Ameland (Friesland, Netherlands)
Ameland is a Dutch North Sea island (coordinates: 53° 26′ 52.8″ N, 5° 43′ 48″ E) with a population of 3,513 (2005), on which the Anabaptist movement doubtless early found many adherents. It is certain that in the first half of the sixteenth century several Anabaptist congregations arose there. The baptismal list of the Elder Leenaert Bouwens states that he was on Ameland eight times between 1551 and 1582 to serve the churches there with baptism. He baptized not fewer than 99 persons: 47 at Hollum, 49 at Ballum and three in Nes.
About this time, in 1556, the division between the Waterlanders on one side and the stricter Frisians and Flemish on the other took place in the province of Holland, which probably soon affected Ameland. In Nes, where the attitude has always been less strict than in the other villages of this island, a Waterlander congregation separated from the main body. This may explain why Leenaert Bouwens baptized only three at Nes, and these on his first trip. In Hollum too the Waterlander group found followers in the course of time and built a church there. It is odd that the Waterlander meetinghouse here, as also in Harlingen, was called the "blue barn."
After the division the mother church was called the Flemish brotherhood, and retained its original strictness. In 1599 and later, when Jan Jacobsz of Harlingen tried to sharpen the regulations concerning the ban, the Flemish congregation on Ameland sided with him and called itself the Jan Jacobsz congregation, a name it kept until 1855. It had adherents in all three villages. In the 17th century, perhaps early and perhaps not until after 1664, for some unknown reason, the Foppe Ones or Laus Ooms group separated from them and later joined the Humsterland Flemish Societeit in Groningen and secured adherents in all three villages.
The three congregations, the Waterlanders, Jan Jacobsgezinden, and the Foppe Ones group, existed side by side on Ameland until the beginning of the 19th century. Besides their greater leniency, the Waterlanders differed from the others also in employing salaried, trained ministers after 1761. The preachers of the Jan Jacobsz and Foppe Ones congregations were untrained and unsalaried, although they received considerable compensation in the form of voluntary gifts on occasions such as the communion service, funerals and other services. The Jan Jacobsz church always distinguished between preachers (leeraars, proef-dienaaren), from whose ranks elders were chosen, and elders, of whom there were always two at the head of the church.
The congregation owes much to Cornelis Pieters Sorgdrager, who was its elder from 1793 until 1826. Jacob Jobs, his predecessor and co-elder (elder 1769-1804), had also, although changing times demanded different methods, held obstinately to the old customs; but Sorgdrager realized that old principles could be retained even if forms were changed. Gradually he introduced the necessary changes. The form of church services used everywhere else was adopted; namely, the reading of a passage of Scripture at every church service and instead of silent prayer the audible prayer of the preacher. Likewise the Biestkens Bible was replaced by the better state translation, and the antiquated hymnal, De Goudschale, by the Reformed hymnal. Sorgdrager also entered zealously into the spiritual preparation of candidates for baptism by introducing regular instruction. Previously, when new members were received, the articles of a Mennonite confession of faith were read and those who desired baptism were merely asked whether they agreed with them.
In the 19th century the three churches combined, first the two conservative groups in 1804, which took the name of the Jan Jacobsz church. In 1815 union with the Waterlander group was considered, but failed. Nevertheless, a feeling of need developed for the kind of preaching and instruction provided in almost all Mennonite churches in Holland by trained ministers, and the simplest way of securing this would have been union with the Waterlander group, who in Costers had such a pastor; but unfortunately his manner of life was an obstacle. Then the Jan Jacobsz church turned in 1850 to the Algemene Doopsgezinde Sociëteit in Amsterdam, which provided two theological candidates to serve the church in succession. In 1852, in conjunction with the Frisian Societeit they made it possible for the church to call its own minister, Klaas Simons Gorter.
In 1854 Costers of the Waterlander congregation retired, and then on 1 January 1855, the Jan Jacobsz church joined the Waterlander group. The newly-formed church took the name "Mennonite Church of Ameland," and was to be served by two ministers, one at Nes, the other at Hollum. But for many years Gorter alone had charge of all the church services on Ameland. In 1883 it was decided to form a separate congregation in each of the three villages. The smallest was that at Ballum. In 1951 there was only one minister for the three congregations, who resided in Hollum.
The number of Mennonites on Ameland has steadily decreased. In 1627 the Catholic priest van der Heyden wrote as an eyewitness in his book entitled Verrichtingen der Jesuiten in Friesland, "In Ameland the inclination in matters of faith is in general toward the doctrine of the Mennonites." In 1812 about half the population, or 1,023 souls, was Mennonite; in 1838 the number had suddenly decreased to 690. In 1859 there were 591; in 1889, 549; in 1899, 535; in 1909, 521; and in 1947, 311 souls. The decline was thus most pronounced in the first half of the 19th century. It is possible to follow the decline in the number of baptized members exactly by means of reports. In 1804 the combined Jan Jacobsz and Foppe Ones churches had 531 members; the Waterlander group had 70, making a total of 601. In 1838 there were in the former 270, in the latter 50, a total of 320. In 1855 the number in the united church was 304. In 1913 Hollum had 157 members, Ballum 47, and Nes 68, making a total of 272 members. In 1950 the corresponding figures were: Hollum 127, Ballum 46, and Nes 48, making a total of 221.
Archief Eerediensten 1806-13, Portefeuille 109 (National archives in The Hague).
Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Friesland. Leeuwarden: W. Eekhoff, 1839.
Catalogus der werken over de Doopsgezinden en hunne geschiedenis aanwezig in de bibliotheek der Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam. Amsterdam: J.H. de Bussy, 1919: 320.
Gorter, K. S. "TJit de vroegere Gesch. der Doopsgez. gem. op Ameland." Doopsgezinde Bijdragen(1889): 1-50; (1890): 1-38.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 50.
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. II, 1472-1521; II, 2, Nos. 9-11.
Jongh, H. J. de. Jubelrede wegens 50-jariger Predikdienst in de Oude VI Doopsgez. gem. te Ameland 17 Juli; 1842. Amsterdam, 1850.
Cite This Article
Loosjes, Jacob. "Ameland (Friesland, Netherlands)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1955. Web. 23 Oct 2017. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ameland_(Friesland,_Netherlands)&oldid=118814.
Loosjes, Jacob. (1955). Ameland (Friesland, Netherlands). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 October 2017, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ameland_(Friesland,_Netherlands)&oldid=118814.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 85-86. All rights reserved.
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