A Mennonite is someone who belongs to the Mennonite Church, an Anabaptist Church that has been active since the 1500s, or who has grown up in a church community. These individuals can be found all over the world, often in close knit and very friendly communities, and their religious traditions place a heavy emphasis on community connections, public service, and pacifism. As with many Christian sects, members express their beliefs in a wide variety of ways; some Old Order Mennonites, for example, strive to live simply by rejecting modern technology and dressing plainly, while Moderates live relatively ordinary lives, with nothing on the outside to distinguish them from friends and neighbors.
The Anabaptist movement in the Church was part of a greater upheaval in the Christian community known as the Reformation. The politics of the Reformation were extremely complex, but they essentially boiled down to a difference in opinion with the dominant Catholic Church, leading to the creation of numerous other Christian sects. Many of these sects, including the Anabaptists, stressed a return to the authority of the scripture and the early church as a model.
The Anabaptists came to be called by this name because of their beliefs surrounding baptism. They felt that instant indoctrination into the Church at a young age with baptism ran contrary to the customs of the early church, when people came to the church later in life, making an active choice to embrace Christian values. Mennonites share this belief, using baptism as a believer's confession and modeling their behavior on that modeled by the early Christian church. This branch of the community is named for Menno Simmons, a religious leader who lived in the 1500s; in the late 1600s, the Mennonites experienced a profound split that resulted in the creation of the Amish community.
Many people are familiar with Mennonite organizations that offer disaster relief, and members of this church have become famous worldwide for their rapid response to things like hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires. Many are also involved in peace and social justice issues, as a natural extension of their pacifist and non-resistant values. They also try to live simple lives, contributing to their Church and community and rejecting the accumulation of wealth and material goods.
In areas with a strong Mennonite community, it is possible to find schools run by the Church, and members are often very active in their religious community and in the larger outside world. In other regions, Old Order Mennonites prefer to keep to themselves, and some very conservative sects will ostracize people who chose to reject the church after being baptized. Many members are happy to discuss their faith and religious beliefs with curious people, and some churches welcome people who are exploring their faith at services and social events.