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2015-16 Bechtel Lectures

Janneken Smucker2015-2016 Lecturer:
Dr. Janneken Smucker​

Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 6:30 pm

Lecture and Dinner to support the Mennonite Archives of Ontario and Mennonite Studies at Conrad Grebel.

Tickets are $75 ($45 Charitable receipt).  Contact Alison Enns (519) 885-0220 x 24217 or

“Abstract Art or Country Craft: The Quilts of the Amish”

In this informal presentation Smucker will explore the diverse output of Amish quilt makers, challenging cultural assumptions while placing this beloved tradition in historical context, demonstrating just how hard it is to answer the question, “What makes an Amish quilt Amish?”

Friday, February 5, 2016 at 7:00 pm
Public Lecture, Great Hall, Conrad Grebel University College

“Unexpected Intersections: Amish, Mennonite, and Hmong Textiles and the Question of Authenticity”

Smucker will discuss how the distinct needlework traditions of Amish/Mennonite and Hmong needleworkers entered the consumer marketplace and how they unexpectedly intersected, resulting in both cultural tensions and expressive adaptations. 

Janneken Smucker, a 5th generation Mennonite quiltmaker, is author of Amish Quilts: Crafting an American Icon (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).  As Assistant Professor of History at West Chester University, she specializes in digital history and American material culture. She has served as a board member for the national non-profit, Quilt Alliance since 2005 and is its current president. She has contributed to Unconventional and Unexpected: American Quilts Below the Radar, 1950-2000 (by Roderick Kiracofe, Abrams, 2014), “Workt by Hand”: Hidden Labor and Historical Quilts (Brooklyn Museum, 2013), Amish Abstractions: Quilts from the Collection of Faith and Stephen Brown (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2009) and Midwestern Amish Crib Quilts: The Sara Miller Collection (Good Books, 2003). Janneken earned her MA in Textile History from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and her PhD in the History of American Civilization from the University of Delaware. Learn more about Janneken at

Bechtel Lectures in Anabaptist-Mennonite Studies

The Bechtel Lectures in Anabaptist-Mennonite Studies were established in 2000 through the generosity of Lester Bechtel. As a devoted churchman with an active interest in Mennonite history, Lester’s dream was to make the academic world of research and study accessible to a broader constituency and to build bridges of understanding between the academy and the church. This lecture series provides a forum through which the core meaning and values of the Anabaptist-Mennonite faith and heritage might be communicated to a diverse audience and be kept relevant and connected to the rapidly changing world of our day.

The Bechtel Lectures provide the opportunity for representatives of a variety of disciplines and professions to explore topics that reflect the breadth and depth of Mennonite history, identity, faith and culture. Conrad Grebel University College is pleased to host this annual event.

Past Lectures

2014-15 Bechtel Lectures

Dr. Jeff Gundy

with Jeff Gundy,
Bluffton University

Thursday, November 13

Lecture 1: “Poetry, the Sleeping King, and Creative Doubt.”

This lecture will make a case for doubt (of the right sort) as a useful and positive force, with plentiful illustrations, considerable hedging and making of distinctions, and a few claims that may be considered wild and unsettling. In some ways a supplement and continuation of the work on theopoetics I undertook in my recent book of essays Songs from an Empty Cage, this lecture will carry those explorations into new territory, including legends of sleeping kings, canonical poets like T.S Eliot, fabulist fiction, and Mary Szybist.

Lecture/Reading 2: “Circling Defiance.”

I have lived near Defiance for thirty years, though only rarely do I visit that place where two rivers meet. Once the land held a native village, then a white man’s fort, and today a small city remarkable for little other than its name. This presentation will weave poems from my new book Somewhere Near Defiance into a meditation on Defiance, on the strange, awful, lovely world we inhabit and out place in it. Might find our way toward some measure of integrity, wonder, and use to the others who share this place with us? Even from Defiance, I realized not so long ago, nothing is more than half a world away.

Jeff Gundy's Biography

Jeff Gundy, longtime professor of English at Bluffton University, has published six books of poems, including Somewhere Near Defiance (Anhinga, 2014) and Spoken among the Trees (Akron, 2007), winner of the Society of Midland Authors Poetry Award. His four prose books, all on Mennonite themes, include the new Songs from an Empty Cage: Poetry, Mystery, Anabaptism, and Peace (Cascadia, 2013), and Walker in the Fog: On Mennonite Writing, winner of the 2006 Dale E. Brown Award for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies. Other new work appears in The Sun, Georgia Review, Kenyon Review, Christian Century, and Nimrod. He has twice presented C. Henry Smith Peace Lectures, and been awarded multiple grants from the Ohio Arts Council. A 2008 Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Salzburg, he will spend the spring 2015 semester teaching and writing at LCC International University in Klaipeda, Lithuania.

Bechtel Lectures 2014

Writing the Amish into North American History, by Dr. Steven Nolt. 

Writing Low German Mennonites into a History of Canada, by Dr. Royden Loewen.


Bechtel Lectures 2013

The Four Loves and the Pursuit of Justice, with Chris Marshall

Compassion, Justice and the Work of Restoration, with Chris Marshall

Bechtel Lectures 2012

Dr. John Roth was the 2012 Bechtel Lecturer.

The Challenge of Church Unity in the Anabaptist Tradition

What Hath Zurich to do with Addis Ababa? Ecclesial Identity in the Global Anabaptist Church

2011 Bechtel Lectures

Dr. Roger Epp was the 2011 Bechtel Lecturer; his topic was, "We are all Treaty People."

The Settler Problem​


The Stories We Tell Ourselves


Conrad Grebel University College

140 Westmount Road North,
Waterloo, ON N2L 3G6


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Multimedia Videos

watch past lectures

Watch our special event videos: the Bechtel LecturesMennonite Literature series, the Eby Lecture, and the Sawatsky Lecture.

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