| Historical Committee
Page: Strangers and Pilgrims
Mennonites and Amish have often been a pilgrim people with intermittent
sojourns on various continents, places we have called home. From the
pulpit of the Locust Grove (Conservative Conference) church in the
Kishacoquillas Valley of central Pennsylvania, frequent use of such
terms as ”strangers and pilgrims” and ”a peculiar people,” reinforced
our self-perception as a people with no ”continuing city” here on
earth. In my father’s daily prayer, he thanked God that we could live
and worship in a country ”unmolested and undisturbed”—a reminder of an
earlier era when we lived in less hospitable homelands.
But our selective memories do not always register the experience of
African Americans who found this country to be a hostile land of
bondage. Nor do we always choose to remember the experience of Native
Americans, who were dispossessed of the very land which afforded
opportunity and wealth for European Americans. Neither of these groups
experienced the ”spiritual state of blessedness” in the ”landscape of
polity, order and stability” which characterized Swiss-German Mennonite
immigrants, described in Loewen’s article.
For Rosa and Le, Nicaraguan and Vietnamese immigrants, the identity as
pilgrims and strangers is a clear and present reality, as their stories
illustrate. Asia and Central America have replaced Europe as the ”old
country,” where its citizens are now ”molested and disturbed.”
In biblical history, Israel’s motivation for worshipping God and
welcoming the stranger was the memory of their own experience of
slavery and of God’s dramatic rescue.
Our collective memory—biblical and historical—along with recent U. S.
immigration restrictions, has led Mennonite Church USA to write and
adopt a statement on immigration. The statement reflects another
historic core commitment—compassion which calls us to bear one
another’s burdens: We reject our country’s mistreatment of immigrants,
repent of our silence, and commit ourselves to act with and on behalf
of our immigrant brothers and sisters, regardless of their legal status.
—John E. Sharp, editor
"God calls us to preserve our faith heritage, to interpret our stories,
and to proclaim God's work among us."