Fast, Bernhard (1785-1861)

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Bernhard Fast: Aeltester of the Flemish Ohrloff Mennonite Church in the Molotschna Mennonite Settlement; born 21 July 1785 in Neuteicherhinterfeld, Gross Werder, Prussia, the third of seven children of Daniel Fast (14 December 1753 - 3 September 1829) and Katharina (Neufeld) Fast (20 February 1751 - 10 August 1811). Bernhard's first wife was Aganetha (Groening) Barg (ca. 1773-1836), daughter of Michael Groening. She was a widow with two children. Bernhard and Aganetha had two daughters, Susanna and Maria. Bernhard's second wife was Justina Dueck (1801 - 11 May 1875), and they had four children: Justina, Anna, Bernhard (died young), and Bernhard. Bernhard died on 25 April 1861.

Bernhard was ordained as a minister in Russia in 1814, and ordained elder on 13 January 1821. Fast succeeded Jacob Fast as elder of the large Flemish Ohrloff Mennonite Church and became a very significant progressive leader of the newly established Molotschna Mennonite settlement. He was a supporter of Johann Cornies' endeavors, of the Ohrloff Vereinsschule, and of more progressive measures in promoting the Gospel and co-operating with other Protestant groups. Because of his progressive views he soon encountered opposition which led to a split within the congregation. Some of the reasons for the division were: (1) some objection to Fast's decision to be ordained by a Frisian elder, Rudnerweide Elder Franz Goerz; (2) Fast had admitted a non-Mennonite missionary, Moritz, to the Lord's Supper in his congregation; (3) he promoted the work of a Russian Bible Society, a branch of which was organized in the Molotschna Mennonite settlement; he supported the Ohrloff Vereinsschule; and he favored the observance of the holidays according to the calendar in use in Russia.

Four of his co-ministers led in the opposition which culminated in the split of the congregation, leaving Fast only one fourth of the members (150 families). Jakob Warkentin was ordained elder of the conservative wing on 3 August 1824. This congregation became known as the Lichtenau Mennonite Church. The objectives which Fast promoted became generally accepted after one or two generations. It was unfortunate that circumstances in his day caused friction and division, but it was fortunate that he stood for a cause which paved the way for better education and a more meaningful practical Christianity.


Isaak and Friesen relate sources and express somewhat colored opinions; most objective is Goerz. The article in Mennonitisches Lexikon I, 634, was based on Friesen.

Friesen, Peter M. Die Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910) im Rahmen der mennonitischen Gesamtgeschichte. Halbstadt: Verlagsgesellschaft “Raduga“, 1911: 77, 84, 113-19, 197, 305.

Goerz, H. Die Molotschnaer Ansiedlung. Steinbach, 1950: 58-60.

GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 5.05 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2008: #11066.

Isaak, Franz. Die Molotschnaer Mennoniten. Halbstadt, 1908: 91-123.

Author(s) Christian, Cornelius Krahn, Neff
Richard D. Thiessen
Date Published March 2012

Cite This Article

MLA style

Neff, Christian, Cornelius Krahn, and Richard D. Thiessen. "Fast, Bernhard (1785-1861)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. March 2012. Web. 27 May 2022.,_Bernhard_(1785-1861)&oldid=170040.

APA style

Neff, Christian, Cornelius Krahn, and Richard D. Thiessen. (March 2012). Fast, Bernhard (1785-1861). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 27 May 2022, from,_Bernhard_(1785-1861)&oldid=170040.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 315. All rights reserved.

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