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Sprunger to speak on early American Mennonite history

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The Friends of the MLA (Mennonite Library and Archives at Bethel College) will sponsor two programs this spring that come out of a conference last fall in Philadelphia that marked the 300th anniversary of the oldest Mennonite church in North America.

Tuesday, Feb. 24, Keith Sprunger, Bethel professor emeritus of history, will speak on “The Germantown Mennonite Church: First in American History.” This is an adaptation of a talk Sprunger gave in October at “Germantown: Gateway to North American Mennonite History,” for which he was on the planning committee.

For his Friends of the MLA talk, Sprunger plans to broaden that presentation to include “more of the history of the church as a whole, how it was organized and its importance to American Mennonite history,” he said.

“Germantown Mennonite Church was first in several important ways,” he continued, “including being the first Mennonite congregation formed in North America and having the oldest standing Mennonite meetinghouse.

“Also, Daniel K. Cassel from the congregation wrote and published the first history in English of Mennonites in America [History of Mennonites, 1888]. D.K. Cassel has a tie to Bethel College in that he was one of the first donors to Bethel College and the Bethel College Corporation.”

The program is at 7 p.m. in the Administration Building chapel and is free and open to the public.

The second Friends of the MLA program for spring will have James Juhnke, also professor emeritus of history at Bethel, speaking on “The Battle of Germantown and American Freedom” (an adaptation of his keynote address at the Germantown conference) Tuesday, March 10.

For directions to the Administration Building chapel or more information on the Friends of the MLA, call 316-284-5360.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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