A more inclusive overview of Mennonite history

February 2, 2011 | Artbeat | Number 3
By Jodi H. Beyeler | Goshen College
Goshen, Ind.

The book Through Fire and Water: An Overview of Mennonite History was first published in 1996 by Herald Press and presented the Mennonite faith story within the sweep of church history for youths and adults wanting to learn more about the denomination or their heritage. Now, 14 years later, it needed to be revised and updated to be more globally and ethnically inclusive.

As a co-author of the original with Harry Loewen, Goshen College history professor Steve Nolt agreed to update the story and incorporate new historical research and discoveries. A newly revised version of the book was published last year.

Through Fire and Water uses stories to trace the radical Reformation from 16th-century Europe to today’s global Anabaptist family. Written in an accessible and non-academic style, the book is an introduction to the Mennonite faith story. It was written with several audiences in mind: those wanting to learn about Anabaptists and Mennonites, churches seeking to teach youths and adults about Mennonite origins and beliefs, and students in Mennonite colleges and high schools in Canada and the United States. The revision includes many more stories from Asia, Africa and Latin America, as well as more recent North American Mennonite history.

“I hope that readers will find some stories of people like them, and who have similar questions and challenges,” says Nolt. “Some of the people they will meet in Through Fire and Water were trouble-makers who couldn’t keep quiet, and others were cautious folks who lived their faith in quieter ways. Some lived through horrific wars and others faced the challenge of prosperity. They were refugees, missionaries, mothers and peacemakers, all discerning how to live faithfully as followers of Jesus in their contexts. I hope younger Mennonites and anyone coming to know the tradition will join this living conversation about discipleship, interacting with the stories in the book, and then also with those around them today.”

Nolt is the author or co-author of eight other books, including Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy (2007), Mennonites, Amish and the American Civil War (2007), and A History of the Amish (2003). He is also a co-author of the forthcoming North America volume in the Global Mennonite History Project.


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