Awkward Mennonite photos

Compiled by Colleen McFarland, director of the Mennonite Church USA Archives

As someone who not only loves all things historical, but also appreciates a good laugh, I am a big fan of the Awkward Family Photos blog. If you are not familiar with this blog, it features thousands of unfortunate family portraits and snapshots commemorating graduations, holidays, birthdays, weddings, vacations, proms, new babies, and reunions. The photos earn the designation of “awkward” for a number of reasons: regrettable clothing choices, graceless poses, comical facial expressions captured accidentally, or “cute” themes that border on creepiness.  The awkward family photos that make me laugh the most are, of course, the ones that remind me of pictures I have seen in my own family’s albums.

The Mennonite Church USA Archives contain thousands of historical photographs, and I assure you that we hold our share of “awkward Mennonite photographs” in our collections. Below, I share with you five of my favorites.  Enjoy!

#5: Mennonite wedding (undated)

Advice to wedding photographers everywhere: discourage attendants from leering at the happy couple.


PAX Collection, 1945-2005. HM1-927 Box 4 Folder 1. Mennonite Church USA Archives.

#4: Bishop Swartzendruber learns that horses cannot multitask (circa 1950)

Clearly, taking care of its foal takes priority over getting the Bishop where he needs to go for this horse.

Mennonite Board of Missions. Photographs. Argentina, 1942-1963. IV-10-7.2 Box 1 folder 39, photo #37. Mennonite Church USA Archives.

#3: Toews and Funk with a Tapir (undated)

Of the three pictured, the tapir appears to be most comfortable posing for this photograph.

H.S. Bender Photographs. HM4-083. Box 1 Folder 3. Photo 54. Mennonite Church USA Archives .

#2: Mennonite World Conference General Council Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya (1981)

No matter how important your point is, it does not justify the violation of an indigenous woman’s nose.

Mennonite World Conference Records. X-09. Box 21, Folder 1. Mennonite Church USA Archives.

#1: Two Women with Contrasting Dress, Mennonite World Conference, Amsterdam (1967)

This striking image is the mother of all “awkward Mennonite photos.”

Mennonite World Conference Records. X-09. Box 19, Folder 8. Mennonite Church USA Archives.

To find more photo gems like these, visit the Mennonite Church USA Archives photostream on Flickr!


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