An Astounding Reversal: Anabaptism’s Gifts

By Melissa Miller

One of the greatest blessings I count is to have grown up in a Christian Anabaptist family. My father was a Church of the Brethren pastor, who served congregations in Pennsylvania and Maryland. In the late 19th century, my mother’s ancestors founded the church of my childhood, Raven Run Church of the Brethren, nestled up against a wooded Pennsylvania hill beside a little run of a creek. From both my parents, and from the churches we attended, I learned the way of Jesus, of peace, of community and service.

After studying at Eastern Mennonite College (now University) where I met my husband, I relocated to Ontario and made a home with Mennonites. That second Anabaptist church family is where I remain today, another blessing in my life. All that to say: I am an Anabaptist through and through, with a world view and values system imbibed at my parents’ table and chosen as a young adult. The Anabaptist lens by which to understand God and Christian faith continues to make sense to me.dirk willems

What a humble joy then to encounter these words in a current historical account of the Reformation. Author Thomas Cahill writes, “The Anabaptists … became in time the Mennonites, the Bruderhof, the Quakers. Though universally despised in the early modern period, persecuted, and often drowned by both Catholics and Protestants, their main reforms … (including) a heightened sense of community, compassion for the poor, prison reform, elimination of the death penalty, refusal to take up arms, (and) peacemaking – are now ideals of almost all their former persecutors … From a historical point of view, this is an astounding reversal.” (Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World; Publisher, Nan A. Talese, 2013, p. 306.)

Heretics bookWe may quibble with Cahill’s pairing of Anabaptists (a term originally meaning re-baptized) and Quakers (who do not practice baptism), but the deep appreciation he expresses for previously scorned and persecuted radical reformers is compelling. It is encouragement for MennoMedia to pursue its mission to “create resources for living Christian faith from an Anabaptist perspective”. We have inherited the vision that the radical reformers birthed through struggle and blood. Then, as now, it is a vision the world desperately needs. May we be true to our calling to live out and speak of the vision of following Jesus in peace, simplicity, justice and community.

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Where does your own call and vision as a Christian come from? We’d love to hear!

Resources related to “call” can be found here.

MennoMedia copublishes it’s well known and loved children curricula series with the Church of the Brethren, currently Shine: Living in God’s Light, used by various Anabaptist or Anabaptist-leaning groups.

MelissaMillerPorchSwingEditedMelissa Miller lives in Winnipeg, pastors Springstein Mennonite Church, and is secretary of the MennoMedia board.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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You can learn more at the Shine website, www.ShineCurriculum.com. 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!

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

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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?

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The Shine On Bible is available here.

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Mary Ann Weber
Managing Editor for Curriculum