Grosse Gemeinde (Big Church) was the name given to a group during the early days of the Molotschna settlement in Russia when the Kleine Gemeinde originated under the leadership of Klaas Reimer. Both were nicknames and not official names. The name "Kleine Gemeinde" remained while the name "Grosse Gemeinde" soon disappeared. The Grosse Gemeinde was really the Flemish mother church of the Molotschna, known as the Ohrloff-Petershagen-Halbstadt Church. Its first elder was Jakob Enns (1803-1818), who was succeeded by Jakob Fast (1818-1821). It was during this period that a smaller group separated under the leadership of Klaas Reimer which formed the independent organization known as the Kleine Gemeinde. Under Bernhard Fast (1821-1860), who succeeded Jakob Fast as elder of the Grosse Gemeinde or the Ohrloff-Petershagen-Halbstadt Church, the congregation divided because of numerous differences of opinion and practices within the church. The more conservative wing, consisting of about three fourths of the congregation, organized an independent church under Jakob Warkentin, usually referred to as "Grosse Gemeinde" or "Pure Flemish." This became the Lichtenau-Petershagen-Schönsee-Margenau-Pordenau Mennonite Church. When, in 1842, Warkentin was declared unworthy of his office as a result of conflicts with Johann Cornies, the congregation was divided into three groups: Lichtenau-Petershagen Church, Margenau-Schönsee Church, and Pordenau Church, each one having its own elder. This ended the era during which the name "Grosse Gemeinde" was applicable.
Friesen, Peter M. The Mennonite Brotherhood in Russia (1789-1910), trans. J. B. Toews and others. Fresno, CA: Board of Christian Literature [M.B.], 1978, rev. ed. 1980.
Friesen, Peter M. Die Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910) im Rahmen der mennonitischen Gesamtgeschichte. Halbstadt: Verlagsgesellschaft "Raduga", 1911: 703 ff.
Görz, H. Molotschnaer Ansiedlung. Steinbach, 1950.
Cite This Article
Krahn, Cornelius. "Grosse Gemeinde." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 22 Oct 2017. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Grosse_Gemeinde&oldid=81498.
Krahn, Cornelius. (1956). Grosse Gemeinde. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 October 2017, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Grosse_Gemeinde&oldid=81498.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 599-600. All rights reserved.
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