Pennsylvania 2015 brought together over 7000 Anabaptists from around the world, representing some 80 countries. Worship was inspiring and the speakers spoke of their lives in the global south. The Brethren Choral Sounds Choir from Zimbabwe (pictured) thrilled the audience with their lively and energetic music. Nearly five centuries later, from their early 16h century origins in Switzerland, Mennonites are now a global people speaking many different languages, but testifying to a common faith in God.
It was a pleasure to stay with a Bluffton University host family at an 1852 farm house located on a Nature Reserve connected with the Ohio school. The historic house was built by the earliest Swiss Mennonite settlers to the west-central Ohio community. The historian saw geese, deer tracks, and signs of abundant wildlife, perhaps much like the way it was when the Mennonites migrated to the region decades ago.
The Historian attended a workshop on DACS, an archival content standard for archives and libraries, at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, March, 2014. Traffic on the busy Lincoln Highway rushes past important historic records in the nearby archives that remind one of an earlier era, before tour buses, harried shoppers, and commercialism changed the idyllic Lancaster farmland.
The Information Superhighway has changed schools. In the 1970s high schools had books, magazines, and traditional libraries. Today students can access a world of resources on computers in their classrooms. The Kennel Charles Church History desk (right), with Martyrs Mirror on the top shelf, hosts a state-of-the-art computer that brings information to the student in the history teacher’s classroom at Eastern Mennonite High School, Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Virginia Mennonite Bishop Lewis Shank, Broadway, Virginia, a photo by MennoniteArchivesofVirginia on Flickr.
The Historian discovered this rare photo of the Bishop in the Archives the other day. This photo was a total surprise. The only other photo of Bishop Shank is a grainy uncomplimentary photo. Nice to see a better photo.
Virginia Mennonite Conference Archives shelves, Harrisonburg, Virginia, a photo by MennoniteArchivesofVirginia on Flickr.
A hundred and seventy-five years worth of materials are stored in these archives. Like a detective, the historian searches through these boxes for the stuff of history: letters, journals, diaries, receipts, advertisements, photos, and scrapbooks.
In 2001, the good folks at Crest Hill Mennonite Church, Wardensville, West Virginia, invited a group of gospel bluegrass musicians to their church for an outdoor summer performance. The church invited Daphna Creek band in 2002 and 2003, the last performance during Sunday morning worship. Daphna Creek went on to play in over 200 venues, but the first show was at this church in West Virginia.
Mennonites migrated into the Shenandoah Valley as early as the 1730s, though not until after the Revolutionary War did the trickle turn into a steady migration from points north. Most 18th century Mennonites farmed, whereas in the twentieth century many diversified their economic pursuits into other areas of work. The farming heritage in the western part of Rockingham County near Clover Hill, Virginia, with the Allegheny Mountains as a backdrop, is still strong and deep.
On a crisp July Sunday evening after a thunderstorm erupted across the Shenandoah Valley, a group gathered in the Cove schoolhouse at the CrossRoads Heritage center to listen to stories about 19th century Martin Burkholder documents. “Grace is a treasure,” Burkholder wrote in 1853, a fitting description for any era, including ours today.
Historians met at Mennonite Church USA Convention in Phoenix Arizona. It’s clear there’s a new era of regional collaboration among Mennonite historians rather than the former centralization of historical resources in one place. The Historian sat next to Jake Buhler, President of the Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan, Canada. He shared stories about Russian Mennonites and in turn he heard stories of Swiss-South German Mennonites in Virginia. Buhler and others publish the Saskatchewan Mennonite Historian periodical, similar in name and format to the Shenandoah Mennonite Historian of Virginia.