Amish Prayers coloring book uses early Anabaptist prayers

February 22, 2017
News release

Amish Prayers coloring book uses early Anabaptist prayers
Herald Press offers second devotional coloring book

HARRISONBURG, Va.—Last fall, Herald Press took its first step into the world of adult devotional coloring books with Beloved Amish and Mennonite Quilts. Its latest addition to the field, Amish Prayers, offers fraktur drawings and thoughtful, contemplative prayers from Anabaptist history. The collection will be released April 4, 2017.

The 43 prayers are translated and adapted from Die ernsthafte Christenpflicht (Prayer Book for Earnest Christians, first published in 1708), a traditional Amish prayer book which grew from prayers of Anabaptists in the 1500s and 1600s, and still used by Amish folks today.

In the coloring book, each prayer is presented on the left side of each spread along with a related Bible verse and room for journaling. On the facing page is an illustration to color, incorporating a key phrase from the accompanying prayer using fraktur, a type of Pennsylvania Dutch folk art. Lynn Sommer, an artist and member of Community Mennonite Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, created each coloring page. Pages tear out easily if users want to display or give away their artwork.

“My ink and watercolor paintings are often inspired by traditional Swiss Mennonite and Pennsylvania German fraktur motifs from my heritage,” Sommer said. “The fraktur form drew me in as a young child because there was something sacred in the combination of names, dates, and sacred events such as baptisms and births recognized within the faith community. The folk art images in fraktur show a beautiful union between art and religion.”

The designs are symmetrical and often repetitive, aiding prayerful contemplation of a central idea. Some are more realistic and some more abstract, and many are a mixture of both, according to the artist. The designs frequently implement nature images of birds, flowers, plants, and the sun.

Sommer says that the process of creating the illustrations was “an artistic and spiritual discipline intertwined. I would first read the prayer, focus on the designated short phrase to be incorporated into the design, browse early fraktur designs, turn on contemplative music, then begin sketching.”

The book’s preface is written by an Old Order Amish woman from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who prefers that her name not be used. In the preface, she recounts fond memories of her father praying these prayers aloud and writes about how meaningful it is to pray prayers written centuries ago by Anabaptist Christians undergoing severe persecution.

In reflecting on the process of creating the art for Amish Prayers, Sommer concluded, “I am grateful for the spiritual pilgrimage this project has brought into my life. I am hopeful for coloring book connoisseurs as they embark on their spiritual journey with the Amish Prayers coloring book.”

Amish Prayers is available for $12.99 USD from Herald Press at 800-245-7894 or www.MennoMedia.org, as well as at bookstores and online retailers.

MennoMedia intern Luisa Miller
High resolution photo available

For sample copies or questions, please contact:
LeAnn Hamby
Marketing Manager
Herald Press
(540) 908-3941 LeAnnH@mennomedia.org

 

What does it really take for our communities to flourish?

News Release

Revised January 30, 2017

Pastor shares strategy for how real change happens in new book, Smart Compassion

HARRISONBURG, Va.— What does compassion look like when the needs seem overwhelming? What is our role in the flourishing of our community? How does such work relate to worship?

Wesley Furlong’s Smart Compassion: How to Stop “Doing Outreach” and Start Making Change (Herald Press, February 2017) calls Christians to strategic, prayerful, and biblically based approaches to compassion.

“My hope for you is that in the face of personal struggles, limited time, complex needs, and endless options, you will develop a vision for how your community can thrive,” says Furlong. The book journeys through inspiring places and thought-provoking conversations on how and where good and necessary change happens.

A common thread in Smart Compassion is the potential of healing presence, radical hospitality, and collective empowerment. When these three forces come together, Furlong says, “You’ll see new life.”

Smart compassion is the full pursuit of a community’s flourishing in a spirit of worship and prayer. Smart compassion holds together justice and evangelism, wisdom and revelation, and the broadly communal and deeply personal aspects of life.

Furlong adds that “smart compassion is, put simply, ten thousand acts of authentic compassion that are strategic, well networked, and responsive to the real needs of a defined community.”

Editorial Director Amy Gingerich says that for churches who want to make a difference but are not quite sure how, Smart Compassion offers a contagious vision and practical steps for significant change. A companion handbook is planned for release May 2017.

Wesley Furlong is the founder and director of City of Refuge, a network for community transformation, and the director of church development for EVANA, an evangelical Anabaptist network of churches across North America. Furlong holds a master’s degree in theology from Emory University and is working toward a PhD in social work. He and his wife, Bonnie, have three children as well as an ever-changing number of foster children. Connect with him at WesleyFurlong.com.

To schedule an interview with Wesley Furlong, contact LeAnn Hamby at (540) 908-3941 or LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.

Smart Compassion │ 9781513800394 │ 2/7/2017 │ $15.99 USD │ Paperback │176 pages│Herald Press

 

To purchase Smart Compassion call 800-245-7894 or go to www.HeraldPress.com 

Philippians: A new commentary for a treasured New Testament book

bcbc_philippiansOctober 26, 2016

News release

A new commentary for a treasured New Testament book
Philippians Believers Church Bible Commentary written by Gordon Zerbe

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ont.—What if, rather than only reading Philippians, Christians allowed Philippians to read them?

In this 31st volume in the Believers Church Bible Commentary series, New Testament scholar Gordon Zerbe challenges readers to allow Paul’s prison letter to interpret their own lives—not by extracting lessons out of historical and cultural context but by imagining themselves in the ancient Roman world.

Zerbe is vice president academic at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Gordon Zerbe

Zerbe says that to understand Paul and his beloved and beleaguered congregation in Philippi, we must undomesticate Paul. We can learn to see him as a leader transformed by grace and passionate about enlivening patriotic loyalty to Jesus alone.

Zerbe notes that the gospel does not pertain merely to the individual, private, and spiritual aspects of life. “Political matters (broadly speaking) are spiritual, and spiritual matters are inescapably social (and thus ‘political’),” Zerbe explained in an interview. He says that Philippians is for many the most treasured of Paul’s letters.

The Believers Church Bible Commentary series is designed to be accessible to lay readers, useful in preaching and pastoral care, helpful for Bible study groups and Sunday school teachers, and academically sound. The series also carries an underlying Anabaptist reading of Scripture. The volumes are a cooperative project of Brethren in Christ Church, Brethren Church, Church of the Brethren, Mennonite Brethren Church, Mennonite Church Canada, and Mennonite Church USA.

Zerbe holds a PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary and degrees from Western Washington University, Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Tabor College, and Columbia Bible College. He is the author of Citizenship: Paul on Peace and Politics. After growing up in Japan as a child of mission workers, a highlight in his career was a series of years (1996–98, 2002–04) in the Philippines as visiting professor at the Silliman University Divinity School under the auspices of Mennonite Central Committee.

Philippians is available in paperback for $29.99 USD from Herald Press at 800-245-7894 or www.HeraldPress.org, as well as at bookstores.

MennoMedia Staff
High resolution photo available.

To interview author or more information on this press release:
LeAnn Hamby
Marketing Manager
MennoMedia, the home of Herald Press
LeAnnH@mennomedia.org
(540)908-3941

 

Author interview—Philippians Believers Church Bible Commentary with Gordon Zerbe

Gordon Zerbe is vice president academic at Canadian Mennonite University. Interview by staff writer Melodie M. Davis.

What do you mean by “allowing the book of Philippians to read us”? How is that done?

That’s another way of saying that we want an ancient letter in the New Testament to speak to us today. It highlights that Paul’s wisdom in the letter can mirror back to us some of our own circumstances and questions. Once we live into the world of that text, we can look back at ourselves in a new way. We tend to see our own world differently only if we’ve been truly transported mentally or geographically into another.

As an interpreter of Scripture, I’ve become increasingly aware of how my own story shapes the process of reading Scripture. All of us come to the Bible with some kind of bias, or with a preformulated understanding of what the text is all about, or with a set of questions or concerns that we find most important. But as a Filipino colleague once suggested to me, the point of interpretation is to seek to understand the bias of the text itself, while becoming self-aware of our own biases that we inevitably bring to our encounter with Scripture. My four years of working in the Philippines helped me to become more self-aware of my own biases, and for that reason I’ve dedicated the commentary to my former colleagues and students there.

What is meant by “theopolitical”?

It’s shorthand to highlight that the spiritual and the social dimensions of life are inseparable, and that the spiritual and social aspects of the gospel are integral. The social dimension includes the communal, economic, and even political domains of life. By “political” I speak not of matters of partisan politics, but what it means to be a part of a broader public, constantly considering questions of one’s primary allegiance.

To say that being a Christian involves a “citizenship,” as Paul does in Philippians, is to make a “theopolitical” claim. The point is to “make Jesus ‘Christ’ again” (a statement I heard recently, playing on someone else’s assertion that the main task was to make some state “great again”).

What does kingdom allegiance and messianic citizenship say to today’s culture in North America?

Paul presents the claims of the gospel of Jesus as a “citizenship,” something that a long history of English translation has somehow covered up. We can hardly avoid not thinking through what this means for our other, earthly citizenships, loyalties, and identities—how our Christian citizenship becomes the most fundamental aspect of our identity, loyalty, and practice. Each place we find ourselves in—family, region, culture, nation—presents unique challenges. Christ helps us to “unplug” from competing, narrow loyalties in a community committed to the good of all.

Recently I’ve come to appreciate Paul as a “migrant.” Paul is a migrant not only in a geographical sense (whether in his upbringing or in his adult ministry), but also in an intellectual-spiritual sense. As a migrant, he is a cultural hybrid, even wrestling internally with different aspects of himself and his loyalties.

My own personal story has caused me to be interested in questions of “citizenship.” Among my first memories growing up (as a missionary kid in Japan) was that I was a “foreigner.” Later, being moved around as a preacher’s kid in both the U.S. and Canada, the issue of what is the meaning of citizenship was natural. I once prided myself in being content to be a mere sojourner, a displaced person, living many years as an immigrant in Canada, while considering my formal citizenship to be the USA that was bequeathed to me as an accident of birth. When I eventually became a Canadian citizen for practical reasons as our family travelled internationally, I was troubled with the theopolitical implications of having to make an affirmation of loyalty to the Queen and her successors—that is, to the state of Canada.

What are other themes in the commentary?

I emphasize four main themes: citizenship, partnership, high-low inversion, and joy. What it means to fully realize the vision of partnership and mutuality that Paul articulated, and what it means to faithfully practice the way of being in solidarity with the lowly are imperatives as relevant today as they were two thousand years ago.

How would you suggest adult Sunday school classes study this volume?

 Sometimes it’s important not to lose the forest for the trees. For that reason, a shorter, more intensive engagement with Philippians and the commentary might be good, such as for a quarter.

The selected readings at the end of the commentary include a reference to a brief discussion guide on Philippians by prolific New Testament scholar N. T. Wright that I think would work well with this more in-depth commentary. I am in sympathy with the approach that he takes in that guide; some of his earlier scholarly work on Philippians had a decisive impact on my own thinking.

What would be the takeaway for someone just reading this volume because they want to understand Philippians better?

I would suggest, perhaps oddly, that someone start by reading the essays at the end of the commentary. My own views on the letter have been shaped by what I know now about the social and political context of the letter, and it’s that kind of background awareness that helps us read with new lenses and openness.

Why did you agree to write this commentary?

Since the days of my doctoral studies at Princeton, I’ve somehow become absorbed in work on Saul/Paul and his letters. So this was a great opportunity to deepen my understanding of one letter. In addition, I was already convinced that some new thinking about Paul and Philippians could make for an exciting new venture in a commentary.

 

Philippians and the other volumes in the Believers Church Bible Commentary series are available from Herald Press at 800-245-7894, the MennoMedia webstore, Amazon, and other online sources.