We have 3 winners today of Isaac Horst’s A Separate People: An Insider’s View of Old Order Mennonite Customs and Traditions. If you missed the original interview with Isaac’s son Osiah, you can find it here: Osiah Horst on Old Order Mennonites.
We’ve also got an excerpt from the book to share with you today.
On to the winners. I’ve tallied all extra blog/Facebook entries, and have used random.org to select three winners at random. If you commented more than once, that is a-ok, but for contest purposes I only counted the first:
#132, Katie Troyer
Congratulations, and please send the address where you’d like your book shipped to Osiah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you didn’t win, good news, you can still get a copy of the book. Osiah has a supply which he is selling. The price is $10 plus postage (plus GST in Canada). To order, you can contact Osiah at the email address above, or by snail mail at:
341 Zion Line
Cobden, Ontario, Canada K0J 1K0.
Finally, a short excerpt from Isaac Horst’s A Separate People:
Some people find our Old Order Mennonite customs difficult to understand, or even foolish. For example, especially during the summer, our places of worship are usually filled to capacity, yet about five meetinghouses stand empty. More meetinghouses will be built rather than using all existing houses at the same time. Observers ask, “Why not have services at every meetinghouse every Sunday? It would save the expense of building, and less driving would be involved.”
The answer lies in our age-old social pattern. When we have no services in the home community, we attend church in another community. After the service, we have dinner in one of the homes, then spend the afternoon in fellowship or just plain visiting. Usually we go home at about 4:30, in time to do the chores. Those currently milking usually go home earlier. Occasionally we have supper at a second home, if the young people do our chores.
This pattern is entirely different from that practiced among Old Order Mennonites across the border. Among them, all visiting is by invitation. At those meetinghouses shared with the Horning church, they meet on alternate Sundays only. Yet they would never consider visiting a home in another community without an invitation.
Our system seems haphazard to them. They likely think, “What if we have more company than we can accommodate? What about leftover food? Why set the whole house in order, when perhaps no one will come?”
To us, the advantages of this system far outweigh the disadvantages. Not the least is the surprise element of not knowing whom to expect. The hospitality shown by the hosts and the warm fellowship with others–both are very rewarding. By visiting in other communities alternatively, we maintain a close fellowship with all the other communities.
One of the greatest advantages of this system is the automatic exchange among the ministers. We have visiting “evangelists” almost every Sunday. Because services rotate among the various communities, the ministers likewise rotate. We never know who will be preaching before we arrive at the meetinghouse. We are ready to agree that variety is the spice of life.
In Ephesians 4:11, we read that Christ gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, others pastors, and still others as teachers. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, we read of diversity of gifts. We can endorse that.
Since no two of our ministers are the same, we have this diversity at our disposal. Some of them are more inclined to be evangelists, others pastors, and still others, teachers. This gives us a vast scope in the administration of God’s Word. If only we would make better use of this advantage!
“This system comes as a surprise to me. I understand the Old Order Mennonites to be frugal. You are careful about wasting money. Yet you operate five meetinghouses more than you need. How can you explain this?”
Everything you say is true. I find it hard to explain, myself. The best answer I can give is that it shows how extremely high we value our rotating meetings, and our social system. If it helps to strengthen the bonds of love and fellowship, who can put a price tag on that?
“Oh, yes, you are definitely right in that respect.”
There is another angle to consider. Even though we are frugal and all that, we are also very slow to change. This system is so deeply ingrained that no one gives a thought to the foolishness, financially.
“Is it common practice for two ministers to speak every Sunday?”
Yes. Sometimes it happens that one minister is alone. It does not spell a hardship, as far as the congregation is concerned. Yet one can tell that the minister feels rather burdened, to carry the load alone.
“Do the deacons never help to bear the burden of speaking?”
They might give a longer testimony than usual near the end of the service, but that’s about all. It would indeed be permissible for them to speak longer. But again, doing so would mean a change from the normal custom.
“Are your minsters installed for life?”
Yes, at least for as long as they are able to carry out their duties, depending on their age and health. When they are replaced they still exercise their office as much as health allows.