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Editors' Preface
RE-ENVISIONING SERVICE
The Geography of Our Faith

Edited by Ray Gingerich and Pat Hostetter Martin

This third volume of essays from the “Monday Morning Breakfast” series of the Anabaptist Center for Religion and Society (ACRS) distinguishes itself from the previous two volumes in several ways: First, rather than being focused on Eastern Mennonite University faculty who are no longer actively engaged in the classroom, the essays in volume three are organized around the leitmotiv of service. In some of the essays this theme is much more in evidence than in others. It should be noted that “service” is quite broadly defined. For some of the authors it is quite literally a rendering of their life’s work. 

Most are quite aware that theirs was an “alternative service,” alternative to “military service”—alternative in method, with alternative support agencies. For others “service” is more outward-looking, giving us an account of how in the thought and in the institutional engagement that intertwined them, life served as a catalyst in a larger movement of the church—namely, the evolution of theology and practice within our religious denominations. Specifically, the changing strategies of being peacebuilders and of being a people of hope in a land that is not ours are most clearly enunciated in the final segment (Part V) of the essays of this collection.

Second, the first two volumes of The Geography of Our Faith, particularly the earlier essays of volume one (Making Sense of the Journey: The Geography of Our Faith—Mennonite Stories Integrating Faith and Life and the World of Thought (ACRS 2007, Cascadia edition 2009), constituted a series of intellectual memoirs belonging to the genre of “how my mind has changed.” The current collection of essays is more vocationally focused and might reasonably be read from the perspective of “how my life’s work has transformed me” into the person I now discover myself to be. That is, service is seen less from the perspective of what it has done for others and more with an eye on how those engaged in service have themselves been served—i.e., been transformed. Each of these shifts in focus deserves elaboration well beyond what is possible to provide here.

Finally, whereas the storytellers of volumes one and two of The Geography of Our Faith were all Mennonites, the current set of essays includes persons of the Church of the Brethren tradition. (Unfortunately we were unable to include Quakers, also included in the planning for this volume.) With several Anabaptist-related groups geographically comingling here in the Shenandoah Valley, where maintaining a pacifist-rooted faith has been neither culturally popular nor without political costs, we hope readers will find these personal accounts in the struggle to be faithful not merely historically interesting but a motivating inspiration toward faithfulness in their own particular vocations today. This is the geography of our faith. The metaphor underscores the socio-political landscape in which we live out our deepest commitments in the struggle to realize our profoundest hopes.

The representation of storytellers from the Brethren tradition in this collection should be yet another reminder of our common heritage and cooperative work expressed so well through the Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center (Crossroads) in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The focus on service as an expression of discipleship underscores just how central ethics and vocation are to faith and belief—key elements of the Historic Peace Churches (Mennonites, Quakers, and Church of the Brethren). This focus is also in keeping with the less academic tenor of the current set of memoirs than the tenor of previous volumes.

Our gratitude goes to each of the sixteen contributors of this volume, for their openness in sharing and the vulnerability that encompasses every good memoir.
Thanks to Margaret Foth for her urging to include the abbreviated biographical introductions on the title page of each of the chapters (sketches originally written by Ray Gingerich in his email invitations to the ACRS Monday Morning Breakfasts). We hope our readers will find delight in these sketches. They shed light on the authors’ characters—often highlighting dimensions which they themselves were unable to share.

Special thanks go to our publisher, Michael A. King of Cascadia Publishing House, for his continued commitment to storytelling as a way of laying the stones for the larger structure called “community,” and for the energy invested in making these essays available to a larger contemporary readership while preserving them for posterity.

Thanks must also be given to EMU for providing a home to ACRS and for lending support, particularly through Fred Kniss and the provost’s office. Without this institutional support, ACRS and its ancillary activities could not continue.
Ray C. Gingerich and Pat Hostetter Martin, Editors, ACRS Memoir Series

 

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