“Order out of chaos” began the day and ended the day on March 4, 2017, at the “Education from an Anabaptist/Christian Perspective” conference at Lancaster Mennonite School. Keynote addresses, workshops, and in-depth discussions over lunch all inspired participants.
John D. Roth, Ph.D., of Goshen, Indiana, presented one of the two morning keynote addresses. He contrasted the Biblical story of Creation with the story of Jesus demonstrating that these two Bible stories are the foundation of our Anabaptist theology. They shape how we view the reality of sin as it disrupted God’s purpose, how we think about salvation, how we think about church and restoring broken relationships—all depicting the truths in Scripture pointing us to restoration.
Roth shared that these two Bible stories change how we teach in our families in our churches and in our Christian schools. He said that Anabaptist education views everyone as a person of dignity with value. It changes how we choose to discipline towards a path of restoration. We need to ﬁnd ways to astonish the world with the beauty of the gospel, Roth said.
Richard Thomas, retired superintendent of Lancaster Mennonite School, shared an impressive list of ten observations about LMS’s 75-year history. Thomas said that, in the 40 years of his involvement, the negative reasons that the school was founded in 1942 (dancing, drama, patriotism, instrumental music, athletics), are no longer negative. “Positives do endure the test of time!”
Thomas said that the school exists to serve the community with deep Anabaptist roots and a missional vision. In his view, “LMS is less Mennonite today, but more Anabaptist!” He said that, in years past, most of the students were Mennonite, but today only 25% of the students are Mennonite. Today, only 65% of the students are white, and now with a ﬁrst-time woman as superintendent, gender equality is modeled.
Past teacher/principal Noah Good told Thomas a number of years ago that, “A school cannot do anything except follow the church.” The school is no longer homogeneous, churches are fractured, but as students from these fractured churches come together, they learn how to disagree—it is a “richer” way of education as we discern what it means to follow Jesus today in a diverse missional community that brings hope and healing to the world.
EMU’s new President Susan Schultz Huxman shared the afternoon keynote address on “What is ‘Christian’ About Education?” Christian education matters because it is 1) Counter-culture, 2) Offers Connections, and 3) Builds Community. “The heart and soul of academic mission are the connections fostered in a Christian school. But, it is the community where lives are groomed to be prepared to live in a broken world.” Huxman challenged listeners to dare to be diﬀerent, to stand out from the crowd, to connect the arts and science, to connect play and work, to connect faith and service, to build communities of shalom and wholeness and peace, and most importantly to be an advocate of Palmer Becker’s challenge: “Jesus is the center of our faith, reconciliation is the center of our work, and community is the center of our lives.”
More than 30 workshops were offered in four different sessions on a variety of informative topics. Goldie Fretz, 1965 graduate of LMS, enthusiastically stated, “Today is wonderful—it is like eating dessert all day!” She appreciated John Roth’s emphasis that it is vitally important to bring beauty into our teaching. “These stories today are so basic, but so foundational,” Fretz commented.
Sue Eckert, an elementary music and technology teacher at LMS Hershey campus, is ﬁnishing up her Masters degree, writing a new curriculum that is Kingdom-focused, and was also appreciative for the day’s connections.
Patricia Nolt, member at Forest Hills Mennonite Church, attended Diane Umble’s workshop on “How Do Mennonite Schools Relate to Sponsoring Churches,” and commented that she treasured the advice on how to navigate the diversity of opinions in order to embrace the varied tensions.
Lois Garber, 1948 graduate of LMS, was in the ﬁrst fourth grade class at Locust Grove Mennonite School when it opened, and recalled that was where she ﬁrst learned about famous artists. She recognized this awareness after attending Mary Lou Houser and Marcy Hostetler’s workshop on “How Have the Arts at LMS Evolved Through the Years.”
Chad Caldwell from Harrisburg, Pa., an art teacher at the Hershey campus, expressed appreciation for J.W. Sprunger’s input as a Bible teacher at the Lancaster main campus. Not only was he well-spoken, understanding, and with a sincere grasp of the Bible in his workshop, he knew everyone’s names within the ﬁrst ten minutes of the workshop! Amazing recall!
Crystal Weber of Kinzers, Pa., attended as a young mother of a ﬁrst grader at Locust Grove. Her favorite workshop was led by Jenn Esbenshade and Jon Heinly on “Students and Spiritual Development From K Through 12.” As a mother of three young children and as an educator (not practicing at the moment while she has two preschoolers at home), it was obvious that she and her husband have sacriﬁcially chosen Christian education for their children!
Rhoda Charles, a 1972 LMS graduate, also attended this same workshop and shared that she is eager to see the new curriculum they are writing for grades K-12 on “Spiritual Development in Faith Formation” through the themes Discover, Reﬂect, Share, Integrate, and Live.
Rev. Lauren Schoeck from St. James Episcopal Church in Lancaster attended Beth Weaver Kreider’s workshop on “What LMS Students Learn About Following Jesus.” A 10th grader and a 12th grader shared their perspectives as black students at LMS. Rev. Schoeck acknowledged the value in diversity of gender, race, socio-economic principles reﬂected in the LMS students. When Africa is studied, a book is read written by an African, for example.
Comments around the lunch table by four teachers at the New Danville campus were revealing as they shared about the workshop given by Henry Benner and Native American Rusty Sherrick. Erin Craul of Lancaster who teaches third grade loved the ﬁrst-hand perspective shared in this workshop. Teacher Lindsay Carson from Reading, Pa., enjoyed hearing more about the local history of this area.
Photographer Jonathan Charles shared his concern after attending John Roth’s workshop on “The Loneliness of Teaching.” “Christian teachers need to connect with each other,” he seriously suggested, “they need more than 20 minutes to eat lunch together!”
Smiles and nods of enlightenment were evident on the tired faces of everyone as they