Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Eicher Emmanuel Mennonite Church

In the US state of Iowa stands the Eicher Emmanuel Mennonite Church.

Its roots go to a certain Benjamin Eicher who left the Amish community in 1874 along with others who founded this church - and eventually joined the Mennonite Conference. A short account of this can be seen: here. The gist of it being a pithy reminder by a fellow Amish bishop: "a minister should wear clothing that would show people he was a minister, not a banker." The offending clothing? Round buttons instead of eyes and hooks (like what ladies use today for their Punjabi outfits).

Of course, there would have been so much more than just whether our distant anscestor wore buttons or hooks. The fabric of relationships, the willingness to submit or challenge, the constant balance between individual conscience and the tugs of pride in each of our souls.

To leave a church is no easy matter. Our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters may look askance at the proliferation of small fellowships ("ecclesiastical communities" as the current incumbent of the Holy See calls us) , but the great value in this is based on the conviction that we must obey our conscience, especially when guided by scripture. Time also winnows out losers. In order to continue, a church must be more than just a personality (which I am sure Benjamin Eicher had plenty of), but must also be a living community that worships and grows together.

I don't know much about the Eicher Emmanuel Mennonite Church. We know about it through a distant relative of ours - Tom Eicher - who wrote to us recently. He had stumbled upon this blog and wanted to know if we were related. We figured out that my great-grandfather and his grand-father are cousins.

But what we do know is that each generation has to rediscover - and re-be church. We cannot just inherit a building / pattern of worship / set of rituals. We must ourselves plunge into what it means to worship God together as community - and be His hands and feet. We may end up very different from our parents "ecclesiastical community" - but one day this current set of splinters will all be washed away in the massive roar of praise around the throne of glory - and I suspect that there will be folks there who have round buttons as well as eye-and-hooks!


  1. You and I are distant relatives too then! Nice to meet you hahaha. I have was just researching our church on the internet and this popped up. Thanks for the insight

  2. Thanks Addy's Mom!

    Are you an Eicher too? Blessings to you from all of us out here in India!