Today I traveled to eastern Washington for the Mennonite Country Auction and Relief Sale. For those of you who don’t know, a relief sale is a type of event held around the country to raise funds to support the relief and development work of Mennonite Central Committee around the world. Mennonites gather from all around to gorge themselves and spend lots of money on quilts and antiques, all in the name of giving in the name of Christ to those in need. (I’ve heard that part of being Mennonite is living simply and reducing consumption…except on relief sale day!) Definitely it is a must-see ritual of the Mennonite subculture, and perhaps the closest thing that there is to a real Mennonite sacrament.
If you have been a Mennonite for any length of time, you are familiar with the “Mennonite game.” This is the strange (and unfortunately sometimes exclusive) ritual by which Mennonites interrogate new acquaintances to discover how they fit into the Mennonite web and (more importantly, if she is cute) check to see whether the two of you are cousins.
Some of the coincidental connections I discovered today:
- the fellow I talked to at the MCC booth is a third cousin of the parents of one of my MVS housemates (a fact ascertained because I noticed that he shares her last name and hometown, and inquired)
- a couple of decades ago, my MVS host parents helped start a church in Texas with the parents of a college friend who I attended a church small group with in Goshen
No need to freak out, says the Mennonite. It’s a small (Mennonite) world, and this is actually totally normal. So if I meet you and start asking strangely personal questions, don’t be taken aback. I’m just used to finding connections when I meet someone, and am trying to find a point of commonality.