Four Mennonite Pioneers: Case Studies of the Ordination of Mennonite Women
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ProgramMA in Cultrual Sustainability
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I enjoy researching even more than I enjoy writing. Making discoveries and finding all the pieces that complete a picture of a particular topic or event is very satisfying. Pieces for this project were challenging to locate. The topic concerned the process used to implement changes in a cultural policy which had remained unaltered for four centuries. Some essential sources were housed in denominational library archives. Accessibility of archived materials depends directly on the sophistication of the cataloging and retrieval capabilities of the library. Limitations of this sort necessitated some prior knowledge of the types of materials which existed. I planned to use oral history methods to interview two key persons who could point me in the right direction. My catch-22 was the need to know enough about what had transpired to ask informed interview questions which could elicit productive leads. I spent hours poring over unindexed archived newsletters to begin piecing the narrative together. The interviews then provided leads for online searches of denominational publications and access to other unpublished archival documents. Some sources referenced other documents, which I also pursued. A variety of sources--archived materials, the online publications, the insights of the interviewees, and a number of books which supplied the historical and cultural context--all provided pieces which I assembled into a picture of the events and the interactions which culminated in an historic cultural policy decision. Research is rarely as tidy or linear as one might want or expect, especially when it incorporates oral history or archival searches. The amount of time I invested was significant, but good planning and preparation served me well. The pieces came together in a satisfying way. My project is itself now a part of the library archive--and has already been consulted by church leaders to verify some facts as they planned how to recognize the 25th anniversary of the decision.