Why History Matters by Steve Carpenter

I am a first generation Mennonite. I grew up Presbyterian, coming to faith at an early age. As a young man, I followed my father and brother and served in the U.S. military. My father enlisted in the Army and served in the Air Corp during WWII.

George E. Carpenter US Army Air Corp. circa 1943

George E. Carpenter
US Army Air Corp.
circa 1943

My brother was a Naval Reserve Officer Training student at the University of Virginia before being commissioned an Ensign in the US Navy. I too followed their path and became an officer in the US Coast Guard, retiring with 20 years of service including three tours at sea.

Steve Carpenter Executive Officer Barque EAGLE 1990

Steve Carpenter
Executive Officer
Barque EAGLE
1990

I came to the Mennonite Church through the influence of Myron Augsburger and others at Washington Community Fellowship, an inner-city church on Capitol Hill, started in 1981.

Myron Augsburger

Myron Augsburger

Washington Community Fellowship

Washington Community Fellowship

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the past decade and a half, I have been gathering pieces of my parent’s history and putting them on paper. I also just finished reading Song of the Redwing Blackbird, the self-published memoirs of Fern Lapp Bowman, a local Mennonite woman who grew up Amish Mennonite. Our parent’s history shapes our lives. It informs who we are and what we will become. It matters. Because of this we want to entrust our history to our children and grandchildren.

As a persecuted and immigrant community, many Mennonites seem particularly interested in preserving their collective history. As MennoMedia’s Director of Development and Church Relations, I travel extensively in the US and Canada. Everywhere I go I visit archives and historical displays. Recently I explored the Illinois Mennonite Historical Society in Metamora, Illinois. I was given a tour of the expansive facility by Director Julie Hendrick. She too was raised Presbyterian and has now embraced the Mennonite faith. The center’s collection is housed in three buildings: a restored Sutter barn, site of the Amish Mennonite Conference of 1875; a fascinating Schertz Grossdawdy (grandfather) House, restored and furnished in the style of the early 20th century when Christian and Magdalena Schertz lived there; and the main building which houses an extensive library and genealogical records along with a display upstairs.

Schertz Grossdawdy cottage

Schertz Grossdawdy cottage

Visitors are oriented to the history of Illinois Mennonites with a brief introductory film. Like most of the North American Mennonite History centers I have seen, this one operates with lots of volunteer help and minimal staff.

MennoMedia and Herald Press play an important role in preserving the collective history of Mennonite. To that end, on May 24, 2016 we will release In Pursuit of Faithfulness: Conviction, Conflict, and Compromise in the Indian-Michigan Mennonite Conference, written by Rich Preheim.

InPursuitOfFaithfulness_FrontCover

This is the fiftieth volume in the Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History series which began in 1929 with Harold S. Bender’s Two Centuries of American Mennonite Literature. The series is sponsored by the Mennonite Historical Society. Some other titles include: C. Arnold Snyder’s The Life and Thought of Michael Sattler, 1984; John Ruth’s The Earth is the Lord’s, a history of Lancaster Mennonite Conference published in 2001; and last year’s volume—Peace Progress and the Professor: the Mennonite History of C. Henry Smith by Perry Bush.

PeaceProgressAndTheProfessor_RGB

MennoMedia is largely known as the home of Herald Press books, Shine Sunday school curriculum and the Third Way dot com website. However, the Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History series is another important piece of our work.

Thank you for engaging with MennoMedia here a blog reader. I hope you will also engage with us as a book reader, in prayer, and as a financial supporter. To donate to MennoMedia click here.

 

Blessings in your work, worship and witness,
Steve Carpenter

Steve Carpenter Director of Development and Church Relations

Steve Carpenter
Director of Development and Church Relations

 

Can one man serve two countries?

When telling people about my job working in development, they often ask, “Is the whole country your territory?” to which I reply “No. I have two countries.”

Let me back up. I had been searching for a position at a national agency of the Mennonite Church for about a year before accepting my current role as MennoMedia’s Director of Development.

I was not raised Mennonite but embraced the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective in 1997 about the same time I was retiring from a 20 year career in the United States Coast Guard (CG). Immediately after leaving the CG, I took a job on staff at Washington Community Fellowship (WCF) as church administrator. WCF calls itself an evangelical, multi-denominational congregation affiliated with the Mennonite Church. I served that local body for more than five years.

Late in 2002 I moved from D.C. to Harrisonburg, VA to become Virginia Mennonite Conference’s (VMC) Coordinator. VMC is one of 21 regional bodies within Mennonite Church USA. While working in that 2/3 time role I attended Eastern Mennonite Seminary and, in 2011 , earned a Master of Arts in Religion in part by writing a thesis on Mennonites and Media. In March 2011, anticipating graduation and having served on both local and regional branches of the Mennonite Church, I decided to resign from VMC and seek a national church position.

MennoMedia formed in July 2011 from the merger of the Mennonite Publishing Network and Third Way Media and set up its headquarters in Harrisonburg, VA where I live. After an extensive job search, in March, 2012, I embraced an opportunity to become MennoMedia’s Director of Development.

So when people ask what territory I cover, I explain it covers both Canada and the U.S.
Our agency, MennoMedia, is not a national, but a bi-national ministry of both Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. That fact has pleased me very much.

My job is on the road, not in the office. I travel about every third week. My last two trips have been to Canada. I attended the Mennonite Church Eastern Canada Annual Gathering and 25th Anniversary Celebration in Kitchener, Ontario in late April.

MCEC’s 25th Anniversary Cake, Scattered and Sown; In Every Seed a Promise

While there I was delighted to hear César García, President of Mennonite World Conference, speak.

Cesar Garcia, MWC

Cesar Garcia

In mid-May, I traveled to Winnipeg to visit churches and donors in Manitoba. While there I met with Melissa Miller, pastor of Springstein Mennonite Church near Winnipeg and chair of MennoMedia’s board since January, 2012.

mmiller

Melissa Miller, chair of MennoMedia Board

MennoMedia’s eight person board is comprised of three Canadians and five U.S. citizens. This bi-national focus serves our churches and their members well by keeping MennoMedia’s focus above national distinctives and on eternal truths.

So, over the past 16 years I have moved from becoming a Mennonite and serving a local Mennonite church, to a leadership role in a regional body of Mennonite Church USA, to interacting with Mennonite pastors and church leaders all across the U.S. and Canada. I have been richly blessed by these experiences and am enthusiastic about our mission to “engage and shape church and society with resources for living Christian faith from an Anabaptist perspective,” and about inviting others to share that mission too.

Steve Carpenter, Director of Development

Steve Carpenter, MennoMedia’s Director of Development