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take me to the dutch translation of this page
Dutch translation

Mennonites,Amish at Balk Friesland

The Mennonite (Baptism disposed) church at Balk is very old.Founded between 1551 and 1578.Then the traveling teacher Leendert Bouwens baptised 36 persons at Balk.
Balk the mennonite church ,raadhuisstraat
In 1551 Leendert Bouwens became a teacher at the Mennonite church. He lived in Emden (Germany) and was already a teacher there for some time.
He was a man with strict principles and a good spokesman. He dies in 1678 at Hoorn.
During his life he baptised over 10.000 persons,of which 6.500 persons in Friesland.
They were followers of Menno Simonsz (1496-1561), a Frisian vicar ,from Witmarsum.
He didn't agree with the Roman Catholic church and seperated himself from the church and started a new reformed religion.
That's why his followers called themselves Mennonites.

In general they had to obey strict rules,specifically Balk was very strict,they were called "fijne mennisten" or "Zonnisten" or ""Old Frisians". (the less strict were called "grove mennisten" or "Laministen".) The big differnce between both of them was being rejected out of community when they didn't live according the strict rules. The very strict ones were still rejecting party members and the less strict ones had no rejection rules.

The Balk community were followers of Pieter Jelles ,who was born around 1600 at Kollum,he was an important salesman. For teaching the rules of the mennonite church they used the book "Onderwijzinghe des christelijken geloofs" of Pieter Boudewijns.

This was the teacher of the "Old Vlamingen" at Haarlem (abt.1750). They lived a humble life without any glamour and rejected lot's of normal all today things.
They wear simple clothing,no gold or silver,no mirrors. The interior and exterior of their houses was mainly coloured in blue and doorsteps were painted black.

Interior Mennonite home
Regulations of the Mennonite church Balk


In 1625 the Mennonites build themselves a gatheringplace place "Vermaning", at the "Westersteke" at Balk (also called "Harichstersteke" and nowedays "Wilhelminastraat")

The actual spot were the gatheringplace

Nowedays it's a garage Wilhelminastraat 3.
This fact is mentioned in a letter of vicar named K. Ris at Joure.
This gatheringplace didn't look like a church.

In a letter of J. van der Ploeg ,vicar at Grouw (abt. 1697) the place was discribed as "a humble place with low ceiling .The listeners were sitting around a fire with their back towards the vicar ,listening to the teacher" and furtheron " the teacher was standing behind a little desk ,at the sides the other teachers on chairs with a high back rest. The "Pupils" on unpainted couches.In fact the whole room was unpainted"
Description of the mennonite church at Balk abt. 1797

Mennonite Church Balk  
year members souls  
1551-1554 32    
1557-1561 9    
1720 70    
1763 10    
1823   78  
1824 37 83  
1825 35    
1826 30    
1827 34 74  
1828 30 69  
1829 30    
1832 33    
1833 33    
1838 34    
1839 35 94  
1854 33    
aft 26 apr 1854 14   aft emigration
31 maa 1855 62   aft arrival Simon Gorter
1898   100  
1933   100  
1950   108  

In total the Mennonite church consists of 12.954 persons in 1838.
The total population of Friesland at that time was 161.513 persons.So about 8 % of them were Mennonites.
In 1983 118 persons are of the Mennonite church in the County of Gaasterland.

On the upper part of the doorframe of the backdoor of the old gatherplace of the Mennonites was written:

Upper part of the doorframe of the backdoor of the old gatherplace of the Mennonites Church Balk

 

The old gatherplace Vermaning at Balk Westersteke,at the left the traditional original Mennonite Blue
The original Gothic window of the old
gatherplace Vermaning, with at the right
the original traditional blue paint
used by the Mennonites

The old Gothic window at the old gatherplace Vermaning at Balk Westersteke
Also the outside of the old Vermaning was painted
in the traditional Blue,on a chalk layer

Part of the still existing interior of the Old Vermaning at Balk

Part of the still existing interior of the old gatherplace,
Vermaning,at Balk,at the left the original blue of the Mennonites

Also the outside of the Vermaning was painted blue

The original Gothic window with at the right,
down under the original blue on the chalk layer.

The entry of the old gatherplace of the mennonites was trough an alleyThe entry of the old gatherplace of the mennonites was trough an alley


Lateron a new church was build in 1862 at the ""Raadhuisstraat"" at Balk ,still in use today.
Haitje Hantjes Visser layed the first stone of the new build church in 1862
The first stone of the new church (1862) was layed by Haitje Hantjes Visser.
At that time he was the oldest member of the mennonite church,but also the remaining one of three teachers at Balk. He stayed behind for the teaching of the 14 reamaining families in Balk.
The members of the church choose the person to fullfill a chuch jobs,like elder,pastor or servant of the poor and songleader. Once chosen that member could not refuse the job. To be received into the church,it was necessary to attend special instruction,but one had to master the ""School der Deugd"" by Tielman van Braght and the ""Onderwijzinghe des Christelijken Geloofs"" by Piter Boudewijns.
The former was used for the younger persons ,the latter for the older. They used the old Biestkens Bible and also a Luther translation.Their songbook was the ""Kleyn Hoorns Liedtboeck"". The other two teachers Ruurd Jacobs Symensma and Ruurd Johannes Smid had left Balk,(taking with them 19 families) and went for the USA in 1853 en 1854. After them the first educated vicar was leading the Mennonite community , Douwe Simons Gorter,
grandfather of the famous poet Herman Gorter.
He lived in a viacary at the Meerweg in Balk (nowadays Marten Dijkstra,lives there).


The old gatherplace at the Wilhelminastraat became in use as granary presumably for the neighbouring Baker shop,
owned by Inne Johannes Betsema (1799-1875) and his wife Baukjen Wabes Wieringa (1808-1879).
Both also Mennonites. Lateron it became in use as a stable for the neighbouring Hotel Teernstra and
later as a stable (on sundays) for the reformed church around the corner (Gaaikemastraat,Westeinde). (Now in use as a Disco called "The String")

In 1811 the General Baptism Society was founded as a "spokesman" for all Mennonite Communities .The Mennonite community of Balk refused to connect with them.
Many conflicts occured also with the Government about military service.
The Mennonite leaders Ruurd Jacobs Symensma and Ruurd Johannes Smid didn't succeed of getting their way. At the end the two teachers left on april 9 1853 with part of their community members to the USA for setting themselves free.

House Obe Meines Smid in Goshen ,Indiana USA
Community members that stayed in Holland connected to the General Society. 40% had already left at that time.

In 1853 en 1854 a total of 19 families emigrated with a total of 60 persons. The settled down in New Parish en Goshen state of Indiana in the USA. The less strict mennonites were left behind

year elder/pastor born-death
  Auke Obbes Smid? ca 1650-1701
  Rinke Aukes Smid? ca 1705-
  Obe Rinkes Smid ca 1729-
  Johannes Obes Smid 1763-1828
1823 Ruurd Johannes Smid 1813-1893
1824 Ruurd Jakobs Symensma 1816-1853
1826 Auke Obes Smid (1772-dec 1826) was replaced by Obe Johannes Smid  (1802-1850) leading the singing  
27 mei 1827 Auke Hinnes Visser 1772-1828
     
24 jun 1827-7 dec 1828 Haitje Hantjes Visser & servant to the poor 1786-1863
     
1828 Meine Obes Smid 1765-1844
5 okt 1828 Haitje Hantjes Visser 1786-1863
5 okt 1828 Obe Johannes Smid 1802-1850
17 okt 1828 Obe Meines Smid becomes song leader instead of Obe Johannes Smid 1803-1864
7 dec 1828 Ruurd Klazes Visser & servant of the poor 1799-1873
21 jun 1829 Haitje Hantjes Visser 1786-1863
  Haitje Hantjes Visser  1786-1863
7 mei 1854-27 aug 1871 Simon Douwes Gorter 1838-1871
1 feb 1863 last sermon in the Old Vermaning  
     
1877-1902 J.J.Honig  
1902-1912 R. van der Veen  
1912-1916 H.C.Bartel  
1916-1922 S.J.van der Meulen  
after 1920 Woudsend joined the Balk congregation  
1923-1933 B.P.de Vries  
1933-1942 W.I.Fleischer  
1943-1946 C.F.Brusewitz  
1946- H.J.de Wilde  
Tettje van der Sluis-Haitjema the last member of the strict mennonite died in 1939 in Balk.Tettje van der Sluis-Haitjema


Today the Mennonite community has a total of 60 members (together with neighboring village Woudsend). Every 3 weeks the community is gathering at the church at Balk. World wide abt. 900.000 mennonites ,most of them in North-America and Africa. In Friesland about 1200 mennonites, devided in 36 communities.

Interior of the present mennonmite church Balk (build in 1862):
Interior of the present mennonite church at Balk

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Mennonite Church Balk

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Smid/Rijstra/Baukema
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Beschrijving Vermaning Wilhelminastraat Balk

Origin Holkema

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Tietema Leen
Holkema Patricier Family
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