Janice Kreider (retired UBC librarian, charter member of the church, and an avid volunteer gardener at the MSC) traced Mennonite history from the Reformation to Menno Simons, and told a colourful story from her own genealogy. Conrad Grebel and Felix Manz were young people in Zürich who concluded that the Protestant churches hadn’t gone far enough by retaining infant baptism, swearing oaths, and not separating Church from State. The radical movement of Anabaptists (re-baptizers) started in Switzerland and spread throughout Europe, eventually attracting Menno Simons, a disaffected Catholic priest in Friesland (Netherlands) by 1536.
When the movement was persecuted in Switzerland, some migrated to France, where Janice’s ancestors settled in Franche-Comté. Andreas, a German-speaking Catholic a stone-mason, came to their village to work on the Lutheran church. Two unmarried daughters of the Guemann family became pregnant by Andreas: Catherine (age 29, widow & mother of 3), and Francois (age 21, single). Catherine wanted to remain an Anabaptist even though marrying a Catholic would normally cause her to be kicked out. But in the church register, an exception was made to accept her civil marriage to Andreas. If church leaders had held strictly to their doctrines, the Anabaptist lineage back to Janice’s great-great-grandparents would have been lost. Francois got married later, but died soon after immigrating to Ohio and was buried next to her sister. Real people make compromises, forgiving and accepting forgiveness. Recall the imperfect examples of how God still uses people who sin: Moses (murder), Saul (jealousy), and David (adultery).
We were inspired by these stories of Mercy (on the part of the church leaders), Faithfulness (by Catherine in her loyalty to her sister and her church), and Courage (in the young Anabaptist activists who stuck by their beliefs despite persecution). As we remember our own stories, do we see the hand of God at work? What stories will your children or friends tell about you? [KH]