Monday, June 9, 2008


After a wonderful night's sleep in the barn pictured above, I was fed a fabulous filling breakfast. This is the barn of farmer Werner Gysel. They are connected with the Geissels in America, and in fact an American Mennonite had given his wife a Geissel family cookbook. In turns out that along with Bern, Basel, and Zurich, Anabaptists were also active here in Schaffhausen. The Gysels are not Mennonite, but perhaps some ancestors were.
Frau Gysel was extremely generous, feeding two filling meals. The scenery from here is fantastic. You are on top of the mountain. You can learn about them at I had planned to sleep in the straw, and they have a small building for that. But as I smelled the straw I thought my nose might not be functioning properly by morning so I slept in the barn, which at this end is filled with bathrooms, meeting rooms and 2 dormitory style rooms. Since I was the only person there it wasn't a problem.
I then made my way across the mountain for awhile on my bicycle, and it was of course a wonderful trip down. I wanted to stop in the nearby town of Hallau because of a little-known incident there related to Anabaptist history. From April to November of 1525, the church and community there became Anabaptist. So I took the photo of the Hallau church interior, partly because its plainness seemed so Mennonite to me. But of course a plain style is also part of the Swiss Reformed emphasis of Ulrich Zwingli, the man from whom early Anabaptist parted ways. However there were two stained glass windows at the Hallau church, and one was of a knight! So that wasn't particularly Mennonite.
The people in the countryside are extremely accomodating and trusting and friendly. I arrived at the Hallau church only to find it locked. But some people were around and so he opened it for me. He drove away and told me to be sure to shut the door when I left.
The story of Hallau goes like this. After the first baptisms in Zurich in January 1525, the leaders spread out quickly. A few days later they went to Zollikon and then a few more days and Conrad Grebel was in Schaffhausen and Johannes Broetli and Wilhelm Reublin were in Hallau. At this point things were in flux and there were different ideas about what this movement might be. They did not assume that the state would be against them, though that was their experience in Zurich. So Broetli and Reublin preached in Hallau and many people were baptized.
Connected with this was the idea of the tithe no longer going to support the faraway administrators but for the support of the local community. They also wanted to decide who their pastors would be. There was a lot of peasant agitation against their lords and eventually the Peasants' War broke out.
What role did Anabaptists play in that? Certainly they shared in the frustrations of peasants. It is also clear that some of the early Anabaptists were pacifists, and others were not. When the capital city of Schaffhausen sent troops against Broetli and Reublin in Hallau, the villagers protected them with weapons.
A similar thing happened just across the border in Waldshut, Germany. Essentially the whole city became Anabaptist under the influence of the preaching of their pastor, Balthasar Hubmaier. Hubmaier was avowedly not a pacifist and the most educated of the early Anabaptists. He is one of the best Anabaptist theologians, especially in his writings about believers baptism and the separation of church and state. However for him that separation did not mean not participating in government functions, only that the state should not compel people to believe.
But in any case these experiments in whole cities being "Anabaptist" did not last long. Anabaptists never did garner state support. And two years later an ex-Benedictine monk, Michael Sattler, marked Anabaptism with some of his monastic ways. He was the writer of the Schleitheim confession, which I mentioned as the place I visited on Friday, and was also an area very sympathetic to Anabaptism. Schleitheim called for a strict separation between the state and the church. There was to be no mixing and Christians could not serve in state functions because that would require the use of the sword, something outside the perfection of Christ. You can read the Schleitheim Confession, which isn't very long, here
Not that Schleitheim is the first pacifist statement among Anabaptists. Conrad Grebel and his associates had also criticized the revolutionary Thomas Munzter for his advocacy of violence. But it is also clear that there was not originally consensus on this issue, and that at least for the Swiss, Schleitheim was inluential in eventually building that consensus.
After visiting Hallau I started biking towards Schaffhausen to catch a train to Zurich for the night. However I got a flat tire. And again I was aided by a complete stranger. I explained to someone that all I needed was air pressure, but he insisted on driving me and my tire to the nearest bike shop. Then he brought me to his home for a short visit and some chocolate with warm milk. His name was Iso and he was born in Greece, raised in Macedonia, and now lived in Hallau. He was a very busy man who worked hard, and being rewarded by gaining property in Switzerland, no small feat. As Andy had told me my first day in Switzerland, owning real estate is only for the rich. Everyone else must rent from them.

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