Witmarsum (Friesland, Netherlands)
Witmarsum, a village in the Dutch province of Friesland, the birthplace of Menno Simons. Menno was a Catholic pastor here from 1531 until he withdrew from the Catholic Church, probably on 30 January 1536. According to a local tradition, Menno lived at Witmarsum for some time after his withdrawal, preaching the Gospel to his adherents in a house outside the town. This tradition is, however, probably in error, for the Court of Friesland and the Stadholder were very alert for heresy: as early as 1527, before Menno was in Witmarsum, a search for heretical books was made in the parsonage. And in the fall of 1536, when Menno secretly visited Witmarsum, the Stadholder of Friesland immediately had his hosts arrested. Thus it must be assumed that after leaving the Catholic Church Menno left Witmarsum at once.
Whether Menno left a Mennonite congregation at Witmarsum or not is an open question. At any rate, there was such a congregation here by 1560. Leenaert Bouwens baptized five (possibly eight) persons at Witmarsum in 1557-61 and another five in 1563-65. Concerning the early history of the congregation there is only one bit of information. It was more or less united (complete union not before 1823) with the neighboring Pingjum congregation, and in the 17th century Pingjum seems to have been the more important part of the union. In the 17th and 18th centuries the church was called Waterlander and Flemish, but this obviously does not mean that it was formed by a Waterlander and a Flemish congregation, but simply that it held the progressive Lamist views of the united Flemish-Waterlander church of Amsterdam. In 1695 Witmarsum joined the newly founded Societeit (conference) of Friesland; at this time it numbered about 25 baptized members. Membership figures of the 18th century are not available; in 1828 there were less than 20 members; from then the figures are always those of Pingjum and Witmarsum together: 54 in 1861, 80 in 1900, 48 in 1958.
Until 1877 services at Witmarsum were held in a very simple meetinghouse called the Menno Simons House, because according to the (incorrect) tradition Menno lived or preached here. This meetinghouse was remodeled in 1828 (engraving of this old meetinghouse by Dirk Sluyter ca. l828). The last service was held here on 9 December 1877, and the next Sunday a new church in town was dedicated, which is still in use. It was equipped with an organ in 1881 and thoroughly renovated in 1887. Until 1794 the congregation was served by untrained and unsalaried ministers, chosen from the membership, and later by untrained ministers from abroad who received some salary. The first minister educated at the Amsterdam Theological Seminary to serve the Witmarsum-Pingjum congregations was C. Corver 1859-63, followed by S. G. Binnerts 1863-70, J. Sepp 1871-73, P. Feenstra Jr. 1873-81, B. Haga 1882-88, P. A. Vis 1889-91, P. Ens 1899-1903, H. Westra 1904-7, J. E. van Brakel 1908-14, A. A. Sepp 1914-18, Alb. Vis 1919-22, P. J. Smidts 1923-27, W. F. Golterman 1933-36, H. P. Tulner 1936-39, A. H. van Drooge 1940-46, and Miss S. E. Doyer 1946-57. Since 1933 the pastor also served the Makkum congregation (the pastors Golterman and van Drooge lived at Makkum, Tulner and Doyer at Witmarsum). Since 1957 the Makkum, Witmarsum, and Pingjum congregations are served together by the pastor of Bolsward. Church activities are a ladies' circle and youth group "Menniste Bouwers." On the site of the old meetinghouse a monument was erected to Menno Simons, dedicated on 11 September 1879, by P. Cool, retired pastor of Harlingen.
Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Friesland. Leeuwarden: W. Eekhoff, 1839: 56, 89, 188, 205, 245, 254, 306.
Cool and P. P. Feenstra Jr. Gedenkschrift van het Menno-Simons-Monument. Zwolle, 1879.
Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1878): 132; (1880): 164; (1888): 148; (1916): 81 f.
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, No. 2; II, No. 2347; II, 2, No. 651.
Naamlijst der tegenwoordig in dienst zijnde predikanten der Mennoniten in de vereenigde Nederlanden. Amsterdam. (1829): 46.
Vos, K. Menno Simons. Leiden, 1914: 52, 230.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 967. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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To cite this page:
MLA style: van der Zijpp, Nanne. "Witmarsum (Friesland, Netherlands)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 21 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/witmarsum_friesland_netherlands.
APA style: van der Zijpp, Nanne. (1959). Witmarsum (Friesland, Netherlands). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/witmarsum_friesland_netherlands.