You know you
are an aging

by Jep Hostetler
Numerous lists of "You know you are getting older when…" exist. These purport to
inform us regarding the aging process. These lists include everything from infirmities
to foibles that may or may not be unique to older folks. It occurred to me that the list
for aging Mennonites has yet to be published. In an attempt to fill this obvious void,
the following list is suggested as a beginning.

You know you are an aging Mennonite when:

You remember Life Songs #2.

I remember, as a child, creating rubbings by placing a piece of paper over the face of
the songbook and rubbing with a pencil. This created a nifty replica of title as well as
the large number 2. Do any congregations still use this hymnal?

You remember that page 112 in Life Songs #2 is "Wonderful the Matchless Grace of

This was a golden opportunity for a pubescent boy to attempt to keep up with the
basses as they rumbled through the scale of "Wonderful the matchless grace of
Jesus, deeper than the mighty rolling sea..." as the women climbed through the high
parts; and then to the crescendo ending with the women searching for the most
elusive "Praise, his name" high note as Mrs. B's loud voice outshone all the rest.

The "amen corner" was more than a corner.

Up front, to the right, that is where the older elders (always men, of course) sat to give
affirmation to the preacher. In the earliest days of my memory there were still audible
"amens" coming from the amen corner. When Rev. W. would hold forth with louder
and louder preaching, and the tempo picked up a bit, more and more "amens" came
from this part of the sanctuary.

Women and girls sat on one side of the church while men and boys sat on the other.

Clearly, this was segregation of the sexes in the sanctuary. It was never clear to me
why this arrangement was practiced. In fact, no one was able to explain to this
fourteen-year-old boy, the theology behind this arrangement.

Hymnsings were monthly after-the-Sunday-evening-service events.
Since there were numerous Mennonite churches in our community, it was customary
to have hymnsings on a rotating, monthly basis. Following the early Sunday evening
service, we would all jump into cars and head for the designated church for the
hymnsing. Afterwards, clusters of high school boys and girls would stand around
outside the church, each eyeing the other in an attempt to get up the courage to make
some kind of verbal connection. Courage meant leaving the security of the boys' (read
men's) group and approach a particular young lady. The approach always included an
invitation to take the particular young lady home.

You remember the "holy kiss."
Unlike many of my male counterparts, the holy kiss seemed to me to be a sacred
greeting. My memory still retains this image - one of community, goodwill, and sacred

Newly married couples were surprised by "bellings."
Once a newly married couple was settled into their new home (or mobile home, or
living with a relative), a particular night was chosen for the young people to sneak up
on the location. On a given signal the house was surrounded by Mennonite,
nonresistant, stealthy, young folks, bent on making the loudest racket they could
muster. When the signal was given, they would pounce on the home, ringing bells,
blowing whistles, banging pans or drums, or shaking anything that could make a
splendid racket. The startled, unsuspecting couple was expected to emerge from their
hideout, express their total surprise, and invite the perpetrators in for ice cream or

Nearly everyone went to church on Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday
Normal routine included attending each of the services, plus it was uncommon to miss
Sunday school for any reason, especially if one were attending the worship service on
the same day.

What items would make your list? Do you have any humorous memories of
abandoned traditions? Please send them to the writer at

Mennonite Historical Bulletin, July 2001
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