Archive for July, 2007

on Transition, Anticipation, and Preparation

I arrive in Seattle in forty days. Maybe its time to head out into the wilderness?

on Wetness

I’m sitting here on the porch at The Barn, waiting for the rain to stop.

rain in Goshen

You see, I had just started biking home when THIS suddenly appeared out of nowhere:

Doppler radar of the storm

Yeah, the weather’s out to get me. Oh well, we need the rain. And I’m happy. (And soaked.) I only pulled over because I was carrying a $2000 piece of electronic equipment on my back.

Okay, it died down, so I think I’m going to go home.

on the Whereabouts of Mennonites

Inspired by my recent Anabaptist History tour of Europe and by the biannual convention of the Mennonite Church USA at San Jose (though I wasn’t able to attend), I’ve been working recently on creating this map of Mennonite congregations in North America.

Each congregation is represented by a colored bubble. The size of the bubble corresponds to the membership reported by the congregation, and the bubble’s color represents the year in which the congregation was founded. (Congregations from the same city are grouped together at low zoom levels.) The map uses the Google maps API so you can zoom and pan the map just like at

Menno Map Disclaimers

  • The data regarding MC USA congregations represented in this map should be up to date with the official MC USA directory. The data for other congregations, such as those in Canada, are more likely to be out of date. If your congregation is missing, or its info is no longer correct, please feel free to e-mail me the new info.
  • This map is not designed for navigational purposes. The addresses of these congregations were converted to latitude and longitude positions using an automated geocoding tool from Yahoo. I have not checked the results for accuracy, so your mileage (literally) may vary.

Without further ado:

Continue reading ‘on the Whereabouts of Mennonites’

on My First Sacred Harp Singing

Today I had a really wonderful experience. I biked 4 miles with Matt and Sol out to the New Testament Baptist Church, for the annual Sacred Harp singing that takes place there. I knew that it would be a good day when I biked the last yards toward the small white church building listening to the powerful chords emanating from it.

Sacred harp singing is a tradition of communal singing that originated in the South of the US in the mid-1800s. It is shape-note singing tradition–each shape on the staff represents a particular note of the scale, and each song is first sung through once naming the notes instead of using the words. There is a also a big emphasis on community and participation–the people present take turns leading each song, and go to lengths to help new people get up to speed. The typical seating arrangement is in a hollow square with one part on each side, all facing the leader in the middle, so this adds to the atmosphere of community. Sacred harp singers can tend to be a little obsessive about this pasttime: they will travel across multiple states for the well-known singings, and note the following picture as well. 🙂

Vanity license plates at the Sacred Harp singing

One thing that was cool about the singing is that there were people from many different backgrounds present–not just Mennonites–all united by their love for the music. Most of the songs were new to me, although I knew a few, felt at home, and did fine sight-reading (thank you J.D. Smucker, Deb Brubaker, and Assembly Mennonite Church).

I’d definitely recommend this tradition to anyone who loves singing in harmony. If you want to know more or find a singing near you (they go on year round), see

on Goals For the Next Year Or So

Wow, it has been a long time since I posted anything. The summer charges ahead, filled with lots of good things including bike rides, cookouts, game nights, hymn sings, bowling, and even a bit of working. I am getting to the point where going to work all day every day is starting to make me a little antsy, so I’m glad that I have various changes of pace to look forward to: a camping trip next weekend, a family reunion at the beginning of August, various extended family visiting during the next month, and eventually heading to Seattle. (Of course, Seattle will not mean the end of full work days, but at least I will have a new place to explore, which will hopefully stave off the boredom of routine for some time.)

In an attempt to jump-start my re-entry into blogdom, I thought I’d post a list of “goals for the next year or so” that I jotted down on May 17 while I was in Europe:

  • become more fluent in German, French
  • learn to cook well
  • read classic literature
  • practice hammered dulcimer, piano
  • regular exercise: running, biking, and/or working out
  • keep in touch with friends
  • research genealogy
  • learn to juggle
  • learn to play chess*
  • stop biting my nails and start brushing my teeth**
  • learn Python, Ruby***
  • become more familiar with music and art history****
  • read the Bible more and be prepared to explain Christianity to someone who’s interested
  • go camping and hiking a lot
  • attend workshops on sustainable building
  • tithe regularly
  • get contacts
  • record my grandparents’ stories
  • design a lifestyle that gives me freedom to travel while also treating the Earth with care
  • get to know the lore and culture of Washington / Seattle

There’s obviously a fair range in how much time and effort these will take. And I notice that it is predominantly a list of new things to learn…and not so much about big life-determining decisions. But I always find it helpful to review which of these little things I want to be working toward, as well. After all, most of them are things that will make life more enjoyable no matter what I end up doing. (On the other hand, maybe I just like making lists…)

*Yeah, I know, everyone’s always amazed when they find out I never played chess. I mean, I know how the pieces move, but that’s about it.
**Yeah, I know that’s gross. I did think twice before posting this one on my blog. But there it is.
***These are programming languages, for the less geeky technology-challenged among you.
****Humanities, you have failed me. (Okay, not literally.)