Colony Organization a Mix of Communism, Democracy, Faith

Aksamit, Nichole. "Colony Organization a Mix of Communism, Democracy, Faith." Forum, 17 November 1999, sec. A7.

The modest women of Spring Prairie Colony share a quiet moment in the early morning sun on a trailer behind a tractor headed for a cucumber field northwest of Hawley, Minnesota.

Spring Prairie Colony, Minn.

A unique mix of economic communism, social democracy and faith keeps order at this Hutterite colony northwest of Hawley.

The colony is managed by a board of elected men: the elder minister, the financial manager, the farm manager and a few elder men of the colony.

The managers of various other departments - garden, kitchen, school, hogs, cattle, turkeys, chickens, bees - also are elected. They report to the farm or financial manager, who in turn reports to the minister.

The three top elders meet briefly every morning before breakfast to divvy up the day's duties and discuss any problems, issues or financial requests.

The colony has a single bank account, handled primarily by the financial manager, who is authorized to purchase cloth and goods for the entire colony's use - so many shoes or toys or yards of cloth per person or family.

And decisions that require a large amount of money are put to a vote of all adult male members of the brotherhood.

Women do not vote, but rather exercise their influence through their husbands.

"I usually agree with my husband," says one young Hutterite wife. "And if I don't, I tell him and he'll consider that when he votes."

Hutterite ministers are elected by an elaborate process that involves both democracy and providence: The men of the colony nominate candidates. Those who receive the most nominations draw lots.

Then there is a sermon asking for God's guidance and the new minister is revealed.

Ministers usually apprentice under an elder minister for several years before being ordained by the laying on of hands.

The bookbindery prints most of the German language materials the Hutterites at this colony use, but also does printing jobs for people and business on the outside.
Valentine Waldner Sr. sews together the sections of a book.

Reprinted with permission of The Forum

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