. This is mandatory from age five onward.
Three meals a day are held in the communal dining hall. Again, men sit on one side of the dining hall with women on the other, according to age. Children eat in a separate dining hall until they turn 15 years of age. Turning 15 is a monumental experience because one is then considered an adult, entering the adult work force.
Most of the colonies are arranged in a similar fashion. The communal kitchen and church are centrally located with living quarters adjacent. Schools, butchering plant, and shops are built fairly close to the houses, while barns and garden are located on the outskirts.
Who are the Anabaptists?
(Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites)
The Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites are sects within the Anabaptists, a group that separated from the Roman Catholics and other state churches during the Reformation. The separation hinged on the doctrine of infant baptism. The Anabaptists rebaptized each other as adults, thereby earning the name Anabaptists (rebaptizers). Out of the Anabaptists sprang many different sects and groups. Some were entirely exterminated by persecution or merged into other denominations. The Hutterites and Mennonites were two of the larger groups that managed to survive by fleeing to neutral countries with religious freedoms such as Switzerland, Germany, The Netherlands, and Russia. The Amish separated from the Mennonites in Switzerland in 1693 because of doctrinal differences. All three of these groups, Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites, eventually came to the United States seeking religious freedom.
The Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites consider each other to be spiritual cousins; for example, they all believe in adult baptism, pacifism, and other Protestant doctrines. However, they are each unique and will stress different points of doctrine. The Hutterites are the only sect of the three that practices communal living.
The Amish are located in both the United States and Canada. Their form of separation from what they consider “the world” involves limiting technology and modern equipment. Other strict items of doctrine include shunning, non-violence, and a dress code. Amish men wear plain clothes and a beard without mustaches after marriage. The Amish women typically wear plain dresses with an apron and a white bonnet. There are many different groups of Amish. They differ in clothing, toleration of technology, and variations in doctrine. They speak a unique dialect known as “Pennsylvania Dutch”.
The Mennonites vary tremendously in appearance among their various groups worldwide. Some of the most conservative Mennonites follow a strict lifestyle that, at a casual glance, is indistinguishable from the Amish. On the other end of the spectrum there are Mennonites who are not distinguishable among society in general. In some Mennonite groups the women wear white bonnets and full length dresses, and in others the women will dress modestly but without the head covering or traditional dress.
Most Mennonites have no qualms with modern technology, but there are groups that still adhere to the “horse and buggy” lifestyle. Generally, the larger groups of Mennonites believe in outreaching to society through charitable organizations. The majority of Mennonites only speak the official language of the country in which they live. There are also many that still speak a variation of the Low German “Plattdeutsch”. In doctrine Mennonites adhere to the basic Anabaptist beliefs, and for the more liberal Mennonites that’s the extent of their separation from the world.
All Hutterites immigrated to the United States from Russia in the late 1800s. Of the 1200 Hutterites who came to settle in South Dakota, 800 chose to discontinue Hutterite life and live as individual families on the Dakota Prairies. The Praireleut, as they were called, kept their surnames and many retained a strong interest in their heritage.
The Hutterites are unique in their strict adherence to communal living and separation from society through that lifestyle. Their dress code consists of black pants and suspenders for the men and a dress and black head scarf for the women. They also speak a unique dialect called “Hutterish”. Most Hutterites widely embrace technology in all forms except some specific items, like television, which they view as a negative influence. Hutterites are separated into three groups: the Lehrerleut, Dariusleut, and the Schmiedeleut. These differ slightly in customs and dress but agree in doctrine and day-to-day life.
Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ
In reaching out to the Anabaptists, (Amish, Mennonite, and Hutterite) it may be difficult for one who did not grow up as an Anabaptist to differentiate between all the separations, and the subtle and not so subtle differences among the countless splinter groups, splits, and regions.
The important thing to remember is that we are all people with the same emotions, struggles, and the need for salvation and regeneration. There is only one way to the Father and that is through His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, and by having a personal relationship with Him. Originally, that was the key point of doctrine for the Anabaptists. Unfortunately, as generations passed there were many groups of Anabaptists that shifted the emphasis away from an internal change of heart to an external appearance of holiness. If someone closely examines the Hutterite history, he will find that they fell apart twice in their 400-year-old pilgrimage. Prior to each collapse they had ceased to zealously evangelize and reach others with love and truth. As their priorities shifted away from obeying Jesus’ commands as led by the Holy Spirit, they chose to keep up a way of life with fallible rules and traditions not established in the Word of God. How is it that they veered so far from the original tenets of their forefathers, who zealously fulfilled the biblical command of evangelizing and were willing to be martyred for the gospel?
Rather than just focus on the general appearance and structure of these groups, we seek to reach the heart of individuals both within and without these groups:
The questions we ask apply to everyone: First: Are you saved? Have you said a prayer to accept Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior? Next: Are you following the commandments of Jesus Christ? Do you have the baptism of the Holy Spirit who empowers believers to overcome sin and fulfill the call of God on your life? Finally: Are you being discipled, which is teaching and training according to the Word of God by mature believers? Do you know your giftings and callings? Do you have consistent accountability?
We pray these questions lead individuals to question their heart’s motive and purpose for their life. We agree with God’s heart that none should perish. Our hearts are for each person to come to the fullness of his potential in Christ Jesus through salvation and regeneration. We humbly submit ourselves to the will of God as servants to humanity as the Lord wills. As we have been ministered to, we are committed and prepared to help others: “…freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:8)