Blokzijl (Overijssel, Netherlands)
Blokzijl, a town on the shore of the former Zuiderzee (coordinates: 52° 43′ 30″ N, 5° 58′ 0″ E) in the Dutch province of Overijssel (population of 1,400 in 1947). Blokzijl was an insignificant village until it was made a fortress in 1580. By 1580 there was already a congregation here, which grew rapidly from this time on. In 1585 those who belonged to the shippers' guild were exempted from the oath; many Mennonites were at that time in the guild. Here the Dutch Mennonites found a place of safety at a time when a large part of the province was still in the hands of the Spaniards.
In the first half of the 17th century most of the population of Blokzijl was Mennonite. In 1656 the Mennonites furnished a loan to deepen the harbor; and three Mennonites accepted positions on the Raad van Negen (council of nine), which looked after the affairs of the harbor. In 1675 the Mennonites had acquired the right to appoint one of their number as directeur van de Diepenningen (director of the Diep pennies, the Diep being the approach to the harbor). All of this indicated the size and the influence of the congregations.
About 1700 there were three Mennonite congregations in Blokzijl. One of these was Flemish, sometimes called the Huiskoopers. Claes Claesz, a well-known elder and author, was a preacher here in the first half of the 17th century. On the old church formerly used by this congregation were still the words, Pax huic domini, 1629. About 1645 this congregation received a new church on the Noorderkaai. Its representatives were among the signatories of the Dordrecht Confession in 1632. In this congregation, which later also maintained an orphanage (later the sexton's home), the old strictness in the use of the ban and avoidance gave way to more moderate concepts in the course of the first half of the 17th century; consequently the congregation sided with the Lamists in 1665. The congregation was then called the "United Flemish, Frisian, and High German Mennonite congregation at Blokzijl." It was sometimes also known as the United Flemish and Waterlander congregation; but one must not draw too many inferences from this name, for there was no Waterlander congregation in Blokzijl, even less than a Frisian or Flemish. Toward the end of the 17th century very liberal ideas were proclaimed in the Noorderkaai congregation; in 1685-1686 its preachers were accused of Socinianism, but were acquitted. The preacher, Jacob Hendriks (Brouwer), who had written a book in 1698, Onderwijs naer den Wegh ten Hemel, was held in prison for nearly a year and was charged a severe fine. About 1700 a split occurred in the congregation, in which most of the members withdrew (see below), leaving scarcely 60, one third of whom had to receive financial support; they received financial assistance from Amsterdam and Haarlem in 1706. Little is known about the affairs of this congregation during the 18th century. In 1771 the church was burned down and was replaced by a new one in 1772, Amsterdam again lending its aid.
During the decade in the middle of the 19th century a new split took place, when the preacher, Volkert de Graaf, with a few members of the congregation, including the deacon, Adriaen Stuurman, joined the Moravian Brethren (Herrnhuter) in 1742, and began to hold Moravian services; in 1755 he broke his connections with the Moravians, though Adriaen Stuurman (d. 1763) and other Mennonites continued to support them. In 1786 this congregation called its first trained minister, namely, Jacob Ruertsz Veenstra.
The second congregation, which arose between 1650 and 1679, perhaps by dividing from the first, belonged to the Danzig Old Flemish. This congregation, which was always small, and of which no particulars are known, died out in 1782.
The third congregation was formed by a large number of members of the first congregation, who left out of dissatisfaction with its liberal preaching. They joined the Zonists and in 1700 built a church on Breestraat. In 1702 it had a membership of 260; because of the decline of the shipping industry in Blokzijl the number decreased to 123 in 1754.
In 1802 the Noorderkaai congregation united with the Breestraat congregation, so that there was now only one Mennonite congregation in Blokzijl, with about 165 members in 1810. The church on the Noorderkaai was no longer used; the church on Breestraat was still in use by the congregation in the 1950s. The congregation possessed a rich collection of silver communion utensils dating from about 1800-1820 (5 cups and a bread plate) and also a silver vessel for baptism. It acquired an organ in 1858. The town was steadily declining, and with it the congregation. In 1840 there were still 140 members; in 1898, 162; in 1915, 90; and in 1950, 69. The congregation kept its Zonist character; it did not at first join the Algemene Doopsgezinde Sociëteit, and did not care to use the Mennonite hymnal, but adopted the Reformed hymnal instead.
Besides the church at Blokzijl the congregation had a subsidiary church on the Wetering, about an hour's walk from Blokzijl, where preaching services were held every two weeks in the 1950s. A Sunday school for the children, a women's circle, a youth's circle, and a girls' club were active in the congregation. The congregation belonged to Ring Zwolle. In the the first half of the 20th century the ministers were J. W. van Stuyvenberg, 1897-1903; G. Hofstede Gzn., 1903-1935; S. J. Verveld, 1935-1940; H. J. Franken, 1942-1945; Jacob Thiessen after 1946.
Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Groningen, Overijssel en Oost-Friesland, 2 vols. Leeuwarden: W. Eekhoff en J. B. Wolters, 1842: I and II, passim.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: I, 237.
Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam, 2 vols. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884: I, 595; II, 1265, 1546-1567; II, 2, Nos. 27-35.
Stuurman, F. J. "De vroegere Mennisten-gemeenten in Blokzijl." Zondagsbode (13-20 November 1939).
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 363-364. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: van der Zijpp, Nanne. "Blokzijl (Overijssel, Netherlands)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 18 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B5640.html.
APA style: van der Zijpp, Nanne. (1953). Blokzijl (Overijssel, Netherlands). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B5640.html.