Glenda Maendel’s German-influenced intonation is in keeping with a North Dakotan accent, although certain sounds in her soft voice hint at an unfamiliar dialect. Her voice’s German lilt is stronger than a North Dakotan’s, however, as if she were an immigrant, and in many ways she is. Speaking in low tones, Maendel spoke of her life in the Hutterite colony in Fordville and her life since her abandonment of the religious community.
Maendel and eight other former members of Hutterite colonies, mostly from the Forest River colony in Fordville and a few others from the Hillside Colony in Manitoba, Canada, have written a book, “The Nine,” chronicling their lives as Hutterites in rural North Dakota and Canada, and detailing their decisions to leave the secluded communities.
Jonathan Maendel, acting manager of the colony in Fordville, said he and the community preferred not to comment on the book until he and other members have read it.
Like the Amish and Mennonites, the Hutterites are a denomination of Anabaptist Christians descended directly from the Radical Reformation of the 16th century. Today, more than 40,000 Hutterites live in more than 480 colonies mostly in the Midwest of the U.S. and in western Canada.
“The Nine,” published by Risen Son Publishing and released Tuesday, focuses on each individual’s journey away from the Hutterite culture, and the role that religion played in their decisions takes center stage. The narratives share similar accounts of finding faith and religion outside of the structured lifestyle of the Hutterite community, and the difficulties of leaving their families, friends and cultures behind for the religions, independence, and opportunities of the outside, “English” world.
Maendel, who left the colony seven years ago when she was 25, offers an example of this personal struggle in her chapter of the book. As all Hutterites do, she grew up speaking a dialect of German known as Hutterisch, or Hutterite German, which explains her unique accent. She spoke and wrote in English in “English school,” and spoke English when she traveled out of town to the farmers market in Grand Forks, or to the doctor’s or dentist’s office.
While Christian church services are central to Hutterite life, community members attend church on a daily basis and undergo a rigorous baptismal education in their early 20s, services are conducted in German. Hutterisch is different enough from German that most Hutterites do not understand it, and therefore do not understand the majority of church services including Bible recitations, hymns and sermons.
Maendel found this language barrier a frustrating obstacle in her faith and religious practices. Maendel notes in the book that she found it difficult to focus while she worshipped because she didn’t understand the majority of what was being said during the service.
Maendel’s husband Fred Phillips, the minister of a small non-denominational church in Rolla, said he was given the opportunity to enter the Hutterite community and speak with its members about the values of his church. It was a rare opportunity for “the English,” the Hutterite term for outsiders, Phillips said.
Maendel said it was a new understanding of her Christian faith, offered by Phillips and other members of his ministry, that led her to leave her home and community. The other eight authors of “The Nine” offer a similar explanation for their retreat from the Hutterite community.
While the authors of “The Nine” all left their communities within a few years of each other, they made the decisions independently from one another, Maendel said.
They were brought together by Phillips and members of his ministry as they assisted the former Hutterites’ integration into modern American society.
Maendel believes the book will offer guidance and strength to those who find themselves in hopeless or inescapable situations.
For more information about “The Nine” and its authors, visit thenine9.com .