Last weekend the Advisory Council of the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society (MMHS) held its inaugural meeting at the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) in Steinbach. The roles of the Advisory Council include, sharing information, advising the Board of Directors, coordinating activities, and nominating members to serve on the Board. The Council meets twice annually.
The morning was spent hearing reports from various affiliated organizations; the EastMenn Committee, the West Reserve Committee, the Mennonite Heritage Village, the Mennonite Heritage Centre, the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies, the Plett Foundation, and the Chair of Mennonite Studies at the University of Winnipeg. Each group was challenged to report on its mandate, its constituency/membership/target audience, and its vision for the next five years. Two common concerns with many of these organizations were funding and a dwindling supply of volunteers. As a result the Council spent time looking for ideas to engage future generations. There was also discussion about how to attract the participation of other groups with related historical interests.
In the afternoon we heard a brief lecture by Dr. Royden Loewen on his recent research trip to Indonesia. He reported that there are three conferences of Mennonites in the country representing approximately 108,000 members in total. It seems that these groups vary in their church polity and their cultural practices as much as do the Mennonites in Canada. Many of them are farmers growing rice on a small 2 hectare farm. He did not report being served Vereniki, farmer sausage or borscht at any meal. This trip is part of a much larger initiative to study Mennonite populations in seven or eight different parts of the world.
Many times, when the Board of Directors is trying to make a decision, they will try to understand why a certain policy or practice exists. What were the factors that influenced a previous board to reach its decision?
Since our Bylaws specify that no-one can serve on the board for more than three consecutive three-year terms, nobody on the Board has “board memory” going back more than nine years. And, to be sure, not everyone has a good memory for even that length of time. Hence the effort to understand the full context of the issue is, at times, challenging.
It has long been a goal of mine to find a volunteer who would enjoy reading through all the organizations past meeting minutes and create a register of decisions that were made. It seemed it would be useful to know what decisions were made, when they were made, and the context surrounding the decision.
Recognizing that not a lot of people would clamour for a job of reading old meeting minutes, I was pleasantly surprised when we did find that volunteer. The exercise has already created a lot of interesting conversation around the coffee table.
Recently someone called me to ask if we could provide the date of the premier showing of Otto Klassen’s first film, which was supposedly shown at MHV in 1975. Within half an hour we were able to inform the caller that the film premiered at the University of Winnipeg in November of 1976. A quick and tangible benefit to the work of this volunteer.
Calendar of Events
- February 1 – Vespers Service – 7:00 PM