The community of St. Jacobs is located in southwest Ontario, just north of Waterloo in Woolwich Township, Waterloo Region.
Mennonites are Christians who trace their beginnings to the Protestant Reformation, and their basic beliefs are similar to other Christian denominations.
Mennonites believe in the importance of a church built on the teachings of Jesus Christ. They believe that the essence of Christian faith is obeying Jesus’ teaching and following his example, that community is essential for faithful living, and that love and peace are at the centre of what it means to be Christian. Their peace theology means that Mennonite churches discourage their members from serving in the military.
Historically, there are two basic strains of Mennonites in Canada: the Swiss-South German Mennonites came via Pennsylvania, and the Dutch-North German Mennonites came via Russia (Ukraine).
In the late 1700s and early 1800s “Swiss” Mennonites from Pennsylvania settled in southern Ontario. In the 1870s, a large group of “Russian” Mennonites from Ukraine moved to southern Manitoba. Further waves of “Russian” Mennonites came to Canada in the 1920s and 1940s.
Today Mennonites can be found across Canada.
Some of the larger concentrations are found in various pockets in Ontario, including Kitchener-Waterloo, Aylmer, Leamington, Markham and the Niagara Peninsula. In the west, large concentrations can be found in southern Manitoba, in the Saskatchewan Valley north of Saskatoon, and in the lower Fraser Valley in British Columbia. Traditionalist Mennonites tend to live in rural areas, and the horse-and-buggy groups are predominantly in southwestern Ontario, especially in north Waterloo Region and Wellington, Perth, Huron, Grey and Bruce counties.
The Mennonite Story Interpretive Centre strives to creatively and respectfully share history and culture while fostering conversation and reflection from a faith perspective.