The future of the Mennonite Church After Identity: A review essay

Robert Zacharias, editor. After Identity: Mennonite Writing in North America. University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2015.

I grew up in the Mennonite stew of southern Manitoba. I began in the Sommerfelder Mennonite church but stopped attending around junior high. My parents were regular but not devote attendees. When I was old enough to stay home they never forced me to go. I flirted with Bergthaler and Mennonite Brethren youth groups until I committed to the Evangelical Mennonite Mission Church with baptism and membership. I had a short but formative liaison at St. Margaret’s Anglican church in Winnipeg, Manitoba (that is, Winnipeg’s ‘Mennonite’ Anglican Church) and was later caretaker of an apartment block run by an inner-city Baptist church. Then before I knew I had left home for good and found myself functionally estranged from the Mennonite church. I did not think much of this reality at the time because it felt as though all options were open to me. I could go wherever the Spirit led. But after a failed run at academia I began looking into pastoral ministry. Open to all but finding none I soon realized that I could not pastor ‘from everywhere’ and found that though my theological trajectory had carried me far from my church of origins I found myself to be, in the end, Mennonite.

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Becoming Mennonite again, and again

Chantal and I rarely make a point of going to art exhibit openings but on occasion we pass by them and end up wandering in. We recently walked through a photo exhibit with massive images measuring around 4×8 feet or so. They were in black and white and included a single human figure ‘blended’ into some aspect of nature, mostly wood if I remember correctly. The theme was straightforward enough particularly in relation to the artist statement. What I remember from the statement was some comment about the artist’s connection to nature and how they could ‘feel it in their bones’. This sort of statement is common and I remember mentioning to Chantal that I have never understood this sentiment. I cannot relate to this experience but I am beginning to relate this inexperience to my faith tradition.

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