When the Anabaptist movement began in 16th century Switzerland, and later spread to Tyrol and the Low Countries, few people could have predicted the tremendous division that would be created within a group of people who believe more or less exactly the same thing. While Mennonites and other Anabaptists have continued to split into tinier and tinier church groups based on the most minute of theological distinctions, some modern Swiss and Dutch Mennonites have found a pleasant commonality in their love for cheese.
“I’ve searched the Scriptures and found that while there are many things that divide us, when we look at the most important issues, like cheese consumption, we know we are of the same faith,” said Swiss Mennonite pastor Johan Schantz of Aylmer, Ontario. “They dress a little funny, but they make a mean gouda.”
The Swiss Mennonites came to North America much earlier than the Dutch did, but through the years have continued to show devotion to their faith in their cheese-making traditions.
“Just as I’ve found holes in their scriptural interpretation of Matthew 1:5, they also seem to love cheese with holes in them,” said Dutch Mennonite leader Henry Janzen, also of Aylmer. “It’s a little strange, but it tastes alright.”
Some Dutch Mennonites are under the impression that they are actually Russian, due to the fact their ancestors lived in Southern Russia for a couple centuries, but their ability to make really awesome cheese belies this impression.
“Russian? Oh, come on,” said Reverend Schantz. “If those people are Russian, then I’m Portuguese! No Russian could make cheese like that.”
The two groups are planning an ecumenical non-alcoholic wine and cheese tasting in the Niagara Peninsula this fall.