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Hutterite colonies vary in work and religious practices

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There are three groups of Hutterites in the Hutterian Brethren Church. The largest group is called Schmiedeleut.


All 109 Manitoba colonies belong to Schmiedeleut, which is just getting over a period of upheaval.


An unholy ruckus broke out within the group a few years back, and out of their total 181 colonies, 125 split off.


The bitter feud seems to boil down to a disagreement over how Hutterites should face up to the persistent beckoning of the modern world all around them.


That allure was causing many of their members to defect, to the point where losses from defections were outnumbering children being born to replace them.


It’s not hard to see why.


A colony member is expected to work flat-out at his assigned job, from dawn to dusk in summer, from eight to five in winter. He gets no annual vacation, receives no pay and is not allowed ownership of personal property.


Prayer and worship are a major focus of colony life from infancy onward. Each
person prays when he awakes, before and after every meal and snack, again before bed, plus worship-service attendance is mandatory at the colony church every night at six.


Sunday is a day of rest, but members must attend church most of the morning and are expected to study the Bible the remainder of the day.


Leisure pursuits such as playing baseball, going to a movie, seeing a football game, or riding a motorbike are out of the question. So, usually, is having access to a camera, cell phone, computer, or the internet.


They cannot acquire driver’s licenses or even leave colony grounds without permission.


Women are restricted to work in the communal kitchen, sewing room and vegetable garden, they are denied the right to vote in colony elections and forbidden to use birth control methods.


In return for all this hard work and dedication, the colony provides food, clothing and housing and looks after its members when they grow old or get sick.


Those defecting from the colony may well feel they want to get a little more out of life while they’re still young and healthy enough to enjoy it.


Of course, there are variations among colonies. Some are much more liberal than others. A few are even starting to let young people pursue post-secondary education in the "outside world".
And some make no fuss — or look the other way — when radios, TVs, cell phones and email make the scene.

Bob Holloway is a community correspondent for Headingley.

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