Sowing Sisterhood :: The First Volume of Illinois Mennonite Women Quarterly

This is Volume 1 of the Illinois Mennonite Women Quarterly Newsletter ‘Sowing Sisterhood.’ It was created and designed by Kim Litwiller and Shannon Unzicker. Kim is the Associate Conference Minister for Illinois Mennonite Conference and the Co-Coordinator for Illinois Mennonite Women. Shannon is the Great Lakes representative to the board of Mennonite Women USA.

Download the PDF of Sowing Sisterhood.

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Sister Care Goes to College :: Creating Affirmation Through Community by Maggie Weaver

Maggie Weaver is a sophomore at Goshen College. She is double majoring in English-writing and interdisciplinary: journalism, communications and music. She is from Lititz, Pennsylvania.

On March 20 and 21, I participated in Sister Care at Goshen College. Sister Care is a program of Mennonite Women USA (MW USA) that travels locally–as well as globally–presenting women-specific seminars on healing and care for women. The seminar I participated in, piloted by Goshen College, was the first Sister Care specifically focused for college students. Beth Martin Birky, professor of English and Gender Studies and MW USA board member, coordinated the event.

Carolyn Heggen and Rhoda Keener, the creators and organizers of the Sister Care seminars, worked with a focus group in April 2014 to adapt the program to fit the needs of college students. I was fortunate enough to be a part of this group, along with a few other Goshen College students and faculty members.

The main goal for the focus group was to identify the key issues that college-aged women face, so that Keener and Heggen could adjust the Sister Care curriculum appropriately. In small groups we listed the main issues we face as college women; the list that we developed was overwhelmingly large. Later, we narrowed the list down to four topics for the March seminar: self-worth and body image challenges, stress, the cultivation of healthy friendships, and exploring our life mission to shape decision-making.

Walking into the seminar, I found myself becoming anxious for the weekend. I had been so involved in the process, talking about what challenges I, as a college woman, face everyday. I felt as though I had placed a small piece of myself into Sister Care.

I was welcomed into the seminar space with the friendly faces of other Goshen College woman, fresh fruit, and freshly-made chai provided by women from four local churches. I sat down at a table (which had been practically covered with chocolates) and, with growing excitement, waited for Keener and Heggen to begin. Continue reading

Danile Martens on Food Justice :: Timbrel Spring 2015

20150314_140422Danile Martens lives and works in Mishawaka, Indiana.  She is married to John Martens.   She spent 4 years with her family in Cambodia with MCC working in provincial health services.  She is an active member of Kern Road Mennonite Church.  For fascinating reading on sustainable farming practice and theology of creation care she recommends the work of Gene Logsden,  Joel Salatin, and Ellen Davis.

It is winter and a pristine white snowfall flocks on branches, and gathers in swales, covering the pasture in white under a brilliant blue sky.  Soon spring will bring a green flush of grasses and clover, and the calves and their old dams will kick up their heels in anticipation and delight as they move to new pasture.  For now I enjoy the quiet of the morning, watching the dance of cardinals, finches, sparrows and juncoes around  the feeder.  Winter’s comparative leisure contrasts to the months of the growing season, May to October, when work lasts until dark most days. I have learned to accept the long spring and summer working days, at the end of which we have time only to eat, clean up, and fall into bed. We do not live by the clock, but by the rhythm of the seasons.  I find order and beauty in working with the cycles of nature but it is out of step with modern life.

Continue reading

Laura Bowman on Food Justice :: Timbrel Spring 2015

Laura Alysse Bowman is currently serving in Kathmandu, Nepal with MCC as the Mental Health Transit Home Activities Coordinator. She grew up in Archbold, Ohio, where she attended Zion Mennonite Church. In 2014, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Eastern Mennonite University. There she was involved with activities concerning women’s rights, mental well-being, and the environment. Laura likes to spend her time in nature, dancing, enjoying good food, and connecting with friends and family.

I sat in the sunlight, sipping a cup of Nepali tea. Overwhelmed with the day’s work, I appreciated this moment to sit and take it all in. I watched a woman, whose son was tugging on my coat, wander around the yard of the Transit Home, crying to herself. She had been in living in psychosis for a few weeks now, and no one had been able to talk to her without her repeating the same sentence over and over again. Months of living on the street, struggling to keep herself and her son alive, had made her confused and angry.

This sort of behavior is common in the work I do in Nepal. I volunteer with Koshish, an organization that rescues women with mental illness who are often abandoned on the streets or locked up in their homes. The women who are rescued spend some time at the Transit Home where they receive treatment and care and are then reintegrated back with their families or communities. I often see cases that make me want to close my eyes, bury my head, and forget that the horrible stories I hear actually happen. Continue reading

It’s Not Me…Or Is It? :: by Shannon Unzicker

Women_gatheringShannon Musselman Unzicker (pictured on left), Benson, IL, is an active member of the Mennonite Church of Normal where she presently serves on the Creation Care Committee. She teaches a primary Sunday school class and participates in the local Moms in Touch. A social worker, Shannon is presently a fulltime mother of four children.

About five years ago, the mother of one of my son’s classmates invited me to join a prayer group that was being formed for our elementary school.  She explained that she would be one of the group leaders, and that the group of mothers would be meeting two mornings per month in her home to pray for our children, their teachers and the other students.

I was flattered that she had asked me, and thanked her for the invitation. I told her I would let her know in a week or so, but in my head, I was already thinking, “Nice of her to invite me, but I just don’t know if that’s ‘me.’ I will probably have to pray out loud in front of a group…not something I am very comfortable with.” Continue reading

The Birth of Anabaptism :: by Valerie G. Rempel

Valerie G. Rempel: Associate Dean, Fresno Pacific University Biblical Seminary and Associate Professor,  J.B. Toews Chair of History and Theology, Fresno, California. She wrote this article for Meetinghouse, a collective of Mennonite editors in the US and Canada. 

Sometimes, a single act can have enormous consequences.

In the religious ferment of 16th century Europe, a small group of Christians in the Swiss canton of Zurich gathered in a home on a wintry January day, 1525. One of them, George Blaurock, asked another, Conrad Grebel, to baptize him. Around the circle they went, baptizing each other in what they understood to be their first true baptism. It was a baptism performed upon their confession of faith in Jesus as Lord. It was a radical act that earned many of them a martyrs’ death.

The 16th century was a time of great change in the religious life and practices of many in Western Europe. A variety of voices from within the church were advocating for change. They were frequently critical of practices and theology that had developed over many centuries of church life.

In an earlier time, the criticisms of a few reform-minded individuals might have had little impact. Technology, however, had a hand in changing that. Continue reading

Calling All Survivors :: Hilary Scarsella Invites Collaboration

 by Hilary Scarsella

The wisdom you’ve gathered along your journey of healing can help transform the ways we think about God and faith. I invite you to contribute to a Hilarycollaborative project that takes the experiences of survivors as important sources for doing theology (i.e. thinking about God in ways that breathe love and life into all).

I’m working on my PhD in theology at Vanderbilt University, and I’m doing this work because I want to make space for the voices of survivors to reshape the systems of belief that define communities of faith. Over the next few years, I’ll be seeking out survivors’ theological wisdom on a number of themes, and right now I’d like to invite anyone who is interested to talk to me about your thoughts on Jesus – his life, death, resurrection, and his significance in your own story of harm and/or healing.

You don’t need to know a thing about theology to contribute! You don’t need to have pre-formed thoughts about Jesus to share. The fact that you are a survivor makes you perfectly qualified, and I’ll supply questions for you to reflect on. Continue reading

Sister Care Multiplies in Brazil

When Deusilene Milhomen and Valéria Alvarenga from Brazil attended the Sister Care seminar in Bolivia in November 2013, they immediately began to dream of bringing this resource to their country. This meant translating the Sister Care manual into Portuguese. Milhomen, from Gama near Brasilia, asked a local teacher, Vera Lúcia de Silva Oliveira to translate; another church member, Marcelo Sousos Santos edited and formatted the manual, and 500 copies were printed. In January 2015, Carolyn Heggen and Rhoda Keener led a Sister Care seminar for 55 women in Curitiba, Brazil with some of the women traveling over 1,500 miles to attend.

Sister Care

(L to R) Gladys Siemens, Rhoda Keener, Linda Shelly, Carolyn Heggen, Deusilene Milhomen

Milhomen and Gladys Siemens coordinated the seminar with Milhomen representing the Alianca Evangélica Menonita (AEM) and Siemens Associação das Igrejas Menonitas do Brasil (AIMB). Hans and Miriam Peters of the host church Igreja Menonita Ágape coordinated logistics. Continue reading