The Countdown is Nearing: Time to Shine!

By Mary Ann Weber

What comes next in this sequence? Foundation Series, Jubilee, Gather ’Round, _____?

Some of you recognize these as titles of previous children’s Sunday school curriculum published by MennoMedia and Brethren Press. They have all served the church well by providing solid, Bible story-based materials in an Anabaptist perspective to guide our children in forming faith. Following in this rich tradition, a new children’s Sunday school curriculum begins this September, 2014. The answer to the sequence is the name of the new curriculum—Shine: Living in God’s Light.


My own adventures with Sunday school began when I was both a student and a teacher with the long-running Foundation Series. Every now and then at my office I run across old dusty copies of a Foundation Series piece. It all looks familiar and I still remember some of the stories, even though it was used long ago!

Then Jubilee came along with its brightly colored wooden story figures essential to telling the Bible story. Children were captivated with them, and eager to retell the story so that they could use the story figures.

Gather ’Round built on the good faith traditions of the previous materials. The children I taught liked that the Sunday school time was also a worship experience. They watched reverently as I lit a candle to remind them of God’s presence, and sang along heartily along with the CD to praise God.

And now, very soon, Shine will begin. August 31, 2014 is the much anticipated day to start this new series and people are taking time to learn about it. Several trainings have been held to introduce and orient people to the new materials.


Recent Shine training with Mary Ann Weber for Indiana Michigan Conference.

People are enthused about Shine On, the story Bible that accompanies the primary and middle classes. It contains all of the stories used in Shine throughout its three year cycle, and includes artwork from a variety of artists. In addition to using it for Sunday school, Shine On also makes a good church-home connection if one is purchased for each household. Families can read the story together, look at the illustrations, and talk about the exploring and connecting points found next to each story.

DocHdl2OnVERSA-PPM01tmpTargetPeople are also excited about the songbook and CD combination. While one of these is used in each primary, middler, and junior youth classroom, one pastor said that he would like children to have their own copies. This way they can follow along with the music as they sing, play the music themselves, and have their very own CD to play even when they are not in Sunday school.


You can learn more at the Shine website, If you have not attended a training, videos will soon be posted at the website that will orient new users to the material.

It’s time to Shine!


What do you remember from your Sunday school days? What stories, songs or Bible verses have stuck with you?


Do you feel it is important for your children, grandchildren, or church families to grow up with an Anabaptist children’s curriculum? Why or why not?


The Shine On Bible is available here.


Mary Ann Weber
Managing Editor for Curriculum

Extending the Table: Honoring Dietary Restrictions

Ben and Heather Kulp’s 6-week challenge to cook exclusively from
Extending the Table Cookbook.

Extending the Table

One of the worst feelings a host can have is setting down a plate of food only to realize your guest can’t eat it. Heather had this experience recently when she planned dinner with two friends she hadn’t seen in awhile. She picked a restaurant they had all loved during a younger period in life. When they arrived, though, the friends mentioned that they were following a gluten-free diet. Very little on the menu was gluten-free, so the friends ended up eating plain salad. Heather’s tempeh reuben was less tasty because of it.

We used to be a culture in which it was rude to have dietary restrictions. You were labeled “picky” or even worse, “weird.” Even though Heather’s been a vegetarian for 13 years, her grandmother’s maxim rings through her ears whenever someone serves her meat, “Eat everything on your plate; there are starving children in Africa!”

The funny thing is, most countries do not eat as much wheat or meat as we do in the U.S. and Canada.

Our soil and land space has made farming and animal husbandry easier than in some other countries. Heather’s ancestors grew wheat in Kansas and Oklahoma, even surviving the Dust Bowl in order to grow food for market. Ben’s ancestors raised chickens. But both also had substantial gardens, where they could grow diverse “crops” to be eaten at home. So, the dietary focus was not on wheat or meat alone, but on lots of fresh vegetables and fruits.

Now, it’s hard to go a meal without having at least two servings of wheat or one serving of meat—that is, unless you cook from home! Well, Grandma, thanks to Extending the Table and other resources about global diets, we understand that our dietary choices—including being “picky” about not eating much meat and focusing on whole grains and vegetables–can actually help reduce starvation in Africa.

One of the new features in the latest edition of Extending the Table is the letters next to each recipe indicating whether it is vegetarian and/or gluten-free. This was particularly helpful this week, as we cooked for many people with dietary restrictions.

First, Heather and our son visited her family in Colorado. With a sister and brother-in-law who both have celiac disease (which means eating gluten can cause severe intestinal damage and even cancer—this is distinct from people who choose to eat gluten-free or have a wheat allergy/sensitivity), the gluten-free designations came in handy. Too often, these relatives find themselves buying expensive “imitation” foods that are trying to be like the wheat-based version: crackers, cookies, and bread that aren’t very wholesome and are rarely tasty. So many recipes are naturally gluten-free, though, so Heather focused on those.

The New Mexico Hominy Soup (p. 102) was a hit. We subbed in chorizo for the pork neck and kicked up the spice a bit (after all, we were in the West, where chili powder is used like salt and pepper!). We even looked up how hominy is made. It seems like a great way for families in cultures without refrigeration to preserve corn. An attempt at Cabbage and Tomato Sauce (p. 128) was less well-received. Though it was wholesome, it didn’t have much flavor. I’ll follow the suggestion in the margin next time and include chunky peanut butter (as long as no one has a peanut allergy!).

The next dietary restriction we faced was a friend who gave birth recently. Babies are quite sensitive to what their mothers eat, so things that cause gas in us—beans, cabbage, broccoli—can be incredibly painful for them. So, we focused on bland and healthful items, especially those high in protein (a necessary nutrient for breastfeeding mothers around the world). While Heather’s grandmother’s sauerkraut and bratwurst is anything but bland, most German food is known for its baseness. So, we stuck with a mostly-German menu. First was the Creamy Carrot Soup (p. 79). Rich in beta carotene, this helps baby’s eye development. We paired it with the Grambrot Hearty Wheat Bread (p. 61), though we found the bread almost too hearty! We laughed at the comment in the recipe’s margin, “It’s real bread that gives you something to chew.” Indeed, it was great dipped in the soup. To honor the new father’s heritage, we also made the Colombian Orange and Peanut Salad (p. 118), subbing spinach for the Boston lettuce. Fresh and rich in both iron and protein, we served the salad after the soup for a cool finish to the meal.

10_OrangePeanutSalad_ExtendTable-1293Colombian Orange and Peanut Salad

The final dietary restriction we had this week was an unpleasant one—both of us got the flu. We lived off of Ginger Tea (p. 39) and other ayurvedic-type dishes. We especially loved the heat of the Assorted Vegetable Saute (Indonesian, p. 138). As the older version of the cookbook recommends, we added some tempeh (fermented bean cake) to increase the protein content. The spices, especially the chilis, used in other countries’ cooking certainly cleared our sinuses and gave us the immunity boost we needed!

IndonesianDishAssorted Vegetable Saute, author photo

As we navigate the increasingly complicated world of the global food trade and its impact on our bodies, we are grateful to have tools to help those who host us, and those we host, honor a variety of dietary choices.

To buy Extending the Tableclick here

MennoByte_photoBen Kulp is a cellist, Suzuki cello instructor, and entrepreneur. Heather Scheiwe Kulp is the Clinical Fellow at the Harvard Law School Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program. Along with a son born February 2014, they live in Boston, Massachusetts, and attend the Mennonite Congregation of Boston. Together, they enjoy hiking, listening to live music, and enjoying good food with friends.

Look for their posts each Wednesday thru June 11, under the special series category, Six Weeks with Extending the Table. Or sign up to receive all Mennobytes posts by subscription from the SUBSCRIBE button on the right side of the blog.


Why I Blame Herald Press Authors for My Poor Job Performance

As an editor, I like to stay on top of what our Herald Press authors are doing: where they’re giving talks, what publications they’re writing for, and where their books are being reviewed. I see it as part of my job.

These days, however, I’m not doing too well at it. Herald Press authors are publishing so many pieces, having their work reviewed in so many places, giving so many talks, and doing so many signings that, frankly, I can’t keep abreast of it all. So while it sounds like my fifth-grader’s justification for why he’s not responsible for some recent skirmish with his younger brother, I’m going to say it anyway: it’s not my fault!

Take the other day. I went out to get my mail and was pleased to find a copy of Bearings, a publication of the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research in Minnesota. I spent a glorious week at a writing workshop at Collegeville a few years ago, and I still enjoy receiving this journal from the institute, where Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox thinkers gather for study, dialogue, and prayer.

Opening up Bearings to check out the lead article, I was pleased to find none other than a Herald Press author! The first piece is an interview with Dr. Glen E. Miller, author of the recently published Living Thoughtfully, Dying Well. This spring issue of the journal deals with aging and end-of-life issues, and Glen, who was a resident scholar at the Collegeville Institute in 2011, gives a thoughtful interview on our death-denying culture, what constitutes a good death, and how Christians might “lean forward” as death approaches. When we conceive of death as a spiritual event, Glen says, “We can begin to see death as natural rather than morbid or taboo.”

Living Thoughtfully

Then a few days later, I was just as happy to learn that Guideposts’ website featured an excerpt from Rachel S. Gerber’s Ordinary Miracles, published by Herald Press in March. “The Laundry Pile Miracle” reframes the ordinary household task of folding laundry into what Kathleen Norris calls a “quotidian mystery.”


Then, late last week, I learned that Ervin R. Stutzman’s historical novel, Jacob’s Choice, the first book in the Return to Northkill series, was mentioned in The Budget, an Amish periodical. Ever since then, Herald Press customer service has been fielding a lot of calls from Amish readers who want to buy the book.


Those are just a few of the written pieces featuring Herald Press authors. I’ve given up trying to keep track of the indefatigable Shirley Showalter, author of Blush, and Saloma Miller Furlong, author of Bonnet Strings. Both of these women are on tour now or very soon. Saloma has upcoming events in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Indiana. I get tired just looking at her schedule.


For fun, an old photo: Saloma and her husband, David, on their wedding day.

And Shirley and her husband, Stuart, are celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary, but that doesn’t mean she is slowing down. May, June, and July will find Shirley doing talks and signings in Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Michigan, Virginia, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Minnesota.


For fun, another old photo: Shirley and her husband, Stuart, soon after they were married.

I haven’t even mentioned a fraction of what these authors are doing in terms of blogging, corresponding with readers, personally contacting booksellers, and, in some cases, holding down other jobs. And these are just some of our recent authors. Add all the Herald Press authors who wrote books several or many years ago and whose books continue to sell well and transform lives: well, do you see why I’m not keeping up with this part of my job?

I should add that, thankfully, someone at Herald Press is keeping up with our authors—as much as possible. As part of her sales support for authors and bookstores, Jerilyn Schrock in our marketing department keeps a comprehensive list of all the places our authors are traveling, and she usually has an idea of where they are writing and being reviewed as well. It’s just a small portion of what she does, but Jerilyn does a great job of keeping the rest of us at Herald Press informed on all the things our authors are doing. She tells me that she is thrilled to work with such an outstanding community of people.

I hope it’s obvious by now that I’m glad that Herald Press authors are outpacing my ability to keep up with them. I admire their commitment to using their gifts and talents for the inspiration of their readers, the upbuilding of the church, and the transformation of our culture. I am excited by the ways in which their ideas are circulating so widely, and I am grateful for their work and energy.

And what about the fact that their incredible output of writing and speaking means that my job performance suffers? So be it. If my failure to keep up with our authors comes up in my next performance review, I’ve got my answer ready.

It’s their fault!

ValerieWeaverZercher Valerie Weaver-Zercher is managing editor of Herald Press trade books.

You can keep up with Herald Press authors, too, on their author blogs (links above) and on the MennoMedia Facebook page. We invite you to attend their talks in your area, post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and elsewhere, and spread the word.