A tribute issue

Issue 2022, vol. 76

Sometimes you can plan these things in advance, but not in this case – this issue of Mennonite Life has turned out to have a theme of “tribute.” In the first half of 2022, the Mennonite historical world lost two irreplaceable figures.

One was Lawrence Hart of Clinton, Okla., Principal Peace Chief of the Southern Cheyenne, ordained Mennonite minister, military veteran; husband of Betty, father of Connie, Nathan and Cristina; pastor, friend, mentor and role model to countless. Two decades ago, Raylene Hinz-Penner began her friendship with the Harts around writing Lawrence’s biography, Searching for Sacred Ground. In this issue, she muses on her trip to Clinton to join in the celebration and farewell for Lawrence’s life – and wonders who can replace this man whose first language was Cheyenne, who was thoroughly Mennonite, Christian and Cheyenne, who could speak to and for his people in a voice that may now be permanently silent.

The second man is Keith Sprunger, who by every account of past students was an unparalleled teacher. (Interestingly, Lawrence Hart majored in history at Bethel College, but graduated just a handful of years before Dr. Sprunger started teaching there in 1963.) Keith’s teaching did indeed lead to scores of history majors at Bethel, but even those who chose other majors seem to have deeply appreciated his compassion, his dedication to history, and his sincere interest in their lives and welfare well after they had left student days behind. In addition to some appropriately historical data on Keith’s life and work, the rest of the section is in the words of appreciative former students.

The other two main articles come from presentations made in the first half of 2022. Kauffman Museum at Bethel College is celebrating 125 years of collecting with an exhibit that brings a number of artifacts out of its collection that the public has never viewed before. The lead guest curator, Reinhild Janzen, and museum director emerita and major spark plug of the exhibit Rachel Pannabecker each reflect on what it means to collect and to share through the medium of a museum.

And Karen Reimer, who practices creativity in many forms, including through craft (stitching, quilting, embroidery – not incidentally, traditionally seen as women’s work and, for purposes here, in particular Mennonite women’s work), had a major show at the Salina Art Center in late winter/early spring. She shares her thoughts on craft, historically undervalued by the art elite but coming into its own in recent decades, and how craft intersects with feminism, class consciousness and social justice.

As always, there are book reviews and Book Notes that cover fiction, poetry and memoir, as well as nonfiction topics ranging from antiracist spirituality to the Indonesian Mennonite story to a deep history of one well-known and respected Mennonite historian’s “family land” in eastern Pennsylvania. And much more besides.