For 2007, the Mennonite Life editors have decided to publish two larger issues rather than our usual quarterly publication. Thus, this spring 2007 issue constitutes what would have usually been our March and June issues.
For this issue we invited three scholars to comment on a new book by Raylene Hinz-Penner, with special attention to the topic of genre. The book, Searching for Sacred Ground: The Journey of Chief Lawrence Hart, Mennonite, was co-published by Cascadia Publishing House and Herald Press. It appeared as number seven in the C. Henry Smith Series, edited by J. Denny Weaver. For a number of years, Hinz-Penner served as arts editor for Mennonite Life. While doing research and writing for this book, she was a key planner and organizer of the conference "Cheyenne, Arapaho, Mennonite: Journey From Darlington," hosted by Lawrence and Betty Hart in Clinton, Oklahoma. Papers from that conference appeared in the June and September 2006 issues of Mennonite Life.
In the foreword to Searching for Sacred Ground, Native American scholar Donald Fixico praises the book as "a biography that . . . reveals the powerful presence of traditionalism in a historical figure who still works in the present." But the book, while surely a tribute to the life and ministries of Lawrence Hart, is both more and less than a conventional biography. Reviewers Susan Huxman, Phyllis Bixler, and Jeanine Hathaway, writing in this issue of Mennonite Life, all agree that Hinz-Penner crosses conventional genre boundaries. This is a book that deserves attention for its distinctive literary qualities as well as for its narrative of the life of a remarkable Cheyenne Mennonite leader.
How can Mennonites nurture healthy memories of the Anabaptist martyrs? In our December 2006 issue, Stephanie Krehbiel and Melvin Goering pointed to the dysfunctions of martyr memories. In this issue, three well-known Mennonite scholars (Robert Kreider, Joseph Liechty, and Gerald Mast) and two younger writers, recent graduates from Bluffton University and Bethel College (Hannah Kehr and Jesse Nathan), respond to Krehbiel and Goering. The respondents all affirm the value of the martyr tradition for modern life. The dialogue will continue.
Most artists seem to prefer having their art works speak for them, rather than attempting to put the ineffable into words. Nevertheless, many artists have fascinating personal narratives. Our interview with Mennonite art pioneer Paul Friesen is a long overdue telling of such a narrative.
Anthony Siegrist, in an essay on the theology of John Howard Yoder, argues that an "apocalyptic style" is central to Yoder's thought. Siegrist presented this essay at a conference in Toronto in September 2006.
Mennonites have often told their history in a way that could be called "Menno-centric," telling Mennonite stories in a way that is disconnected from the world around them. John Staples here recounts one of the well-known Russian Mennonite stories of the nineteenth century as "a history of many peoples living together in Tsarist Russia."
Recent literary developments in the world of Mennonite letters include exciting communal progress in the editorial discoveries of further alleged writings from the elusive Abraham Nofziger, first brought to us by Dallas Wiebe (December 2002, June 2004, and September 2004). One pleasurable idea raised by this project is the possibility that the process of living in a Mennonite structure of names and ideas itself creates a “fictional” universethat, in other words, each religious-ethnic culture creates a linguistically-textured universe of community-constructed meanings in which to live.
We close this compendium issue with poetry invoking the embeddedness of theology in music and arts in the life of the church.
Since 1947, Mennonite Life has presented an annual bibliography (a few biannual during the 1970s) of recent Mennonite publications and acquisitions by Mennonite libraries. All of the previous 57 bibliographies have been placed on line in searchable format. Below is the 58th bibliography.