Orloff Mennonite Church (Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine)

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Orloff Mennonite Church
Source: Laura Gossen, St. Catherines, ON

Orloff (Ohrloff) Mennonite Church, oldest congregation in the Molotschna settlement, Ukraine, then known as the Orloff-Petershagen congregation, was founded in 1804, the first year of the Molotschna settlement, with Jakob Enns as elder, followed by Jacob Fast, then Bernhard Fast as elders. Because of the progressive attitude of Elder Bernhard Fast and some other ministers, the greater conservative part of the congregation in 1824 abandoned Orloff and founded the Lichtenau congregation. What was left of the former was now known as the Orloff-Halbstadt congregation and after 1877 as the Orloff-Halbstadt-Neukirch congregation, until 1895, when Halbstadt also became independent. Thereafter it was called the Orloff-Neukirch congregation, with two places of worship, one at Orloff, the other at Neukirch, a village about 10 miles from Orloff.

After the departure of the large Lichtenau group in 1824 the Orloff congregation was for a long time spiritually and culturally the most advanced congregation of the Molotschna as well as the most tolerant. It favored higher education, and the first Zentralschule, known as the Vereinsschule, was established at Orloff. Johann Cornies, the noted Mennonite administrator and cultural leader, was all his life a member of this congregation. During the 1860s, when the Mennonite Brethren Church came into being, Orloff with its elder Johann Harder was the first congregation to recognize it and to enter into friendly relations with it. Three elders of the Orloff church, Bernhard Fast (1821-1861), Johann Harder (1861-1876), and Abram Goerz (1876-1911), were all outstanding and strong personalities.

The greater part of the population of the following villages belonged to the Orloff church: Orloff, Tiege, Blumenort, Rosenort, Neukirch, Friedensruh, Tiegerweide, and some members from other villages. It was therefore a rural congregation consisting of farmers, numbering about 1200-1500, including children. The language of worship was German; for singing, the Gesangbuch zum Gebrauch in den Mennonitengemeinden Russlands was used. As in almost all Mennonite churches in Russia no instrument was used to accompany the singing, but choir singing was introduced at a comparatively early date. Church discipline was applied for moral misconduct. The Orloff church was built in 1809, the first in the Molotschna settlement, with the money donated by Tsar Alexander I. It was later considerably enlarged. The Neukirch church was erected in 1877.

The last elder, Jakob B. Wiens of Tiegerweide, immigrated to Canada in 1924. In 1926 P. D. Nickel was elected and ordained elder jointly of the Lichtenau and Orloff congregations. He served until 1930, when increasing religious persecution compelled him to leave Orloff. Worship continued until 1932, when the church was closed by the authorities. Even after that meetings were held for some time in private homes, until the last minister, W. H. Janzen, was arrested and banished. The building was then used as a Communist children's home.

Additional Information

Aeltester (Elders) of the Orloff Mennonite Church

Aeltester Years of Service
Jacob Enns 1804-1818
Jacob Fast 1818-1820
Bernhard Fast 1821-1861
Johann Harder 1861-1875
Abraham Goerz 1876-1911
Jacob B. Wiens 1911-1924

Author(s) Heinrich Goerz
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Goerz, Heinrich. "Orloff Mennonite Church (Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 31 Jul 2021. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Orloff_Mennonite_Church_(Molotschna_Mennonite_Settlement,_Zaporizhia_Oblast,_Ukraine)&oldid=164491.

APA style

Goerz, Heinrich. (1959). Orloff Mennonite Church (Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 31 July 2021, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Orloff_Mennonite_Church_(Molotschna_Mennonite_Settlement,_Zaporizhia_Oblast,_Ukraine)&oldid=164491.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 84. All rights reserved.

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