Illinois Conference celebrates all of its ‘good Mennonite names’By Tim Huber Mennonite World Review
Illinois Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA is home to a large number of “good Mennonite names.” To be exact, as of December there were 1,606.
There is Yoder. There is Litwiller. There are Hostetler and Beachy. There is also Cyrulik. And Hakomori. And Muñoz and Zwissig.
The conference has been celebrating every name with posters and banners listing each name, surrounded by images from each member congregation.
Conference minister Chuck Neufeld first had the idea to gather members’ names 20 years ago at his congregation, Community Mennonite Church in Markham, a suburb of Chicago.
The multiethnic church was home to traditional “Mennonite names” like Friesen and Neufeld, but also plenty of others like Odom, Spinard and McDonald — all equally Mennonite.
“The effort is kind of an anti-ethnicism poster and in a general way speaks against the racism that is so powerful and so subtle,” Neufeld said.
“Experiences like ‘The Mennonite Game’ with ‘Oh, you’re related to so-and-so’ — that is a celebration of inclusion. When we play that game, we are celebrating how we belong and that we belong, and when someone comes with a name that can’t be traced easily with our European lineage, they can be quickly and summarily dismissed.”
For the conference-wide project, he contacted each of the conference’s 50 congregations and collected the 6,000 members’ family names.
Because he intentionally only asked for each name once and immediately bypassed duplicates, he actually doesn’t know which name is most common.
“It became a playful, celebrative way of insisting that all of these names are equally good Mennonite names,” he said.
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