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Hostetler to present next Friends of MLA Lecture at Bethel College

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. - Ann Hostetler will present "Mennonites, Indians, Poetry, and Peace: Anna Ruth Ediger Baehr and the Southern Cheyenne’ at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 1 in the Administration Building Chapel at Bethel College, North Newton. Her lecture is part of the C. Henry Smith Peace Lecture series for 2003 and is sponsored by Bethel College Mennonite Library and Archives (MLA) and its Friends of the MLA program. Admission to the lecture is free and open to the public. "This lecture explores poetry as a path to peacemaking-especially in an intercultural situation where two worldviews and spiritual belief systems collide, as in the Mennonite mission to the Cheyenne," Hostetler explains. Baehr wrote poetry about the Cheyenne, a people with whom she spent the first 18 years of her life as the daughter of Mennonite missionaries Jacob B. and Agatha Regier Ediger.

Baehr’s poetry draws from her Mennonite and Cheyenne experiences and reveals ways she adapted her Mennonite spirituality to new contexts.

"Poetry offers a resource of reconciliation-contributing to Mennonite self-understanding and offering a non-judgmental approach to exploring the excruciating differences that often divide us from others in our denomination as well as others outside it," Hostetler says. "Little has been written about the Mennonite mission to the Cheyenne or the role of poetry in fostering understanding between Mennonites and other peoples or within the Mennonite community itself. Little has been written about the ways in which Mennonites who leave the physical community still maintain a Mennonite identity."

Hostetler realizes that missionaries have done "much harm and cultural damage to American Indians" and believes that Mennonite missions of the 21st century will require a more culturally sensitive approach. She sees reconciliation as one of the goals for Christian mission.

"We must be open to being transformed by the ‘other’ as well as offering our spiritual ‘good news’ to them. Anna Ruth’s life and work offers an example of this kind of mutual transformation," Hostetler says.

Hostetler teaches English and creative writing at Goshen (Ind.) College where she is associate professor of English. She is the author of "Empty Room with Light: Poems" (Pandora Press US, 2002) and editor of "A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry," to be published by the University of Iowa press next fall. Her poetry has also appeared in The American Scholar, Mid-America Poetry Review, Cream City Review, Mennonite Life and other journals. Hostetler received her bachelor’s degree at Kenyon College and her doctoral degree at the University of Pennsylvania and has also taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Marquette University and the University School of Milwaukee.

The chapel is handicapped accessible.

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