Let your light shine

Over the past 18 months we have been planning for, and dreaming about, the next generation of Sunday school curriculum. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve read a bit about Shine: Living in God’s Light in posts here and here and here.

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This past week the Shine writers and editors gathered together at Camp Alexander Mack in Milford, Indiana, to brainstorm ideas for the first curriculum year. (Fall 2014 is the start of Shine.) In addition to writers and editors, staff from MennoMedia and Brethren Press as the co-publishers were present as well.

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No, the writers’ conference isn’t where we write the curriculum. It’s where we train the writers and editors on how to write. They then go home inspired to create sessions for the curriculum. Below are few of our reflections.

What was a highlight of the week?

Mary Ann: The Shine writers’ and editors’ meeting involved many who care about children and their faith formation. It was a highlight to see the enthusiasm of the writers, and to hear the sincerity with which they discussed the biblical texts. How will children encounter a given story? How can writers help create understanding? How will Sunday school leaders respond to the written session and activities? And most importantly, how will these texts help children better understand God’s love? Wrapped up along with the writers’ enthusiasm and these questions is the desire to create places for children to encounter a loving God so that faith can be nurtured.

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Amy: On Wednesday morning we had three guest speakers talk about how to meet the needs of an increasingly multicultural church. David Araujo from Iglesia Menonita del Buen Pastor in Goshen, Indiana; Wendy McFadden from Brethren Press; and Cyneatha Millsaps from Community Mennonite in Markham, Illinois, talked about being a Mexican-born American, a Korean-born American, and an African American, respectively. Together the panelists encouraged the writers to:

  • Build cultural competencies and learn another perspective.
  • Not lump all Spanish-speaking groups from Latin and South America into the label “Latino.” Pay attention to cultural differences and honor them.
  • Think carefully about how Jesus and other Bible-times characters are depicted in terms of skin color in illustrations.
  • Watch out for activities that automatically presume inclusion or exclusion.
  • Be honest about the world we live in.

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    Panelists David Araujo, Wendy McFadden, and Cyneatha Millsaps spoke about building multicultural competencies.

Name one thing that excites you about Shine?

Mary Ann: An exciting piece of the session plan each week is the inclusion of spiritual practices. Whether individual or group practices, they will help children think about their response to a loving God.

Amy: It was rewarding this week to see the writers really grab onto the idea of “peace notes.” This is a new part of the session plan where we want to draw connections between each story and God’s larger vision of shalom. It’s so close to our heart as Anabaptists.

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A bookmark made by writer Sarah Kipfer.

We’ll close by sharing some of the theme verses for Shine:

    “You are the light of the world. A city built upon a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.–Matthew 5:14–16 (NRSV)

Amy Gingerich, editorial director, and Mary Ann Weber, managing editor

 

Why should a Mennonite denominational publisher do cookbooks?

This question is often asked me, most recently at a meeting of the Board of Directors of MennoMedia. I can’t always know all the reasons behind such a question, but usually it has to do with the idea that cooking is either not spiritual enough, or life-changing enough, to be worthy of a church-based publisher. My answer, as always, is that a cookbook can be life-changing, which brings the usual response, “What? How can a cookbook change a person’s life?”

One answer is that it changed mine.

Thirty-two years ago I was a young seminary student in Louisville, Kentucky. My wife and I were part of a small group that was interested in simple living, intentional community and Anabaptism. We were learning how to garden, can foods and be more self-sufficient. Someone told us about a small shop down on Bardstown Road that sold some pretty interesting books. I found it–a store that sold Herald Press books, plus some handcrafts under the name “Mennonite Self-Help.” I picked up off a shelf a copy of a cookbook called More-with-Less. The subtitle said, “suggestions by Mennonites on how to eat better and consume less of the world’s limited resources.” I was intrigued. It was a mere $4.95, so I bought it.

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The original 1976 edition of More-With-Less. To date, through three editions, the book has sold over 850,000 copies, a Herald Press all-time bestseller.

Here was a book, not only about cooking, but about living more simply, justly and sustainably  It was right up my alley. It celebrated life and community, along with food. I read the introductory section, with chapters titled such as: “Less with More,” “Change—An Act of Faith;” “Building a Simpler Diet;” “Eat with Joy,” and I knew I had found a new home. I soon picked up and read Living More with Less by the same author and I was bowled over–here was faith in action. My life was changing, for the better, and permanently.

Within a year my wife and I had joined a Mennonite intentional community and have had a home among Mennonites, and other Anabaptists, since. We also found a way to live out our faith that we have continued ever since, and have passed along to our children. A few years ago I was visiting my son at his house near Eastern Mennonite University, where he was a student and I talked with him and his roommates as they prepared supper. I was impressed that they valued cooking together and sitting down to eat a meal together several evenings, and I couldn’t help but notice that the book they were cooking out of was More-with-Less.

Interestingly, over the years I have met quite a few others whose first encounter with Mennonites and Anabaptists was through this cookbook. Our lives have all changed course.

All because of a cookbook.

What’s your story? Has a cookbook ever changed your life?

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Russ Eanes lives in Harrisonburg, Va. with his wife Jane and three of his six children. He  is still the breakfast chef in his family.

Creative giving–and fundraising–in Iowa

By Steve Carpenter

Earlier this month I flew to Des Moines Iowa and spent five days visiting churches and
donors in the southeastern part of the state. While there I heard several remarkable stories of individual and congregational generosity and creativity.

Roger Farmer is a first generation Mennonite, a retired pastor, husband to the Crooked Creek Christian Camp (CCCC) Administrator (Mary Lou), and a camp volunteer. He gave me a tour of the camp which began in 1980 and sits on 300 acres in southeast Iowa. The camp is a cooperative effort between 17 local Mennonite churches, including three in Conservative Mennonite Conference. During the past year, many churches adopted one of the camp’s summer cabins and either renovated it or built a new one. In addition, Roger was on the committee which raised $400,000, including an $80,000 endowment, to build the beautiful Shepherd’s Inn lodge which has 6 rooms and very high ceilings, I’m guessing at least 18 feet high.

Here are a couple of pictures of the Shepherd’s Inn, where I stayed for one night.

Shepherds Inn at Crooked Creek Christian Camp, Iowa

Shepherds Inn at Crooked Creek Christian Camp, Iowa

Main level living room

Main level living room

CCCC also received an anonymous $500,000 gift to build an indoor activities center with a climbing wall, pictured below. The center was completed in 2007.

Climbing wall

Climbing wall

These stories of cooperation and generosity inspire me. But wait, there’s more.

First Mennonite Church of Iowa City is a very generous, mission minded, and creative congregation. They house and heavily subsidize the Home Ties Day Care for low-income, homeless and refugee children in their facilities. Recently, they renovated the child care center by adding a kitchen and an all-purpose playroom before renovating their own fellowship hall. They felt good about their priorities and even secured a $60,000 grant from federal stimulus funds for the day care renovations.

Pastor Bob Smith told me a remarkable story of how the church’s youth group raises money to attend MC USA’s bi-national assemblies. They park cars in the church’s parking lot during Iowa State’s home football games which take place just 2 blocks from the church. They typically make $70,000 per year this way, over 7 home games. In keeping with the church’s generous spirit, they tithe these funds, giving to the Youth Convention Planning Committee for scholarships, to local ministries and back to the congregation. Apart from this seven weekend windfall, the church also rents parking space during the week which generates enough income to pay for maintaining the parking lot and grounds. This is creative financing at its best.

The congregation is generous in many ways. Another example is their policy of paying full seminary tuition for all church members attending Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary or Eastern Mennonite Seminary and also offering a generous scholarship for undergraduate studies at a Mennonite college.

May these stories of God’s people doing ministry, encouraging faith formation, and strengthening Anabaptist identity, inspire us all to give generously and think creatively about ways we can help fund God’s mission.

SteveC

Steve Carpenter, Development Director, MennoMedia