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2008 graduate among historical essay contest winners

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GOSHEN, IND. – An essay by 2008 graduate Peter Miller, Partridge, tied for second place in the annual John Horsch Mennonite Historical Essay Contest, sponsored by the Mennonite Church USA Historical Committee.

Miller’s essay, “Souls, Cars and Division: The Amish Mission Movement of the 1950s and Its Effects on the Amish Community of Partridge, Kan.,” tied for second place in the undergraduate category with that of Andre Shenk of Goshen College, who wrote “A Crisis Among Mennonites: Competing Traditions in the Mennonite Church in the Early 1980s.”

Mutual aid was the common theme for the essay winners in both the graduate school/seminary and undergraduate categories.

Sarah Bergen from Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, Calif., took top honors in the former with her paper on “Re-Interpreting Mennonite Identity in Mid-20th Century America: A Conversation about Mutual Aid.” She examined some of the dynamics behind the development of mutual aid, including the organization of Mennonite Mutual Aid.

MMA’s work was also the subject of Goshen College student Jonny Gerig Meyer’s first-place paper in the undergraduate category, “Sending Mixed Messages to Congress: Mennonite Involvement in Proposed National Health Care Reform 1992-1994.” He detailed the conflicting messages from MMA and Mennonite Central Committee’s Washington Office as each lobbied Congress during President Bill Clinton’s failed attempt to revamp the U.S. health-care system.

Devon Miller of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Ind., won second in the graduate school/seminary category with “The Gospel for All Creatures: An Anabaptist Theology for Reconciliation.”

All award winners receive cash prizes, while the first-place finishers also get one-year subscriptions to Mennonite Quarterly Review. Excerpts from Bergen’s and Meyer’s papers will be published in the January 2009 issue of Mennonite Historical Bulletin, the magazine of the Mennonite Church USA Historical Committee.

Judges for this year’s contest were Lee Roy Berry, a lawyer and political science instructor at Goshen College; David Rempel-Smucker, a historian and writer from Lancaster, Pa.; and Rachel Waltner Goossen, a history professor at Washburn University, Topeka, Kan.

The annual contest is named for John Horsch (1867-1941), the German-American Mennonite historian and polemicist who did much to reawaken interest in Anabaptist and Mennonite studies in the 20th century. The contest is open to students at the graduate school/seminary, undergraduate and high school levels. This year’s drew 12 entries. There were no submissions in the high school category.

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