Warns (Friesland, Netherlands)
Warns, a village in the southwest of the Dutch province of Friesland, the seat of a Mennonite congregation, of which - unlike most Dutch rural congregations - there is good information, at least since ca. 1650. The congregation has a rather well preserved archives, containing cash books from 1652, which minutely mention the amounts paid out to the poor members of the church, a baptismal and disciplinary book from 1655, and a number of old documents. From these materials G. E. Frerichs published a short history of the congregation in Doopsgezinde Bijdragen of 1874, and Herman Bakels published interesting particulars in a somewhat novelistic form in Doopsgezinde Bijdragen of 1900, 1901, 1902, and 1904, and later separately in Het Volk van Menno (Leiden, 1908).
Concerning the founding of the Warns congregation accounts are lacking. According to an old tradition it existed already in 1570, meetings then for safety's sake being held at night on a small island in the swamps about two miles north of the village. About 1600 there seems to have been a High German congregation whose members were scattered over the villages of Warns, Hemelum, and Bakhuizen. This congregation, however, had dissolved (or merged) by 1647. In this year there was at Warns only one congregation, belonging to the Waterlander branch, which had a simple meetinghouse, a former barn, standing alone in a field. It became too small for the growing congregation and in the winter was difficult to reach because of the high level of the water from the adjacent lakes, and so, with the consent of the magistrates, a new meetinghouse was built in the town in 1664-76. This was replaced by the present church, dedicated 18 November 1877 (organ of 1896; front of the church renovated in 1950). A parsonage was built in 1826, replaced in 1932.
The baptized membership numbered 232 in 1654, about 210 in 1710, 90 in 1792, 108 in 1838, 147 in 1861, 149 in 1900, 106 in 1926, and 100 in 1958.
Until the 18th century the village of Warns did not subsist on farming, as it does for the most part now, but largely on navigation. Particularly among the Warns Mennonites of the 17th and 18th centuries there were many skippers and sailors, concerning many of whom the church records note that they drowned or died as far away as Sweden and Russia. This sociological structure of the congregation influenced church life in three points: (a) The seamen usually being absent from the end of February until October or November, baptism and communion services, preceded by church discipline, were not held shortly before Easter as was usual in Dutch Mennonite congregations, but in January or early February, (b) The number of widows and orphans in the 17th and 18th centuries was extremely large, and consequently high demands were made upon the funds of the deacons; in 1695, for example, about 50 members, one fourth of the total membership, received more or less of their livelihood from the church, in 1709 even 95 of the 215 members. This financial support was given liberally, (c) Through the decline of navigation because of wars, particularly in 1665-85 and in the early 18th century, many towns on the former Zuiderzee (now IJssel Lake) lost their wealth; this, for example, was ruinous for the Mennonite congregations of Molkwerum and Hindeloopen. Warns also declined; many who had been engaged in navigation moved elsewhere. This accounts for the rapid decrease of the membership in the 18th century. The congregation of Warns formerly was rather conservative. Church discipline was strictly maintained. Plain dress was found until the early 19th century.
Though the finances of the church were continuously saddled with considerable amounts for the needs of its own members, the congregation contributed liberally to many needs, both Mennonite and non-Mennonite. In 1727 and 1733 offerings were taken for the needs of the Prussian Mennonites, in 1736 for the Swiss Brethren.
In former times the church was led by the deacons, usually seven, from whom were chosen the preachers and the elder. A striking practice of the 18th century was to call elders from outside to perform baptism and administer the Lord's Supper and to exercise the church discipline, obviously because an outsider had more authority than their own elder, who was related by ties of blood and often by financial dealings to many of the members. Until 1700 the ministers served without remuneration. When the elder Ruurd Dirks in this year was granted a "liberal gift" by members of the congregation, the aged preacher Auke Feltjers was greatly incensed by this innovation; the dissension was stilled when Ruurd Dirks gave his "gift" to the poor of the church. But gradually a salary for the ministers became usual. The last of the lay ministers were Jan Cornelisz, elder at Warns 1716-1750, noted for his eloquence, who received an annual salary of 150 Dutch guilders, Atse Wytses (van der Zijpp), serving 1750-1808, and Wolter Maakal, serving 1810-1816. After his resignation Nicolaas Pott, who also was a lay preacher, was called in from outside. He served 1816-1825, followed by H. J. Smit 1825-1830, Pieter Veen, who was the first pastor trained at the Amsterdam Mennonite seminary, serving here 1830-1835, Douwe S. Gorter 1835-1850, L. van Cleeff 1854-1857, P. Brouwer 1857-1863, G. E. Frerichs 1863-1878, A. C. Leendertz 1879-1882, A. H. ten Cate 1883-1893, H. Bakels 1896-1901, J. D. van Calcar 1902-1906, P. M. Heringa 1906-1912, W. H. toe Water 1912-1916, P. Ens 1916-1941, W. Broer 1941-1949, J. Nielsen 1953-1957, and J. S. Postma 1957- .
In 1830-64 and 1953-57 the pastors of Warns also served at Staveren. The small congregation of Hemelum merged with Warns ca. 1700, Bakhuizen in 1799, Molkwerum in 1948. Until about 1915 and again since 1958 services have also been held in the neighboring village of Hemelum. Church activities in the late 1950s included two ladies' circles, a youth circle, ages 18-25, and a Sunday school for children.
Bakels, Herman. Het Yolk van Menno. Leiden, 1908.
Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Friesland. Leeuwarden: W. Eekhoff, 1839: 168, 169, 185, 188, 248, 254, 306, 324, 325.
Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1874): 85-114; (1900): 38-70; (1901): 57-126; (1902): 29-86; (1903): 81, 90 ff.; (1904): 30-65.
Naamlijst der tegenwoordig in dienst zijnde predikanten der Mennoniten in de vereenigde Nederlanden. Amsterdam, 1829: 59.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 890-891. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
To cite this page:
MLA style: van der Zijpp, Nanne. "Warns (Friesland, Netherlands)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 23 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/W3761.html.
APA style: van der Zijpp, Nanne. (1959). Warns (Friesland, Netherlands). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/W3761.html.