Easter on a Hutterite Colony
The following is an excerpt from Secrets of a Hutterite Kitchen
It’s early April, and the trees are wearing their first flush of green as I walk towards the minister’s house at South End Colony. I’m here to celebrate Easter—the most sacred holiday of the year.
A tall, heavy-set man leaning on a cane greets me at the door.
“How are you, Peter Vetter (Uncle Peter)?” I ask him.
“No bad, not boiling,” he answers with a sparkle in his fading blue eyes.
“Votar, bring sa eini! Father, bring her in!” the Prediger’s (minister’s) wife shouts impatiently from the kitchenette. We turn the corner, and the table is set for the noon meal. Ministers do not eat with the rest of the community in the common dining hall. The assistant minister eats his meals at the home of the head minister so the two can discuss business and deal with disciplinary matters that crop up in the community. Though he has the authority, a good Prediger will rarely make a decision by himself.
The assistant minister is away today but Edna Basel is in high gear, setting a basket of buns on the table and ladling out Maultosche (Big Cheek soup). “Welcome here,” she says, shaking my hand and looking me over carefully. Our heart-shaped faces look like book ends. “I’m related to you. We’re cousins,” she informs me, pulling out my chair. “When we were little girls, your mom and I played together.”
I sample the Big Cheek soup. It's a mixture of eggs, breadcrumbs and onions in a dough pocket, swimming in hot broth. A unique and delicious experience. (pg.229 Secrets of a Hutterite Kitchen)
“Thank God my husband can read faster than some ministers, because three hours is a long time to sit on your behind, even if you have a good fat one!” Edna Basel chuckles as she explains that at Easter, baptism and communion services are combined into one three-hour-long church service on Palm Sunday.
Adult baptism is the cornerstone of the Hutterite faith—a voluntary, spiritual commitment with vows that were written hundreds of years ago by our early leaders in Moravia. This year, South End Colony has three female baptismal candidates, ranging in age from nineteen to twenty-three. Young adults have to be at least nineteen years old to be baptized, and each applicant must make a formal request of the colony minister. The Prediger meets with his council, and if there are complaints against the candidate, the applicant is called in for questioning. If the charges are legitimate, the applicant is given a year to mend his or her ways. Baptismal candidates are required to memorize a great deal of catechism in the High German language and recite them in church on consecutive Sundays prior to being baptized.
On Palm Sunday, the Teiflinge (baptismal candidates) will be called to the front of the church where they kneel in a row. The assistant minister pours water into the Prediger’s hands which are cupped over each of the candidate’s heads. When the water is released, candidates become full members of the Hutterite church and will be served their first communion.
Hutterites quite possibly make the best communion bread in the world. Unlike the flat, unleavened crackers served at many communion services in North America, Obentmohlbrut (communion bread) is decadent. Edna uses the colony bun dough recipe and enriches it with cream, beaten egg whites, and extra sugar. The result is large, light loaf that tastes as creamy as a custard.
On Palm Sunday Edna removes the crusts and takes the loaves to the church. She prepares the communion table with a special white linen cloth used only for this occasion. The wine steward sets the communion table with a gallon of Concord grape wine which is served from four white crockery jugs. The bread and wine symbolize the body and blood of Christ, but they also represent the Hutterite way of life. Just as it takes many grains to make a loaf and many grapes to make a cluster, it takes many members to create a Christian community.
Mary-Ann Kirkby is a Hutterite Author and Professional Speaker. Her award-winning books, Secrets of a Hutterite Kitchen, and I Am Hutterite, are available in book stores and at www.polkadotpress.ca. Contact Mary-Ann at firstname.lastname@example.org