Veendam-Wildervank, two villages situated close together, both prosperous industrial centers in the Dutch province of Groningen (combined pop. ca. 26,000 in 1959; 28,106 in 2007; 273 Mennonites in 1947; coordinates: 53° 6′ 5.76″ N, 6° 52′ 35.04″ E), is also the name of a Mennonite congregation. The exact date of the founding is not known, but it may be assumed that a congregation arose soon after the peat moors in this area were broken up and Mennonites settled here, ca. 1640. The first Mennonites to settle here are thought to have come from the province of Overijssel. At any rate there was a Mennonite congregation here by 1647. In that year the magistrates of Groningen, to which city the peat moors then belonged, watched carefully that no persons "of Uko Walks' opinion" (see Ukowallists) settled here. In 1661 all Mennonite meetings were forbidden by the magistrates. Nevertheless the Mennonite congregation developed rather undisturbed. Its first preacher is mentioned in 1672. Meetings were held then and long after in a home, the group being rather small. In 1711 a private room on a farm at the Westerdiep was bought for a meeting place. Whether there were originally two more or less independent churches, one at Veendam and one at Wildervank, could not be ascertained. Originally the congregation was mostly called Wildervank, later Wildervank-Veendam, at present Veendam-Wildervank. In the 17th century the congregation belonged to the progressive Flemish branch. It was also called Waterlander.
About 1752 the preacher Willem Schut bequeathed to the congregation his house, a barn, and some land on the Oosterdiep. Meetings were henceforth held in this house. On this spot a simple meetinghouse was built in 1771, which was used until it burned down in 1849. A new meetinghouse erected on the same place, dedicated 28 October 1849, is still in use, though it was extensively remodeled in 1906, having been seriously damaged by a fire that destroyed eight homes in the neighborhood. The present parsonage was built in 1905.
In the early 19th century the financial situation of the congregation was deplorable and in 1825 even the dissolution of the congregation seemed imminent. Until this time regular subsidies had been received from the congregations of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Haarlem, Almelo, Hoorn, and Giethoorn and even from Hamburg-Altona in Germany. But in 1825 almost all these churches stopped their subsidies, and a group of prosperous members living at Borger Compagnie left the Veendam-Wildervank congregation to join that of Sappemeer. The congregation, which in the 17th and 18th centuries had been served by untrained ministers, was unable to pay the salary of its minister. But in this emergency the members banded together and by considerable financial sacrifice saved the situation. In 1840 a house was bought, which was remodeled as an old people's home, and a pastor was called who was trained at the Amsterdam Seminary. This was P. W. van Zutphen, serving here 1840-50. He was followed by A. Winkler Prins 1850-82, J. van der Ploeg 1883-98, F. van der Ploeg 1898-1906, D. Pottinga 1906-8, B. H. Rudolphi 1908-21, M. A. Hijlkema 1922-26, J. J. G. Wuite 1927-32, S. M. A. Daalder 1933-36, H. W. Meihuizen 1936-38, and Th. van der Veer 1939-42. After a few years of vacancy during which the retired minister M. Onnes Mz 1946-50 acted as pastor, the congregation was served by Miss J. M. Luyt 1950-54 and since 1954 by Miss J. W. Zuidema.
The baptized membership, which in the 17th and 18th centuries never surpassed 50 and in 1808 had dropped to 39, from then increased rapidly: ca. 90 in 1830, 142 in 1850, 160 in 1861, 240 in 1900. Then a sharp decline began: 150 in 1926, 116 in 1958. In 1850 the 13 members then living at Stadskanaal decided to found an independent church. The congregation of Pekela, which had merged with Veendam with its few members in 1808, acquired a degree of independence in 1851. A meetinghouse was built at Nieuwe Pekela in 1852, but Veendam-Wildervank and Pekela have always been served by the same preacher.
At first most of the Mennonites of Veendam-Wildervank were peat miners. After the peat had been removed their descendants became farmers; in the 19th and 20th centuries a number of them went into business. Outstanding Mennonites families here are Panman and Nieboer, and formerly also Boer, Boon, and ter Borg.
From ca. 1755 until 1805 the congregation was a member of the Humsterland conference; in 1826 it joined the Groningen Conference. Church activities are now a ladies' circle and Sunday school for children.
Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Groningen, Overijssel en Oost-Friesland, 2 vols. Leeuwarden: W. Eekhoff en J. B. Wolters, 1842: I, 149, 209-12, 238; II, 46.
Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1861): 154; (1903): 191.
Doopsgezind Jaarboekje (1850): 56.
Hijlkema, M. A. "Uit de Geschiedenis der Doops-gezinde gemeente te Veendam-Wildervank." De Zondagsbode XXXVIII (1925-26) No. 52; XXXIX (1926-27) Nos. 1, 4, 8, 17, 53.
Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam, 2 vols. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884: IX, Nos. 2300-9.
|Author(s)||Nanne van der Zijpp|
 Cite This Article
van der Zijpp, Nanne. "Veendam-Wildervank (Groningen, Netherlands)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 7 Jul 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Veendam-Wildervank_(Groningen,_Netherlands)&oldid=85671.
van der Zijpp, Nanne. (1959). Veendam-Wildervank (Groningen, Netherlands). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 7 July 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Veendam-Wildervank_(Groningen,_Netherlands)&oldid=85671.
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