Mennonite Women of First Mennonite Church, Bluffton, Ohio
Announcing an original production: Mennonite Women: 100 Years in Story and Song
Jan. 13 at 3 p.m., First Mennonite Church (FMC), Bluffton, Ohio
You could call it musical theater … or a musical review. Or a very entertaining history lecture. Wendy Chappell-Dick has set to music committee minutes that have been carefully archived for the last hundred years into a lively dramatic production, ready to make you laugh and cry. Join us for a review of 100 years of hymns and pop songs that trace our changing culture and evolving theology. Come to celebrate and learn, and be prepared to sing along!
Hymns, like our understanding of mission and theology, are not made in a vacuum, but are part of the great arc of history. These songs take us through the decades as a poignant guide. Each hymn verse has been chosen carefully for the message of inspiration their lyrics hold for us, and undoubtedly held for the women of that decade.
The music that was chosen serves as a reflection of waves of cultural and social events that shook, challenged and sometimes strengthened Mennonite Women’s understanding of the church, and their role in the world.
The founders of FMC’s women’s organizations dared to claim a role specific to women here, and honor its importance. FMC’s Mennonite Women group has come through years when their work sometimes felt futile, exuberant decades of high turnout, and times of self-reflection and even doubt, to emerge victorious and vibrant 100 years later. All the Menno ladies, put your quilts up! We’re ready for the next 100 years.
—Arranger and performer Wendy Chappell-Dick
Bluffton University archives has a treasure trove of material from FMC’s history, and part of that is an extensive chronicle of what the various women’s groups did during the past 100 years … box after box of meeting minutes and records. One hundred years of “mite boxes” and counting tax stamps, Christmas Bundles and wrapping bandages, missionary boxes and school kits.
Sorting through a century of records tells a story of changing times, changing needs — famine in India, displaced Mennonites in Europe and South America, Russian immigrants in Canada, Mennonite Memorial Home, Bible School for migrants, Camp Friedenswald, Chicago Learning Center.
Through it all, Mennonite Women continue to meet and serve.
—Archivist and narrator Joanne Niswander
Joanne Niswander, Jackie Wyse-Rhodes, Sara Brenner, Ana Neufeld Weaver, Wanda Stopher, Laurel Neufeld Weaver, Jan Wiebe, Beth R. Boehr, Kendra Johns Nickel, Marlyce F Gundy, and Wendy Chappell-Dick.