MennoMedia’s highlights from Phoenix

The theme of the Assembly was "Citizens of God's Kingdom:  Healed in Hope"

The theme of the Assembly was “Citizens of God’s Kingdom: Healed in Hope.”

I’m a first generation Mennonite who embraced the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective in 1997. My wife and I have attended each of MC USA’s seven biennial conventions since the denomination’s official formation. We attended Nashville 2001, Atlanta 2003, Charlotte 2005, San Jose 2007, Columbus 2009, Pittsburgh 2011 and most recently Phoenix July 1-5, 2013.

I always enjoy these events. Although, my congregation in Harrisonburg is very small, I revel in the large worship services and the presence of so many youth and adults. Sometimes I have been a delegate but most recently in Phoenix I was there as an employee of MennoMedia. My wife Chris came as a volunteer and helped with the children’s activities.

Mary Ann reads the children a book assisted by my wife Chris (wearing green) and Melodie (seated on the floor wearing black)

Mary Ann reads convention children a book assisted by my wife Chris (wearing green) and Melodie (seated on the floor wearing black).

I was glad to be involved in two workshops, one as a presenter (Parenting After Divorce with Kirsten Klassen, Gerald Mast; Melodie Davis, moderator) and another as a host (The Push and Pull of Movements and Institutions Within the Church, with Joanna Shenk and Mark Van Steenwyk).

I also worked at the MennoMedia bookstore, where we had a book signing for Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations and were happy to host two of the authors, Kathy Mclellan and Lovella Schellenberg; there was also a pre-release reading by two authors, Shirley Hershey Showalter sharing excerpts from Blush: A Mennonite Girl Greets a Glittering World, and Ervin Stutzman reading from Jacob’s Choice.

Kathy and Lovella sing there most recent book Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations

Lovella and Kathy sign their most recent book, Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations.

Shirley Showalter reads from her soon to be released memoir Blush while Ervin Stutzman looks on.

Shirley Showalter reads from her soon to be released memoir Blush while Ervin Stutzman waits his turn to read from Jacob’s Choice.

We brought nearly 4,000 items to Phoenix and sold nearly 2/3rd of them.

We brought nearly 4,000 items to Phoenix and sold nearly two thirds of what we brought. Talking to customers was always interesting.

One of the most significant parts of assembly was when Terry Shue and Nancy Kauffman, from Mennonite Church USA’s Leadership Development Team, called all pastors forward at the joint worship service on Wednesday morning to bless them. Terry and Nancy presented a three-fold blessing which included a prayer from Numbers recited while people seated in the assembly extended their hands toward the pastors in blessing. They gave each pastor a white ribbon which identified them as pastors and could be redeemed at the MennoMedia bookstore for $25 toward any item there. Many participants, including the pastors, spoke of how moving this gesture was for them. As pastors returned to their seats many ran a gauntlet of young people with hands extended in the “high five” position. Others were mobbed by their youth groups when they returned to their seats. One pastor’s reception (Nicholas Detweiller-Stoddard) reminded me of the major league ball player who hit a walk off a home run to win game seven of the World Series. Pastors said they felt deeply affirmed, while young people witnessed strong affirmation for those who have answered God’s call to pastoral ministry.

I also helped count both of the worship offerings. One of them benefited MennoMedia’s campaign to develop a new Anabaptist Sunday school curriculum for children called Shine. Those gathered gave more than $10,000 toward this initiative.
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If you’ve never been to one of Mennonite Church USA’s or Mennonite Church Canada’s biennial assemblies, I encourage you to go. They are not just for delegates. You’ll probably enjoy it even more if you aren’t a delegate. The worship and workshops are always great and of course there’s the attraction of a MennoMedia store which usually carries many new releases, sometimes at a significant discount. The 2014 MC Canada assembly will be held July 3-6, in Winnipeg, and the 2015 MC USA assembly will be held in Kansas City, also the first week in July. Maybe we’ll see you at one of these events!

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Steve Carpenter, MennoMedia Director of Development

When Bible texts are like mountaintops

By Melissa Miller

Any spectacular mountains in your travels this summer? Many of us feel awe and wonder when we survey such “lofty mountain grandeur.”

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How about a closer look at the “mountains” in scripture? Do they inspire us in a similar way? Let me explain.

Bible professors have been known to assign students the task of identifying key passages. It’s a different task than identifying one’s favorite scriptures. It’s a way to sort and sift through the whole Bible to determine the passages that speak to the heart of the biblical witness to God and God’s relationship with people and with the earth.

“Think of these texts as like mountaintops,” the professor will explain. “They rise to the top in our vision and in our understanding of scripture. We look at other sections of the Bible within the peaks of these mountains.”

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As a child of the mountains, I resonate with the teaching metaphor. It’s a visual way to help us understand that some scriptures dominate our interpretation, in the same way that mountains dominate the environment. The mountaintop reminds us that we don’t hold all the words of scripture with exactly the same weight. Even if we agree with the apostle Paul that all scripture is “God-breathed and useful one way or another” (2 Timothy 3:16 The Message).

What scriptures are our mountaintop scriptures? Is it the story of the exodus? Do we include Isaiah’s eloquent description of the suffering servant? Is the Golden Rule shining on the mountain? How about Paul’s joyful word to the Philippians of Jesus’ self-giving love? Is there a chance that Mennonites could agree about the key scriptures, even while recognizing favorites for some individuals or subgroups?

MennoMedia paired with two denominations, Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA, to create a list of key scriptures. First we had to agree on the terms; the leaders wanted to include passages from different parts of the Bible and to give due attention to the treasured scriptures that have guided Anabaptists for centuries. At the end, thirteen core scriptures were selected.

A resource was then created, including a video with scholars and lovers of the Bible reflecting on the meaning and message of the passage. Called Dig In: 13 Scriptures to Help us Know the Way, it draws us back to our Reformation roots of digging into life-giving biblical passages while helping us navigate the turbulent waters of today. Reading through these scriptures, as I’ve done several times, I am deeply moved by the power of scripture to comfort, guide and challenge us.

As a pastor, I am excited about bringing this resource to my congregation in Manitoba. I am planning to use it in an integrated worship-Sunday School series this fall. Even the awesomely flat landscape of the prairies can be the setting for mountaintop experiences in scripture.

Do you have ideas or creative ways of Bible study as a congregation? Here’s what some are doing. We’d love to hear what you’ve done or are planning.

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Melissa Miller, MennoMedia Board President

(Photos courtesy of Tanya Sparks, first, and Melodie Davis second.)

Grab a book and hit the beach

It was a hot, steamy day on the sandy beaches of Costa Rica back in May 2009.

Photo by Jarle Naustvik

Photo by Jarle Naustvik

The ocean felt cool and refreshing after spending the morning in a beach chair reading Engaging Anabaptism, an anthology edited by John Roth.

I’d engaged Anabaptism, and then the Pacific Ocean. Now it was time to pick up another Herald Press book. Which one would I choose? My vacation reading stack still included Conrad Kanagy’s Road Signs for the Journey (now out of print), Peter and Elfrieda Dyck’s Up from the Rubble, and others. Plus I was doing morning and evening prayers with Take Our Moments and Our Days, volume 1.

Honestly, I can’t remember the order, but I ended up reading (or skimming) about 10 Herald Press titles that week. You see, immediately after returning from my Costa Rican vacation I was to have an interview for a position as editorial director of Herald Press. So my husband and I went horseback riding, rode ziplines, hiked a volcano, and in between each and every activity I packed in some Herald Press reading.

I admit that wasn’t the kind of reading I typically enjoy on vacations. I often look for lighter fare. But it made for a memorable vacation!

Have you dived in to your summer or vacation reading yet? Here are books to soak up all summer. Most books here are 30% off until July 14!

  • Laugh, cry, love. Repeat. Laughter is Sacred Space: The Not-So-Typical Journey of a Mennonite Actor, by Ted Swartz, is funny, vulnerable, honest. A backstage trek through an artist’s life combines side-splitting reminiscences, heart-rending stories of loss, and hopeful stories of restored faith and love. 30% off on hardback brings the $24.99 book to just $17.52.

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  • Caring for a loved one? Relentless Goodbye: Grief and Love in the Shadow of Dementia, by Ginny Horst Burkholder, is a searingly honest journey as Ginny and her husband struggle with his Lewy Body dementia. If you know anyone going through this difficult journey, you or they need this book, applicable for any long-term serious illness or mental diminishment. 30% off.

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  • Not that Fifty Shades. Fifty Shades of Grace: Stories of Inspiration and Promise is a collection of inspiring stories about experiencing God’s grace in the midst of everyday life. Each of the fifty uplifting stories explores what grace looks like in action, even in a world jaded by violence and unforgiveness, and how grace can triumph over great tragedy with mercy and hope.

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  • Cook it up! Simply in Season cookbook, part of our World Community Cookbook series, is perfect summer reading as well. Last week my CSA package included garlic scapes. A perfect time for me to pull out Simply in Season and get creative with seasonal cooking.

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All the best to you this summer!

Amy Gingerich, editorial director

Amy GingerichP.S. You won’t find me again here until October. My family is in the midst of a season of joyful expectation, with a baby due to arrive in mid-July. We’ll reconnect again in October!