Am I a Mennonite?


Mennonite women’s dresses and coverings

When I was a youth a girl who chose to follow Jesus in our Mennonite setting was quickly given a new identity. The process began when she “stood” for Jesus on one night in a revival meeting and the next night she appeared in church wearing a covering and a cape dress.  She was soon expected to wear her new apparel where ever she went.

Plain suit at EMS 1970

Plain suit at EMC 1970

A boy’s identification was less dramatic.  A long necktie was taken off, and perhaps later in time a straight cut plain suit replaced a fashionable lay-down collared one. He likely wore the plain suit only for church.

A Greencroft resident introduced herself to a small group by thanking them for accepting her.  She explained that she had worn “this covering” for many years.  Apparently she had been a part of groups in the past where she felt out of place, unaccepted and peculiar.  Her identification as a Mennonite is strong.

How things have changed. This past Sunday several youth were baptized at our church.  One was a young woman dressed in a gown with a low neckline and bare arms.  Her dress was not “plain” but her smile was radiant and her testimony was  persuasive.

Pastor Phil Waite is preaching a series of sermons on the general question “am I a Mennonite?”.   My Joy and I have found these sermons worth listening to a second or third time.  On August 2 he told us that he knew he was a Conscientious Objector to war before he knew one Mennonite.

On August 9, he told us that his identification as a candidate for ministry was strengthened by marrying a Mennonite woman, the daughter of a Mennonite theologian.  I asked an octogenarian how he knew he was a Mennonite? My father, grandfather and great grandfather were Mennonites, he replied. Such identities are sad and weak, said Phil.

Why-Did-Jesus-Get-BaptizedOn August 16 Phil preached from Philippians 3 and asked us to forget (yet not really forget) the past, but consider it rubbish, as Paul did.  I had preached from this scripture and since I was the son of an organic farmer I knew what to do with the kind of rubbish Paul wrote of.  Turn it into compost I told my audience.

In both second and third sermons Phil reminded us that early Christians were baptized “in the buff” by literally disrobing, being baptized, and puting on new clothes.  A new Christian took off the old and put on the new, i.e. Jesus.

Phil ended his third sermon with Isaiah 2:2-4 .Phil believes that Paul and Isaiah had the same universal vision.  Mennonites, when clothed with Jesus, have the secret of world peace, according to Phil, and this Old Fool.

The links take you to Phil’s sermons found about midway through the service.

About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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5 Responses to Am I a Mennonite?

  1. Nate Lehman says:

    I knew Jesus before he was a Christion or Mennonite and I liked him much better then. I am making an attempt to love what is and still have trouble with so called Christians but I am not perfect yet. Nate

  2. D. Lowell N issley says:

    Good question! I’ve struggled with it most of my life. Not being born into a Mennonite community or family, I became a “Mennonite” at age 13 when I was baptized along with my father and mother. Later in a Mennonite school I learned that to wear a plain coat was to be Mennonite. Years later, as a pastor, it became obvious that to be a Mennonite was more than dress and other cultural stuff. To be Mennonite is to seek guidance from the words of Jesus himself – the Sermon on the Mount, and to be committed to non-violence, peace, and to believe that Love is the way Christ would have us solve disputes whether local or national. As I observe a trend in Mennonite congregations, I wonder if PEACE is becoming an embarrassment to Mennonites while there is a growing appreciation by the “uncircumcised”.

    • Nate Lehman says:

      Peace and promoting peace is what I do. Your last long sentence would drive some people nuts. Who are the uncircumcised? Are they like Infidels?
      Could you see everyone included as children of God?

  3. Colleen Anderson says:

    I was reared Catholic but I knew at 12 that they were breaking commandments just in the church building with all the graven images. I was severely chastised by the priest for asking questions about specific bible passages. Screamed at in frontof the congregation. I read up on all the different religious beliefs I could find and the most closest to scripture seamed the Anabaptist/Amish/Mennonite. I have dressed plain, wore head coverings and prayed with like-minded people. So, what am I?

  4. Glen Miller says:

    I can trace my Mennonite lineage back at least 16 generations. I, with my wife Marilyn for periods of months or years, have lived with and worshiped with Mennonites in a variety of settings, English Baptists, Anglicans and Catholics. In all of these groups we found welcome, friendship and earnest Christians. We choose to keep our primary identity as Mennonites for several reasons: 1) the strong emphasis on the faith community as the source of primary support and inspiration and 2) the daily effort to walk in the path of Jesus that extends the kingdom of God on earth. Glen Miller

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