Stories told by Jesus chosen as VBS 2016 theme

News release
November 19, 2015SurpriseVBS

Stories told by Jesus chosen as VBS 2016 theme

Newest summer Bible school curriculum ready for orders

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ontario—Surprise! Stories of Discovering Jesus is the new MennoMedia vacation Bible school material for 2016.

The theme was suggested by users who asked for vacation Bible school material that focuses on Jesus. The team producing the upcoming VBS curriculm looked at stories about Jesus, and noticed that many of the passages featured people and situations where Jesus said or did surprising things. These revealed new facets of Jesus and his teachings. Those stories include Jesus in the temple, with children, in the crowd, during the night, and while walking along a road.

Girl in her driveway playing with chalk

Girl in her driveway playing with chalk

Created for children ages 4 through grade 5, with free options for junior youth available on the VBS website (, the materials feature a time of worship that includes a drama to present the Bible story. After worship, children rotate among activities that relate to the Bible story.

Dawn Silvius at Abiding Presence Lutheran Church in San Antonio, Texas, said that this “format brings adults and kids together for extended periods of time around a variety of activities.” She adds that adults and children learn to know each other and develop lasting friendships. They develop friendships that “continue to grow through the rest of the year.” Silvius also adds that “vacation Bible school is a wonderful week for our congregation.”

The VBS 2016 materials were written by a team in Ontario, coordinated by managing editor Mary Ann Weber. Writing rotates among various Mennonite communities across the United States and Canada, and varies by year.

Surprise! Stories of Discovering Jesus may be ordered in an all-in-one boxed set including everything needed for planning and preparation. All items are also available separately. More information is at:

MennoMedia Staff
Hi-res photos available

or more information on the news release
Melodie Davis

The story(ies) behind Thanksgiving

The story(ies) behind Thanksgiving
by Melissa Miller

It is a season of Thanksgiving in North America, just past for Canadians, upcoming for those in the States. Given that I have roots in both countries, I celebrate the season over a stretch of two months, mindful of many blessings. Savoring the colored leaves and the migrating geese, I take in the foods of autumn: apple cider, squash soup, pumpkin pie.

thanksgiving 3 (2)

These two figurines are pulled from storage, and keep vigil in a seasonal display. They were a gift from my mother’s creative hands early in my marriage, and have followed me around from house to house, tying me to my roots, as well as the initiators of the first thanksgiving. More recently, they are a disturbing reminder that the holiday celebrated across two countries is a story told with a slant.

From childhood, I learned of the First Nations people who welcomed the European settlers. I learned that the first thanksgiving was a meal shared by indigenous people and the Pilgrims from England. I learned that the settlers were grateful that they had survived the previous months, grateful for the kindness shown by their native neighbors, and grateful for God’s providence. All sounds good, right?

More recently, I have glimpsed what was missing in that version of the first thanksgiving. The story was told and continues to be told from the perspective of my ancestors, the pale-skinned Europeans. Missing from the happy gatherings around heavily laden tables are the laments of the deteriorating relationships between indigenous peoples and settlers. Of the prejudice and violence towards aboriginals that has marked those relationships. Of the struggles of First Nations people today to obtain adequate food, water and shelter in the lands they have inhabited for centuries. Literally, I feast (in a warm and comfortable home, with food, stable relationships, economic security, and the privileges of education) while many of the ancestors of the First Nations people languish.BuffaloShoutSalmonCry

Buffalo Cry, Salmon Shout (Herald Press, 2013) is one resource that sheds light on the hidden stories. Edited by Steve Heinrichs, “…Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry offers up alternative histories, radical theologies, and poetic, life-giving memories that can unsettle our souls and work toward reconciliation.” (As described in the MennoMedia store.)

Our Thanksgiving celebrations will have more integrity if we add more layers to the thanksgiving5stories that are told, if we include more perspectives as we reflect on the season. I think my pilgrims need to have some indigenous peoples join them in the display. For now, I’ll include a stone turtle given to me by a native friend this past summer. She told me it was a sacred item and that I should keep it in a holy place. Its presence helps me to be mindful of the untold stories behind Thanksgiving.

Melissa Miller is a pastor from Winnipeg, Manitoba, longtime columnist for Canadian Mennonite, and secretary of the MennoMedia board.



How will you work at including layers to your Thanksgiving stories? At home? At church?

Updating The Naked Anabaptist: New five-year edition released

October 14, 2015

News release

Updating The Naked Anabaptist
New five-year edition releasedNakedAnabaptist5th

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ontario—Five years ago, Stuart Murray’s book The Naked Anabaptist made waves with its look at the central beliefs of Anabaptism and their relevance for Christians today. Now Herald Press has released a new edition of the book, drawing in stories and perspectives from North America and the global church.

The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith examines seven core convictions of Anabaptism, looking beyond the traditions of Mennonite, Amish, and other historically Anabaptist groups to the development of this Christian tradition rooted in Jesus and his teachings. It shows an alternate, healing path from the temptations of societies mired in materialism, individualism, nationalism, and state violence.

Murray, chair of the Anabaptist Network in the United Kingdom, originally wrote The Naked Anabaptist primarily for a British audience unfamiliar with Anabaptism. “I was very surprised by the interest among North American readers,” he said. “This revised edition is oriented more to North America, with examples of the application of Anabaptist convictions in this context.”

The new edition features an updated resource section on Anabaptism. Murray expands and updates his definition and discussion of Christendom, the historic melding of church and state that 16th-century Anabaptists reacted against as they sought to return to a biblical vision of voluntary belief and church membership.

Like the original edition of The Naked Anabaptist, this revised edition reaches out to seekers and to any Christian hungry for a biblical faith rooted in Jesus. Murray steps away from the ethnic understandings of church that have sometimes become part of historically Anabaptist groups, turning instead to Anabaptist biblical understandings that have sparked interest from the emerging church movement, historic denominations, and new Christian movements.

Stuart 1In The Naked Anabaptist, Murray does not call for shifts in Christian denominational allegiance. Instead he shares the values of authentic discipleship, heartfelt worship, sacrificial service, simple living, and radical peacemaking that he finds in historic Anabaptist beliefs and at the heart of Jesus’ gospel vision.

Murray calls for Anabaptist churches to recover a missionary and evangelistic vision for the future. In societies that are both increasingly secular and multifaith, the Christian challenge is to learn afresh to tell the story of Jesus and his teachings, Murray says. Like the original edition of The Naked Anabaptist, this revised edition helps provide Christians with some of the historic tools for that present-day task.

Murray has a PhD in Anabaptist hermeneutics. He is the founder of Urban Expression, an urban church planting agency with teams across Great Britain, the Netherlands, and the United States.

Gregory A. Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota and author of The Myth of a Christian Nation, writes in the foreword to The Naked Anabaptist, “Murray offers this dialogue not to try to get people to join the Mennonites or any other Anabaptist group but simply because it’s to the advantage of both Anabaptists and the rising tribe of kingdom people to learn from and support one another.”

The Naked Anabaptist is available for $14.99 from MennoMedia at 800-245-7894 or, as well as bookstores.


Join an active and semi-moderated Facebook Group, The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith.

–Ardell Stauffer

High-resolution photo available.

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Melodie Davis
News manager