Mennonite Mirth: You know you are an aging Mennonite when
by Jep Hostetler
Numerous lists of You know you are getting older when
exist. These purport to inform us regarding the aging process.
These lists include everything from infirmities to foibles that
may or may not be unique to older folks. It occurred to me that
the list for aging Mennonites has yet to be published. In an
attempt to fill this obvious void, the following list is suggested
as a beginning.
You know you are an aging Mennonite when:
· You remember Life Songs #2.
I remember, as a child, creating rubbings by placing a piece
of paper over the face of the songbook and rubbing with a pencil.
This created a nifty replica of title as well as the large number
2. Do any congregations still use this hymnal?
· You remember that page 112 in Life Songs #2 is Wonderful
the Matchless Grace of Jesus.
This was a golden opportunity for a pubescent boy to attempt
to keep up with the basses as they rumbled through the scale
of Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus, deeper than
the mighty rolling sea... as the women climbed through
the high parts; and then to the crescendo ending with the women
searching for the most elusive Praise, his name high
note as Mrs. Bs loud voice outshone all the rest.
· The amen corner was more than a corner.
Up front, to the right, that is where the older elders (always
men, of course) sat to give affirmation to the preacher. In the
earliest days of my memory there were still audible amens
coming from the amen corner. When Rev. W. would hold forth with
louder and louder preaching, and the tempo picked up a bit, more
and more amens came from this part of the sanctuary.
· Women and girls sat on one side of the church while
men and boys sat on the other.
Clearly, this was segregation of the sexes in the sanctuary.
It was never clear to me why this arrangement was practiced.
In fact, no one was able to explain to this fourteen-year-old
boy, the theology behind this arrangement.
· Hymnsings were monthly after-the-Sunday-evening-service
Since there were numerous Mennonite churches in our community,
it was customary to have hymnsings on a rotating, monthly basis.
Following the early Sunday evening service, we would all jump
into cars and head for the designated church for the hymnsing.
Afterwards, clusters of high school boys and girls would stand
around outside the church, each eyeing the other in an attempt
to get up the courage to make some kind of verbal connection.
Courage meant leaving the security of the boys (read mens)
group and approach a particular young lady. The approach always
included an invitation to take the particular young lady home.
· You remember the holy kiss.
Unlike many of my male counterparts, the holy kiss seemed to
me to be a sacred greeting. My memory still retains this image
one of community, goodwill, and sacred greeting.
· Newly married couples were surprised by bellings.
Once a newly married couple was settled into their new home (or
mobile home, or living with a relative), a particular night was
chosen for the young people to sneak up on the location. On a
given signal the house was surrounded by Mennonite, nonresistant,
stealthy, young folks, bent on making the loudest racket they
could muster. When the signal was given, they would pounce on
the home, ringing bells, blowing whistles, banging pans or drums,
or shaking anything that could make a splendid racket. The startled,
unsuspecting couple was expected to emerge from their hideout,
express their total surprise, and invite the perpetrators in
for ice cream or watermelon.
· Nearly everyone went to church on Sunday morning,
Sunday evening and Wednesday evening.
Normal routine included attending each of the services, plus
it was uncommon to miss Sunday school for any reason, especially
if one were attending the worship service on the same day.
What items would make your list? Do you have any humorous
memories of abandoned traditions? Please send them to the writer
Jep Hostetler, Ph.D., Columbus, Ohio, is
a humor consultant and author. He is an associate professor emeritus
at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. He and his
wife Joyce serve as staff persons for the Mennonite Medical Association.
Mennonite Historical Bulletin, July 2001