The Language Transition
Language maintenance was particularly germane to the Mennonite sense of peoplehood. The retention of Dutch for nearly two centuries in Prussia contributed significantly to their ethnoreligious cohesiveness. The Dutch language served as a barrier to assimilation in Prussia and aided in the maintenance of distinctive Mennonite principles and group identity. A common language contributed to a sense of unity and identity that eventually resulted in the founding of the Kansas Conference. The language transition was a delicate matter and usually occurred over an extended period of time. Numerous variables affected the rate of the language shift in the local church. The language transition was just beginning in the General Conference when Russian and East European Mennonites arrived in the 1870s. Young adult English-language Sunday school classes were common in most churches by 1930. Occasional English-language sermons were an indication of future changes. A strong force for English-language sermons in Mennonite churches was the First World War.