Home Events Living the Anabaptist Story Event Held at Heritage Park a Success

Living the Anabaptist Story Event Held at Heritage Park a Success

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It was a lively evening at Heritage Park when the history of the Anabaptists was reenacted around the park. Here is Menno Simons, played by John Quiring, who was just one of many leaders of the Anabaptist movement who shared their stories.

It was a beautiful evening on Sunday, April 21, at the Henderson Mennonite Heritage Park for the reenactment of the “Living the Anabaptist Story” event. Over 170 people were in attendance, so a few changes were quickly made to accommodate the overflowing crowd. 

The opening was moved from the Country Church to the Ag building, where Suzanne Ratzlaff, president of Henderson Heritage & Tourism, and Pastor Andrea Wall from Bethesda Mennonite Church welcomed everyone. Pastor Andrea gave a brief overview of the history behind the Anabaptist movement and its importance during the Reformation period.

Each person was given a paper with the name and information of an actual Anabaptist. Their fate would be revealed at the conclusion of the night.  

During the singing of a hymn, first in German and then in English, a loud knocking was heard on the door, and in came Martin Luther, played by Leroy Goertzen. He immediately nailed his 95 Theses to the wall and proceeded to tell the crowd his story of how he came to be convinced through his reading of the New Testament that salvation can only be gained by Faith through the grace of God, not by indulgences practiced by the Catholic Church. 

Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the wall.

He went on to explain that he could not recant his writings and that he had been excommunicated from the church. He exhorted everyone to continue like other leaders to “fan the flames” so their ideas could spread. 

The next reenactment was of the debate between Conrad Grebel, played by Kim Siebert (against infant baptism), and Huldreich Zwingli, played by Seth Miller (for infant baptism). 

At the end of the debate, the crowd, which was playing the city council, voted overwhelmingly to reject infant baptism. But Pastor Andrea said that at the real debate in the 1500s, the city council supported Huldreich Zwingli. They felt the Reformation was moving too fast, and by accepting infant baptism, they escaped being banished by the authorities.  

Everyone was then divided into three smaller groups and led by a volunteer around the park to the other live reenactments. They were warned to be on the lookout for officials who might arrest them! 

Outside of the visitor’s center, a reenactment of the first adult baptism was held, featuring George Blaurock (Arlin Hiebner) being baptized by Conrad Grebel (Kim Siebert) and Felix Manz (Norm Yoder). Afterward, they each shared their stories of how they each met their deaths by burning at the stake, drowning, and imprisonment at very young ages. 

Next, the entire group was arrested by one of the government officials (Ethan Hall), who forced them toward the Depot, where they were met by a cloaked jailor (Lynn Hall) who led them into the dungeon. He dramatically explained through pictures how the Anabaptists were tortured and martyred. 

Menno Simons, played by John Quiring, appeared in the barn loft. He shared his story of how he was raised in the Catholic Church and eventually became a very good priest. After 14 years as a priest, he broke away, believing the church should be free of the state and the sword. He was using a crutch since he had been injured while being hunted by those wanting to arrest him. 

The last stop was a moving account by two women, Elisabeth Dirks (Cindy Friesen) and Hadewyck (Marcia Regier), who endured many trials and persecutions for their beliefs. Dirks shared how she was tortured with thumb screws and shin screws breaking her legs, but she still refused to betray anyone in the brethren. She was eventually drowned for her beliefs, but her friend Hadewyck managed to escape.  

The event concluded back at the Ag building when Heritage volunteer Aldena Siebert explained about the Anabaptist papers. On the back of each paper were a series of dots that identified the fate of each particular martyr. As each number of dots was called out, the recipients raised their papers as Aldena told them of their particular fate: beheaded, burned at the stake, died in prison, drowned, executed, hanged and burned, drowned in the sea, with one dying of natural causes. 

After a short question and answer time, visitors were treated to coffee and cookies in the Country Church. This event was a great way to begin the 150th celebration of the first Mennonite immigrant’s arrival in Henderson in 1874!