Menno Simons is the namesake for current day Mennonites. While there were many other Anabaptists before and during his life, Menno was a skilled leader who traveled and lived long enough to have a group carry his name.
VBS June 21
-Week one we learned about St. Francis and Claire who gave up wealth and being important in order to live and be with the poor and sick. They also loved ALL of creation.
-Week two we learned about Pilgram Marpeck, and how he refused to use a sword when he disagreed with people.
-Last week we learned about Hans Denck, and how he followed the Bible, by living instead of just believing (or just thinking). He also believed it was ok to disagree with the older Bible sometimes in order to better follow Jesus now.
Today we learn about Menno Simons, who also lived 500 years ago, like Pilgram and Hans.
Pilgram probably grew up as a dairy farmer, and decided in his late twenties to be a priest.
Here's a pic of St. Lambert's, where Menno started as a priest.
During his first year as a priest he started to disagree with the Catholic Church he was part of.
--He thought that the Bible was more important than the church leaders of his day.
The church leaders didn't seem to always care about following God in every way, so Menno (like Martin Luther shortly before him) choose to follow the Bible more, and specifically the stories of Jesus in the Bible.
--He also thought that rituals (such as communion and baptism) were symbols, and didn't hold any magical power from God.
This was also different than his church. Pilgram still believed rituals were important in showing that you followed God, but they did not have any magical powers.
4.) Two kinds of Anabaptists:
At this same time, there was another Group of Anabaptists who ended up in Munster.
However, they believed the best way to disagree was to save yourself with a military. Unfortunately, their city was destroyed. This saddened Menno, as he probably lost his brother to Munster.
Here's a pic of Cages where they would imprison people who disagreed and disobeyed the church.
Menno was a different kind of Anabaptist. He didn't believe violence and the sword should be used. Instead of fighting with a sword, he went into hiding along with his family.
Many Anabaptists after Munster, were feared by the government and chased down and imprisoned (**if older audience, you can mentioned martyrdom and execution). Somehow, Menno and his family lived without ever being caught.
For nearly 30 years, Menno hid and worked and preached.
He became so famous in the area, that his followers were called Mennists and Mennonites.
Despite all their efforts the government and other churches couldn't stop the spread of Menno and his beliefs and his community.
500 years later, there are now over 1.7 million Anabaptists who draw their roots from people like Menno, Hans and Pilgram.
most live in Africa (38.3%)
less than 1/3 are in North America like us (29.8%)
Asia and Pacific 17.8%,
Latin America and the Caribbean 10.5%,
only 3.6% are in Europe, where Menno, Pilgram and Hans lived.
MWC Data link
I wonder how many Mennonites there will be in another 500 years!
7.) This week:
Pre-K age - remember that like Menno, we don't have to hurt people when we disagree. If you are mad with someone, find a way to love them and be nice.
Older Elementary - like Menno, is there anything in your life that you would be willing to go in hiding for?
What is most important in your life, and what are ways you show it?
How do you show your faith in God?
What does it mean today, that less than 5% of Anabaptists are in Europe, and most are in Africa?
What are ways we can learn from Mennonites across the globe and work together?
Here's a few tidbits about Hans Denck, as well as a few links at the bottom to learn more. It's suited a bit more for older elementary children, so adapt as needed for younger children, teenagers and adults.
STORY of Hans Denck:
St. Francis of Assisi lived 800 years ago. He decided to give up war and wealth in order to live with the poor and preach the good news of Christ in Italy.
One of his followers was Claire, who also gave up her wealth in order to live with the poor and preach the good news of Christ.
Pilgram Marpeck lived 500 years ago. He believed that people should not use the sword when they disagree. He also believed that everyone should help each other, even when they disagree.
2.) Childhood and Education
Today's story is Hans Denck,
He lived 500 years ago as well, just like Pilgram Marpeck.
Both Pilgram and Hans were from South Germany, although they probably never knew each other.
Hans was highly educated by his parents, and eventually became the rector at St. Sebaldus School in Nuremberg.
It was in Nuremberg that he met Anabaptists, and changed his mind on church.
Already Catholics and Lutherans were disagreeing with each other.
Hans, too had different ideas.
Hans believed that it matters what people do, far more than what they say. Following Jesus is the best way to love God.
Hans believed the Bible was helpful, but that people must also learn to listen to the voice of God inside each person. He believed it was ok to disagree with the Bible.
Hans also believed that God is for absolutely everyone, and loves absolutely everyone. It doesn't matter if you belong to a certain church or certain land or government. Everyone is loved by God.
Because of his beliefs which challenged the government and church, he was fired from his job and kicked out of town. He traveled around preaching his beliefs of how to follow God in everything do.
Eventually, he got sick with the plague and died within 3 years of being banished from Nuremberg.
One can only imagine what he would have done if he had lived as long as Marpeck did.
Within the last two months of his life he was still writing his beliefs and meeting with Lutherans to talk about the best way to follow God.
6.) Questions for reflection-
What is one thing you do you to follow God beyond Sundays?
Without the Bible, what is one way to listen for God?
What does it mean to listen for God's voice?
Is it more important to pray or read the Bible? (Probably for older kids)
Links for Learning More:
Gameo Link (an Anabaptist Resource)
MWR Article about Denck and the Bible
Article about similarities with Quakers/Friends
Sunday's VBS focuses on Pilgram Marpeck, one of the notable voices during the Protestant Reformation for Anabaptists. What made Marpeck, and other Anabaptists, so different from Catholics and other Reformers such as Martin Luther, is that he was unwilling to use the sword.
Main points for younger children including preschoolers would be that Marpeck, and Anabaptists did two things differently:
1.) They never used the sword with people when they disagreed.
2.) They believed that adults should make a decision to follow God, instead of baptizing babies.
Additional points for elementary children:
1.) Anabaptists received their name because the re-baptized adults who had only been baptized as infants. Marpeck wrote about why adult baptism was healthier, so that adults could make their own decision instead of parents and priests making decisions for them.
2.) Anabaptists started the same time as Martin Luther and other Protestants, in the 1500s - roughly 500 years ago!
Additional notes for teenagers:
1.) Marpeck was quite valuable because of his engineering skills for mining and building water ways to move lumber. This kept him safe when governments probably would have executed him for his writings and beliefs that threatened religious and civic structures and law.
2.) Marpeck lived a life of tension, in which he took part in the life of those who were not Anabaptist Christians, and yet lived whole-heartedly as a person passionate about Jesus in an Anabaptist lifestyle. This meant that Marpeck had to give up his wealth at one point, but also meant that he did not become a martyr as many vocal and public Anabaptists did.
Please note the following two links for bios, photos and other history notes:
Events & Evites:
Tory - Pastor of Children and Youth Faith Formation.