On ‘Titanic’ centennial, missionary’s life rememberedBy Sheldon C. Good Mennonite World Review
HARLEYSVILLE, Pa. — When Annie Clemmer Funk, a Mennonite missionary to India, learned her mother was very ill in Pennsylvania, she quickly packed her bags and caught a train to Bombay. From there she traveled to England, where she learned a coal strike had delayed her ship’s voyage to the U.S.
So she paid a few extra gold pieces for a spot on the Titanic, which set sail two days later.
Funk was one of 1,517 people who died in the “unsinkable” ocean liner’s disaster on April 15, 1912. Just three days earlier she had celebrated her 38th birthday aboard the Titanic.
To mark the centennial of Funk’s death in one of history’s most famous tragedies at sea, filmmaker Jay Ruth is producing a 35-minute video that tells the story of Funk’s faith and witness and describes the nature of Mennonite mission at the time.
A DVD will be available, and two premiere showings are planned. The first will be at 7:30 p.m. April 29 at Zion Mennonite Church in Souderton. The second will be at 7:30 p.m. May 6 at Hereford Mennonite Church in Bally, Funk’s home congregation.
The film, sponsored by Mennonite Historians of Eastern Pennsylvania, is a production of Jay Ruth’s Branch Valley Productions in Lederach.
A native of Butter Valley in southeastern Pennsylvania, Funk was the first Mennonite woman from Pennsylvania to serve as a missionary in India. Fragments of her story have been known for years, but the film is the first larger project of its kind.
“Here’s a young woman who grew up in rural Pennsylvania, and somehow she was drawn from there to the other side of the world, and then her life ended in this worldwide drama,” said historian John L. Ruth, a consultant for the film. “As a memorably dedicated Christian, she has not been forgotten in India and North America as a hero of our faith family.”
Using momentum from the blockbuster 1997 film Titanic, Charlotte Strouse of Zion Mennonite helped Funk’s story became even more widely known. Strouse recalled Funk’s life more than 100 times in a one-person re-enactment.
Before going to India, Funk took a teachers’ course at West Chester State Normal School, which later became West Chester University. She trained for Christian service at D.L. Moody’s Northfield (Mass.) Seminary for Ladies, then served in Chattanooga, Tenn., and with the Young Women’s Christian Association in Paterson, N.J.
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