It started with a cookbook. Doris Longacre wrote Cooking More-with-Less in 1976 in response to North America’s over-abundance in relation to world hunger. It is a compilation from members of her church living and working all over the world. My copy, purchased at Ten Thousand Villages three years ago, is not just a cookbook but an education on “…a way of wasting less, eating less, and spending less which gives not less but more.”
Shortly before her death at age 39, Doris Longacre wrote a second book titled Living More with Less. It is also a compilation not of recipes but of practices and testimonies from her church community on how to simplify our lives. The first part of the the book identifies and defines the standards of living in which these practices reflect: do justice, learn from the world community, nurture people, cherish the natural order (stewardship and environmentalism) and nonconform freely (choosing limitations in spite of societies message of materialism). The author writes, “These and other standards must become second nature for Christians, part of the heredity of our new birth.”
Both books are wrinkled, stained, dog eared, and written in. Both made me want to study and learn more about her religion that seemed so aligned with my values (sadly, not always my actions). I discovered that her Christian faith is part of the anabaptist movement in the 16th century (the belief that adults should be baptized on confession of faith as apposed to at birth). It is one of the groups that advocates Christian pacifism or a peace church. Peace churches agree that Jesus advocated nonviolence. In fact, The church has become move active in peace and social justice through coalitions around the world. Also interesting, the early group that first settled in North America wrote the first formal protest against slavery in the United States.
A church that focuses on Jesus AND simple living, peace and social justice?!! It almost sounded to good to be true. (Which is unfortunate really as they go hand in hand). What denomination you ask?
Mennonite. Yes. Mennonite.
I’m from Northern Ohio. Growing up, driving through Holmes and Wayne County, the way you could distinguish (to my knowledge) between Amish and Mennonites was what was parked in the church parking lot and what was hanging on the close line. If it was a horse and buggy it could be either. If it was all black cars, it was the Mennonites. All black dresses drying in the sun? Most likely Amish. Pastels? Mennonites. Please forgive me for the over generalization. Keep in mind I was just a kid.
I was raised by two loving parents who are followers of Christ. Their faith has evolved into something I truly envy. And I think that their belief and faith in Jesus is all the better because of their past experiences. It’s been a long, hard road and they’ve come a long way baby. For the sake of time I won’t go into my religious upbringing. But I will say that because of it, the slightest ting of legalism and separatism makes my hair stand on end. I don’t know much, but I have figured out that strict rules on diet and personal appearance (which is usually directed at women) such as cutting your hair, wearing makeup, drinking a beer, or playing cards are matters of personal choice, not salvation.
The reason I bring this up, is because I am thinking about visiting a Mennonite Church. All prior observances told me these fast hard rules on lifestyle were a MAJOR part of ALL members of this particular religion. Been there. Done that. Not using technology? If that wasn’t a form of separatism I didn’t know what was!
There is one experience that was different from all the rest. While working for SEIU 1199 on an organizing campaign for the hospital employees of CHP I was making contacts and finding supporters in the community at large. This is how I met the pastors of one of the Mennonite Church in Springfield, Ohio. I initially found a member of the congregation preparing food for a church potluck in the basement. She was an older “plain clothed” women which satisfied my expectations. She informed me that the pastors (Yes, plural. It was a husband and wife) were across the street. They came out to greet me and the wife (I wish I could remember their names) was wearing shorts. Shorts?!
This shock to my system almost overshadowed that fact that the work they were doing was awesome. They were renovating a house that church owned that housed men who have recently been released from prison. The church helped the men find work and reintegrate themselves into society, as opposed to living on the streets, lacking options and winding up back in jail. On top of that she used to be an RN and was totally pro union. I guess I chalked it up to a fluke. Surely this wasn’t the norm.
Mennonites in my computer
Back to the cookbook and Living More With Less.
After further investigation about the church I knew I HAD to visit. I found several congregations in Richmond and then started to loose my nerve for the second time. The first time I decided against visiting was because I was pregnant and Don and I were not married at the time. This did not make me the poster child for any religious group, Christian or otherwise. But certainly the Mennonites would have a greater amount of distain for my condition. (Don’t ask me how a come to that conclusion. I don’t know.)
The second time I started to wimp out because, much like a 16 year old, I was worried about what would be appropriate to wear. Then it was the length of my hair. Surely that would be troublesome! More research was needed. Google would help me.
BLOGS! Mennonites blog? They twitter? They write about iphone applications and go to the beach wearing *gasp* bathing suits! Apparently I have a lot to learn. Or I’ve been living under a rock.
To Be Continued…
So I’m looking forward to my upcoming visit to the First Mennonite Church of Richmond in the near future. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, please pray for my guidance in finding truth, understanding and where I belong. Lord knows I need it.
Note: I hope you the reader can pick up on my sarcasm… and can forgive me for my total ignorance. In case you would like more information you can also check out Third Way Cafe. Thanks for reading.