Regehr, Ernst (1903-1970)
Ernst Regehr: minister and elder; born 15 July 1903, Altmünsterberg, Prussia, the second of five children of Jakob Regehr and Helene Agathe (Dyck) Regehr (1871-1938). Ernst married Anna Regehr (23 June 1905, Gross Lichtenau, Gross Werder, Prussia - 7 June 1988, Delta Colony, Uruguay) on 25 April 1928 in Prussia. Anna was the daughter of Cornelius Regehr (1866-1944) and Kathe (Neufeld) Regehr (1867-1946). Ernst and Anna had three children: Marlise, Ernst, and Guenter. Ernst died 28 February 1970 in El Ombu, Uruguay.
Ernst’s desire was to become a missionary and he therefore spent some time at the Johanneum in Barmen. He ended up back on the farm, however, and was called to the office of pastor in the Rosenort congregation on 24 August 1930. He became Elder there on 11 March 1934. He was instrumental in starting organized youth work and Sunday School in the early 1930s, personally working with a newly founded congregational youth group. The congregation had just over 500 members and almost 300 children in the early 1940s.
In January 1945 most members fled the advancing Soviet army. By 1947 Regehr was able to identify only 150 people from his former congregation who ended up in refugee camps in Denmark. From there Mennonite Central Committee arranged transport for roughly 750 refugees to Uruguay in 1948. Approximately two-thirds of these settled in 1950 on a portion of the El Ombu estate about 300 km north of the capital Montevideo.
On 10 March 1952, the Danzig Mennonite Church was organized there with Ernst Regehr again selected to serve as Elder. This congregation, so named because many founding members came from the former Free City of Danzig, along with two additional ones in two other colonies as well as a congregation in the capital formed the Konferenz der Mennonitengemeinden in Uruguay (Conference of Mennonite Congregations in Uruguay) in 1953 with Regehr again providing leadership.
After 1945 Regehr’s ministry focused on visiting and gathering his scattered flock, at first in Denmark and later in Uruguay. His name does not appear on the founding land and business contracts of the Uruguayan Mennonites. Instead, his leadership was in comforting and encouraging families through extraordinarily difficult times. He traveled extensively under grueling conditions to visit the scattered Mennonites of Uruguay and freely distributed hand-written notes with Bible verses and poems to support discouraged members. Following his attendance at the 1967 Mennonite World Conference in Amsterdam he planned to return to West Germany to be close to his youngest son Günter. In 1968 he sold his farm, resigned from his office of Elder, and moved to the Delta settlement where his daughter Marlise and oldest son Ernst lived, but the poor health of first his wife and then himself did not allow that move.
The congregational constitution (Gemeindestatut) of the Danzig Mennonite Church in El Ombu from 1953 highlights the theological themes that remained constant for Regehr amidst all the changes. Jesus Christ as the Cornerstone of congregational life as outlined in I Corinthians 3:11 was the main organizing principle of this document, a selection made in conscious imitation of Menno Simons’ use of this verse in his own publications. Baptism of adults upon confession of faith, discipleship, the celebration of communion, church discipline, the separation of church and state, and avoidance of the oath were all important markers of the church. Military service was acknowledged as a point of contention and left open to individual choice. Church offices, including a lay pastorate, were organized according to the traditions of the West Prussian congregations. In organizing the congregations and settlements of Mennonites in Uruguay, Regehr noted that some might have advanced faster in Canada after the war, but they did it as families. In El Ombu, a portion of every paycheck, at first 25 percent and later for a time even 50 percent, went into a Lagerkasse. This act of settling as a community and not just as individuals and families was for Regehr a spiritual discipline based both on the biblical commands as well as explicit historical examples of Anabaptists from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries.
Dück, W. “Aeltester Ernst Regehr.” Bibel und Pflug 17, no. 7 (April 1, 1970): 3.
GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 6.06 ed. Fresno, CA:, 2011: #516780.
Regehr, Ernst. “Gemeinde Rosenort.” Mennonitische Blätter 80, no. 7/8 (July/August 1933): 81-82.
Regehr, Ernst. Geschichts- und Predigertabelle der Mennonitengemeinde Rosenort Elbing, ca. 1936.
Regehr, Ernst. “Gemeindestatut der Danziger Mennonitengemeinde in El Ombu (Uruguay).” Mennonitisches Gemeindekalendar (1953): 63-66.
Regehr, Ernst and Christian Hege. “Rosenort” in Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols, edited by Christian Hege and Christian Neff. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. 3, 544-546.
Regehr, Ernst. “Ält. Ernst Regehr Erkrankt.”Bibel und Pflug 16, no. 27 (Sept. 1, 1969): 1
Regehr, Ernst. “Todesanzeige.” Bibel und Pflug 17, no. 22 (Nov. 16, 1970): 3.
Regehr, Ernst. “Nachruf.” Klaus Dück, Privatbesitz Ernst Regehr Jr.
This article is based on the original English essay that was written for the Mennonitisches Lexikon (MennLex) and has been made available to GAMEO with permission. The German version of this article is available at http://www.mennlex.de/doku.php?id=art:regehr_ernst.
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MLA style: Jantzen, Mark. "Regehr, Ernst (1903-1970)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 2010. Web. 18 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/regehr_ernst_1903_1970.
APA style: Jantzen, Mark. (2010). Regehr, Ernst (1903-1970). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/regehr_ernst_1903_1970.