An Anomalous Defense of Anabaptist Mobility

The Zurich government’s efforts to end the long-term presence of an Anabaptist minority in their territory in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries focused on the control of nonconformists’ physical mobility. The council’s anti-Anabaptist decrees, provoked in part by the movement of Hutterite missionaries in the city’s lands, obliged middling officials to collaborate in a project to segregate, enclose, or banish local dissidents from parishes across rural jurisdictions.1 Periodically, Anabaptist community members were barred from using the commons, incarcerated, or expelled. By imposing these sanctions, Swiss Reformed authorities joined governments across early modern Europe who saw in the restriction and control of movement a means to force members of religious minorities and other marginalized groups to conform.2 Their stated objective was the restoration of subjects’ obedience and communal wholeness. The violence inherent in this approach marked the everyday lives of Anabaptists living in the region over a period of decades. The more systematic implementation of this punitive regime in the 1630s and 1640s helped to permanently eliminate an Anabaptist religious culture from Zurich’s territory.

Plague Image

The burial of three victims of plague in the church yard of Zurich’s Grossmünster, 1582. From the chronicle of the Zurich canon Johann Jakob Wick, Zentralbibliothek Zürich, Handschriftenabteilung, Wickiana, Ms. F 30, Fol. 11r.

In this context, it is difficult to imagine that these same authorities would forward an argument in favor of the free movement of Anabaptists through imperial territory. Yet, in a November 1612 letter to Ernst Georg, the Duke of Hohenzollern residing in Krauchenweis, this is precisely what Zurich’s burgomasters and council did.3 This piece of incongruous reasoning stemmed from the arrest and incarceration of a group of five travelers traveling east between Mengen and Rüdlingen in the duke’s jurisdiction, among them one citizen and one subject of Zurich, one of them a barber surgeon, and three Anabaptist men from Moravia, who were journeying home.4 After being held for several days, the Swiss officials reported, the party’s members had been relieved of a significant sum of money, more than two hundred ducats, before being expelled from the German territory upon the swearing of an oath not to return. The travelers’ misfortune was regrettable, the Zurichers explained, because they had only had cause to traverse Ernst Georg’s lands after being summoned by the doctor Bastian Herber to aid in his efforts to treat victims of an outbreak of plague, which had devastated the city’s territory over the previous year.5 Herber—and, putatively, the assistants he had called for—had “behaved kindly towards us,” using his God-given medical arts and enduring great personal danger. His collaborators were now returning home along a familiar route connecting Zurich and Moravia, carrying with them significant monies bequeathed to them by grateful patients.

The letter’s authors expressed some understanding for the punitive instincts of the duke’s agents. The Swiss officials themselves had been dismayed when circumstances had forced them to welcome wrong-believing adherents of Anabaptism into their territory, where they were not usually tolerated. They also knew the content of the Constitutiones of the Holy Roman Empire, under whose stipulations they assumed that the travelers had been detained and relieved of their possessions. Nevertheless, under the same legal code, the officials contended, if an Anabaptist were to pass through a German territory without spreading error, without coercing those with whom he came into contact, without transporting his property, while remaining quiet (sich still haltend), there was no cause to judge him an evildoer. Under such conditions, even a Jew or Turk could not be treated as the travelers had been. Thus, the officials requested that the confiscated money be returned to the Anabaptists and sought assurances that citizens of Zurich would have no more reason to submit further grievances.

This curious episode warrants attention, first, because it provides yet more evidence of the deep integration of Anabaptists into professional networks of medical practitioners in Swiss territories.6 These networks included local nonconformists and those living well outside the region, whose reputation and ability warranted temporary toleration of their presence in Zurich during times of desperation. Long-distance connections within this network remained viable, it seems, because of the groundwork laid by Hutterite missionaries and Swiss migrants’ ongoing need to settle outstanding financial concerns.7

Second, this case shows that authorities had no obligation to restrict and control the mobility of nonconformists. A variety of options between hospitality and open hostility remained open to them. Under certain circumstances, officials drew on available legal resources to make countervailing arguments, even in an environment in which their coercive approach, and the justifications that buttressed it, appeared to have ossified. Repeated determinations to segregate, enclose, and expel were made deliberately, despite the variety of other paths open to the territory’s governors.


  1. See, for example, “Verbot des Täufertums (1585 [1612]),” in Zürcher Kirchenordnungen, 1520-1675, ed. Emidio Campi and Philip Wälchli (Zurich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich, 2011), 429-35. Astrid von Schlachta has argued that concerns raised by the activities of Moravian missionaries shaped the 1585 mandate. Hutterische Konfession und Tradition (1578-1619): Etabliertes Leben zwischen Ordnung und Ambivalenz (Mainz: Von Zabern, 2003), 352-53. 
  2. For a broader study of this phenomenon, see Nicholas Terpstra, Religious Refugees in the Early Modern World: An Alternative History of the Reformation (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016). 
  3. The following account draws from this missive, found in Staatsarchiv Zurich, B IV 71, 519-22. 
  4. Leonhart Rützensdorffer was the citizen of Zurich and Conrad Bentz, from the Rumstal west of Winterthur, the city’s subject. The scribe did not record the names of the Anabaptist travelers. It is possible that the party included a man referred to as “one of our doctors” in the Hutterite Chronicle. The Chronicle reports that in 1612 an unnamed medical practitioner “had been in the city of Zurich and Swabia for over a year. God had blessed his work, and he had rendered good service to many prominent people with his medicines, especially during the epidemic in Zurich when eight thousand people died within a short time.” The Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren, Volume I, ed. and trans. Hutterian Brethren (Rifton, N.Y.: Plough Publishing House, 1987), 598. 
  5. Otto Sigg’s study of records from the rural parish of Ossigen in Zurich’s lowlands suggests that between 35-44% of the population perished in the twelve months preceding the authorities’ letter. “Die drei Pestzüge in Ossingen, 1611/12, 1629/30 und 1636,” Zürcher Taschenbuch 99 (1979): 107. 
  6. For more on this phenomenon, see Hanspeter Jecker, “Im Spannungsfeld von Separation, Partizipation und Kooperation: Wie täuferische Wundärtze, Hebammen und Arzneyer das ‘Wohl der Stadt’ suchten,” Mennonitica Helvetica 39 (2016): 21-33; Roland Senn, “Wer war (Hans) Jacob Boll? Die Geschichte Zweier Täufer aus Stein am Rhein,” Mennonitica Helvetica 37 (2015): 11-44. 
  7. Given the location of the travelers’ arrest, it is likely that they were following a path well-established by Hutterite missionaries and the hundreds of migrants they recruited in Zurich’s territory. Travelers left Zurich’s territory through the northern lowlands, skirted Schaffhausen to the east, walked overland to Ulm, and then contracted water transportation downriver on the Danube. For more on this route, see von Schlachta, Hutterische Konfession, 355-56. Long after they left for Moravia, Swiss migrants returned to Zurich to address outstanding debts and claim inheritance. The Chronicle’s account of Hutterite participation in the provision of medical care highlights the fact that, because of their doctors’ faithful service to the Swiss citizenry, “the lords at Zurich [allowed] more than usual of the money inherited [by the brothers from Switzerland] to go out of the country to the church [in Moravia].” Chronicle, 598. 

Ministers of the Eastern District of the General Conference Mennonite Church, 1898

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Ministers of the Eastern District of the General Conference Mennonite Church, during a conference session at the Springfield meetinghouse near Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, in 1898.  While the Eastern District never printed rules for attire, ministers wore distinct garb into the late nineteenth century. Picture from left to right are Levi Schimmel, Silas Grubb, Harvey Clymer, Augustus Shuhart (layman), Jacob Moyer, Andrew Shelly, Anthony Shelly, William Gottshall, Allen Fretz, and Nathaniel Grubb.

Forrest Moyer Moyer, Archivist, Mennonite Heritage Center

Selections from the Visions of Lienhard Jost

The survival of the visions of the Strasbourg prophetess Ursula Jost (or rather, the first edition from 1530) has long been known to scholars of sixteenth-century Anabaptist history. Klaus Deppermann, in his 1979 biography of Melchior Hoffman, devoted several pages to the Strasbourg prophets and Ursula visions, and Lois Barrett’s 1992 PhD dissertation examined Ursula’s visions in greater detail and translated them into English for the first time.[1] While Deppermann, Barrett, and other scholars of Anabaptism in Strasbourg were aware that Lienhard Jost had played a prominent role in the Melchiorite movement in Strasbourg and that Hoffman had printed an edition of his prophecies, they believed that those prophecies were no longer extant. Recently, however, Jonathan Green brought to the attention of the scholarly community the survival of an edition of Lienhard’s prophecies (together with a second edition of Ursula’s visions) at the Austrian National Library in Vienna.[2] The edition, printed by the Deventer printer Albert Paffraet, who also printed the works of David Joris, offers a wealth of new information on Lienhard Jost. [3]

While Ursula’s visions offer only scant biographical details, Lienhard’s prophecies are related in an autobiographical format. The account focuses particularly on early 1523 (when Lienhard spent two months involuntarily hospitalized in Strasbourg, since the authorities believed him to be insane) and late 1525 (when Lienhard experienced a resurgence of prophetic revelations and attempted to prophesy publicly again and especially to convince the Strasbourg reformer Mathis Zell of his legitimacy).

Below are two chapters from Lienhard’s prophecies in English translation, both relating events from 1523. The third chapter recounts the events that led to Lienhard’s hospitalization (and calls to mind another infamous sixteenth-century Anabaptist episode, when seven men and five women—known collectively as the naaktlopers—ran naked through the streets of Amsterdam).[4] The nineteenth chapter takes place near the end of Lienhard’s confinement.

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Title page of the 1532 edition of Lienhard’s visions.

The Third Chapter [5]

After I had shown this, as mentioned above, to the lords and leaders of the city of Strasbourg and passed on the message, in the night the glory of the Lord surrounded me one more time and spoke to me forcefully in my heart: Well, up! You must go there stark naked and unclothed. The Mord Glock must be rung before it is day.[6]

That same hour I had to wake, and I could not stay according to my preference. And I said to my wife: Ursula, I must go out stark naked, as I was told. When I came out onto the streets of Strasbourg in the open air, my arms immediately moved apart from each other and I went from there [so quickly] that I cannot know whether I remained on the ground or not.

That same hour my mouth opened and I had to speak and yell at the top of my voice: Murder upon murder! The child in its mother’s womb must and shall be terrified before the word of the Lord comes to pass. Murder once again! If the rulers and lords only know that their princely clothes will be removed from them before God and the world, that they might seek God again, they would all cry along with me: murder upon murder!

But after this the child in its mother’s womb will rejoice again and there will be much peace for all who have been sad.

In this midst of this aforementioned crying out I was snatched in this state, naked, and captured by my neighbours and handed off to the aforementioned city councillor Herrto Ludwig, and he handed me over to the hospital the next morning and recommended me to its overseer.

 

The Nineteenth Chapter[7]

This place shall have a bishop, so that he might observe the Lord’s supper. His eyes shall be sharp. He will carry around across the land the banner of godly righteousness and will faithfully teach the idle to work. And those little bees that he finds tired out from work he shall lead into the houses of God and there let them rest and feed them with the word of God. He will shield his little sheep from the approach of the rapacious wolf. Such a man is worthy to observe the Lord’s supper.

After this the glory of the Lord urged me to celebrate Mass and I was obedient and did this until [the point when] the Lord Jesus said with his disciples the word of thanksgiving, and, at the call of the glory of the Lord, I had to take the little pitcher and sing these words:

Holy holy holy is the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Come to the table of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is made holy through Him.

Proclaim the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us. He has rescued us from eternal death, rejoice over this you children of Israel.

Rejoice, rejoice, and rejoice greatly. Savour the bread of our Lord Jesus Christ, that was given for us. Savour the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, that was poured out for us.

In this speech I had to lift up the little pitcher above itself. Then the glory of the Lord opened itself in the little pitcher and swept over me and then my heart said: Is this the mirror of God? Then it was answered to me through the glory of the Lord.

I am a light for the children of God and food for the soul and way to the righteousness of the body.

I will feed in eternal life he who acts mercifully. But the mirror of God is man.

As you eat this bread, you should not pray to stone and wood, but you should bow before your rulers, who have been established for you by God.

But the mirror of God is man, who is next to you and around you. Look at this mirror from bottom to top, and so you will see that a master workman created you and him. You shall look after him and have mercy on him and, when you feed him, God will give you in your heart his free shield, so that you do not become a mirror of the world. As you act mercifully, God will lead you from one freedom into another, all the way to eternal life.

Those who were around me in the hospital chamber did not believe these things. Then the glory of the Lord said to me: you must perform a miracle for them. And they all looked at me to see what I would do. And I said: O God eternal Father, my doing and undertaking is nothing, but Your will be done. Then I had to take the little pitcher and turn it around and upside down, and no liquid ran out of it.

Then those who were around me answered all together: Now we see that you are a sorcerer, and Lucifer your father, and your power comes from the devil.

Then I said to them: if this power is from the devil, then why do I not speak his word? I have the Word of God, and you incite the word of the devil and his work, from one midnight to another. My words are from God and cause you pain, and your words that are from the devil cause me pain. If my power is from the devil, why do your words not please me?  Since I see that you do not want to believe me, I will not speak with you anymore until you speak with me.

Then began the woe and lament of those who were around and next to me in the hospital chamber, and they were greatly overwhelmed until the third day

On the third day one of them came to me and to my bed and said: Lienhard, when you are sad, we are also sad. How does this happen? Then I said, I already told you that you should let me do what I do. What I do and allow is not from me, but from God. When I go out from among you, out of this hospital and prison, you will all be glad.

But in these aforementioned three days I lay in such distress and agony as can scarcely be described.

And I also in those days noticeably felt the wounds on Christ in my hands and feet and side, and a tangible reminder (deckzeichen) was given to me on my right foot, and in this the glory of the Lord spoke through me to those who were around me: watch! This wine must now be spilled in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.[8]

And the glory of the Lord moved me, so that I had to spill the little pitcher of wine, with which I had held Mass and performed a miracle.

And I poured it onto my bed. Then the glory of the Lord said in me: this wine will flow across the width of the earth, and after this time all things will grow sufficiently. Wine, oil, and fruit will be sufficient. Then you will live in peace and you will lie in the sunshine, and there will be such an abundance of sufficiency that the grapes will hang over your mouths.

Then the time of the Lord will approach. Think on this: the Lord is not far away and will come to wake us from the dead and to save us.

 

Endnotes:

[1] Klaus Deppermann, Melchior Hoffman: Soziale Unruhen und Apokalyptische Visionen im Zeitalter der Reformation (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1979), 178-186; Lois Barrett, “Wreath of Glory: Ursula’s Prophetic Visions in the Context of Reformation and Revolt in Southwestern Germany, 1524-1530” (PhD diss., The Union Institute, 1992).

[2] Jonathan Green, “The Lost Book of the Strasbourg Prophets: Orality, Literacy, and Enactment in Lienhard Jost’s Visions,” The Sixteenth Century Journal 46:2 (Summer 2015): 313-330.

[3] On Paffraet, see Paul Valkema Blouw, “Printers to the ‘Arch-Heretic’ David Joris” in Dutch Typography in the Sixteenth Century: The Collected Works of Paul Valkema Blouw (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 508-509.

[4] On the Naaktlopers, see Samme Zijlstra, Om de Ware Gemeente en de Oude Gronden: Geschiedenis van de Dopersen in de Nederlanden, 1531-1675 (Hilversum: Uitgeverij Verloren, 2000), 135-136.

[5] Lienhard Jost, Ein Worhafftige Hohe und Feste Prophecey des Linhart Josten van Stroßburg, edited by Melchior Hoffman (Deventer: Albert Paffraet, 1532), fol. B3r. See also http://digital.onb.ac.at/OnbViewer/viewer.faces?doc=ABO_%2BZ169334206

[6] The Mord Glock was a silver bell in the Strasbourg cathedral used to warn the people of Strasbourg of crisis or sedition. See Philippe André Grandidier, Essais Topographiques et Historiques sur l’Église Cathédrale de Strasbourg (Strasbourg: Levrault, 1782), 242-243.

[7] Jost, Worhafftige Hohe und Feste Prophecey, fols. E1R-E2r.

[8] Lienhard’s account of the wounds on his foot calls to mind Francis of Assisi’s reception of the stigmata (tangible signs of the wounds of Christ on hands and/or feet), a famous event that inspired many imitators—particularly women—well into the early modern period. On the stigmata in late medieval and early modern mysticism, see Stephen Haliczer, Between Exaltation and Infamy: Female Mystics in the Golden Age of Spain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).

The Young People’s Conference Movement and the Church of the Future

Jason B. Kauffman

Note: The following is an abridged version of a sermon I gave on Sunday morning, April 15, at Oak Grove Mennonite Church (Smithville, OH) during the congregation’s “Historical Reflections Weekend.” It was the first of three events planned for 2018 to celebrate Oak Grove’s bicentennial.

What does it mean to be the church together in a time of uncertainty and crisis?

Crisis is the stuff of history but, as a community of believers, conflict and confrontation often make us uncomfortable. We want to preserve harmony and unity at all costs so we don’t adequately address disagreements when they arise. It’s often easier if we just don’t talk about it.

But if the history of Christianity is any indication, conflict is unavoidable in the life of the church. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul wrote to the early church in Corinth during a time of significant uncertainty. Factions and competing allegiances were developing and Paul wrote to remind them to put their trust in God instead of themselves.

This morning, I want to share another story of crisis that involved many people from the Oak Grove community. This is the story of the Young People’s Conference movement and its emergence during a watershed moment in the history of the (old) Mennonite Church in North America.[1] I’ll end by drawing some parallels between that story and the crisis that our denomination is facing today.

In the years following World War I, the institutional Mennonite Church was barely twenty years old and its growing pains were readily apparent.[2] The new denomination was in crisis over a polarizing conflict between traditional elements of the church and a new generation of reform-minded leaders.

One well-known example comes from Goshen College. Critics felt that the college was overly influenced by the modernist wave that had overtaken many other Protestant denominations. In 1905, the Mennonite Board of Education took oversight of the college to exercise closer control over its operations.[3] In 1923, ongoing financial troubles forced Goshen College to close for the academic year. Around the same time, Mennonite conference leaders in Indiana, Ohio, and Ontario revoked the credentials of multiple pastors deemed “at variance” with the church’s teachings on things like dress and the purchase of life insurance. In response, hundreds of people left their churches and joined other congregations from the General Conference Mennonite Church. Others left the Mennonite church altogether.

It was within this context that the Young People’s Conference movement was born. Its leaders included many from Oak Grove, including Jacob Conrad Meyer, Vernon Smucker, and Orie Benjamin Gerig. They were part of a new generation of Mennonite men and women who came of age during these first few decades of conflict in the church. Many graduated from Mennonite colleges and embraced new initiatives in home evangelism and overseas missions.

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Portrait of Jacob Conrad Meyer taken in 1917, shortly before he left for France. MC USA Archives

More importantly, they came of age during World War I, the deadliest war in history to that point. During the war, hundreds of Mennonite men lived in work camps as conscientious objectors. Many felt abandoned by denominational leaders who they believed had not equipped young people to face the challenges of being a CO during wartime. They also came away with a renewed conviction that the church should adopt a more outward focus, one centered on service, peace, and engagement with the rest of the world.

After the war, several dozen young Mennonites acted on this conviction by volunteering to assist the reconstruction efforts in France. Here they gained firsthand exposure to the destruction of war. They also met regularly to discuss their concerns about the Mennonite Church. One of the key organizers for these meetings was Jacob Conrad Meyer. He and others became increasingly critical of what they saw as weak leadership and lack of support for the concerns of younger members.

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Attendees at the first Young People’s Conference in Clermont-en-Argonne, France, June 20-22, 1919. MC USA Archives

Eventually, these relief workers organized the first Young People’s Conference at Clermont-en-Argonne in June 1919. At the end of the conference, they produced a list of priorities for the “church of the future.”[4] They also drafted a constitution and elected an executive committee to provide leadership for the emerging movement. Of the six committee members, three were from Oak Grove: Vernon Smucker, J.C. Meyer, and O.B. Gerig.

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However, the YPC movement was short-lived. After returning to the United States, leaders planned and organized three annual meetings between 1920 and 1923. But the movement faced steady opposition from denominational leaders who accused its leaders of unorthodox theology. Ultimately, the YPC movement couldn’t convince church leaders that it sought to work with rather than against them. By 1924, the movement was over.

How should we interpret the failure of this movement?

In 1 Corinthians 3:11-13, Paul writes: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.”

For those involved in the YPC movement, its failure after just a few years must have been a big disappointment. Here were young, intelligent leaders ready to offer their gifts to the work of the church, only to see their ideas met with suspicion and rejection. Indeed, O.B. Gerig was so disillusioned that he left the Mennonite church entirely. In a letter to J.C. Meyer in 1921, Gerig wrote, “I have come to the point where I can no longer view all problems only in the light of our own little branch of the church. We have a larger project in view. In the end, our plan will live after all their intrigue has passed on the blemished page of history.”[5]

As we now know, Gerig’s words turned out to be prophetic. One hundred years later, most of the reforms that the YPC movement advocated have been implemented.[6] Indeed, many have become central to the identities of multiple generations of Mennonites who grew up during the twentieth century. For example:

  • The YPC wanted the church to take a proactive stance with the U.S. government on issues of peace and conscientious objection to war. In the 1930s, the denomination worked with leaders from other historic peace churches and the government to create the Civilian Public Service program. During WWII thousands of Mennonites served with CPS as an alternative to military service and active peacebuilding remains a key focus for Mennonites today.
  • The YPC called for a stronger emphasis on service and relief to those in need. Over the course of the twentieth century Mennonite Central Committee has emerged as one of the most highly respected inter-Mennonite institutions in North America and abroad.
  • The YPC called for more dialogue between Mennonites of different national and cultural traditions. Today, Mennonite Mission Network continues its good work and Mennonite World Conference brings together people of Anabaptist faith from across the globe.

It took the fresh eyes of new leaders to articulate a new vision for the Mennonite Church in a complex and changing world. Through these young people, God planted a seed. Over the last 100 years, you at Oak Grove have watered that seed, dedicating your lives to the work of Christ in both large and small ways. Back in 1918, and even more so in 1818, the future of the Mennonite Church was anything but clear, but God has been faithful and God—not us—caused the seed to grow.

Today we are entering a new phase of uncertainty in the history of the Mennonite community in North America. Like the church 100 years ago, our newly merged denomination—Mennonite Church USA—is less than 20 years old and the growing pains are readily apparent. Our Mennonite colleges and universities are struggling financially. Our missions, service, and publishing agencies have drastically reduced operations in the last few decades. And our denomination is experiencing a rapid decline in membership, including the departure of entire conferences. As in 1918, the current crisis grows from a conflict based largely upon differing views regarding the kind of church Christ is calling us to be.

Last summer, MC USA organized the Future Church Summit at the bi-annual convention in Orlando. The goal of the summit was to gather voices from across the denomination to identify core convictions and chart a new course for the church. One tension that I observed throughout the FCS was between denominational leadersusually heritage Mennonites, usually middle agedand younger participants, many of whom did not grow up in the Mennonite church.

I heard resentment from younger leaders about the unwillingness of the “old guard” to let go of control. And I heard older participants lament the exodus of young people from the church and their “indifference” and lack of commitment to MC USA and its ministries. But I was also impressed by the many articulate and passionate young leaders who are committed to working for positive change from within the denomination. Their words echoed many of those voiced 100 years ago at Young People’s Conferences. They were filled with the same optimism, energy, and hope.

It is a fact that church attendance among Mennonites and many other denominations is declining. Many young people no longer see the church and its institutions as relevant parts of their lives. Yet, as I look out over the pews, I am struck by the number of young people and children here at Oak Grove. So, in closing, I want to speak to you and leave you with a few questions.

Why have you chosen to stay connected to the church? What about Oak Grove made you want to invest your lives in this community? Now, more broadly, what is important to you about being Mennonite? What is your hope for the future of the church…here in Wayne County, in North America, and around the world? Do we still need institutions like MC USA, MMN, or MCC to help us do the work of God in the world? I would argue yes. These institutions connect what is now a truly global church and allow us to accomplish much more of Christ’s work than we could on our own.

But these are tough questions, ones that I continue to struggle with as a 35-year-old Mennonite by choice. As you seek answers, I challenge you to take inspiration from Oak Grove’s history and consider the “cloud of witnesses” that has gone before you. For 200 years, the community of believers gathered at Oak Grove has found a way to remain in fellowship, even in the midst of crisis. In 100 years, how will your grandchildren and their children look back on you? What will you do to help continue this work? We aren’t perfect and we will make mistakes but I pray that we will “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

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[1] Originally an Amish Mennonite community, Oak Grove was part of the Eastern Amish Mennonite Conference from 1893 until 1927 when the conference merged with the Ohio Mennonite Conference to form the Ohio Mennonite and Eastern Amish Mennonite Joint Conference (later the Ohio and Eastern Mennonite Conference), affiliated with the “old” Mennonite Church. From 1947 to 1970, Oak Grove held no conference affiliation. In 1970 the congregation became a dual affiliate of the Ohio and Eastern Mennonite Conference and the Central District Conference of the General Conference Mennonite Church. The Young People’s Conference movement engaged leaders mostly from the “old” Mennonite Church.

[2] Before the establishment of the General Conference Mennonite Church in 1860 and the (old) Mennonite Church in 1898, Mennonite communities in North America functioned mostly as a loose association of local districts and conferences without any centralized institutions.

[3] Most of the context and background for this section comes from a well-researched essay by Anna Showalter, “The Mennonite Young People’s Conference Movement, 1919-1923: The Legacy of a (Failed?) Vision,” The Mennonite Quarterly Review 85:2 (April 2011), p. 181-217.

[4] The full list is printed in Showalter, “Mennonite Young People’s Conference Movement,” 196.

[5] Ibid., p. 182.

[6] Anna Showalter and James O. Lehman make this same point in their analyses of the YPC. See Showalter, 212-217, and James O. Lehman, Creative Congregationalism: A History of Oak Grove Mennonite Church in Wayne County, Ohio (Smithville, OH: Oak Grove Mennonite Church, 1978), 211-212.

Primary Source Analysis of the More-with-Less Cookbook

Isaiah Friesen

 Two millennial Mennonites, both Goshen College alumni, recently met in one of their homes to fellowship and enjoy a simple meal together around the table. As the soup simmered on the stove in the final minutes before it was ready for consumption, one of them thought he recognized the simply-designed, orange cookbook lying on his friend’s kitchen counter. “Hey, is that the More-with-Less Cookbook?” he asked. Without a trace of irony in his tone, the host replied, “It’s the only cookbook.”

imagesThe More-with-Less Cookbook was the culmination of a project sponsored by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), emerging from a desire to promote responsible eating practices in light of growing awareness of an intensifying global hunger crisis. The author, Doris Janzen Longacre, assembled recipes from other North American Anabaptists’ kitchens, as well as her own, and the result was published in 1976. Mary Emma Showalter Eby, author of an influential precursor, Mennonite Community Cookbook, wrote in her introduction to More-with-Less that it “has all the earmarks of a best seller,” highlighting its creativity and practicality as a response to a worldwide social issue.1 Indeed, Herald Press would go on to print 642,500 copies in the following twenty-five years, as well as twenty-fifth and fortieth anniversary editions.2 More than a collection of recipes, More-with-Less became a ubiquitous symbol of Mennonite theology and identity for people like these two young men. At the time, however, it was an innovative project, functioning as a bridge both within Mennonite groups and beyond, to the rest of the United States, as well as a guide in the quest to daily follow Jesus’ call to wholeness and simplicity.

To read even the first few pages of More-with-Less is to know that it is more than just a collection of recipes. In the preface, the author describes how this was a community effort, incorporating recipes gathered from cooks of various Anabaptist denominations. She also indicates that although it is not a final solution to the world hunger crisis, she believes the cookbook can be an agent for social transformation toward more faithful living. Yet she insists, “Although the book is finished, the holy frustration goes on. Do not approach this book as a set of answers for responsible change.”3 It is a sacred endeavor, and the work goes beyond cooking, beyond the publishing of this book.

With that, Janzen Longacre launches into a fifty-page manifesto on the global hunger crisis, North American overconsumption, and how eating smaller and healthier portions of food can be a faithful and even joyful Christian response to these problems. In the first section, “Less with More,” she argues that North Americans are consuming far too much sugar, protein, and processed foods, causing them to spend too much of their own budget on food and use more than their share of the planet’s resources. “Christian discipleship now calls us to turn around,” she asserts, affirming the traditional Anabaptist assumption that followers of Christ are called to live a life of repentance, counter to the culture that surrounds them.4

The second section in the manifesto addresses, in simple and straightforward terms, the faith required in order to bring about any significant change regarding the problem of global hunger. Janzen Longacre addresses the human tendency toward cynicism and indifference toward individual ethics, especially in light of large and seemingly intractable systemic injustices. It begins with communities of faithful people changing the way they themselves live, she says. Those truly committed to larger change will seek to influence public policy and programs as well, but this book is about first following Jesus by living—well, cooking—with integrity in our own homes. A move toward simpler eating will also result in better health and lower food budgets for North Americans; it is not simply an act of charity. Lest anyone lose heart for the cause even after this persuasion, she encourages readers that visible change requires committed disciples for the long haul, and in the meantime, our assurance comes “from Jesus who said, ‘Give to him who begs from you,’ ‘Give as freely as you have received,’ and ‘Give, and it will be given to you.’”5

Having addressed theological foundations for the commitment to simpler eating as a faithful step toward larger social transformation, Janzen Longacre appeals to nutrition science as she moves on to the more practical problems of establishing such a diet. Keeping with the theme of simplicity the next section,“Building a Simpler Diet,” she addresses these problems in language that regular people can understand, even as she cites scientific literature to back her claims. First, she presents lists of what to “eat more,” “use carefully,” and “avoid.” She also includes a table of the Basic Four Food Groups—dairy, protein, fruits and vegetables, carbohydrates—as promoted in United States and Canadian nutrition recommendations. She both affirms and critiques the Food Groups, her central criticism being to name the myth that humans always need more protein and it must come from meat. She delves into the various kinds of amino acids necessary to human health, how to combine different proteins in order to achieve a nutritionally complete diet, and which are the healthiest and most efficient meats (chicken and fish, for example). The rest of the chapter is packed with handy and helpful charts, graphs, lists, and tables showing suggested meal plan combinations, calorie intake recommendations, measure conversions, and tips for increasing protein content without eating more meat.6

The last section before the recipes themselves is entitled, “Eat with Joy.” This section is dedicated to reassuring readers that they can cook simply and economically at the same time as they continue to be creative and host joyful gatherings around simpler food. Janzen Longacre responds to potential qualms including, but not limited to, “Our Family Likes the Old Recipes,” “But Won’t All that Bread Make Me Fat?,” and “I Need a Simpler Way to Serve Guests.”7

This last section, though not as heavily imbued with scripture and theological language, is bookended by sayings and examples from Jesus: inviting the poor, crippled, and lame to the party; breaking bread at the Lord’s Supper with his disciples; after his resurrection, revealing himself over a shared meal. “[Jesus] invites us to join the consummation feast, the marriage supper of the Lamb. Let us eat together in His name,” the author exhorts. She bemoans the growing popularity of the word “entertaining” as it relates to Christians hosting each other. “Mennonites used to just ‘have you over for dinner,’” she recalls, but she senses that their contemporary host counterparts “speak as though they are about to stage a show.”8 True joy, she reminds readers, should be based in fellowship and sharing and remembering the Lord Jesus who ate and rejoiced with people, rather than around the spectacle of fancy feasts. To this end, the following pages present specific suggestions for simpler-themed meals to host people around.

The themes of simplicity, fellowship, scriptural allusions, and practical culinary instruction are reflected throughout More-with-Less, continuing on into the recipe section which occupies the remainder of the book. Font is simple, black on plain white pages. Images of people are sparse and exclusively black and white. Each recipe section includes images of simple measuring spoons. Various sections of the book are accompanied by proverbs from other countries, scripture passages and paraphrases, poems by MCC workers, even a quote from Menno Simons himself, having to do with the value of food and sharing especially in God’s kingdom.9 Each chapter of recipes concludes with a section called “Gather Up the Fragments”—tips for how to best repurpose or preserve leftovers of the foods in that chapter—alluding to the feeding miracles of Jesus.

Some recipes are paired with stories about the dish’s significance for the family or community who submitted them, while others are annotated with cooking tips from Janzen Longacre. She highlights, for example, the Fresh Soybean-Cheese Casserole as a meat-free dish loaded with protein, “tested and enjoyed in the Goshen College Dining Hall Alternative Line.”10 Recipe contributor Rhoda King shares with regards to the Soybean Sandwich Spread recipe, “When the men combined our soybeans, I took large cans out and filled them for our eating. Lots of farm families don’t know you can do this. I soak them . . . until tender, and flavor with . . . butter and milk. The boys eat them with ketchup and mustard.”11

Especially among social justice-minded, middle-class Anabaptist Christians and even many evangelicals, More-with-Less appears to have been a smashing success, at least in terms of sales. Ron Sider, a Brethren in Christ leader and author of the influential book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, praised the cookbook for its example as a practical, embodied response to the global food distribution crisis.12 Book reviews of More-with-Less were published far and wide, and Christian groups of all stripes ordered their copies by the thousands.13 World Vision’s Stanley Mooningham and even U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield praised Janzen Longacre for the impact she made on the social conscience of the American individual, in relation to the food crisis.14

The cookbook’s impact has extended wider and later still. In 2003, a subscriber to the Countryside & Small Stock Journal recommended More-with-Less “the only cookbook a homesteader will ever need.”15 In 2011, NPR book reviewer Ellah Allfrey praised it as “[still] one of the best guides for responsible living…Turning our backs on the prevailing culture of greed and combating overconsumption by baking Fruit Moos from scratch and ‘eating with joy’ seems a deeply sensible way to save the earth—and our souls.”16 In 2015, on the eve of the cookbook’s fortieth anniversary, evangelical Christian author D.L. Mayfield named it one of her top five books for becoming a better neighbor, crediting it with changing “how I shop, eat, and grapple with food insecurity in my own neighborhood and around the world.”17 Upon the release of the More-with-Less 40th Anniversary Edition, Disciples of Christ pastor Lee Hull Moses wrote a glowing article for Christian Century entitled, “The Enduring Wisdom of More-with-Less: Recipes for a Revolution.”

Moses, however, highlights a subtle shift in formatting for the latest edition that Janzen Longacre herself might have found concerning: a change in subtitles from “suggestions by Mennonites on how to eat better and consume less of the world’s limited food resources,” as remains on the twenty-fifth anniversary edition, to “timeless recipes and inspiration for simple, joyful eating.”18 This is only the beginning of a drastic transformation evident in the edition put forth by Rachel Marie Stone. In Stone’s edition, simple poetry and cooking tips are replaced by vibrant photos of people and food, including magnificently furnished kitchens and immaculately prepared dishes. In addition to flawless food images, bright color photos of people from various countries where MCC serves are interspersed among flashy and colorful text, and recipes are labeled as to whether they are vegan, vegetarian, or gluten free. Gone is the practical spiral binding that made it possible to leave the cookbook conveniently open to the cook’s recipe of choice as they move around in the kitchen. It seems to be a piece for entertainment, to be set next to the other cookbooks too pretty to spill cooking oil on, more so than a shop manual on simple eating (as were previous editions). It seems a book likely to grab someone’s attention from a bookstore shelf, maybe even to make an attractive housewarming gift for a millennial Mennonite, more so than to transform the way they view food and resource consumption. In the back is a recommended reading list featuring Simply in Season—the latest MCC cookbook—as well as classic titles by Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan.19 This version of More-with-Less seems geared not only toward those who have plenty of food, but especially toward the cosmopolitan middle-class cookbook collector of the twenty-first century—sure to continue generating great sales.

Hopefully the More-with-Less Cookbook will continue to have a transformative impact on people’s lives and reflections in eating, whether in spite of or because of its contemporary editors’ predilection for a more showy, Pinterest-conforming presentation style. In any case, it has left a lasting legacy that continues to develop. Doris Janzen Longacre’s exhortations ring true, that it takes deep faith in order to keep working for change, beginning at the level of the individual and the community, and working up to the systemic. This cookbook will continue to offer a unique perspective on food’s place in the life of disciples and what it means to embody the Gospel of Jesus in the world.


Bibliography

Janzen Longacre, Doris. More-with-Less Cookbook. First Edition. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1976.

Janzen Longacre, Doris. More-with-Less Cookbook 25th Anniversary Edition. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2000.

Janzen Longacre, Doris, with Rachel Marie Stone. More-with-Less Cookbook 40th Anniversary Edition. Harrisonburg, Va.: Herald Press, 2016.

Mayfield, D. L. “More-with-Less Cookbook.” Christianity Today 59, no. 7 (September 2015): 74.

Moses, Lee Hull. “Recipes for a Revolution.” Christian Century 133, no. 25 (December 7, 2016): 32.

Swartz, David R. “Re-Baptizing Evangelicalism.” In The Activist Impulse: Essays on the Intersection of Evangelicalism and Anabaptism, 262-287. Ed. Jared S. Burkholder and David C. Cramer. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2012.

“Your Favorite Books.” Countryside & Small Stock Journal 87, no. 6 (November 2003): 92.


  1.  Mary Emma Showalter Eby in introduction to Doris Janzen Longacre, More-with-Less Cookbook, First Edition (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1976), 8. 
  2. This is not to mention printings by other presses in British and German editions, bring the total to over 847,000 worldwide by 2000. By 1988 Herald Press had already thirty-six printings of the original edition for a total of 535,000 copies. See Doris Janzen Longacre, More-with-Less Cookbook 25th Anniversary Edition (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2000), ii. In comparison, the Mennonite Community Cookbook printed 374,000 copies between 1950 and 1990. 
  3. Janzen Longacre, First Ed., 7. 
  4.  Ibid., 13. 
  5.  Ibid., 24. 
  6. Ibid., 32. 
  7. Ibid., 48. 
  8. Ibid., 49. 
  9. Ibid., 6. 
  10. Ibid., 111. 
  11. Rhoda King quoted in Ibid., 114. 
  12. Ron Sider quoted in David R. Swartz, “Re-Baptizing Evangelicalism,” in The Activist Impulse: Essays on the Intersection of Evangelicalism and Anabaptism (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2012), 275. 
  13. Ibid., 277. 
  14. Mooningham and Hatfield quoted in Ibid., 278. 
  15. Judy Welsh in submission to “Your Favorite Books,” Countryside & Small Stock Journal 87, no. 6 (November 2003), 92. 
  16. Ellah Allfrey, “Three Books on Entering Strange New Worlds, NPR, 17 February 2011. https://www.npr.org/2011/02/17/133464039/three-books-on-entering-strange-new-worlds 
  17. D.L. Mayfield, “More-with-Less Cookbook,” Christianity Today 59, no. 7 (September 2015), 74. 
  18. Lee Hull Moses, “Recipes for a Revolution,” Christian Century 133, no. 25 (December 7, 2016), 32. 
  19. Doris Janzen Longacre with Rachel Marie Stone, More-with-Less Cookbook 40th Anniversary Edition (Harrisonburg, Va.: Herald Press, 2016), 281. 

Confronting the Confessional Catharsis: David A. Shank and the Legacy of “Race Criminals”

Sixty years after he penned “Race Criminals,” David A. Shank’s anger at his co-believers still jumps off the page. Writing in February 1945 as the editor of The Vanguard, the newsletter of Civilian Public Service conscientious objectors assigned to camp 18 in Denison, Iowa, Shank aimed to awaken white Christians in general and white Mennonites in particular to their complicity in racism.

“You are guilty, you know,” he wrote. “You are prejudiced and you are bigoted and,” he added just to be certain that his message was clear, “you are pumping the bellows for the fires of racial discrimination and hatred.” Having accused his audience of racist attitudes, a racially superior mindset, ignorance, inactivity, and insensitivity, Shank ratcheted up his rhetoric with a condemnation specific to Mennonites that only pacifists would find convicting. Replete with an offensive and inflammatory racial epithet—presumably for the shock value—Shank declared, “It is just as unrighteous for a Christian to say ‘nigger’ as it is to be found fighting in the front lines of battle, and much more cowardly and hypocritical.”1

Vanguardv1n41945Feb 1

The Vanguard, 1 no. 4 (Feb. 1, 1945)

I know of no other examples of white Mennonites writing about racism in the World War II era—and precious few in the subsequent three decades—that approach the emotional intensity, prophetic tenor, or unabashed criticism of Shank’s editorial. Although African-American academic, activist, and pastor Vincent Harding would go on to challenge white Mennonite complicity with racism in no uncertain terms by the late 1950s, Shank’s reproof precedes Harding’s censure by more than a decade.2

The February 1945 issue of The Vanguard focused on “brotherhood.” Contributors to the mimeographed newsletter reported on a talk by Dr. A. T. DeGroot, a Drake University professor from Des Moines, who advocated social equality of the races; lauded Roi Ottley’s New World A’Coming and Richard Wright’s Native Son for their bracing racial content; and explicated the dangers of race prejudice. None of the other articles approach Shank’s righteous anger. A fellow camp member, James Harnish, also charged Mennonites with both tacit and overt racism but in much more mediated tones. Harnish wrote that participation in racism “is inconsistent with the mind and spirit of Christ.”3 A concluding ten-point program offered by Bethel College history professor Dr. Melvin Gingrich called for interracial friendships, evangelism, book reading, letter writing to elected representatives, and charitable donations to race-focused organizations but again in the mildest of tones.4

To be certain, an editorial in The Vanguard did not have the same reach as did an article in The Gospel Herald, the official Mennonite Church publication of the day. Historian Irvin B. Horst, then an undergraduate student, offered his take on “Mennonites and the Race Question” later on in 1945 for The Gospel Herald. Like Shank, he also pointed out white Mennonite involvement in racism, but the most stringent criticism he had to offer was that “we have quite a way to go in loving our Negro brethren.”5

The difference in tone may have simply been due to personality, passion, or preference, but the larger context of racism in the church raises the question why more voices like Shank’s didn’t surface. In 1945, Fannie and Ernest Swartzentruber, long-time matron and superintendent of the African-American mission at Broad Street in Virginia Conference, had been summarily dismissed from their posts, ostensibly due to their opposition to the Conference’s Jim Crow policies.6 Also in Virginia, the Trustees of Eastern Mennonite School refused that same year to admit Peggy Webb, daughter of Broad Street member Roberta Webb, due to “race questions that have been long in forming and deeply set in the values of the inhabitants of this state and community of which we are a small minority.”7 In his Gospel Herald article, Horst testified that “Many Mennonites feel . . . that the Negro is all right if he ‘keeps his place,’ but must be ‘kept down,’ for if placed on the level of whites he will take advantage of this position and become ‘fresh.’”8 He added, “There are Mennonite communities where young members of the church find sport in making Negroes fearful and scare Negro pedestrians with automobiles.”9

It seems as if there was plenty to get angry about.

But white Mennonites of the era rarely expressed anger in public and especially not in written form. In the CPS context, historian Perry Bush notes that “Mennonites were truly the ‘good boys’ of the CPS system. . . . [they] obeyed its directives quite submissively.”10 So even if CPS men had begun to form a racial conscience – whether in Iowa, Mississippi, or Florida – that could lead to unusually acerbic rhetoric directed to their religious community, they did not direct the same kind of ire at CPS authorities. The anger Shank expressed at the time may have been nothing more than the outpouring of a youthful firebrand, safe in lashing out at his co-believers even as he acted the model conscientious objector.

Yet Shank’s essay raises another question, one that remains pertinent whenever a member of a community points out a problem within that community to the community. If Shank had aimed his pen at an employer—revealing racism evident in a workplace for example—there would have been no whistle-blower laws to protect him. Those didn’t gain prominence until the late 1980s. As it was, Shank focused his anger on his co-believers and so risked a measure of internal censure. Not only could he have been dismissed, but he might also have found himself shoved to the margins of the community, rendered irrelevant, or, worse yet, branded a trouble maker—no longer a good boy of the Mennonite system.

But he wasn’t. Not by a long shot.

A full year later his article was reprinted in Box 96, the newsletter of CPS camp #27 in Mulberry, Florida. Shank went on to serve with Mennonite Board of Missions in Belgium and West Africa for more than three decades, taught for three years at Goshen College in Indiana, helped start Assembly Mennonite Church in Goshen, and played a role in the founding and leadership of other educational and mission endeavors. Much loved and often honored, he was no pariah.

David and Wilma Shank 1974

David and Wilma Shank, 1974

Why wasn’t Shank marginalized in the aftermath of his harsh indictment? Why didn’t his anger—out of place even among the CPS men who had become awakened to societal and ecclesial racism—label him a troublemaker? Others had been censured. Fannie and Ernest Swartzentruber lost their cherished posting at Broad Street for much less vocal protest. What protected Shank?

Some of the answers are obvious. White Mennonites have long been tolerant of their young people’s excesses, whether of worldly flirtation or prophetic invective. Likewise, Shank stood at a remove, lodged in Iowa, engaged fully in the work and witness of the church’s CPS service. His peers respected him. A fellow camp member wrote that Shank was gifted “with considerably more than average intellectual endowment.”11 He was also white, male, and positioned by virtue of his surname as a member of the pack, a tripartite privilege, layered and laminated from birth. And, unlike the Swartzentrubers who also bore those privileges, his position in the church did not depend on a board of conservative bishops fully accommodated to the racial segregation of the South.

But I also think he was given a pass because he expressed his anger in a theological frame that white Mennonites of the era understood: guilt, innocence, redemption. Those terms made sense and flowed into the evangelical streams then running through the church. They offered a way out. As harsh a message as Shank had to proclaim, he still concluded with “redemption follows confession and the passion to do and to give ‘to all nations whatsoever I have commanded you’.”12

It was the confessional catharsis: “I am convicted of my participation in racism; I am sorry that I have done so; I am relieved that I no longer have to concern myself with the issue.” By no means particular to Mennonites, various permutations of this theological relief valve have recurred throughout the twentieth century as white Christians found themselves accused of both complicit and active participation in racism. The emphasis on confession and repentance has been especially prominent in the white evangelical community.13 In response to racial accusations, white Christians have consistently taken advantage of the confessional catharsis to gain psychic relief and move forward.

Elsewhere I have documented the cycle of public and individual confession of participation in racism followed by a period of inactivity or inattention to racial issues within the Mennonite community.14 My point is not to draw into question the sincerity of these confessions but simply to note that white Mennonites, and I think white Christians as a whole, have too often relied on the confessional catharsis in order to avoid the more difficult and sustained work of solving what Shank called the “‘white’ problem.”15

I wonder if one possible response to Shank’s editorial, one that holds the promise of a measure of integrity, is simply to name the confessional catharsis cycle, recognize its historical recurrence, and commit ourselves to embarking on a more sustained, holistic, and ultimately more honest response.

Rather than reprising yet another round of confessions, we could—as David Shank advocated in ’45—then move from criminality to authentic mutuality. It would be a legacy worthy of the gift of Shank’s original ire.

Author’s note: Many thanks to Joe Springer, curator of the Mennonite Historical Library at Goshen College, for scanning and sending me The Vanguard issue on “brotherhood.” He knew that I would be interested.


  1. David A. Shank, “Race Criminals,” The Vanguard, February 1945, 2. 
  2. “The Mennonite Churches and Race,” Gospel Herald, May 19, 1959. 
  3. James Harnish, “Mennonites & Race Relations,” The Vanguard, February 1945. 
  4. Gingerish Melvin, Dr., “A Ten Point Program,” ibid. 
  5. Irvin B. Horst, “Mennonites and the Race Question,” Gospel Herald, July 13, 1945, 284. 
  6. “Executive Committee Meeting – Friday 10:00 A.M., January 5, 1945,” (Harrisonburg, VA: Virginia Mennonite Board of Missions And Charities, 1945). 
  7. A. G. Heishman, “Annual Board Meeting Trustees Eastern Mennonite School,” (Harrisonburg, VA: Eastern Mennonite School, 1945), [2]. 
  8. Horst, 284. 
  9. Ibid. 
  10. Perry Bush, Two Kingdoms, Two Loyalties: Mennonite Pacifism in Modern America (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1998), 114. 
  11. Albert Dietrich and Frank Dietrich, Army GI, Pacifist CO: The World War II Letters of Frank Dietrich and Albert Dietrich (Fordham University Press, 2005), 292. 
  12. Shank, 2. 
  13. Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001); Brad Christerson, Korie L. Edwards, and Michael O. Emerson, Against All Odds: The Struggle for Racial Integration in Religious Organizations (New York: New York University Press, 2005). 
  14. Tobin Miller Shearer, “Conflicting Identities: White Racial Formation among Mennonites, 1960–1985,” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 19, no. 3 (2012); “Whitening Conflicts: White Racial Identity Formation within Mennonite Central Committee, 1960-1985,” in A Table of Sharing: Mennonite Central Committee and the Expanding Networks of Mennonite Identity, ed. Alain Epp Weaver (Telford, PA: Cascadia Publishing House, 2011). 
  15. Shank, 2. 

Pennsylvania Dutch and the Horning Mennonites

The Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies, which I direct at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is home to the North American German Dialect archive, a digital repository that includes many recordings of Pennsylvania Dutch. Readers of this blog may recall from an earlier post my discussion of how the language was historically spoken by two major social subgroups, the “church people” or “Fancy Dutch,” the descendants of mainly Lutheran and German Reformed immigrants to colonial Pennsylvania, and the “plain people,” members of Mennonite, Amish, and other Anabaptist and Pietist groups. Into the twentieth century, the “church people” comprised the great majority of Pennsylvania Dutch speakers, but after about 1930, very few children born into Fancy Dutch families acquired the language fully and maintained it into adulthood. Today, there are perhaps several thousand church people, known as nonsectarians, who speak Pennsylvania Dutch, almost all of whom are elderly.

Among the most traditional plain groups, the Amish and most Old Order Mennonites, Pennsylvania Dutch is in a robust state of health. It is the primary everyday language spoken within the community and its maintenance is linked symbolically with the continued use of German as a language of worship. Original sermons are delivered in Pennsylvania Dutch interspersed with quotations from Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible, and German is the language of hymns and prayers, including in family devotions.

The use of Pennsylvania Dutch declines, however, as groups move away from the Old Orders. This trend can be seen, for example, among the two groups closest to horse-and-buggy–driving Amish and Mennonites, namely the Beachy Amish and the Horning or Weaverland Conference Mennonites (sometimes also known as the Black Bumper Mennonites). Both these fellowships are more outreach-minded than their Old Order brethren, with whom they still have close family ties, which means that they have moved toward using English both in worship and in everyday communication. The continued maintenance of German and Pennsylvania Dutch, in their view, poses a barrier to outsiders to whom they might witness.

Below is an excerpt from an interview made in 1983 with a Horning Mennonite couple from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, both of whom were born in 1916. They were interviewed by Professor Wolfgang Moelleken (now retired from the University at Albany) as part of a project to document variation in Pennsylvania Dutch across multiple states. The full interview is part of the Moelleken Collection in the Max Kade Institute’s North American German Dialect Archive (consultant numbers MOE 012 and 013).

The couple talks about their church and how it resembles and differs from horse-and-buggy–driving (Groffdale Conference or Wengerite) Old Order Mennonites and the Amish. Professor Moelleken, who was born in Germany, poses his questions in a blend of dialectal German interspersed with Pennsylvania Dutch. It is interesting to note that when the topic of conversation turns to matters of the faith, the husband finds it somewhat easier to express himself in English, a reflection of the increasing importance of that language in the spiritual lives of less tradition-minded Mennonite and Amish groups.

PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH
Kannscht mol sage, wie des in de Kerch isch, in der Gmee isch, wenn du dahin gehscht?

Well, mir hen kee Sundaagsschul in unser Gmee … Ya, die Weibsleit un Mannsleit sitze net zamme. Un ich wees aa net … yuscht, du gehscht nei … mir hen, was mer en Schtiwwli heese. Duscht dei Gleeder ab datt, henkscht sie uff, un noht gehscht nei un sitzscht anne un watscht, bis sie schtaerde singe. Sie singe zwee Schticker un noht schwetzt een, der erscht Breddicher, un noht hen sie en Gebet, un noht lese sie der Text, un noht schwetzt der negscht Breddicher. Noh hen sie widder en Gebet un noht widder zwee mol … zwee singe, zwee Songs singe.

Wo hocke die Kinner?

Well, die Gleene hocke bei die Eldre un die Greesere hocke bei sich selwert, but … sie sedde velleicht ebmohls net, sie warre velleicht ebmohls en wennich yachtich.

Sitze sie vorne oder hinne?

Well, sie hen sadde ihr eegene Section, as sie sitze.

Kannscht mol der Unnerschied sage zwische die Fuhreleit un eiere Leit?

Was fer Weg? Ihre Gmee is ebaut s’seem as unseri, meh as die Fuhreleit hen meh German, Deitsch. Yuscht … sie dresse velleicht net gans gleich awer viel gleich. Un ich deet saage, s’is ebaut s’seem.

Der greescht Unnerschitt waer in der Weg vun Faahre, ya.

In de Faahre …

Ya.

Un was is der Unnerschied zwische eiere Leit un de Amische?

Well, der Glaawe is all s’seem, deet ich saage. Yuscht, s’is wie sie dresse sich differnt en wennich un faahre in die Fuhre aa. Un deel … deel vun die Amische hen kee Gmeeheiser, sie hen Gmee in ihr Heiser.

Yuscht, die Amische waere der Baart.

Ya, die Mannsleit waere der Baart, die Amische.

So weit as der Glaawe concerned is, ich denk, mer deet saage, mer glaawe all an Gott, der seem Gott, un mir glaawe as der eensisch Weg, dass mer zum ewige Lewe kumme kenne, is darrich’s Blut vun Yesus Grischdus. Er is gschtarrewe fier uns, sell is der eensisch Weg. Awer noht hen mir, uf course, Schuldichkeite vun datt aan. Weescht, sie saage, es is frei, salvation is free. But discipleship … ich kann’s noh net in Deitsch … discipleship may cost our life. So, ich denk, sell waer was mer all glaawe deete.

Der Differns in die gleene Sache is yuscht as Leit Sache differnt sehne, deet ich saage.

ENGLISH
Can you say how it is in church, when you go there? [WM uses two different words for ‘church’.]

Well, we don’t have Sunday school in our church … Yes, the women and men don’t sit together. And, I don’t know … just, you go in … we have what we call a Schtiwwli (side room). You take your outer garments off there, hang them up, then you go in and sit down and watch for them to start singing. They sing two hymns and then one man speaks, the first minister, and then they have a prayer, and then they read the text, and then the next minister. Then they have a prayer again and then again twice … they sing two, two songs.

Where do the children sit?

Well, the little ones sit by their parents and the bigger ones sit by themselves, but … sometimes they maybe shouldn’t, they maybe get a little noisy sometimes.

Do they sit in the front or the back?

Well, they sort of have their own section where they sit.

Can you tell (me) what the difference is between the horse-and-buggy people and your people?

What way? Their church is about the same as ours, except that the horse-and-buggy people have more German. Just … they maybe dress not exactly the same but very similar. And I’d say, it’s about the same.

The greatest difference would be in the way of traveling, yes.

In travelling …

Yes.

And what is the difference between your people and the Amish?

Well, the faith is all the same, I’d say. Just, it’s that they dress a little differently and drive horse-and-buggy. And some … some of the Amish don’t have church buildings, they have church in their homes.

Just, the Amish wear a beard.

Yes, the men wear the beard, the Amish.

As far as the faith is concerned … I think, one would say, we all believe in God, the same God, and we believe that the only way that we can enter into eternal life is through the blood of Jesus Christ. He died for us, that is the only way. But we have, of course, obligations from then on. You know, they say it’s free, salvation is free. But discipleship … I can’t say it in PA Dutch … discipleship may cost our life. So, I think, that would be what we all believe.

The difference in the small things is just that people see things differently, I’d say.