The Hutterian Brethren, commonly called Hutterites, originated in 16th century Europe during the Reformation period when the Holy Spirit of God was stirring the hearts of those who were yearning for holiness.
On January 21, 1525, a Bible study group in Zurich, Switzerland, met in the home of Felix Manz to study the issue of infant baptism. A fear came over them which pressed within their hearts. They bowed their knees in prayer to the Most High God in Heaven that He would show them His divine way and have mercy on them. After prayer, George Blaurock got up and asked Conrad Grebel to baptize him. Blaurock then baptized the others. Thus they were led to renounce infant baptism as unbiblical. They renewed the practice of the believer's baptism.
These radical disciples of Christ were originally known as the Swiss Brethren and also as Anabaptists. They were immediately severely persecuted by that enemy of God, the Old Serpent, acting through his servants, so that many of those courageous children of God were martyred for their faith. Their call to complete surrender to God was rejected by the worldly church. The Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed Churches all took part in the persecution of the Anabaptist brethren.
The persecution was so severe that the believers had to flee and hide in the forests. At one point, in the year 1528, a group of believers were in a desperate situation. The leader of the group put his coat on the ground and called for everyone to place all their money on the coat to be used for the common good. This act began the restoration of the practice of the community of goods, which was first taught by Jesus and His apostles and described in the Book of Acts (2:42).
This little group became known as the Hutterian Brethren. They sought refuge in what is present day Austria and northern Italy where they were tolerated for a time. The Hutterian Brethren missionaries gathered the Lambs of Christ into communities, known as Bruderhofs (place where brothers dwell). They shared all things in common, as did the early church. They were pacifists, that is they refused to use force to obtain their rights, following the example of their Lord Jesus (John 18:36). They honored God by accepting everything that He allowed. This small band was a shining light to the world of darkness around them.
The Lord was with them, giving them power and courage to send missionaries out into the hostile lands. Many missionaries were martyred for their faith. In great anguish they suffered the tribulations of Christ for the sake of the divine truth. The Hutterite Chronicle records the witness of hundreds of faithful brothers who died for their faith in Christ and His Church.
During the 16th century, the Hutterian Brethren communities were a light to the world, just as was the church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:46). Their love for each other and for the Lord was evident to all. They were hard working, honest craftsmen, whose services were sought after by the local landowners. Their schools and child caring facilities were ahead of their times.
Their meetings were very lively, for song writing was a popular occupation. One of the early leaders is credited with writing over 20 songs. One Servant of the Word, Wolfgang Sailer (died 1550) has 50 songs recorded in the Hutterite Song Book.
However, the enemy of all that is good could not tolerate these Lambs of Christ. He continually stirred up trouble for them, both from within and without. But, as with Job, the devil could only do what God allowed.
Initially, the church grew in numbers in spite of the persecution. But as time went on, the original fire in their hearts began to cool down. Just as the early church lost its first love, so did the Hutterian Brethren. After 75 years of following Christ, they began to waver.
The Lord God tried to keep them on the narrow path through chastisement and correction. So He allowed the persecution to become worse. In addition, marauding soldiers during the 30 Years War were allowed to devastate the various bruderhofs. Then the plague came and killed almost a third of the members in one year. But now the suffering and pain no longer served to build up the church but instead it began to give way to the world. They soon ceased all missionary activities, no longer calling the zealous to the city on the hill. Their numbers rapidly declined to only a remnant of their former size.
By 1628, when the church was a hundred years old, it was in a sad state of decay. The bishop at that time was led to begin writing down their fiery sermons, in the hope of restoring the vigor of the church. This turned out to be a blessing to the generations to come but did little to stop the deterioration of the church at that time.
Soon there were no more bruderhofs, by the end of the 17th century, the common life was just a memory. But the Lord God, in His almighty wisdom and compassion for mankind, did not allow this spark to die out.
In the latter part of the 18th century, God's Holy Spirit began stirring the hearts of the lover's of God so that a revival began amongst the Catholic population in central Europe. Many turned to the teaching of Martin Luther. This was not tolerated by the Catholic government so these Lutheran converts were banished to a remote corner of the country. There they encountered a few of the descendants of the Hutterian church members.
As a result of this encounter, some of these Lutherans began to live in full Christian community of goods. They revived the Hutterian Brethren church as best they knew how, reading the old sermons and tracts that had been preserved by the descendants of the old bruderhof members, a few of which joined the new Hutterian Brethren church.
This communal activity resulted in such persecution that soon about 50 of these newly converted Hutterites and 16 descendants of the old bruderhof members fled to Russia where they were promised a safe haven. However, the common lifestyle did not last long in Russia. There the new Hutterite members intermingled with the Mennonites, gaining Mennonite converts and absorbing some Mennonite customs and practices.
After a hundred years in Russia, many of the Hutterites and Mennonites migrated to America. Of the 1,200 immigrants who identified with the Hutterian Brethren church in Russia, only a third of them resumed community life in America, sharing all things in common.
The Hutterian Brethren Church today consists of over 350 church communities in the USA and Canada. They are primarily a kinship group, consisting of a dozen family names, all descendants of that 400 or so immigrants from Russia. The Hutterites tend to live in groups of 50-150 on large farms, called colonies, where everyone is generally related to each other. The women wear head coverings and the married men wear beards. The latest modern equipment is used on their large scale farming operations. Television, movies, and such is not allowed as it leads to corruption.
When the Lutheran converts resurrected the community lifestyle in the later part of the 18th century, they, of course, had no experience in living in community nor did they have any one to teach them. They did have the few writings preserved by the descendants of the original Hutterites and the teachings in the Bible. They also had the Spirit of the Lord God to guide them. It is a marvelous thing that the Lord has preserved for us.
Hutterites today live in what is usually called colonies, generally on large farms, they speak German among themselves and in their church meetings and have very few converts. There are over 400 Hutterite colonies, they generally have about 65 to 140 people in each one, usually all relatives as there is only about a dozen family names among them. When a colony gets large, generally 120 to 140 people, they split into two colonies with half the people moving to the new colony.
The Hutterites are divided into three groups: Dariusleut, Lehrerleut and Schmiedeleut. We (Fan Lake) are associated with the Dariusleut. Excluding us, there is only one convert among all the Dariusleut (a man married to a Hutterite woman at Espanola colony), none among the Lehrerleut and a handful among the Schmiedeleut (one family at Starland colony, one family and one single man at Crystal Spring colony, one single man at James Valley colony and one man married to a Hutterite woman at Airport Colony). There is a pseudo Hutterite colony in Africa and another in Japan but neither one has ethnic Hutterites living there. Most of the sermons are in English at the Starland and Crystal Spring colonies because of the outsiders there. The people at the Japanese colony do not speak English nor German but some of the people at the African colony do speak English. Both colonies were started by local people and later received the blessing and support of the ethnic Hutterites.
Hutterite family life is somewhat different due to their living together with other members of their church. Each family has its own apartment, the adults eat all their meals in the common kitchen building, the school age children eat in the children’s dinning room and the younger children, ages 3-6, attend kindergarten which is usually run by one of the grandmothers and one or two young women. The older children attend the private school in the colony. The women take turns cooking, usually a week at a time, with several weeks off in between. They also help in the colony garden and do some work around the colony such as helping to paint buildings. A women’s life is somewhat easy in the colony as they share the work.
The parents are responsible for the child’s discipline but they also receive discipline in the kindergarten and in German school. The school age children attend German school for an hour before and after the regular school. The German school teacher teaches them German using the Bible as their text. The older children also attend Sunday school on Sunday afternoons.
All school age children and adults attend daily church which is held just before the evening meal. The Sunday morning service tends to be about 1 ½ hours long. Saturday night is family singing night. Radio and TV is forbidden.
Some colonies give a small monthly allowance to each
member, usually $5 or $10 which they can spend for what they want. Other
colonies only give money to someone who has to go to town, such as to a doctor’s
This page was last updated on 02/25/2008