Gill has been trolling The Guardian again and found an article that was upsetting to her. It was about England’s Mennonites. They are, as you might imagine, few in number and, due to dwindling numbers, have decided to stop regular church services. One of the reasons for their decline is aging elders and the other, no surprise here, is that the younger members of the church are not interested in being saved by Jesus…or any other deity. I can relate to that. But Gill, even though she doesn’t believe in religion, has a softness in her heart for the Mennonites.
I know why that is. When she was about 12, I worked as an historical interpreter at a 1914 village. The house I was mainly assigned to was the Old Order Mennonite farmhouse. It was an authentic building, built by one of the original settlers in this region and moved, piece by piece, to the site. Then it was rebuilt by Old Order Mennonite workers using all the old methods of construction. It was furnished sparsely as is their tradition.
When I worked there, I was dressed in Old Order black or dark dresses and a bonnet. No makeup from my ‘real life’ was allowed, no jewelry, and I had to wear thick black stockings and sturdy work shoes. It was a look — and one which I disliked since, having grown up very much in the modern world, loved clothes (the brighter the better) and high heels. I had never felt more ‘naked’ and ‘exposed’ in my entire life. I didn’t enjoy that part since I was constantly interacting with the public, chatting and explaining the Mennonite way of life– and without my usual makeup etc., I lacked my usual self-confidence. I did eventually learn to deal with it but it was a struggle. So much so that, at then end of the workday, I nipped into the secret electrical closet (that housed the alarm system) to put on my lipstick for my return to my real world! Anyone who saw me must have wondered. In my defense, I was newly divorced and wanted to present myself in the best light — just in case a really great man came through the village. What? A girl has to be pro-active.
At any rate, back to Gill. She and L’il Sis and even Crazy D at times came with me to ‘work’ as Old Order Mennonite village kids. They played around the site with the other interpreters’ kids — playing in the creek, mucking out the animal stalls, jumping from hay stacks in the barn. For city kids, it was the best thing going. They loved it.
They learned a lot about the Mennonite culture and came to appreciate it. I suspect the biggest appeal was the fresh food, the placid surroundings, and the fact that Old Order folks, while they dealt with the rest of the world at times, stayed pretty much to themselves. I should have spotted this tendency of my kids to be somewhat reclusive early on. But I didn’t. Now they love nothing better than to curl up with a book, a dog, or a significant other and call it a day. They enjoy being ‘social’ up to a point…a small point.
And I know that they could very easily be on board with the whole ‘against modern technology’ thing. Oh, we all use computers and Crazy D uses his sound equipment for his job, but given our druthers, we’d quickly and forcefully abandon every cell phone, app, tablet, confusing machine with instructions nobody can figure out.
I do feel sorry for the London Mennonites. They really should consider emigrating here to my area in Ontario. We are surrounded by Mennonites — Old Order, Markham (more flexible in their approach to modernity) and even completely modern types. We see hundreds of buggies going to and from church each week, our shopping centers have stables for the horses, our great modern university (world renowned for its Math, Computer Science and Engineering) has , as part of the campus, an affiliated Mennonite University College specializing in Music and Peace Studies.
When Gill originally sent me the link to The Guardian piece, my reaction was :”Oh, the Mennonites, being strictly religious, should go to the U.S. They seem to be filled with all manner of ‘born again’ and rigid Christian churches.”
But no, those are the freaks trying to ruin the Presidential race. Plus, with their black garb, the Mennonites might be shot by angry people in Trump’s camp mistaking them for Muslims.
Come here, people! We are used to you and we love that you make up an interesting part of our diverse culture…and sell great produce, cheese, and maple syrup!