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  • 0 read more And Zion Was Our Mournful Theme

    And Zion Was Our Mournful Theme

    by Julie Swarstad Johnson

    Intro from the author: This poem takes its title from one of my favorite songs in The Sacred Harp, the primary tunebook used by shape note singers. Sacred Harp or shape note singing is itself a "tradition in translation": across the United States and now around the world, singers regularly gather to share in this traditional style of unaccompanied hymn singing dating back to colonial-era singing schools, which is never undertaken as a performance or reenactment, but always thought of as a living, changing, participatory art form. 504 Wood Street, the song referenced in this poem, embodies this old/new ...

  • 0 read more Paradise


    by Eileen R. Kinch

    Author's note:

    The lyric essay, a developing hybrid form of writing, incorporates aspects of poetry and prose. Since this essay-poem focuses on language rather than on a storyline and dwells in theological mystery, the form seems to lend itself well to the content.

    1. Hebrew: pardes, orchard.
      Hebrew: gan, garden.
      Old Iranian: paridayda, walled enclosure.
      Greek: parideisos, park for animals.
      Arabic: firdaws, paradise, referring to the Garden of Eden.

    At dusk, I sit on my friend's villa porch in Alexandria, Egypt. In front of me, two small pools glimmer in the porch light. Behind them, two bushes of yellow ...

  • 0 read more Translating Rumi in Iran

    Translating Rumi in Iran

    by Wally Shellenberger

    We were sipping hot tea on our friends' Persian carpets when a friend from Tehran came through the door. He joined us, drinking his tea with a chunk of sugar, and began to joke and laugh. Between sips, Professor Pazouki, a scholar of the poet Rumi, reached into his satchel, withdrew two huge books, and gave them to us. These two volumes contained the six books of the Masnaviof Rumi in Persian script and an accompanying English translation by R.A. Nicholson.

    We had been in Iran for about a year, struggling to learn the Persian language with Mr ...

  • 0 read more Three Poems

    Three Poems

    by Julia Baker

    Intro from author: I wrote the poem "Sighted-Dark" during a restless night. A train whistle called me to put words to the tossing and turning. My night fretting was coming from parts of myself blind to the reality of how Beloved I am, as I follow Jesus on the way.

    Being with this the Gospel lesson, Mark 10: 46-52, I was struck with what must have been forming within Bartimaeus as he begged in blindness on the city street. What healing and strengthening was the Spirit doing in the dark to give Bartimeaus the courage to name his need to ...

  • 0 read more What the Tree Remembers

    What the Tree Remembers

    by Ivanna Johnson-McMurry

    As I walked out of the library and into the main foyer that led to Pastor Sadie's[i] office, I was met by Elder Zimmerman, who I had been friendly with in the past. Imposing, he stood nearly six feet and muscular to my five foot frame. He had a glorious gray beard, neatly trimmed, with sideburns to match, and wore black ill-fitting trousers with a white button down shirt. His large hirsute hands rested near his thighs. Simple, rectangular wire-rimmed bifocals nestled atop his hooked nose. I said "hello" as I looked past him to the office door ...

  • 0 read more Sanctuary


    by Sandy Vrana

    Intro from the author: Holy Incarnation Church was open at all hours, and going there was an aesthetic as well as a religious experience. The Church was always more than nuns and priests, more than the congregation. The rites of the church connected me to something very ancient, almost timeless. Religious ritual is incipient drama, and that was part of its attraction, too. Yet it was also something more than all of these things…..


    At fourteen I walk to the church
    in early autumn dusk. In the dim hush
    behind double doors my hand dips
    into holy water, cool ...

  • 0 read more Introduction: SF Special Issue

    Introduction: SF Special Issue

    by Jeff Gundy

    Growing up on the Illinois prairie, I read pretty much anything I could find. My little school had small grade school and high school libraries, and the church had an even smaller one, both of which I ransacked. Every once in a while there was a book fair, and Scholastic Books sent around order forms that had me pleading with my parents for this or that paperback. (I found one of those books, titled Beyond Belief, on my shelves as I wrote this introduction).

    I read mysteries, sports stories, general novels, all sorts of things, but my favorite reading was ...

  • 0 read more Excerpt from "Monster Portraits"

    Excerpt from "Monster Portraits"

    by Del and Sofia Samatar

    The Perfect Traveler

    There is a perfect traveler. He has been running for millennia, light and tireless. In every joint of his body he wears the sign of the wind.

    He is the forward march. Small sleds and stars disappear in his wake. Of those he brushes in passing it is said: "At least she didn't suffer."

    Children dream of riding upon his horns, or of stealing his spittle from the museum: those great gouts of metal flung down from the sky.

    I am lucky to have a job and friends. Yet I long for the perfect traveler's ...

  • 0 read more Interview with Tobias Buckell

    Interview with Tobias Buckell

    by Tobias Buckell

    NOTE: I posed these questions to Tobias Buckell in July 2018 via email, and he answered shortly thereafter. We have known each other well since Toby came to visit Bluffton as a prospective student a good many years ago, so in some cases I knew more or less how he would answer, but sometimes I was surprised, and often I learned things I hadn't known, even after all these years.

    Jeff Gundy: How did you find your way to Bluffton? Did you know anything about Mennonites before you arrived? What was your college experience among Mennonites (and others, of ...

  • 0 read more A Case for Mennonite Horror

    A Case for Mennonite Horror

    by André Swartley

    One day a man named John came up with an idea that he wanted to turn into story. Here it is: a ruling corporate class uses commercial materialism to create a society of perpetually unsatisfied and self-centered consumers, while maintaining entire populations of invisible laborers in perpetual servitude.

    Now, as a story, this thing's got problems. There's no main character, no setting, and no real hook. The central conflict is vague, overly grand, and full of clichés (never mind that they're true). Even worse for us as a Mennonite audience, we have heard it all before. Jesus ...