I remember meeting Maxine Fast on my second trip to Newton, Kansas in November of 2000. I was just starting as the Mennonite Women executive director and knew very little about denominational organizations, or the General Conference (GC) or Mennonite Church (MC) women’s organizations. I was 49 years old and had just left a job as a psychotherapist so I could work in the Mennonite church.
As a former MC member, I didn’t know anyone in the GC church offices where the Mennonite Women office was located. With lots of doubts swirling through my head about why I gave up my job in mental health to do something so nebulous as attempt to lead a denominational women’s organization, I found my way to the home of Maxine and Orlando Fast in Newton, Kansas.
Maxine and Orlando often hosted out-of-towners and their home became my regular place to stay in Newton, sometimes for a week or longer. Each arrival was met with a warm welcome. I joined their morning ritual of a devotional reading and prayer before breakfast and then set out for my day at the office. Maxine was always ready to greet me with genuine questions about how my day went when I returned in the evening. Our emerging friendship became more special when we discovered we shared the same birthday, June 15. We talked about the differences in the ways we grew up in the MC and GC churches, particularly in regard to beliefs and practices regarding the role of women in the church. Continue reading