Responding to Her Challenge

I have encountered a challenge out of the past.

I’m reading through random past issues of Heritage Posting, a newsletter published by the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society. I’ve never really highlighted this publication before because I’ve had articles and reviews published in more recent issues and I am reluctant to promote myself and my writing (counterintuitive, I know, but it really is rather Mennonite of me). I write to you here on this blog because it’s an outlet, an opportunity for me to address and discuss these unusual interests of mine, which seem to make for incredibly poor small talk whenever I’m attempting to converse with someone whose imagination is not captured by the past.

So I open MMHS newsletter No. 59 from January 2008, and learn that at this time the President was Janis Thiessen, whose research I find particularly engaging.

Here she reveals something I’ve been noticing myself: that history belongs to those who record it. That is to say, people join the Society in order to pursue their own personal passion projects, delving into their very own histories or areas of specific curiosity. These are the histories and stories we come to know, which are made accessible for the next curious folk who come along.

At first I thought maybe she was calling these people out, like “Hey, you’re only here to talk about what interests YOU — what about all the other untold stories and details?!”

But no. Listen. In case you didn’t know, Janis Thiessen is much, MUCH cooler than that. For real. And much more pragmatic and honest, too.

Case in point: she leans into it.

Her message is this:

Look. You need to be like these people. Is there a Mennonite-related rabbit trail you’re itching to follow? A story you want to tell? Art that you want to create? THIS IS WHAT THE MMHS IS FOR.

“History need not be limited to traditional formats,” writes Thiessen. “The arts are means of storytelling as well. Approach the Society with your proposals.”

Even though this was written 13 years ago, it somehow feels even more potent today.

It starts here:

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