Last year at this time, I had been invited to write a feature article for the December issue of The Mennonite. I chose to write about living into the “messy middle” of life and looking for God even, or especially, in the midst of chaos. As it turns out, I could have been writing those words to myself today. Little did I know the journey this past year would take me on, and here I am, writing my first editorial as the executive director for The Mennonite, Inc., and trying to remind myself to flow with the chaos of new beginnings and give myself grace to adjust.
I’m surprised, honored and excited to find myself in this new role, and I’m encouraged by the commitment and expressions of support I’ve already received from so many people who read The Mennonite in print and online. Thanks to all of you for the warm welcome you have extended.
During my second week on the job, I traveled to Bluffton (Ohio) University to present a paper at the Mennonite Education conference. While there, one of my former professors and longtime board member of The Mennonite, Inc., Gerald Mast, gave me a “tour” of past Anabaptist and Mennonite publications in the Mennonite Historical Library on Bluffton’s campus.
I paged through issues of the Herold der Wahrheit/Herald of Truth, a publication coming out of the Old Order Amish and Conservative Amish Mennonite traditions in the early 1900s. I read editorials from John Funk, articulating a new call for a distinctive Anabaptist vision long before H.S. Bender ever wrote his watershed text. I flipped through old issues of Gospel Herald, the former Old Mennonite Church publication, and saw familiar faces smiling out at me from the pages, albeit looking a bit younger. I was intrigued by copies of The Christian Exponent, a publication launched by young adults who desired a more radical witness from the communities they were a part of. And I read old issues of The Mennonite, before it became the official publication of Mennonite Church USA and represented voices from the General Conference Mennonite Church.
I am grateful for this peek back into the lineage this publication you are holding grows out of. What I realized as I surveyed this literature was that Anabaptist publications have played an important role in shaping the conversation communities and denominations are participating in. They have provided forums for debate, inspiration and encouragement. And perhaps especially in moments of conflict and division, they have provided a rallying point for people from a variety of denominations or groups to connect and engage in a common conversation.
At this particular moment in Mennonite Church USA’s history, as we are seeing the emergence of a new denominational configuration and way of being, I’m grateful to be joining the team at The Mennonite as we seek to provide a forum to ask tough questions, wrestle with what it means to follow Jesus at this particular moment in time and continue together to put “flesh on the bones” of an ever-evolving Anabaptist vision—rooted in Scripture, grounded in a long Anabaptist faith tradition and reshaped again and again by the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Indeed, The Mennonite would not exist without the writing, art, letters, subscriptions and financial support of many people across the denomination. I’m grateful to be on this journey with each of you, and excited to see what unfolds in the coming months and years.