Virginia History Book Project Kicks Off Again as Groups Agree to New Parameters
by Jon Trotter
Representatives from the Virginia Mennonite Conference Historical Committee and the History Book Committee met with the Shenandoah Valley Mennonite Historians at Eastern Mennonite University’s Sadie Hartzler Library on August 27 to reenergize efforts to complete a history book of the Mennonite story in Virginia. Photos: Jon Trotter
Representatives from the Virginia Mennonite Conference Historical Committee and the History Book Committee met with the Shenandoah Valley Mennonite Historians at Eastern Mennonite University’s Sadie Hartzler Library on August 27 to restart and reenergize efforts to complete a history book of the Mennonite story in Virginia, from early colonial roots to the present day.
The three groups met to approve a memo of understanding about the history book project parameters. The joint meeting was chaired by Jim Hershberger, Chair of the Shenandoah Valley Mennonite Historians, and Elwood Yoder, project co-author.
The history book project emerged 10 years ago as a way to update and fill out the historical stories since the last publication, Harry A. Brunk’s two-volume History of Mennonites in Virginia set, ends in 1960.The goal is to write a 350-400 page narrative history book about Mennonites in Virginia. The book will be co-authored by Steve Nolt, professor of history and Anabaptist studies at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College and senior scholar at the college’s Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies as lead author, and Elwood Yoder, Editor of the Shenandoah Mennonite Historian and former history and Bible teacher at Eastern Mennonite School as co-author.
The authors will write a chronologically-organized, narrative history focusing on people and churches of Virginia Mennonite Conference (VMC). The authors will include other Mennonite groups that have departed or joined VMC over time and Mennonites with links to VMC via migration and mission (such as Jamaica Mennonite Church, Mennonite Church of Trinidad and Tobago, and others). Nolt and Yoder aim to situate the Mennonite story in Virginia’s broader historical and cultural context and the Mennonite world beyond Virginia.The authors will seek to tell the stories of women and men and to include the voices and experiences of minority groups with VMC history. The book will include a comprehensive index and appendix of selected items, and the book will include a number of photos and captions.
The History Book Committee will review the book materials, assist in the research process, provide advice on the book’s direction, and counsel the writers. They will meet as needed throughout the process.
The VMC Historical Committee, Shenandoah Mennonite Historians, and History Book Committee signed the new Memo of Understanding to replace the original MOU from 2011. The biggest change between the two documents is for Nolt and Yoder to co-author the book with instead of being written by Nolt alone. The goal for the book’s release is sometime in late 2025, with the writing completed by October 2024.
The History Book Committee is fundraising to cover the costs of research and writing, with about $50,000 still needed. Virginia Mennonite Conference is collecting donations and keeping financial records for the project.
All donations are tax deductible and should be made to Virginia Mennonite Conference and designated for the “History Book Project.” Online donations can also be made here.