| Historical Committee
Since 1995, when I
became involved in the integration/transformation process—which, in my
opinion, had its strongest impetus in the 1941-1946 Civilian Public
Service experience—I have said there are two reasons we should do it.
First, for once we’re not splitting; we’re getting together. Second, we
will inherit new streams of history, which will reshape our sense of
identity and enlarge our treasury of stories.
The Back Page: An Enlarged Treasury of
My critique of the process was that we did not start with story; we
started with issues of polity, geographical boundaries, and structural
charts. These, of course, did not and do not create a groundswell of
There is something powerful and profound in the telling and the hearing
of stories. Narratives take us beyond the surface to the heart and soul
of a people. Hearts and souls reveal the passions, the pain, the joy,
the motivations, and the values that have shaped a people. And here is
So now we must do remedial work. The story collection, Gathering at the
Hearth, is one attempt to tell some of the essential narratives. There
are many more. We would do well to build into our
gatherings—conferences, assemblies, board and committee meetings—a time
for storytelling. We do it for children; we should do it for ourselves.
We do, indeed, have an enlarged pool of stories. Former MCs are often
surprised to discover Amish roots in the GC story; surprised to hear
about South German and Swiss heritage; surprised to hear about the
early missions to Native Americans; surprised by the growth of Asian
Mennonites; fascinated with the more recent migration stories.
(Migrations will be the theme of the April issue.) Former MCs are
sometimes surprised to learn that the General Conference (1860) was
established before the Mennonite Church (1898), in spite of its more
John Thiesen's lead article gives a broad and quick overview of the
General Conference Mennonite Church. Within this broad sweep are many
stories that wait to be told.
-John E. Sharp, editor
"God calls us to preserve our faith heritage, to interpret our stories,
and to proclaim God's work among us."