What can saints and mystics teach us about faith, ourselves, and life in community?

April 17, 2018

What can saints and mystics teach us about faith, ourselves, and life in community?

HARRISONBURG, Va.— With untested ideals and a thirst for adventure, Christiana Peterson and her family moved to an intentional Christian farming community, Plow Creek, in the rural Midwest. It sounded like a simple and faithful way to follow Jesus, not to mention a great place to raise kids.

In Mystics and Misfits: Meeting God through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints, Peterson shares her discovery that community life is never really simple. She needs resources beyond her own to weather the anxiety and exhaustion of trying to save a dying farm and a floundering congregation.

Peterson turns to Christian mystics like Francis of Assisi, Simone Weil, and Dorothy Day to find sustenance for the everyday struggles and unique hardships of community life. With a contemplative’s spirit and poet’s eye, Peterson leads readers into an encounter with the God of the sometimes “wild” mystics and “weird misfits.” Along the way, she helps readers discover new perspectives on simplicity, hospitality, contemplation, church, and death.

Jon M. Sweeney, author of more than two dozen books and a scholar of Francis of Assisi, wrote the foreword, describing Mystics as “achingly beautiful … a long love letter to holiness. The mystics with whom Peterson engages are ones who wanted so much to be holy, as Jesus asked us all to be, and did it in ordinary and extraordinary ways.”

Endorsers include Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, who writes, “I opened this fine book out of curiosity, and found it so well written and so filled with gems, that I knew I had to pass on the good news! Read [it] even if you think you don’t have time.” D. L. Mayfield, author of Assimilate or Go Home, calls it “the perfect blend of idealism tinged with mortality, of contemplation marred by depression.”

Christiana N. Peterson is a regular contributor to Good Letters, Image Journal blog, Christianity Today Women, Off the Page, and Art House America. Peterson now lives with her husband and their four children in Ohio. She has a masters in theology and a PhD in creative writing from St. Andrews University in Scotland. Find more of her writing and connect with her at Christiananpeterson.com.

Mystics and Misfits is available from Herald Press for $16.99 (paperback) and $13.99 (ebook). Canadian customers can order from CommonWord (877‑846‑1593), Parasource (800‑263‑2664), and elsewhere.

To schedule an interview with Christiana Peterson, contact LeAnn Hamby at 540‑908‑3941 or LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.

 

Pop Christian and secular cultures distract from who God has called us to be

April 3, 2018

Pop Christian and secular cultures distract from who God has called us to be, says author of new book, Worthy

HARRISONBURG, Va.— Growing up as a preacher’s kid, Melanie Springer Mock often felt the strain of expectations to be perfect. Even though her mother told her that she needed to grow into her own person, Mock says, “For much of my life, I never truly believed my mom.”

Now a professor, author, and book reviewer, Mock takes on the cultural and religious messages that have formed her and many others in book just released from Herald Press, Worthy: Finding Yourself in a World Expecting Someone Else.

 By plumbing Scripture and critiquing the ten-billion-dollar-a-year self-improvement industry, Mock offers life-giving reminders that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Set free from the anxiety to conform to others’ expectations, we are liberated to become who we are, created in God’s image. Accepting ourselves means “swimming against expectations that would tell us to be something, or someone, else,” Mock writes. “It’s about recognizing that embracing our inherent worthiness is much more than a self-help enterprise; instead, it is part of a justice movement that recognizes every person as an image-bearer of God, already, just as they are.”

Through lively and often humorous prose, the author challenges messages both from popular culture and the Christian marketplace, which Mock says “is flooded with self-improvement products that have a Jesus-flavored vibe.” She debunks ideals of Christian womanhood, dramatic conversion narratives, and what it means to be “blessed.” Worthy helps readers embrace their own unique, God-created selves rather than trying to live up to standards or molds set out by the world, Christian culture, or peer groups.

Shirley Showalter, author of Blush, calls Worthy a “beautiful, vulnerable book,” and writer Elrena Evans calls it a “must-read for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.” Carolyn Custis James, author of Half the Church and Malestrom, writes the foreword, and the book is accompanied by free downloadable reflection and discussion questions.

Mock’s work has appeared in Christianity Today Women, The Nation, Chronicle of Higher Education, and Christian Feminism Today, and she is the author or editor of five other books. Mock is a professor of English at George Fox University, and she and her husband and sons live in Dundee, Oregon. She also is a frequent book reviewer in Mennonite World Review.

Worthy is available from Herald Press for $16.99 (paperback) via 800‑245‑7894 and $13.99 (ebook) at the Herald Press webstore, www.HeraldPress.com, Amazon, and other online sources. Canadian customers can order from CommonWord (877‑846‑1593), Parasource (800‑263‑2664), and elsewhere.

To schedule an interview with Melanie Springer Mock, contact LeAnn Hamby at 540‑908‑3941 or LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.

Music selection for new hymnal shaped by new table of contents

March 1, 2018

Music selection for new hymnal shaped by new table of contents

UNION, Mich. — The work of the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee is slow and joyful and involves a lot of singing.

Six members of the Resonate team sample past selections from Sing the Story as they choose songs for the new Mennonite collection to be published in 2020. The team met in February at Camp Friedenswald in Michigan. From left to right: Tom Harder, SaeJin Lee, Cynthia Neufeld Smith, Darryl Neustaedter Barg, Allan Rudy Froese, and project director Bradley Kauffman.

The 14-person committee, working as the “Resonate Team,” gathered at Camp Friedenswald in February to continue its work toward the 2020 release of a new hymnal for Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA.

“We’re in an exciting season right now,” said Bradley Kauffman, project director. “In 2017, we received more than 2,100 submissions of new and original content ranging from visual art to written worship resources to songs and hymns. It’s energizing to work with that content.”

The committee sang and processed more than two hundred songs at its February gathering, a year after it started the selection process at another meeting. The group continues to discern what strikes a chord among committee members and what will resound with the larger church.

“We’ve been listening to Anabaptists across the United States and Canada to see what resonates with congregations in both countries,” Kauffman said.

At this recent meeting the committee affirmed a table of contents that has been underway for many months. The committee views the table of contents as a lens to evaluate both the canon of existing content and new submissions, and will use it to populate the sections of what will become the new hymnal to be published by MennoMedia.

Committee member Sarah Kathleen Johnson said the table of contents will help churches go one step deeper into the tradition of Hymnal: A Worship Book and how it shaped worship. “The table of contents of Hymnal: A Worship Book is quite unique in that it follows the flow of worship,” she said. “Thinking about that flow of worship helps shape decisions about what to include in the new book and how songs support the actions within worship.”

The committee has had holy moments as it’s gathered in a circle and sung and discussed music. The group is immensely grateful for the submissions and interest, as well as prayers. “As we carry out this work, we invite your prayers to accompany us as we select worship materials for MC Canada and MC USA,” Kauffman said.

Fundraising for the project continues, and MennoMedia hopes to raise another $200,000 to $300,000 this year. “As a small, nonprofit organization, we do not have the resources to create this massive project without the contributions of generous donors—individuals and congregations who are willing to be patrons and keep the final costs to congregations lower,” said Amy Gingerich, executive director and publisher for MennoMedia. “We continue to welcome donations for this project.”

“Resonate” has been a working name for the committee and its work, but an official name and logo for the suite of hymnal products will be announced soon, said Gingerich.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact LeAnn Hamby at 540-908-3941 or email LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.

To keep up with the latest news from the Resonate Team follow on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ResonateMWSC/