Since 1991, the December issue of Mennonite Life has focused on the arts. This issue is the tenth in this December arts series, and the first on-line issue in the series. My joy in helping to get this issue together the past ten years has been in the willingness, even eagerness, of Mennonite artists and writers (of renown) to share their work with the broader Mennonite community in this format. My impression is that our artists and writers truly desire to be in dialogue with the broader community. In fact, I remember the hesitation expressed by Jeff Gundy, poet from Bluffton, about the idea of an arts issue. Ever a supporter of the arts and already a longtime contributor to this journal, he worried that only artists would read the December issue, and he liked the notion of a poem next to a philosophical debate, not separated out into its own issue. (Note that in this issue filled with arts materials there is also a debate over the Jubilee 2000 debt relief initiative!)
We have also tried to be a forum for new writers and artists of a certain quality. It’s always a thrill to offer a broader readership to those who are not yet established. This new on-line format offers huge potential for submission, broader community participation in the arts (it’s free; you need only go to the site!), and democratic access. The potential for dialogue and networking (necessities for artists and writers!) is great, as well as for new forms of presentation, as in the virtual poetry reading of Jean Janzen in this issue.
As our print journal was always highly visual, filled with photos, we want to continue the emphasis on the visual arts, and hope that upcoming issues can be a lush sensory experience! This issue comes along with gratitude to the many artists and writers who have helped us to be good reading in the last ten years, and also, for many years before that!
Below you will find: poetry by seven poets, including one on-line poetry reading by Jean Janzen; three works of visual art; and a study of a Mennonite folk art, clock painting, with extensive illustrations. Also a statement by Mennonite economists concerning the Jubilee 2000 international debt forgiveness initiative, with three responses. At the very end is a page of book reviews, including one of Jean Janzen’s latest book of poetry.