Hey, have you read Seeking To Be Faithful?
It’s a book about the Evangelical Mennonite Conference, written by Harvey Plett.
I did not grow up within this conference, but I am from Southeastern Manitoba, and the area is rife with EMC churches. It felt like everywhere I went, the EMC churches ruled the roost, so to speak. I thought my family had nothing to do with all of that, though.
But, upon adulthood, and as I’ve begun asking questions and listening and now reading, I’ve been slowly learning some things about the EMC conference.
First, I learned that it’s “other name”, or, original name, was Kleine Gemeinde (“little church”). I thought it was kind of hilarious and kind of adorable.
Next, I learned this was a derisive term, an insult, because clearly being a little church is super-lame. (I don’t actually think that… however, I do think it’s funny that that’s the assumption.) But also… because of the proliferation of EMC churches around my region of the world, I thought they didn’t seem so little. Though I now understand that the entire church had moved here in the 1870’s… this being possible because there simply weren’t that many of them. So… me seeing so many EMC churches? I’m seeing an anomaly
And then I learned that I’m descended from members of the Kleine Gemeinde who were on the first boat of Mennonites that settled this area. I think it may have been my grandparents that decided to give a different conference a shot… and that’s how I came to be raised EMC-less.
So, suddenly I became curious about the EMC. So, when I found Harvey Plett’s book at the Steinbach MCC, I snapped it up. Frankly, I didn’t know this book existed. I just like to look for local history books. This book in particular seemed like a good read because it was intended to be a more accessible tome, written for youth. I figured this would give me a basic understanding, an overview, before I would continue to read the writings of Royden Loewen and Delbert Plett.
The book begins with an overview of Mennonite history, tracing what propelled the different waves of Mennonite migrations from Holland to Poland to Russia. I’m eager to compare this information with my genealogy information, to confirm which waves my ancestors were a part of.
By the third chapter, we learn about Klaas Reimer, founder of the EMC. Here we learn about the difficulties encountered by Klaas as he emerged as a leader of this small church… and by chapter 4, the painful break with the Grosze Gemeinde (big church). It’s very interesting to read about all the disagreements, recorded with impressive detail! There are many major disputes, some shady business dealings, and a lot of violent cap-throwing.
I’m only a third of the way through the book, and I’ve gotta say… I feel almost a little gossipy reading this. And so, I shall continue.
(Feature photo: farmland, as seen from the airplane window. Somewhere over the Canadian prairie provinces.)