2013 Annual General Meeting(photos courtesy of Susan Braun, Osler, and Ruth Friesen, Saskatoon)
The 2013 Annual General Meeting held over Friday March 1, and all day Saturday, March 2 are reported here with photos to help tell the story.
On the Friday evening, as for a number of years in the past, we explored another one of the Mennonite churches in our Saskatchewan Valley area. This time it was the Plains Conservative Mennonite Church, also commonly referred to as "Whitecaps."
Plains Conservative Mennonite Church
Chester Steiner, one of their leaders, told us of their history, doctrines, and practices, and he also indicated that they do not find the shorter nickname, "Whitecaps" offensive. It helps to identify who they are.
The Plains Conservative Mennonites come out of the tradition of the Mennonite Church USA, because they sought to live a purer, holier life. They now have two churches in Canada, and 22 Fellowships, two of which are in Saskatchewan. Their own core group came from LaCrete, AB, when invited to hold meetings in Martensville and Warman - and after they sensed a welcoming spirit and need.
When the sending church relocates some families, it also provides funds and teachers for their private school. For advanced education they send their young people to a Bible School in Ohio.
They hold to the ordinances of baptism, communion, marriage, and also foot-washing. Furthermore, based on 1 Corinthians 11, they believe that women should have their heads covered, and they should greet each other (same sex only) with a holy kiss, (which is a formal handshake) and the verbal, "God Bless." According to James 5:14-15, it is in order to ask for anointing and prayer for the sick. They have seen some profound healing as a result.
The teachers in their schools are not certified from secular colleges, but are members in good standing and excellent teachers. Young students do well. Anything less than 60% on examination is considered a failure. Their teachers attend teaching workshops at their Bible School in Ohio.
Steiner said that they would wish all of their young people would choose to stay with the church, but they are grateful that 96% do so.
He spoke too, of their mission outreach around the world. They have 115 Fellowships/churches worldwide. All but 41 are in Canada and the USA. They support a family in the Philippines and a group of them discretely carries Bibles into China, by the thousands. Their own group has a ministry of singing in places like the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon, in nursing homes, and wherever they are welcomed.
After his presentation, and a short time of questions and answers, the group of families from the Whitecaps that had come along, gathered on the platform and sang four hymns in beautiful harmony, and without musical instruments.
Victor Wiebe, retired university librarian and very knowledgeable archivist, showed and told about a very old Gesang Buch (Hymn book) written around 1850 that is in the MHSS archives. It contains songs without notes. Victor reviewed some history of the Anabaptists, who liked to write and use their own hymns for some 200 years. Their first published hymn book was in German in 1750-1760. Some used Ciphers, or numbered shapes rather than musical notes.
One of the Plains Mennonite women present said she has such a book and is able to read the ciphers.
Naturally, visiting and networking over coffee and cookies followed. In this glimpse, it is Marilyn Steiner and Ruth Friesen catching up after not seeing each other for a few years.
While the adults enjoyed the chatting over refreshments, our photographer caught our dear Esther Patkau, retired missionary, and pastor, and now the Chaplain at Bethany Manor, playing tag and little games with the children of the Whitecap families in the foyer. It was quite touching.
Saturday - Annual General Meeting
Besides the regular business matters, on Saturday morning, Elizabeth Guenther announced another book launch for June 9, for a "Fehr book", and Victor Wiebe described the Secure Room in the archives, which is a vault for four kinds of items; things restricted by law, such as student records, cause of death, things with a date or time restriction, and rare, fragile items that must be handled with white cotton gloves. Victor stressed that the archives does want these items to be seen and used, but with the exact restrictions.
Sprinkled with witty banter, other reports were presented, on the website, the cemetery project, new initiatives from the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada (MHSC), and Kathy Boldt reported on the volunteers and archives committee, and the many things they have accomplished over the past year. Victoria Neufeldt, editor of the Historian, explained why there were not three issues in 2012, Jake Buhler talked of the application for a federal grant for the archives, and Dick Braun reported on the expansion project, and all the progress made in recent months.
Dick also relayed an invitation from Rod Andrews of the Sask Valley News to publish photos in the hopes of identifying people.
The Treasurer, Elmer Regier, made short work of the positive financial reports and budget, bringing the meeting to Board elections. The four members whose terms were up, allowed their names to stand, Elmer Regier, Jake Buhler, Jim Friesen and Erna Neufeldt, and were handily re-elected. (Two more could have been elected, but none were nominated).
After coffee and sweets, the next session had Dr. Walter Klaassen bringing his presentation on, "The importance of Pilgram Marpeck and why Mennonites are neither Protestants nor Catholics."
Briefly, in an Oxford library in England, Klaassen discovered the writing of Pilgram Marpeck, a theologian of the early Anabaptist era. Marpeck's style was more like that of Martin Luther. While John Calvin, also a theologian of that time, had a motif or theme of God's sovereignty, Marpeck's was a motif of the humanity and divinity of Christ. Marpeck quoted much Scripture, and regretted, and pointed out legalism in the church.
A thoughtful Q and A session followed Klaassen's presentation.
Just before adjourning for the catered lunch, Jake Buhler asked for the oldest person attending. It turned out to be Menno Friesen, formerly of Rosthern, who is 95. Menno was pleasantly surprised at the applause.
Before and after each session, the book table was surrounded by people looking at and buying books from Vera and Werner Falk, who always manage that area cheerfully.
After the lunch and hearty visiting, all assembled for Esther Patkau's workshop on how to write biographies and church stories. Her advice was slanted first to those who would like to make entries on the GAMEO website where Mennonites are encouraged to add to the database of information of Mennonite people, churches, institutions, etc. However, this can be adapted to writing your own biography or family history. The second part was on preparing a write-up on your local church. Or one that used to exist.
Esther Patkau's workshop was followed by an invitation to go down to the Archives in the basement underneath the Fellowship hall to tour the new facility and see the progress in Archives' expansion begun in 2012. The move of resources into the new location is not complete yet, so a date for the dedication had not been set as of the Annual General Meeting.
Part of the small crowd that followed Victor around and listened to his descriptions and explanations.
The south wall of the archives, were some of the volunteer staff stood to listen.
Victor explaining the books, shelves, categories, etc.
Some of the tour visitors along the north wall (near entrance to the elevators).
The aisles between the book shelves may look narrow but are much better than they were in the old area.
A background scene, showing the rolling shelves in the back and in the foreground the desks full of books and resources yet to be cataloged and carefully filed.
This reminds us to mention that Kathy Boldt did cautiously say that more volunteers are needed. However, she would like to screen them as this is exacting work, calling for great attention to detail.
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Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan (MHSS)
Room 900 - 110 La Ronge Road, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7K 7H8
Archive Hours: Monday: 1:30 - 4:00 p.m. Wednesday: 1:30 - 4:00 p.m. & 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.