Telling The Mennonite Story – on tour with Your KW Host
Travel a little bit outside the city limits and you’ll notice horse-drawn carriages, with occupants in straw hats, bonnets and simple clothing.
Kitchener-Waterloo has a bit of a reputation for technology. It’s been dubbed “Silicon Valley of the North.” It’s the birthplace of the BlackBerry smartphone. It’s one of the biggest startup centres in Canada.
But travel a little bit outside the city limits and you’ll notice just the opposite. Horse-drawn carriages, with occupants in straw hats, bonnets and simple clothing.
We’re so lucky to live in a diverse region, and that includes the Mennonites who share our communities.
In fact, our thriving Mennonite community is a highlight we love sharing during our tours.
The Mennonite Story
It starts with The Mennonite Story Interpretive Centre https://stjacobs.com/Culture-Heritage-The-Mennonite-Story.htm in St. Jacob’s. Their goal: to respectfully share a glimpse into the history, faith, and culture of our local Mennonite communities.
The multi-media experience starts with a video about the Old Order, a branch of Mennonites known for practicing a lifestyle without electronic gadgets, TV or even musical instruments (though they do love to sing together).
But that’s only one order. Mennonites are quite diverse in identity, occupations, lifestyle, and culture. About 30 different groups live here in Ontario alone – anywhere from small congregations of 100 to large churches with thousands of members. Some visibly blend into the tech-driven culture around them, while others are more conspicuous.
There’s a rich history to discover, too, from their early beginnings as a persecuted group in 16th-century Europe to the strong 1.5-million-member community they are today, spread among 75 countries around the world. About 175,000 Mennonites living here in Canada, and 59,000 in Ontario specifically.
And there’s no better place to ask questions! Del Gingerich manages the interpretive centre and is a Mennonite himself.
Since launching in 1979, the centre has welcomed more than one million visitors from over 90 countries and offers audio tours in eight different languages.
This isn’t the only place you’ll encounter Mennonite culture, though. From horse-and-buggy parking at our local grocery stores and parking garages to little white schoolhouses dotting country roads and meeting houses with hitching posts, you can’t miss it.
There’s more to the area, too
Of course, St. Jacob’s isn’t just about Mennonite traditions. It’s a destination for theatre, great food, locally brewed cider and beer, antique shops and a hub for the Waterloo Central Railway https://waterloocentralrailway.com/ as well.
And just up the road is the West Montrose Covered Bridge - better known as the Kissing Bridge. It's the last wooden covered bridge left in Ontario and the oldest of its kind in Canada.
Want to know more about our Mennonite culture and the highlights in the area? I’d be happy to tell you – and show you! Your KW Host organizes tailor-made tours for large and small groups alike, at great local places like The Mennonite Story. Whether you’re in town for a day or a week, it’s well worth making the trip to see. Book here: https://www.airbnb.ca/experiences/282720