On Wednesday My Joy and I were exposed to the most conservative Old Order Amish from a distance. On Thursday we had what I call close encounters. The day began with a drive around the campus of Lancaster Mennonite High School. In the first two years of the schools existence, Rhoda took her junior and senior years at LMS, 1943 and 1944. Then Rachel and Conrad graduated from LMS in their turns. Compare styles in Rhoda’s school picture with pictures of today’s campus in the links above.
Next we visited the office of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference. Laura Stoner, an attractive and gracious young woman received us. As Executive Assistant, She assists the Conference Moderator, Conference Coordinator, and other staff. She coordinates credentialing activities, helps to plan corporate gatherings, edits the Conference magazine, and manages the website and front desk.With her permission I took her picture as “the face of Lancaster Conference.” In my days most bishops would not have given her communion!
How wonderfully the conference has changed on congregational initiative and with the guidance of bishops. Meet the bishops here. (When I was ordained bishop I was asked to wear a black hat without dents or creases and a plain frock suit.)
I asked if either Joanne Dietzal, Conference Coordinator, or Keith Weaver, Conference Moderator, were available to meet, but both were thought to be in meetings. (Meet staff here.) We pushed through the inner double doors just as a man entered through the outer doors. We shook hands in the space between the double doors. What happened might be described as a God-moment. The friendly face belonged to Keith Weaver, conference moderator. His face lit up and mine must have lit up too, as we introduced ourselves.
Knowing our time together had to be short I quickly described my concern for the unity of Mennonite Church USA, a concern that we shared. I told him the gist of a letter being composed by members of the “Sam-Hedrin in Goshen. He acknowledged that the letter called for local autonomy. We parted and I was thrilled to have been able to communicate with him and to believe that I had been heard with understanding and love.
Next, the GPS guided us to Landis Homes. After getting an address to Paul and Mary Zehr, My Joy and I ate a picnic of goat’s milk and protein bars in the parking lot of Landis Homes. (My Joy likes the milk and wants to find a source for it in Goshen.)
Paul Zehr and I had worked together in Florida to take the first steps of what was to become the Southeast Mennonite Conference. He served as pastor of the Mennonite Mission in St. Petersburg, Florida, and lectured at the Tabernacle in the Wilderness before it was moved to Lancaster.
Zehr helped with the tabernacle”s relocation, and polished the lecture with the help of a Jewish Rabbi so it would not be offensive to Jewish guests. He served as a Lancaster Conference Bishop and as administrator of the Lancaster extension of the Eastern Mennonite University. It did not take long for us to reconnect.
Close Encounters to be continued