Historical Commission holds annual meeting


Commission awards research grant, hears from summer intern

Compiled from Historical Commission news stories

The Mennonite Brethren Historical Commission (MBHC), responsible for fostering historical understanding and appreciation among Mennonite Brethren in Canada and United States, held is annual general meeting June 7-8 in Winnipeg, Man. USMB representatives Don Isaac, the commission chair from Hillsboro, Kan., and Julia Reimer and Valerie Rempel, both of Fresno, Calif., join three Canadian members in coordinating the work of the commission and four archival centers in North America.

The Commission heard reports from each of the four archival centers: Center for M.B. Studies (Hillsboro, Kan.), Center for M.B. Studies (Fresno, Calif.), Mennonite Historical Society of B.C. (Abbotsford, B.C.), and Centre for M.B. Studies (Winnipeg, Man.). The reports highlighted book publications, recent acquisitions, conferences held and digitization of print, sound and image media.

The Commission also followed-up two competitive awards it initiated in the fall of 2012 thanks to the Katie Funk Wiebe Fund: a summer internship designed to give a college student practical archival experience and a $1,500 research grant to promote research and publication on the history and contributions of Mennonite Brethren women around the world.

Amanda Bartel, a history student from Bluffton (Ohio) University who was selected as the 2013 student archival intern, reported on her five-week summer internship. Bartel, of Iowa City, Iowa, concluded her internship in Winnipeg, so she was able to meet with the Commission in person.

Bartel spent one week at each archive helping with practical ongoing archival tasks—restoring papers, some covered in mold; sorting and organizing donated documents; updating a visual inventory; and inputting data into archival systems.

The internship also included the opportunity to research a topic of interest to the student. Bartel was interested in missionary stories since members of her family were connected with the Mennonite mission field in China in the mid-twentieth century. She tracked the stories of missionaries at each of the different archives. One such story is of Paul Wiebe, a fellow church member at First Mennonite in Iowa City, Iowa. In Hillsboro, Bartel found photos of a young Wiebe and his family from the time when they were missionaries in India. She scanned some of the photos and sent them to Wiebe’s daughter, who hadn’t been aware of them.

In an interview at the end of her internship, Bartel was asked what she’ll remember most about her internship. Bartel says, “The thing I’m going to take away most is the people I’ve met. It’s just been really fun to meet everyone and figure out what they’re doing and see what their different jobs are.”

The internship was designed so that “a young person (could) let loose in the archives, explore and have fun,” says Jon Isaak, executive secretary for the MB Historical Commission, about the first MB Historical Commission Archival Internship. The Commission was so pleased with Bartel’s work and enthusiasm that it will offer the internship again next summer.

Commission members selected Canadians Christine Kampen and Dorothy Peters as the first recipients of the MBHC research grant. The Commission was impressed with the project design, the research question and the potential for understanding better the particular story of Mennonite Brethren.

The research project, From Generation to Generation: The History and Transmission of the Spiritual Formation of Two Granddaughters, studies the history of the Christian spiritual formation of two Mennonite Brethren women, one serving as a co-pastor in an MB church (Kampen, Highland Community Church, Abbotsford, BC) and the other a writer and professor of biblical studies (Peters, Trinity Western University, Langley, BC).

Of special interest to Kampen and Peters is the “legacy of leadership” they received from their grandparents and parents. The study will combine oral interviews, analysis of contextual factors, and theological reflection on the process of writing a “history of spiritual formation” as MB women leaders.

“Kampen and Peters’s research will encourage us to listen to and record the living history of men and women ‘elders’ in our families and the MB Church,” says Commission Chair Isaac. “It honors the path Katie Funk Wiebe has taken in reminding us of the gifts both men and women can bring to the church.”

The Commission also celebrated the release of Maureen Klassen's book, It Happened in Moscow, launched during the weekend at the Winnipeg Center for MB Studies. Sixty people gathered Friday evening to hear Klassen describe the stunning discovery of a family secret and the steady assurance of God's presence through the horrors of Stalin's purges. Copies of this Commission publication are available from Kindred Productions. (ISBN 978-1-894791-35-9, 240 pp., $21.95, paper).

The Commission also toured the site of the Canadian Human Rights Museum that is nearing completion in downtown Winnipeg. The Friday afternoon tour reminded MBHC of its own mandate to preserve and interpret the stories and records related to Mennonite Brethren, one particular segment of God's people.

Since its formation in 1969, the Commission has helped coordinate the collection, preservation and interpretation of Mennonite Brethren archival records: congregational meeting minutes, conference proceedings, personal papers, periodicals and photographs.



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