A bow to the past in Kansas

In the spirit of the rather fitful reporting to which this blog has devolved, I’m here this Monday afternoon to say that I was away four days in Kansas, hanging out with historians and archivists. (I believe I’ve mentioned before that these are some of my favorite people.) I’m on the Historical Commission of the Mennonite Brethren (MB) denomination, which meets once a year, rotating between the four archival centers in Kansas, California, B.C., and Manitoba. We hear reports from the centers, undertake various publishing projects (including both scholarly and popular history–last year’s was the fascinating mystery-biography, It Happened in Moscow by Maureen Klassen, which has sold astonishingly well), sponsor research grants and an archival internship, and occasionally plan symposiums, all to foster the preservation of, study of, and reflection on our history. Continue reading

Speaking of women…

In a kind of offshoot from my previous post, I find myself checking in at my 2006 journals, to see whether my memory of the awe, even euphoria, I felt when the Mennonite Brethren conference I was part of passed a resolution freeing women for ministry leadership (this after a long process of debate and study over many years) is accurate or if it has been imagined into stronger color over time.

I find it’s accurate enough. I was trembling through the final discussions of that particular convention, I noted, because it mattered that much, and then came the surprise, even shock, of the resolution passing, solidly enough (the news report here), a sense of “wow” as it began to sink in. “I feel that something has been loosed on earth, as we prayed…” my private pages said, bursting with gratitude.

Nearly six years later, I confess I’m disappointed in the “since then.” My impression — anecdotal, I realize, since I’m no longer involved in the conference — is that while women’s participation goes on a-pace in some congregations, the ethos of the Mennonite Brethren denomination as such has not changed to reflect that decision — or “the spirit, the direction” it represented, as one of the men who worked hard on that process put it to me recently. Perhaps it’s even regressed. Continue reading

Olden-days Sophia online

Here’s some excellent news. Sophia, a magazine produced by a volunteer collective of mostly Mennonite Brethren women between 1991 and 2003 is now available for reading online, in PDF format.

Thank you, Conrad Stoesz, archivist, for your ongoing interest and efforts to provide, as you put it in a letter some time ago, “a new level of access to the unique content of Sophia.” It was  unique, I think, looking back, and I’m grateful – and proud of – the work, friendships, and energy it represents, and grateful too to have been part of the Sophia collective for some time. In 2006, I wrote a brief overview and assessment of Sophia for  the Mennonite Historian, but each woman who was involved will have her own perspective and memories, I’m sure. (One of my friends responded to Conrad’s note about the project, “Yikes! Those old rants of mine…” though believe me, she was gracious and articulate.) At any rate, I’m glad the magazine is available this way, and who knows, perhaps some day a grad student who needs a thesis topic will find a fascinating one in these women of the “olden days.” Continue reading