Recently I was talking about stuff on WikiGodPod, a podcast out of the Greater Toronto Area (I live close to the GTA in Kitchener) centred around our stories and how that shapes how we understand God. I’m not somebody who speaks well without preparation, so the potential questions were sent in advance and I spent a few hours the night before and morning of planning. I figure since I already spent those hours writing notes, I may as well clean them up a bit and publish them here.
The next question(s), then, adapted to be more chronological:
What is the MennoNerds network?
MennoNerds started with a Twitter hashtag. Chris Lenshyn made up the label and used in a conversation with a couple of other Anabaptists – Robert Martin being the other first to use it, I believe – who also happened to be nerdy on Twitter. It was just fun. Even when I first saw it in some later conversation, I didn’t think anything of it.
How did you come to be a part of it?
I only learned after the interview that I am considered to be a co-founder. Chris first used the hashtag in conversation with Robert and then I was the next one brought in to the label.
Website, Social Media, a Logo, and More
I don’t remember who first came up with the idea of a unified website aggregating all of our blogs, but after it had come up a few times over a few months, I decided to make it happen. I already had a web host for various other websites (including this one), and I was mostly-unemployed at the time so I could easily spare the hours. Robert has done a lot of the day-to-day site management since then, but I’ve jumped in to redesign it a few times as well, especially as we kept getting bigger and the first designs didn’t scale very well. That was probably the key piece in reaching a critical mass that we’ve been growing ever since.
With the website in place aggregating our blogs, we added more social media presences – some that just shared the blogs from the website, others more for group discussion. We now have a Facebook page and group, a Twitter page, an Instagram, a BBM Channel, and a BBM group.
A favourite part of our history to me is the creation of Rebstock. Eddie, one of our authors who is a graphic designer, created our logo. We then held a contest for name submissions where Eddie narrowed it down to his 5 favourites and then anybody could vote. The winning name was Rebstock, after the 16th Century Anabaptist prophetess Barbara Rebstock.
We added the occasional podcast. At first they were casual Google+ Hangouts where anybody could drop in and discuss the topic. We then did a few interviews of Anabaptist leaders like Shirley Showalter, Greg Boyd, and Bruxy Cavey. The two most intense were a panel about race and mutuality, featuring several MennoNerds authors, and the most recent interview with New Direction Canada.
And of course, we published an anthology of our writing, called A Living Alternative, but I’ll devote more of the later questions to that so I’ll spare it here.
What is it trying to achieve?
For a long time, we weren’t really trying to achieve anything. Somewhere in those early months after the site was launched, we did have to discuss what the purpose of this whole thing was. The analogy someone used in those discussions was to make it more of a drinking fountain instead of a fire hose where we were just republishing a pile of content without any clear purpose. We opted for more of a drinking fountain approach.
We summarized the vision with this:
We will be a “go to” place for people to hear what Anabaptist-minded folks have to say about issues of the day, about theological thought, about Biblical interpretation, and about living out life, all from a perspective that has an Anabaptist flavor and feel but with a recognition and reverence of the wide diversity of race/ethnicity, gender, generation, and theology found in the Anabaptist stream.
When I launched the website, we had 6 authors being aggregated and those 6 weren’t exactly diverse. We now have 55 between authors and affiliates, which has taken adding in some more structure. We’re still not as diverse as we’d like to be but it has already come a long way. We also get a steady trickle of Anabaptists who seem to appreciate what we’re writing, so that “go-to place” aspect of the goal is also being realized.