Two-year Curriculum Project Culminates in Intensive Writers' Week

The Mennonite Schools Council (MSC) Encounter Bible curriculum writers’ week took place June 19-23 at the Lancaster Campus of Lancaster Mennonite School.

Fifteen writers representing six MSC schools took part in the process, culminating a two-year commitment to the project that has included five weeks of intensive work. Elaine Moyer, senior director of Mennonite Education Agency (MEA), said the group “had a wonderful time together” as they created curricular resources for students from pre-K to grade 12.

The writers were identified and recommended by administrators of MSC schools. Moyer and former LM superintendent J. Richard Thomas then worked with the administrators to form five sub-groups of writers, for pre-K, K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12.

“It was exciting to be with this group of dedicated educators again this year as they were completing the Encounter,” Thomas said. “It was like being at a reunion of friends because of the deep relationships that were built last summer. These relationships along with a deep commitment to faith, scripture and listening to the Spirit enabled the writing of a curriculum that I believe will be a blessing to our students and the churches from which they come.”

Encounter, described as “a dynamic curriculum of faith formation where students encounter God, each other and all of creation,” draws on Anabaptist theology and values. It uses the Shared Conviction of Global Anabaptists adopted by Mennonite World Conference (MWC) as a theological framework, along with the three key statements developed by theologian Palmer Becker that “Jesus is the center of our faith, community is the center of our life; and reconciliation is the center of our work.” It also includes a “missional commitment” of joining with God in bringing healing and hope to the world.

While strongly rooted in Anabaptism, Moyer said the curriculum also endeavors to be “warmly welcoming and invitational” so that it can also be used with other groups, particularly for international high school students.

“My hope is that this work can be a sign that the Mennonite Church can work together significantly in the midst of our diversity,” said Todd Bowman, a middle school faculty member at Lancaster Mennonite School, “and that we can model to students and others that we can serve Jesus together, truly and vulnerably.”

The 2017-2018 school year will serve as a pilot year for the full Encounter curriculum at Lancaster Mennonite, replacing both the Journeys with God K-8 curriculum and the MSC High School Bible curriculum. Faculty will have an opportunity to share their experiences and best practices at the 2018 Mennonite Educators Conference (MEC), taking place Feb. 1-3 at the National Conference Center in Leesburg, Virginia.

MEA anticipates that the curriculum will be available for purchase beyond the MSC schools group by spring 2018.

Moyer and J. Richard Thomas are serving as co-chairs of the project’s steering committee, which also includes: Jake Becker, The City School; Dawn Graber, Sarasota Christian School; Sharon Fransen, Dock Mennonite Academy; Phyllis Nofziger, Hinkletown Mennonite School; and Ann Shultz, Rockway Mennonite Collegiate (consultant). Rachel Miller Jacobs, associate professor of Congregational Formation at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, served as theological editor and guide for the project, and Beth Oberholtzer is serving as lead editor.

Members of the writing team include: Jaime Keller, Shalom Christian Academy; Martha Hernandez, Warwick River Christian School; Jenn Esbenshade, Lancaster Mennonite ‒ Locust Grove Campus; Lynette Mast, Eastern Mennonite School; Melinda Stevens, Lancaster Mennonite ‒ Locust Grove Campus; Joyce Lind, Eastern Mennonite School; Adam Friesen Miller, Bethany Christian Schools; Lindsay Carson, Lancaster Mennonite ‒ New Danville Campus; Maria Archer, Eastern Mennonite School; Todd Bowman, Lancaster Mennonite Middle School; Janice Greenleaf, Lancaster Mennonite Middle School; Sheri Wenger, Lancaster Mennonite ‒ Lancaster Campus; Josh Weaver, Bethany Christian Schools; Dean Sauder, Lancaster Mennonite ‒ Lancaster Campus; Alma Ovalle, Sarasota Christian School; and Kirby King, Dock Mennonite Academy.

Primary funding for the project came from MSC and Everence, with others also offering significant contributions. Additional sponsors include MEA, Lancaster Mennonite School, Dock Mennonite Academy and Sarasota Christian School.