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110 years in publishing and public media outreach for Mennonites

11.26. 2018 Written By: MennoMedia 389 Times read

In the year 1908, inventor Henry Ford’s Model T automobile was first produced. Aviation enthusiast Wilbur Wright made a test flight of a flying machine that lasted almost two minutes in France. Theodore Roosevelt was winding down his second term as a popular U.S. president, and Wilfrid Laurier was prime minister of Canada. Also in 1908, Mennonite Publishing House (MPH) became an official church publishing effort in Scottdale, Pennsylvania.

This year, MennoMedia and its book imprint Herald Press have been celebrating 110 years of serving the Mennonite church and broader public with magazines, books and curricula.

Daniel Kauffman, editor of Gospel Witness (early forerunner to Gospel Herald and eventually The Mennonite), was instrumental in helping crystallize questions facing the church in the formation of a publishing business on behalf of the church. Those questions, recounted in the history volume God Uses Ink by John A. Hostetler, included “Would the institution become a burden to the church? Who would manage it? What should be the scope of its work? Where should it be started?” Kauffman’s vision (using the gender reference common to the time) expressed hope for “an institution . . . having each department headed by a man ‘full of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom.’”

Amy Gingerich, current executive director and publisher at MennoMedia, said: “What a delight to celebrate this milestone anniversary and to reflect on all the changes to technology and media over the years. I am honored to be part of this organization as we continue to equip individuals and congregations to live out their faith.”

While Mennonite Publishing House started in 1908 in Scottdale as a publishing ministry of the former Mennonite Church, it has been part of various mergers over the years. In 2001, Faith & Life Press, the former General Conference Mennonite Church publisher based in Newton, Kansas, merged with Mennonite Publishing House to become Mennonite Publishing Network. Mostly recently, in 2011, Mennonite Publishing Network joined the public media agency Mennonite Media in Harrisonburg, Virginia, a legacy of combined media efforts that include former radio programs such as The Mennonite Hour and Heart to Heart, TV spots, documentaries and websites. That same year, the organization’s headquarters relocated to Harrisonburg.

Coincidentally, the organization’s offices in Harrisonburg are just 10 miles from the location of the very first Mennonite printing operation in the United States, in the village now known as Singers Glen, Virginia. Owner Joseph Funk was the first known Mennonite to own and operate a printing press beginning about 1847; he printed and published numerous hymnals.

As an agency of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, MennoMedia publishes church and Sunday school curricula for children through adults, hymnals, three magazines including the Rejoice! devotional, religious trade books under the Herald Press imprint, and the Third Way website, offering online information and resources on Mennonites.

Herald Press has historically published books on Amish and Mennonite life and faith, numerous bestselling cookbooks and popular titles on peace, reconciliation, community, discipleship, mission, spirituality, and theology. Today, Herald Press focuses on acquiring highly readable, practical manuscripts that inform thoughtful faith and that call readers to take Jesus seriously—to follow his example in word and deed. Herald Press books, written by a diverse and theologically informed community of authors, target a wide Christian readership.

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