Sunday, September 14, 2008

sunday morning musings

How did we end up where we are? ©

I had occasion to talk church history with a member of the Salem Bible Fellowship Church in Waldheim, Saskatchewan recently, primarily on the question of their history as a congregation. She couldn’t help me very much, since she hadn’t paid much attention to the congregation’s historical roots, but she gave me one of those rural community history books that were being produced in the 1980’s all across Saskatchewan, and there a few pages summarized their story.

They began as the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren church (Krimmer: German for “Crimean”), an offshoot of the Mennonite Brethren movement in the area of the Molochna Colony just north of the Black Sea in Ukraine. In the 1870s, a group of about half a dozen families emigrated to the US where they settled in Kansas for a time before some of them decided to move on to the area between the Saskatchewan Rivers at present day Waldheim. Here they worshipped in homes until a “revival” saw their numbers increase and the need for a permanent worship home emerge. The building that grew from that burned down in the late thirties and a new building was erected west of Waldheim, but subsequently moved into town and added to. (This may not be precisely accurate, but I’m not so much interested in the building.)

Time came when the Krimmer churches in Canada merged with the Mennonite Brethren, except that the Salem Group chose not to participate in this merger, joining instead another branch of the MB church called—I think—the Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Church. In the 1980’s, as I recall, the Salem group joined the Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches and parted company with the “Mennonite” name for good.

Salem “Mennonites” are considerably more conservative in their theology than the Zoar Mennonites (Mennonite Church Saskatchewan) and the Mennonite Brethren Church a stone’s throw away. The website for the Fellowship of Evangelical Bible churches has a pdf download available on their tenets regarding controversial issues: Not surprisingly the stand on abortion is “conception marks the beginning of a human life;” on homosexuality: “it’s a sin but homosexuals can find redemption;” on gender roles: “God gave the tasks of eldership and pastoring to men, but women have important other roles in the church,” etc.

Waldheim could well form a useful case study for the branching that occurred in the Anabaptist world in the last half of the 19th Century. The last names of people in at least the three branches of Anabaptism represented in Waldheim are often the same, and so I wonder how it came to be that I am attending this branch and not that. If my ancestors had lived a few houses over in the Ukrainian colonies, would I be a conservative of the Kleingemeinde or Krimmer branch? Are my more-liberal, less-literal Bible interpretations a matter of choice, or are thy consequences of historical accidents?

I’ll think about this in church this morning as Allan delivers his sermon and the Gideons bring greetings to the congregation, and as we sing hymns, some from Hymnal: a worship book and some from Sing the Journey. And I’ll remember what Robert Frost said so eloquently:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim . . .

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back . . .

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

No comments:

Post a Comment