Tag Archives: Mennonites

Mea culpa

It has come to my notice that I haven’t written on this blog for some considerable time. I haven’t even reported on our Great American Trip. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. My only excuse is that the exhausting nature of that trip, especially the two day journey home, means that I have really only just recovered over a month later.

I have so many things to say that I don’t know where to start. So let’s start with my two most memorable US moments, which are both connected with dogs.

First, while in Goshen, Indiana, I visited the largest charity shop I have ever seen, inside a Mennonite enclave. They even had a pets’ corner. While looking at this I noticed a pack with the words ‘Sanitary Pads’ on it. ‘Well’, I thought, ‘it’s an unusual product to find in a charity shop, but at least they’re not used’. Only then did I realize these were actually sanitary supplies for female dogs in heat! Apparently these are available in the UK now as well – but probably not in charity shops.

Secondly, in Elkhart (which is next door to Goshen) we went to the renowned Prairie Street Mennonite Church, until recently pastored by the son of friends of ours, and now pastored by his cousin’s husband (who used to be the director of the London Mennonite Centre – are you still with me here? it’s like this with Mennos). During the ‘sharing time’, a Mennonite speciality, a woman got up and announced that her dog had been diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder, but that since going on Prozac he was much better. Only in America…

What to say about the rest of our trip? Well, destination by destination:

Chicago: very hot, very many skyscrapers, nice parks, lovely to see my former mentee and her hubby.

Goshen: very Mennonite, lovely house, lovely hosts, great dinner party at which we also saw Canadian friends who happened to be in Goshen/Elkhart at the same time as us – how’s that for synchronicity?

Elkhart: even lovelier house, more lovely hosts, great church, delightful trip to New Buffalo to walk by the lakeside (Lake Michigan, just like the sea but with no salt or tides).

Other highlights of mid-West: Das Dutchman Essenhaus where one of our friends works – biggest restaurant I’ve ever seen (and only Amish restaurant I have ever visited) ; MennoHof in Shipshewana, very interesting museum of Anabaptist history.

Akron, PA: pleasant accommodation in an Mennonite Central Committee guesthouse (where missionaries on leave live), great to catch up with v. old friends, lots of Amish experiences including dinner with an Amish family (very hot as no electricity means no aircon). Shame kid got ill so he missed Hershey Park theme park – well I got there without him and spent most of time minding a cute four year old who was a runner. It was also extremely hot, with very little shade, and hour-long queues at all the good rides, so maybe son wouldn’t have enjoyed it anyway.

Biggest mistake of trip: planning sleeper train back from Pennsylvania the night before we did overnight plane from Chicago. Got very little sleep on train and none at all on flight. Hence long recovery time. In taxi from Heathrow I was so tired I couldn’t sit still but fidgeted the whole way, and went straight to bed on arriving home, which is not what you are supposed to do when flying back from the US. Will plan better next time…

Overall, a very skewed view of the US as mostly geared to places where Mennonites live. But very interesting and I loved everything except the difficulty of getting any healthy food except when eating at friends’s houses. It’s true, everything is bigger in the US… other than the house prices which are incredibly cheap. Maybe we should buy a holiday home there?


This afternoon after what will in all likelihood be my last appointment with the Terribly Tenacious Therapist (since I think she is actually making things worse), I took myself off to Brent Cross Shopping Centre to look for a handbag and have some lunch. In the Italian café I chose, I queued up to pay for my food and after telling me the cost, the girl serving me apparently said ‘Are you really tired?’. Somewhat touched by her concern, I answered ‘Well, yes I am actually’, hoping I wouldn’t have to explain that actually I was not just tired but depressed. ‘That’ll be £X, then’, she said, naming a smaller sum. It was only at this point I realized that what she had actually said was ‘Are you retired?’. Apparently there was a reduction for pensioners. Now I don’t generally tell people that I will be eligible for my pension in four years, but people generally tell me that I look much younger (when I was 40 and expecting my son, a neighbour said she thought I was 28), so if the girl in the Italian café thought I was retired, I must have been looking particularly rough. Not so nice as when I innocently thought she was expressing a concern for my welfare.

In other news, I have just read that Pleasant Oaks Mennonite Church and First Mennonite Church of Middlebury, Indiana, are reuniting, having split in 1923 (over women’s clothing, would you believe?). It’s taken 86 years, but hey, reconciliation can take a while. The proposed name for the reunited congregation is First Pleasant Mennonite Church. They don’t seem to have noticed that this implies that all Mennonite churches heretofore have been unpleasant. Sigh…

Reunited (and it feels so good)

Went to a reunion party last night for some friends from church who now live in America, but were passing through. Since various people turned up who used to know them when they were at our church, it turned out to be a reunion with them too. Including a guy I haven’t seen since some years ago when I stepped backwards on his foot at Oxford Services, then turned round to apologize and realized it was him!

So lovely to meet up again with people who have meant so much to us. And the cakes were good too… And our trip to America to ‘Mennonite our way’ next summer is beginning to take some shape, so hopefully in less than a year we will be reuniting again, not only with the couple from last night but with several others who have passed through our lives and then departed across the Atlantic.

Chocolate Christmas

Have been too busy doing Christmas and then recovering from it, to blog recently. So here’s just a brief report:

This has definitely been the Christmas of chocolate. First of all, because I had a voucher, I bought myself a big box of Thornton’s continental online. (I always buy myself a Chrissy present because that way I can be sure I will get one thing I actually want). Then my Ship of Fools secret Santa sent me various bits of chocolate, along with a  jiffy bagful of other beautifully wrapped and labelled and in some cases handcrafted presents. Then my mother bought me not only a box of dark truffles but also a box of mixed chocolates from our local posh old-fashioned grocery store. Such has been the chocolate overload that it took me till December 28th to even open my Thornton’s box.

Otherwise, Christmas has gone well and various shortcomings of food (like the complete mess I made of meringues for Christmas Eve, and the mashed potatoes instead of roast at the Mennonite Centre on Christmas Day) have been compensated by the excellent company (and the games of Scrabble and Dutch Blitz). We had a last minute extra Christmas dinner with our best church friends on Boxing Day – with roast potatoes at last. After Sunday’s extremely short service prepared by someone else but led by me, everyone (ie the about 6 people who actually turned up) wanted to stay together for longer, so we ended up having an impromptu small party at the Mennonite Centre again (thank you Will for the wine and cheese).

Just to extend the season (which in any case goes on at least to my birthday on Jan 21st), we are having a noon-to-midnight drop-in at our house tomorrow, so I went Tesco-ing today to get supplies for it (I meant to get everything online via Ocado, but there were no delivery slots available). For some reason Tesco has made me feel nauseous, so I hope I am not going down with anything. It could of course be due to an excess of chocolate…

Mennos rock

I love my church so much. Today we had no sermon, just communion, in the context of lots of Iona liturgy on OHP transparencies, all of it about God’s goodness in creation, and we had a display of ‘the fruits of the earth’ as well as the bread and wine on the table at the front – a sort of blend of Thanksgiving and Harvest Festival. And we sat in a circle, just about 15 of us, and passed the bread and grape juice from person to person as we always do, and it was all so beautifully simple and yet profound, and warm and welcoming.

And because there was no guitarist they let me go to the mike and help lead the singing, which turned out to be a great number of hymns that go up to top ‘E’, a note which until recently I couldn’t reach at all. Now I can, but only with great effort. But it didn’t matter, because I was among people I’ve known for so long, and who I know won’t make snide remarks but just be grateful that someone had a go. And no one minded that my son came down from upstairs in the middle of a liturgy, asking for his iPod charger which was in my handbag (we don’t always have Sunday school lately, especially as currently he’s the only child there most weeks, and so we just let him do his own thing).

So glad to be a Mennonite.