A New Season: After Maternity Leave

It’s a fascinating thing to step away from a job for 10½ weeks. Those projects you never thought would be complete? Someone finished them. That final endorsement? It arrived. Deadlines were met. Periodicals and books and curriculum were mailed.

Publishing is cyclical, and I was delighted to watch those cycles progress while I was on maternity leave. (I mostly watched all this from afar via Facebook and occasional emails.)

What I was doing and reading

All this happened while I was getting down to the “Tooty Ta” with my two-year-old (over and over and over again)

and feeding a baby or shushing said baby into dreamland (repeat countless times).

AmeliaAndGraceIn these weeks, I enjoyed reading books on “theology for new parents and other tired, anxious people,” parenting, children and sleep, newborns, and a fascinating book with many points of resonance called Mothering Mennonite.

Points of connection

All these books fit my own life as a parent of a newborn, and now that I’m back to work I want to know about the seasons of your life right now.

What kinds of books and resources interest you right now? What concerns or life events are you facing? Is there a topic that you’d like your congregation to engage?

As we at MennoMedia and Herald Press work on titles for 2014 and make plans for 2015 and beyond, please send me your ideas.

A glimpse ahead

Here is some of what we at MennoMedia and Herald Press are working on for 2014:

  • Shine, our new Sunday school curriculum for children and junior youth. (Take a sneak peek at the story Bible here.)
  • Vacation Bible School, with “Welcome! Give and Receive God’s Great Love” as our theme.
  • A book called Faithful Living, Thoughtful Dying: Preparing for a Good Death.
  • Historical fiction called Jacob’s Choice, the first in our Northkill Creek trilogy.
  • A memoir called Bonnet Strings: Loving and Leaving the Amish.

Hopefully some of these forthcoming titles spark your interest or connect with your own seasons of life.

Amy Gingerich
Amy Gingerich, Editorial Director

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!

SteveC

Steve Carpenter, MennoMedia Director of Development

Thank a Sunday School Teacher

By Mary Ann Weber

When teaching middler Sunday school a few years ago, I decided to have the class do a few activities to give them an idea of how Abraham and Sarah lived. First, we made fry bread. We mixed flour and water and a few other ingredients and made dough that we flattened and fried. It was a hit because the children were learning to cook simple meals at home, plus they wanted to eat the fry bread.

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Second, we used blankets and chairs and made a tent. It was a sorry-looking tent and I’m sure it was nothing like the tent in which Abraham and Sarah lived. But when we got inside the tent it gave the children a good idea that Abraham and Sarah did not live in houses made of wood and stone.

Third, we built an altar. I gathered field stones that surround the flower gardens at my house, placed them into buckets, and hauled them to church. It was heavy work but I knew the children would enjoy building with the stones. I was right. They crafted a lovely and sturdy altar next to the tent.

I left the altar and began walking to the next activity but soon noticed that I was alone. I looked behind me and, to my surprise, the children were kneeling around the altar! Their eyes were closed, their lips were moving, and their hands were folded in prayer.

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(From www.publicdomainpictures.net)

My preparation for that Sunday school session included retelling a story about familiar Old Testament characters and preparing activities to go along with the story. I informed the children, but I forgot about faith forming in their lives. Fortunately, the Sunday school class hadn’t forgotten—they knew what an altar was and they wanted their moment with God.

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Teaching Sunday school takes dedication. Finding resources that take information to the next level and allow formation are key. So are finding resources that fit the theological framework of the congregation and denomination. Other considerations include the right mix of learning and fun, the learning styles of the class members, how easy the materials are to use, among other things.

Two evaluation tools, MennoLens http://www.faithandliferesources.org/Curriculum/MennoLens1.pdf  and MennoLens2 http://www.faithandliferesources.org/Curriculum/MennoLens2.pdf,  help congregations choose materials based on Anabaptist Mennonite perspectives.

Teaching Sunday school is no small task. Find a Sunday school teacher this week and give the teacher a big thank-you. Hats off to Sunday school teachers everywhere!

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The main Sunday school materials we have for children are published with Church of the Brethren and are called Gather ‘Round. A new curriculum to follow Gather ‘Round is Shine, well into planning and writing,  to launch fall of 2014.

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Mary Ann Weber
Curriculum editor