Mennonite Heritage Week is upon us again.
I can only assume that the planning committee has been busy for months now and the potlucks, quilt auctions and volleyball tournaments are all planned and prepared. The song leaders have all polished and tuned their pitch pipes, and the preachers have supplemented their prepared sermons with extra material to honour the week with some extra long homilies.
Not only that.
I imagine that the Thrift Stores will have pulled out their finer wares for display. The butchers, I expect, are nervously checking to see they have enough sausage put away, and all the Mennonite bookstores are stocking their shelves with copies of the Classics of the Radical Reformation, the new Hymn Book, and Miriam Toews’ latest novel.
Because by the second annual Mennonite Heritage Week, I figure we’ll be pulling out all the stops.
Some of us assumed that the first MHW would occur in 2019, the year it was announced, which would have made this the third MHW. I was all ready that year, not only with my set of Cards against the Mennonites, but I’d also studied up in case someone suggested a rousing game of Church-Schism-themed charades.
It didn’t happen.
A few of us tweeted a couple clever Mennonite Heritage tweets but otherwise the week was met mostly with silence. There were not even strains of 606 to be heard wafting through the Mennosphere.
Apparently it takes time for parliament to designate a week and all that paperwork and getting the royal assent and all took until 2020.
But even if it was legal last year, I’d say the celebrations were almost as quiet as the year before. I suspect all of the Dirk Willems cosplayers refused to rescue their bailiffs for fear of breaking social distancing rules and the bailiffs were left to cosplay freezing/drowning on their own.
Which can’t have been a lot of fun (though with quick thinking, they may have just turned their drowning into a Felix Manz cosplay instead).
But we can’t judge the future and promise of Mennonite Heritage Week on 2020. I think we’ve all agreed just to give 2020 a pass on everything and start over again.
Come to think of it, we might have to start over again next year, too.
Like I said, I assume the committee’s been hard at work but I really can’t say. All I can do is tell you that I’ll be posting on Instagram and Twitter again this year with some extra special Mennonite Heritage Week content. And I offer you here, a Mennonite Heritage Week Drinking Guide.
Opening Weekend Festivities
Who are we kidding? Mennonite events pretty much always begin with a long prayer and maybe a couple of hymns. Expect a few exhortations reminding us all of the need to exercise moderation in our revelries, lest the English all think that we are really Amish on Rumspringa. All of this will successfully dampen the mood for any light-hearted frivolity. Go to Church (Zoom Church, if necessary), drink some weak coffee and wait until the effects wear off.
You should be fine by cocktail hour on Monday when Mennonite Heritage Week actually begins.
How better to start off a week of Mennonite recognition than with a beverage in honour of our history of persecution?
After your workday finishes on Monday, I suggest sitting down with your family or whoever else will humour you and leafing through your copy of the Martyr’s Mirror. If you don’t own a copy, that’s no excuse. It’s all online. For a fun game to play on Martyrdom Monday, try “Guess the Torture Method” with random selections from the “Bloody Theatre” or order yourself a copy of the new board game Martyr: Bloody Theatre, 1528. I haven’t played it yet myself so don’t know if I can recommend it but it gets top marks for topicality.
Menno-Nightcaps has several recipes honouring martyrs of our past — there’s the Conrad Grebellini, the Margret Hottingwallbanger, Maeyken’s Boozy Milkshake, and of course the ever popular Dirk ‘n Willemsy. As the book isn’t available yet, just drink something bitter and let yourself feel like a martyr for it.
On Tuesday, you will want to spend the entire day reminding people that there are more Mennonites in Africa than in North America and most Mennonites are not white people of European descent. Be sure to bring this little factoid into any conversation, no matter how tangential and no matter how likely it is that the others in the conversation are already aware. At the end of the day, after a good, long day boring your friends and acquaintances, spend the evening with a drink in hand and the Mennonite World Conference website open for reference.
Looking for another game? Try Missionaries of Catan. It just takes a bit of DIY work; start with a Settlers of Catan board and rename the “settlements” as “congregations” and the “cities” as “conferences.” I leave it to you and your own theological take on evangelism to decide what resources are needed and who (if anyone) actually wins.
Happily, cocktail culture is also transnational. A couple of my cocktails in Menno-Nightcaps reference the newer Mennonites of the Global South (the emphasis on history reduces the number that would otherwise be there). For now, find yourself a cocktail based on Asian or Latin American spirits and start your toast with the words, “well, actually…”
World Avoidance Wednesday
On Wednesday, it is particularly important that you avoid worldly games and other forms of entertainment. If you were still thinking about dancing on any day during Mennonite Heritage Week, getting through Wednesday should put an end to that thought. Also, leave the worldly playing cards in the cupboard and pick up a deck of Rook or Dutch Blitz cards.
Is a cocktail book worldly? Well, maybe a little. But you can avoid the worldliest cocktails by drinking the Plainoma, the NonConformapolitan, or one of the cocktails paying tribute to some of the plain-dressing Mennonite groups. Cocktails like the Holdemannhattan, the David Martini Mennonites or the Old Pina Colony. Without the book at hand, why not just have a Bonnet Blaster and be done with it?
Thrift Store Thursday
By now, you probably need some new cocktail supplies and that calls for a trip to your local thrift store. That’s right – on Thursday, you get to have an outing! Next to Church, there’s no place likelier to come across other Mennonites than a thrift store. At least, you might meet them in a liquor store but everyone knows we’re not supposed to acknowledge each other there. A thrift store’s different. It’ll practically be a party there. Try out your Mennonite conversation skills by asking about the weather, the latest Mennonite controversies, and the state of the store’s glassware. No games on Thursday; all that conversation is sure to have tired you out.
To honour our storied frugality, the book has such delights as the More with Lillet cocktail and the Thrift Store Sour but you can also just enjoy the Devil in a Thrift Store from the Drunken Menno Blog.
Because this is a special week and because alliteration matters, we’re going to go a little wild and suggest a long faspa with friends and family on Friday instead of Sunday. That’s right. On Friday night, it’s time to take out our tight braids and hang loose for some serious Mennonite partying; i.e. standing around and talking with your hundred closest friends and family members while eating bread and cheese. Yes, it may be difficult for the outsider to clearly differentiate between this day of festivity and a traditional Mennonite funeral reception but so what? I’ve said it before — we’re good at funerals — and isn’t Mennonite Heritage Week all about celebrating our strengths?
I have a few versions of an Old Freundschaft cocktail. The one in the book is perfected from the one on the blog and uses molasses simple syrup instead of plain, which makes the cocktail just a bit more festive, don’t you think?
Sure, the government says that our Heritage Week only runs from Monday to Friday but that’s just because they haven’t heard us sing. On Singalong Saturday, those song leaders finally get to pull out their polished pitch pipes and lead us all in a marathon of four-part harmony hymn singing. Pull out your trilogy of Mennonite Hymnbooks and whatever supplementary books of Church songs that are also on hand and head to the nearest public place where your hymn singing is most likely to annoy other people just trying to enjoy their Saturday.
After all that singing, you’ll want to whet your whistle with some Four Part Sangria or maybe a Singalong Sling. The blog has a few hymn-referencing libations as well. The #6ix oh 6ix might be the most appropriate.
If you imagined that we could get to the end of the week without at least a hint of schism, then you do not know us well at all. This is a good day to honour our schismatic history by spending the afternoon writing angry letters to the editor of your Church publication, either a conference magazine or just your congregational newsletter. Remember to quote the Bible and maintain an appropriate tone of righteous indignation. Finish the day off by celebrating the fun schisms of the past. This would be a good time for that game of that “Church-Schism-Themed Charades” I mentioned earlier or a round of “Obscure Points of Theology Pictionary.” Try challenging your friends to draw the doctrine of celestial flesh.
Menno-Nightcaps has the better part of a chapter devoted to Church Schisms so there will be no shortage of cocktails for Sunday.
Any of the days of Mennonite Heritage week is just fine for commemorating the Schleitheim Confession so for the Mennonite Heritage Week, I present to you with this recipe from Menno-Nightcaps.
…The Schleitside cocktail takes its inspiration from a minty gin cocktail called the Southside. To honour the Schleitheim Confession, this cocktail muddles exactly seven mint leaves; one for each article…”
- 7 fresh mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
- 2 oz gin
- 3/4 oz simple syrup
- 3/4 oz fresh lime juice
- a dash of elderflower liqueur
- a dash of absinthe or star anise bitters
Place the mint in the bottom of a cocktail shaker, and add the gin. Muddle to release the mint flavours, and then add the other ingredients except for the garnish. Fill the shaker halfway with ice and shake thoroughly. Strain into a coupe glass or serve over ice in a highball glass. Garnish with mint or seven edible blossoms.
Celebrate Mennonite Heritage Week by running through each of the doctrinal items in the Schleitheim Confession and plotting Church Schisms for each one.