Mennonite Historical Society of Canada
Mennonite Heritage Centre
Winnipeg , Manitoba
Saturday, 6 December 2003, 10:40 a.m.   

Present: Royden Loewen (President; Hanover Steinbach Historical Society),
Sam Steiner (Vice-President; Mennonite Church Eastern Canada),
Victor Wiebe (Secretary; Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan),
Laureen Harder-Gissing (Treasurer; Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario),
Marlene Epp (Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario)
Ted Regehr (Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta),
Leonard Doell (Mennonite Central Committee Canada),
Richard Thiessen (Mennonite Historical Society of British Columbia),
Abe Dueck (Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches),
Alf Redekopp ( Mennonite Church Canada),
Walter Franz (Mennonite Central Committee)
Heinrich Loewen (Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies)
Bert Friesen ( Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society),
Jake Peters ( Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society),
Ted Friesen ( Mennonite Church Canada),
Judith Rempel (Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta)
David Giesbrecht (Mennonite Historical Society of British Columbia)  

Peter Penner (Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta)
Conrad Stoesz ( Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society)
Linda Huebert Hecht (Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario)
Delbert Plett (Flemish Mennonite Historical Society)
Lawrence Klippenstein

1 Opening and Devotional :
Royden Loewen welcomed everyone to the Annual General Meeting of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada. Richard Thiessen led the opening devotional based on II Chronicles 34:14-21; the rediscovery in the house of the Lord of the Book of the Law given by Moses. The emphasis was on the idea that if there was no archive then we would not even have a Bible. Richard closed with prayer.

2. Introductions
a) Two new Board members introduced themselves: Heinrich Loewen, Director of the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies; born in Kyrgyzstan with a long interest in church history and with considerable experience in ministry and working with church leaders. Judith Rempel who is a demographer by profession and is the archivist of the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta.

b) Guests: Roy introduced a number of guests: Peter Penner; Conrad Stoesz; Lind Huebert Hecht; Delbert Plett; Lawrence Klippenstein; David Giesbrecht.

3. Minutes: 6 December 2003, Abbotsford AGM :
Victor Wiebe reviewed the minutes of the last Annual General Meeting of 6 December 2003. A number of corrections were noted.

Moved/Seconded/Carried (M/S/C) (V. Wiebe/S. Steiner) - To approve the minutes as circulated and corrected.

4. Business Arising from Minutes
Item 8(b). Ted Regehr reported that the designated funding is still available.

Item 10(a). Leonard Doell reported that the $500.00 funding was not used as the hoped for conference for 2003 was held.

5. Approval of Agenda
A number of additions were made to the agenda, including 9(b) and 9(c), which was then approved.

6. Reports from Provincial Societies
a) Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta – Judith Rempel reviewed the professional nature of the Alberta Society’s archives, its existing and planed new facilities, recent development including cataloguing of existing collections, and its growing collections. The Society is holding monthly genealogy meetings and has plan for a new publication. Judith described here work on the National Transcription Project that is working on the 1906 Canadian Census records of the Prairies. 200 of the 800,000 records are transcribed. Ted Regehr reported on the very interesting excursion to La Crete and that the community is now prosperous and concerned about preserving its past and has both a very active senior centre and a good pioneer museum .

b) Mennonite Historical Society of British Columbia – Richard Thiessen reviewed the B.C. annual report written by Hugo Friesen noting that B.C. is issuing three issues of their successful and popular newsletter, Roots and Branches each year. About 56,000 Mennonite type names are already noted in analyzing and indexing the EWZ microfilms. Many enthusiastic volunteers work on this project. B.C. has added a third room for microfilm and workers are active with the medium as well. A scholarship programme have been started to encourage student interest in Mennonite history. They had a special fund raiser in which they sold tickets for $10.00 and quickly sold out 750 tickets. Roy commented on the Yarrow conference and the considerable interest in the Mennonite history of Yarrow.

c) Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society - Jake L. Peters reviewed his report. He highlighted Henry Fast’s contribution at their Kleefeld meeting. In an effort to raise awareness, the Society has more widely distributed information from their Board meetings this year. A publication on Mennonites in Manitoba is still projected and a manuscript has been prepared. Jake elaborated on the oral history project which is active in recording the stories many of which are from women. West Reserve Gemeinde Buch is in development as is work on a number of English translations from the German language including works such as those by Benjamin H. Unruh and Horst Penner. The Manitoba Society was partners in Mennonite Heritage Family Roots Day and active in tours, story telling, oral history and genealogy. Roland Sawatzky, curator of Mennonite Heritage Museum, Steinbach, is willing to co-sponsor the Lean Mennonite Church memorial. Richard Thiessen indicated that his archives hold English translations of Horst Penner’s works and will locate the name of the translator so that there will be less duplication. Laureen noted the National Historic designation given to the village of Neubergthal by Parks Canada. A small Métis historical society associated with the St. Francis Xavier church would like to meet with the MMHS to discuss early contacts between the two groups.

d) Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario - Sam Steiner reviewed his report. He highlighted the recent efforts to gather comments and stories from newer Mennonite congregations formed by refugee immigrants. There is interest in that the new members have struggles with language, culture, and youth issues that many Mennonites faced in earlier decades. Sam highlighted their web site development. For the CMEO project Linda Hueber Hecht contacted each congregation to update and correct their entries. Twenty-nine congregations have already responded and more are coming in.

e) Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan - Leonard Doell referred members to his report and highlighted several features of the past successful year. Victor reported on the 1867 Chortitza Atlas publication project worked on by Heinz Bergen of Regina. Leonard asked members about sharing resources. He further asked if other members had plans to respond to the changes in Federal Government’s new privacy legislation. A couple of organizations are starting to look at their electronic records. He indicated that there seems to be a desire by governments to recognize the historical significance of Mennonites in the Canadian context.

7. President's Report and Board Report
Roy Loewen reviewed his report and complemented the provincial societies on their contributions and diligent work

a) Update on Global Mennonite History Project conference for October 2004
Roy, who is on sabbatical in B. C. this year, reported on his visit to the Mennonite Word Conference and meeting with Mennonite historians from other parts of the world and who are not of the Pennsylvania or Russian Mennonite stock. These were fellow professional historians who are now telling their stories. We will have to write about North America in a parallel way to those of African and other continents with the story of living as Mennonites in the North American environment. Roy reported on his discussions with John Lapp about funding and a planed budget of $5,000.00 set for this conference.

Abe discussed funding and thought Walter Sawatzky could be relied on for some help. Abe also suggested that there should be an appeal to the provincial societies requesting funding of help in funding. Sam indicated some letters have gone out and wondered if this is enough or could we do more. The funds are needed before the end of next year. Sam thought the MHSC has received a direct request.

b) Fund raising campaign.
Ted Friesen reported on his letter campaign to solicit funds for the MHSC. The results were very disappointing for only $1,000.00 was raised.

Ted Friesen reviewed his report and noted that his letter writing fundraising campaign surprisingly raised the sale of the books Mennonites in Canada. Total sales amounted to $553.00. The unsold books are all in storage at Friesen Publishers and Ted encouraged members to promote the sale of these books. There followed some discussion on the change from print to electronic resources and in future we may have to put more planning into promoting electronic copies of future works.

Lunch break and Sam Steiner Takes over as Chair.

8. Constitutional Revisions
Ted Regehr and Victor Wiebereported on the changes requested by Industry Canada and previously circulated. There was not unanimous agreement that these changes were of minor nature. Thus, this report is considered a notice of motion to change the Constitution. Voting on the change will occur at the next AGM.

9. Canadian Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (CMEO) Report
Sam reviewed his statistical report on the CMEO. Bert Friesen’s report highlighted that about 100 articles per year are now being added. Bert added an addendum to his report with five points for discussion.

1. CMEO asked that it be permitted to have its own domain name. There was little discussion on this point for it was felt that the Editorial Board of the CMEO was authorized to make its own arrangements like this to meets its needs.

2. CMEO stated that fund raising possibilities exist and asked if they could proceed. Again the membership felt that CMEO could and should do its own fund raising. There was considerable support for fundraising. A concern was raised that the CMEO is the only publication that has an annual call on MHSC funds. In times when there is little income to the MHSC this can pose a budget strain.

3. Is it acceptable for CMEO to sell advertising space on its site or sponsor page and enter into some commercial ventures to raise funds? Marlene Epp indicated that such action may have an impact to lessen the academic impact and worthiness of the encyclopedia. Judith asked whether there should be a policy outlining what type of advertisements would be appropriate. Laureen pointed out that in the current budgeting practices funds generated in any project would first go to MHSC and that they would be counted against the annual budget allocation.

4. Request for funding of $5,000.00 for this coming year. There was general agreement with this funding.

Roy asked about terms of membership on the CMEO committee and the meeting affirmed the reappointment of the Editorial Board.

10.Divergent Voices of Canadian Mennonites (DVCM) Report
a) Chair's report and "Mennonites and the Boat People - 2005 " [Attachment 1]

Ken Reddig gave an oral report on the project and distributed a News Release. DVCM was founded in an effort to seek funding from Mennonite Central Committee by asking where are the connections in the work of MCC and that of MHSC? To date three conference have been held; one on Canadian Mennonite Women, a second on Aboriginal – Mennonite relations and a third on Kanadier, that is on Low German – Latin American Mennonites in Canada. In October 2005 a conference on refugees will be sponsored that will focus specifically on Boat People. This conference will be a retrospective focus on interactions between Asian refugees and Mennonites. Starting in 1979 MCC worked to bring Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian refugees to Canada in significant numbers. The thesis of the conference is that in 1979 a change in thinking about refugees occurred. Refugees were not only our own people but Mennonites stated to include all other dispossessed as refugees needing help. Then the story becomes; what happened to our congregations as a consequence of this change in thinking and acting? Ken posed a number of questions: Who do you know who were the sponsors of these refugees? Who do you know who are these refugees? How has these events changed our conferences and our mission programmes? What is the impact on the fine arts and literature connected with refugees? Finally Reddig indicated that Ray Dirks is willing to mount an exhibit of art connected with refugees.

This conference will be in the sixth year of this joint DVCM project and the MCC funding will be at an end. The question of where to go from here was raised. Reddig indicated that we could move on to a new round of projects like a conference on the environment to enable us to connect with the vision of MCC as well as continuing to focus on topics relating our history. Reddig pointed out that MCC vision is on peace related issues. Walter Franz responded that MCC view point is that we need to find areas of future mutual directions in many of the directions already indicated by Reddig. MCC has a real appreciation for the events that have taken place. The bottom line is that good thinks have taken place and new things will happen.

b) "History of Canadian Mennonite Women" [Attachment 2]
Marlene Epp reported on progress with this writing project. Unfortunately pressure of her other work has delayed progress in writing but major portions of each chapter have been completed but none is yet completed. A portion of this project was reported at the Yarrow conference. Marlene is researching the role of Mennonite midwives – also working on a convergence of the midwife and funeral workers as well – part of the more fundamental questions of life and death. In this study she is finding a very divers group of Mennonite women and also noting differences between Swiss and Russian Mennonite women. There is more information on pioneer Russian Mennonite women but less on Swiss Mennonites.

Considerable discussion followed. Ted Friesen highlighted the importance of the role of midwives. Abe Dueck asked about the notable role of women in Mennonite hospitals. Walter Franz asked about including in DVCM women’s issues for Mennonites outside of the Swiss – Russian Mennonite experience. Marlene indicated that she has looked at MCC women’s issues and is actively looking for these stories but as yet found little resources. On a wider concern Dave Giesbrecht encouraged the proposed refugee conference on Boat People to include all women’s stories of all recent refugee groups including those of Yugoslavia and now of Iraq. The use of the phrase “Boat People” will have to be used carefully and Ken Reddig suggested a phrase like “newcomers” may be less loaded and more appropriate. Ken also asked for more “newcomer” stories.

11. MIC: "Mennonites in Canada"
a) Sales report

[See 7(b) above: Ted Friesen gave this report as a follow up to his Fundraising Campaign report.]

b) The "overarching volume"
Now that his extensive research and writing work on the North West Conference is completed Ted Regehr is again taking up the task of preparing an “overarching volume” describing Mennonites in Canada. What is the “overarching” theme? This is the question posed by Ted. There are many contrasting ideas and focuses; for example evangelism or Anabaptism. In volume III of Mennonites in Canada he also had concern for the underlying theme. Ted requested the Society think about the issue of theme and give him any advice or suggestions on this fundamental question of theme.

c) Conscientious Objectors Conference [Attachment 3]
Conrad Stoesz described the project he is working on that is planed for 2006. Conrad’s purpose is to make the role and service of Mennonite Conscientious Objectors known to both the Mennonite community and larger Canadian Society. Roy reported that this project is one that could fit under the DVCM and could be presented in Cooperation with the Chair of Mennonite Studies, University of Winnipeg. Ted Regehr suggested that the registers and other materials associated with the Mobilization Boards be investigated for they hold considerable information on COs. Leonard remarked that Memorial Day services evolved from remembering fallen soldiers and if something like that for CO’s could be considered. A comment was made that we must be sensitive to the families of soldiers for their sacrifice and who should not be may feel unvalued. Society today now valued peace service more highly and the contribution by Mennonites and other COs is more highly valued. There was much support and enthusiasm by members for this CO project initiated by Conrad.

M/S/C (J.Peters/L.Doell) That funding for this project be included in the budget for next year.

d) Proposal for a Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) in Winnipeg [Attachment 4]
Jake Peters distributed his report and reviewed the background of this proposal which would result in the building of a Canadian Museum for Human Rights to be located at the Forks in Winnipeg. This is a project with a proposed budget of $200 million for Phase A. The Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society supports the proposal and there is cooperation between the Mennonite Human Rights Museum Inc. (MHRMI) and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Jake indicated that at this stage he feels the sponsors of the Canadian Museum want broad Canadian support for the project and would like Mennonite support.

The proposal generated considerable discussion. Because this is an initiative lead by the Dr. Israel Asper and the Asper foundation with its support for the State of Israel it was felt that the museum may have a biased vision of rights. Abe raised the issue that human rights lie with MCC and could they help provide information and opinion. However, there was wide support for the idea of such a museum. Roy indicated that this is a complex proposal in which we don’t have enough answers. The members of MHSC were encouraged to take a strong interest in the project, raise issues with their provincial societies and bring feedback to the MHSC.

Royden Loewen again takes the Chair.

12 Reports from Institutional Members
a) Mennonite Archives of Ontario and MCEC - Sam Steiner referred members to his report circulated and highlighted the increase in storage space. He also mentioned potential problem that there is no national archives committee yet for Mennonite Church Canada.

b) Mennonite Heritage Centre and MC Canada – Alf Redekopp also highlighted his circulated report and commented on the fact that they are now 25 years in their new building and hoped for new archival space in the range of 4-5,000 sq.ft. They have plans for installing compact storage. Some change is dependent on the Canadian Mennonite University building a new library.

c) Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies and MB Historical Commission – Heinrich Loewen noted the bi-national nature of the Commission and the cooperation with his American counterparts. Recently Paul Taves, of the Fresno, California, archives has resigned and a replacement is being sought.

d) EMC Archives and EMC – Henry Fast reported briefly on the Conference archives located in Steinbach.

e) Chair in Mennonite Studies - Roy Loewen commented on a federal SSHRC grant to write a history of Low German Mennonites over the next 4 to 5 years and this will enable him the hire researchers.

13 Other Reports
a) Frank H. Epp Memorial Scholarship Fund - Marlene Epp reported that the Scholarship find will be granted in February most likely to a peace theology project.

M/S/C (M.Epp/A.Dueck) That Laureen serve as the MHSC representative on the Frank H. Epp Fund.

b) Mennonite Heritage Village – no report.

c) Flemish Mennonite Historical Society - Delbert Plett reported on the changes in this new Society. The very successful publication Preservings is continuing but will now be an annual.

d) Chair in German Canadian Studies Roy introduced Prof. Alexander Freund, who holds the Chair in German-Canadian Studies at the University of Winnipeg. Alexander is working on a oral history project and would like to interview German speakers about their pre 1939 experiences in Canada.

Sam Steiner again assumed the Chair.

14 Financial Statement [Attachment 5]

M/S/C (L.Harder-Gissing/A.Dueck) That the audited financial statement be accepted .

15 Appointment of Auditor

M/S/C (L.Harder-Gissing/A.Redekopp) That MHSC appoint Robert V. Bender as our auditor.

16 Budget 2003/2004
Laureen Harder-Gissing presented the budget reviewed the items line by line. Some items that were clarified included: $1,000.00 donation was again received from Mennonite Church Canada; the sizable GST rebate is applied for and received only once every three years.

M/S/C (L.Harder-Gissing/J.Peters) That the budget be accepted

Royden Loewen again takes the Chair.

17 Report from Nominations Committee and Elections
Roy reported that in this past year David Giesbrecht resigned as Vice-President because of his Church assignment took him out of Canada. Sam Steiner was asked to fill in as Vice-President in the interim. After consultation with the executive Roy asked Leonard Doell and Sam Steiner to serve as the Nominations Committee this year.

Leonard reported for the Nominations Committee. Tin its deliberations the Committee sought to find a balance in nominations. The Committee presented this slate of candidates:

President Royden Loewen; nominated
Vice-President Sam Steiner; nominated
Secretary Victor Wiebe; nominated
Treasurer Laureen Harder-Gissing; nominated
Member-at-large Richard Thiessen; nominated  

More nominations were requested but none were forth coming. Ted Friesen moved that nominations close. Agreed. The executive is acclaimed.

Laureen who has served as Treasurer for a number of years stated this will be the last time she could serve on the executive for she will be entering university in a Librarianship programme of study.

Roy asked for volunteers to form the nominating committee for next year. Abe Dueck and David Giesbrecht volunteered. Ted Friesen offered to help search for nominees if needed.  

18 New Business
There was no new business brought to the meeting.

19. Next Meeting
4 December 2004 at Conrad Grebel College

20 Adjournment at 4:30 pm.

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