This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Anabaptist Women in North America: A photo essay

In March, as part of its 125th anniversary issue, Vogue magazine published a series of photographs of women across the United States. One of these photo essays was titled “Anabaptists in America” and it featured photos of Conservative Mennonite and Amish women near Martinsburg and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Conservative Mennonite and Amish women are certainly Anabaptist women and an important part of the global Anabaptist family. I in no way want to denigrate their contributions or faith traditions. But what the Vogue article-and frankly most popular depictions of Anabaptists-miss is that the Anabaptist family in North America includes a wide variety of denominations who trace their roots to the 16th century Anabaptist movement and is a rapidly diversifying faith community. In the United States, Anabaptist communities led by people of color and in urban areas are the fastest growing. And, although this post primarily focuses on Anabaptists from North America, the largest Anabaptist community in the world is the Meserete Kristos Church in Ethiopia.

In addition, beyond what we wear, Anabaptists are distinctive because of our faith commitments. Each of the Anabaptist denominations represented in these pictures has its own vision statement. The Church of the Brethren, the largest Anabaptist denomination in the United States, adopted this vision statement in 2012: “Through Scripture, Jesus calls us to live as courageous disciples by word and action: To surrender ourselves to God, To embrace one another, To express God’s love for all creation.” Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA share a Vision: Healing and Hope statement that describes their purpose this way: “God calls us to be followers of Jesus Christ and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to grow as communities of grace, joy and peace so that God’s healing and hope flow through us to the world.” And the Mennonite Brethren Church in the United States describes their core beliefs this way: “Our understanding of God comes from the Bible. We believe that Jesus calls the people of the church to live in community (being), to serve God and others (doing), and to communicate to the world that God reigns over everything (telling).”

These are only a few of the Anabaptist communities present throughout North America and around the world.

Rooted in and innovating out of these traditions, Anabaptist women live out their faith in a variety of ways. They are pastors, teachers, business leaders, nonprofit workers, volunteers, mothers, grandmothers, gardeners, journalists, professors, writers, mission workers, runners, librarians and so much more. In this short post, we hope to paint a fuller picture of Anabaptists in North America. We put out a call for Anabaptist women to send us pictures with short statements about their work, their congregations and how their faith shapes their lives. We hope you enjoy this visual introduction to so many incredible Anabaptist women across North America.


~Hannah Heinzekehr, Executive Director of The Mennonite, Inc. (Pictured her with her daughter, Ellie. Photo by Chika Sunoto Photography)


The women of Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What it means to be Anabaptist: “Standing together, aware of our differences, answering Christ’s call to love and action in our community and world.”

Angelika Dawson

Congregation: Emmanuel Mennonite Church, Abbotsford, British Colombia (pictured here at Good Friday worship service)
What it means to be Anabaptist: “My son and I have organized annual worship services focused around the events of Good Friday using prayer, readings and rockin’ blues music to bring the story to life. To me, being an Anabaptist means being part of a worshiping community that values Jesus way of peace, the importance of community and the sharing of gifts. Singing is very much a part of my experience of worship, but it moves me most when I can sing with others. Bringing our voices together to make one whole sound is a beautiful expression of community.”

Gimbiya Kettering

About Anabaptist identity: “As a multiracial Black woman who lives in [Washintgon] DC, it sometimes feels like I am ‘passing.’ People barely believe me when I tell them I am Anabaptist. Since becoming a mother, I feel like I have more in common with my ‘foremothers’ than at any other time in my life. I wish I could talk with my great-grandmother, Frannie Stambaugh (pictured), about my daughter’s tutu stage, if shopping from thrift stores counts as simple living and my work for the Church of the Brethren as the Director of Intercultural Ministries.”

Rhoda Miller Blough (left) and Iris de León Hartshorn (right)

Congregations: Glennon Heights Mennonite Church, Lakewood, Colorado (Rhoda) and Portland Mennonite Church (Iris)
On being Anabaptist: “We are powerful Anabaptist women and Anabaptist women for peace!”

Meghan Florian

Congregation: Chapel Hill (North Carolina) Mennonite Fellowship
On Anabaptism: “Part of what being Mennonite means to me is being part of a community of love and peace, where we strive to listen and learn from one another and work for justice in the world. My community encourages me to live and love like Christ, and supports and challenges me in my work as a writer and professor.”
Photo: By Kate Roberts.

Suzette Shreffler (pictured with her husband, Scott)

Congregation: White River Cheyenne Mennonite Church, Busby, Montana (on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation)
About Anabaptism: “Being Anabaptist for me emphasizes the importance restorative justice and peace.”

Sue Park Hur (second from top left)

Congregation: Pastor of Mountain View Mennonite Church, Upland, California
About being an Anabaptist: “To m, being an Anabaptist means to recognize that the core of the gospel is the gospel of peace. I have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation and the privilege to share this good news to the next generation of peacemakers in my community.”
Photo: By Tim Nafziger from the ReconciliAsian Youth Peace Camp, 2016.

Three Friends, Three Artists: (from left to right) Anne Hostetler Berry, Sarah Kingsley Metzler and Marla Hostetter Kropf

Anne Berry on Anabaptism: “Community is one of the facets of Mennonite culture, worship and education that has been—and continues to be—most meaningful to me. I’ve developed lifelong friendships that are sustained through shared appreciation for diversity, creativity and sisterhood, as well as a church theology that advocates for women and the work we do in the world.” Read a blog post from Anne about the origins of this picture. 
Congregations: Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship, Goshen, Indiana; Fellowship of Hope, Elkhart, Indiana; Portland (Oregon) Mennonite Church

Joyce Kusuma

Congregation: Upland (California) Peace Church
About being a Mennonite in Southern California: I have a classmate from Lancaster [Pennsylvania], but she moved away from church. She says she was a Mennonite and was part of a very strict congregation. She had to wear a head covering. She moved away from home as soon as she was able. When she found out that I was a Mennonite, she said, “No way. You do not look like a Mennonite!” She hasn’t been to church for 20-some years. I told her she should come and check us out in Upland. I told her that she didn’t understand, that Mennonites are very diverse. If you look at a picture of a Mennonite, it’s not a standard Caucasian person with a head covering. I told her that I am a fourth-generation Mennonite from Indonesia, but she doesn’t believe that there are other Mennonites outside of the USA.

My second story was with a patient of mine. He found out that I was a Mennonite. He’s from Texas and has a country twang and he often talks about his guns. When he found out I was a Mennonite, he said, “Oh, like those who ride buggies?!” I said, “No, not really! But those Amish are our siblings.” I talked with him about pacifism and peace and things like that. It was a good opening conversation.

Melissa Bergen

Congregation: Pastor at Iglesia Compañerismo Cristiano and Local Missions Director at Shafter Mennonite Brethren Church, Shafter, California.
On Anabaptism: “Being Mennonite Brethren means taking time in between being a seminary student and a pastor to ride my bike and pray.

In response to our call for photos, we received over 60 submissions. You can peruse the rest of the photos and statements from Anabaptist women in North America below or on our Facebook page. These photos are posted in the order they were received and processed by our staff. 


In March, as part of its 125th anniversary issue, Vogue magazine published a series of photographs of women across the…

Posted by The Mennonite on Sunday, March 26, 2017

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