A Little Left
I was an editor at Mennonite Publishing
House for thirty-eight years. Right away I feel a need to
qualify this statement. Those years included leaves of
absence and so were not a solid block of editorial work.
Also, some six months after I retired, I went back on
staff part-time for three-and-a-half years and midway in
this period received a forty-year award.
So there is a slight untidiness in
speaking about my term of service as editor. But then
editorial work itself was not tidy. Editors by definition
are enthusiasts for the subjects treated in their
publications. On occasion they may be more enthusiastic
than their readers. Indeed an editor is in some sense an
educator, and educators are never satisfied. So editors
may tend to push their readers and some will be
I was dismayed by a reference to
Mennonite Publishing House that once appeared in a
Mennonite district conference publication.
Materials coming out of Scottdale, this
writer said, are generally a little left of
center. I was concerned because I disliked the
burden of a stereotype. I had hoped to be able to
describe and report on things as they really areto
break down stereotypes. The writer had stereotyped me.
On further thought I was inclined to
accept his stereotype. At least he had not labeled us
reactionary. And it occurred to me that the work of an
editor for a Christian publication might well take him
a little left of center if the center
represents the status quo. Should not an editor be an
advocate for change?
Because the church supported me for
over four decades, I owe it some account of how I became
an editor and what I think I did. This book tells that
story. Although I did not often have time to reflect on
it, to be supported by the church is not a role to accept
lightly. I hope I did not do so.
I begin with the story of my family
background. I could start otherwise for the church itself
is a family. Indeed the amount of detail available on my
family used to embarrass me, since some lack this luxury.
Then came Alex Haleys Roots and it seemed genealogy
was an in topic. If a descendant of slaves
could find and rejoice in his family tree, why not the
rest of us? Of course to write a memoir has its own
hazards. Now my friendsand any enemiescan say
to themselves about me, Now I understand why he is
the way he is.
I find as I reflect another reason to
write. There are things I want to say and I feel more
comfortable saying them as part of my story than getting
up on a stump and preaching. So here is what
I have found as I reflected onand in some cases did
research onmy background and my experiences.
This account has the memoirs
limitations. This is how I saw matters. Others looking
from other perspectives no doubt saw things differently.
I have tried to allow for that. I also find that most of
my work was probably not very far left of
centerjust enough to cause an occasional
As I review these materials I see the
usual tension between a chronological and a thematic
approach. Unless one is to write only a diary or a strict
chronology, one finds oneself carrying some themes
through to the end before going on with the rest of the
story. I think there are enough reference points to keep
you from getting confused about this, but be forewarned.
Daniel Hertzler, Scottdale, Pennsylvania
A Little Left of Center