Tag Archives: MHEP

Food – Heritage, Sustenance, Culture, Celebration, Community

by Sarah Heffner, Mennonite Heritage Center

 Food is a daily and essential part of our lives. It touches on creation, celebration, and community.  Food is also a concern as extreme weather cycles and global strife impact the production of food and people’s access to adequate food. Global issues affect local food production and food consumption. Locally, 10 – 11% of Montgomery County residents experience some form of food insecurity.  

A new exhibit, Food: Our Global Kitchen will be on display from July 6, 2019 through January 4, 2020 at the Mennonite Heritage Center. The Opening Reception for the exhibit is scheduled for Sunday, July 28 from 2-4 pm. The exhibit features large-format, colorful exhibit panels created by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).  Exhibit themes about the global food supply include Food Waste, Scarcity & Abundance, Crop Diversity, Trade & Transportation and the Future of Growing.

The accompanying exhibit, Food Heritage of Eastern Pennsylvania, depicts our regional food heritage. Raising crops and preparing and preserving food was, and still is, a keen reminder that we are dependent on the Lord for the harvest each year. Events like our Apple Butter Frolic are great fun, with the sampling of traditional foods and farming demonstrations, but events like that don’t always connect us to the realities or labor of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century farm families or what the loss of prime farm land to development has meant in the mid-twentieth century. The regional food heritage exhibit connects some of those dots.

The local food story will begin with that of the 17th-century Lenape people and continue with the stories of the 18th-century European immigrants and 19th-century farm families who raised and prepared most of their own food. Beginning in the mid-20th-century, the region experienced rapid growth and development, and, today, a minority of area Mennonites are involved in agriculture. There is, however, a resurgence of interest in locally grown food, seasonal cuisine, and environmental and social justice issues surrounding food production and distribution.

Programming accompanying the Food: Our Global Kitchen exhibit: 

  • Friday, September 20, 5 p.m. Traditional Foods Potluck, in partnership with Indian Valley Public Library. Bring a dish from ethnic cookbooks featured at the library. Preregistration required.
  • Sunday, October 27, 7 pm. Community Harvest Home service in the Nyce Barn. Speaker Nate Stucky, Director of the Farminary Project, Princeton Theological Seminary. Open to the public.
  • Friday, November 8, 5 p.m. “Mennonite Community Cookbook” Potluck celebrates this classic Pennsylvania German Mennonite cookbook. Bring a dish/recipe from the cookbook. Preregistration required.
  • Sunday, November 17, 2:00 pm: This Very Ground, This Crooked Affair—Historian and storyteller John Ruth will present his work on finding language and understanding around the transfer of the land between the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers from native peoples to our Mennonite ancestors. Open to the public.

Thank you to the following congregations for their financial support for the exhibit: Blooming Glen Mennonite Church, Franconia Mennonite Church, Plains Mennonite Church, and Zion Mennonite Church, and to our business sponsors; Alderfer’s Poultry Farm, Godshall’s Quality Meats, and Bauman’s Fruit Butters.

God Makes All Things New

by Stephen Kriss, Executive Minister

Jesus is the center of our faith.  Community is the center of our life.  Reconciliation is the center of our work.—Palmer Becker from Anabaptist Essentials

 “Your people shall become my people.”—Ruth  1:15

Photo credit: MHEP

The Facebook post from retired Lancaster Conference Bishop Freeman Miller showed a photo of the former First Mennonite Church in Philadelphia with missing windows, a high wire fence and a notice of building violations and possible demolition.  While this building hasn’t been inhabited by the First Mennonite Church of Philadelphia for generations, I felt the pain of the possible loss.  This building had been the meetinghouse of what had been one of the largest Mennonite congregations on the East Coast, though they had relocated to the suburbs long ago.  It was the home church of Ann Allebach, the first Mennonite woman ordained for ministry in the country.  The Mennonite Historians of Eastern Pennsylvania worked to add the building to the city’s historic register.  For Eastern District, it represents a key historic spot and story.

When I came to Franconia Conference from the western half of the state over a decade ago, I learned quickly that to lead in our community meant learning our history.  I have also learned that it means learning to listen to those who are sometimes just outside of the narrative, as well as those whose stories we have not told.  For over 150 years, the stories of Franconia Conference and Eastern District Conference have been stories told in contrast:  General Conference/Mennonite Church (GC/MC) across the street, down the road, more worldly, more conservative.  The challenge for us in reconciliation will be to learn to tell our stories together in a fragmenting time.

As we move this fall toward the possibilities of reconciliation, I believe we are moving toward what is the essence of the Spirit’s work of healing and hope in our time.  The project of honestly assessing the wounds of the past and recognizing the possibilities that are unleashed through reconciliation and forgiveness gives us a strong posture for the future. 

How do we honor our experiences learned through our years alongside each other but apart?  How we do hear the stories told and untold?  How do we let our brokenness heal so that we are stronger and postured uniquely for the work and witness of God for our time?

For me, this means learning the stories of Eastern District Conference and honoring those places and spaces that are significant in their history, as well as the history of Franconia Conference.   It means emphasizing the role of God as is often de-emphasized in the story of the Prodigal Son, the one who welcomes home, who celebrates a return to family, who welcomes repentance and challenges arrogance even in faithfulness.  In the history of our story together as Conferences, at times we have both squandered our inheritance, distracted by the things of this world rather than the way of Christ’s peace.

I believe that reconciliation will make us stronger as a community.  Not because this bolsters numbers or helps with efficiencies, but because reconciliation further transforms us into the image of God revealed in Christ, who lays down privilege, who embraces incarnation, who recognizes the God who creates all things new — even 300-year-old communities of Mennonites separated for over a century.