The Benjamin Eby Lecture

About the Benjamin Eby Lecture

The Benjamin Eby Lecture is an annual lecture that presents the research of a faculty member at Conrad Grebel University College. It is named after Benjamin Eby (1785-1853), a leading shaper of Mennonite culture in Upper Canada in the early 1800s. He and his wife, Mary, arrived from Pennsylvania in 1807. By 1812 he was an ordained bishop, and by 1813 the first Mennonite meetinghouse in the Waterloo area had been erected. Around 1815, he attended to the first school house building. He continued his outstanding leadership in the church and in education until near the time of his death, all while supporting himself financially as a farmer. It was Eby and a few people of similar stature who set the course of life in Waterloo County in the first half of the 19th century.

The Benjamin Eby Lecture is an annual lecture that presents the research of a faculty member at Conrad Grebel University College. The lectureship was named after Benjamin Eby for a number of reasons. Not least was Eby’s belief that the motivation to learn is a response to the Christian gospel. He loved books. Through his efforts many of them were printed. He wrote two primers for public school children, compiled the Gemeinschaftliche Liedersammlung, a new hymnal for Mennonites in Ontario, and edited a volume of articles by Anabaptist and early Mennonite authors. The latter is noteworthy especially because it preserves in a ministers’ manual the traditional worship practices of the (Old) Mennonite Church.

We are grateful for the financial support of Jim and Goldine Pankratz toward this lecture series. Jim Pankratz served as the Dean of Conrad Grebel University College from 2006 to 2014 and as Interim President in 2016-17. Strengthening academic programs and supporting faculty members in their teaching and research were priorities for Jim in his administrative roles.

Upcoming Lecture

Thursday, November 14, 2024 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm EST (GMT -05:00)

Paint as Protest | Eby Lecture

Reading socio-political experiences through graffiti and street art in conflict-affected societies.

Past Lectures

Maisie Sum (Fall 2023)

2023 Benjamin Eby Lecturer: Dr. Maisie Sum

Maisie Sum

This year's Benjamin Eby lecturer is Associate professor of music Dr. Maisie Sum. Maisie is an ethnomusicologist, educator, and performer. Her research and teaching combine a variety of fields, including ethnomusicology, anthropology, music analysis, performance, ritual studies, peace and conflict studies, psychology, and health studies. Maisie is also the general director of the University of Waterloo Balinese Gamelan.

Trace, Trajectory, and Truth: A Story of Morocco's Iconic Lute

The guembri is a symbolic artifact of the Black African diaspora in Morocco. An oblong gut-string lute crucial to a syncretic spiritual practice, it was shrouded in secrecy and taboo until the late twentieth century when it gained worldwide popularity. In the early 2000s, the guembri secured its status as an icon of the nation’s openness, diversity, and rich cultural history. Weaving together various strands of knowledge, Dr. Maisie Sum will situate the guembri within the social and musical fabric of contemporary Morocco and beyond to explore its enduring significance for culture bearers.

Watch the lecture recording:

Remote video URL

Kate Kennedy Steiner (Fall 2022)

Music, Liturgy, and the Making of Medieval Scotland

Event Details:

Thursday, November 24, 2022, 7:30 PM

Chapel, Conrad Grebel University College

Remote video URL

Today, Scotland’s patron saint, Andrew the Apostle, anchors Scottish national identity in an annual holiday on his feast day. But in the century leading up to the Scottish declaration of independence, the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath, Saint Andrew’s significance expanded from that of a local saint to become the central figure in the foundation of Christianized Scotland. This lecture will feature the performance of medieval liturgical music made at the Cathedral of St Andrews to celebrate Saint Andrew’s relics, showing how liturgical music shaped history.

Kate Kennedy Steiner

Kate Kennedy Steiner combines her interests in music, ritual practice, narrative history, and communal identity in her research on medieval music. She received an M.A.R. in liturgical studies at Yale Divinity School and a PhD at Princeton University with a dissertation on music and liturgy in medieval St Andrews, offering new insight into an important collection of medieval polyphony. Her published work includes an article on music for a Scottish saint in Plainsong and Medieval Music, and an edited volume of meditations on Scriptural songs, Come, Let us Sing to the Lord. She has held postdoctoral fellowships as a teaching scholar at Valparaiso University and as a Mellon Fellow at the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies. As a professor of music at Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo, she teaches courses on music history, focusing on music making in social contexts. She also directs the Church Music and Worship program, teaching courses on Christian worship and music, directing the Chapel Choir at Conrad Grebel University College, and leading the Worship Apprenticeship Program.

Karen Sunabacka (Fall 2021)

Composing Louis Riel's Dream: Exploring the history of the Red River Settlement through family stories and music

This year's Benjamin Eby Lecture will be take place virtually on Thursday, October 21, 2021, at 7:30 PM.

Remote video URL
Karen Sunabacka

When Karen Sunabacka was 3 years old, her Métis grandmother gave her a book titled Riel’s People: How the Métis Lived by Maria Campbell. Karen always knew she was Metis.

Her Grandparent’s farm, near Selkirk, Manitoba, was a gathering place for the local English Métis community and Karen with her siblings spent countless hours dancing, fiddling, and exploring the rural prairie landscape. As Karen’s love of music grew, she found herself being trained by and composing in the European Western Art Music Tradition. She was enthralled by this rich musical heritage and didn’t quite know how to bring this together with her Métis roots. Yet her heritage is both Settler and Indigenous and her family sits at the intersection of two very different world views.

This can sometimes be an uncomfortable space. Her grandfather’s family was racist towards her grandmother’s family, and this dynamic was present in every generation of her family, beginning in the early 1800’s. How does one make sense of this ever present conflict? A conflict that continues within the Canadian landscape, institutions, and social structures. In more recent years Karen has started exploring this intersection by telling family stories in her musical compositions. This has brought her, and her audiences, a new awareness of the history of the Red River Settlement and her family’s place within it. During the Eby Lecture, Karen will discuss her heritage, a number of her compositions, her inspiration for the pieces, her collaborations with her mother Joyce Clouston, her challenges, and the ways the pieces have been received.  

Invitation to the benjamin eby lecture

Carol Penner (Fall 2020)

#MennonitesToo: Sexual Violence and Mennonite Peace Theology

The #MeToo movement has placed sexual violence in the spotlight and Mennonites are asking; “What does it mean to be people of peace when sexual abuse and assault is woven into the fabric of our own communities?”  Through a survey of church periodicals, I will show that some Mennonites have been working on this topic for almost fifty years. My lecture will outline the themes and methods of this grassroots practitioner-based theology, and it will argue that periodicals not only inform the church, they shape it too, offering good news in the face of violence.


Carol Penner

This year’s 2020 Eby Lecture will be presented by Carol Penner, Assistant Professor of Theological Studies. It is also the C. Henry Smith Lecture and it is being delivered virtually at Bluffton University and Goshen College. The C. Henry Smith Peace Lecturer is selected each year by a committee from Bluffton University and Goshen College. The lectureship financially supports research into peace traditions, and is awarded each year to a faculty member from a Mennonite College.

Bluffton University
Goshen College

Event Details

This year's Eby Lecture will be a virtual event. The lecture will be presented via the Grebel YouTube channel, with an online discussion session to follow. 

Date: Thursday, November 12, 2020 at 7:00 PM

Remote video URL

Mark Vuorinen (Fall 2019)

Public Lecture: Witnessing Passion: Musical depiction of minor characters in Passion music by Bach, Ešenvalds, MacMillan and Pärt

Date: October 10, 2019


The Passion accounts in the four canonical gospels are full of witnesses to the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Christ. Often, their presence is distilled into a single line of text. In musical settings of the Passion, that single line of text might result in just a single measure of music, yet their presence as eye-witnesses is absolutely essential. They are the reminder that this divine story is also deeply human. 

This lecture-demonstration explores the ways through which J.S. Bach, Ēriks Ešenvalds, James MacMillan and Arvo Pärt note, musically, the presence of these biblical by-standers.

Mark Vuorinenis an Associate Professor and Chair of Music at Conrad Grebel University College, where he teaches courses in conducting and conducts the University of Waterloo Chamber Choir. He is also Artistic Director of Kitchener-Waterloo’s Grand Philharmonic Choir and the professional chamber choir, The Elora Singers.

Remote video URL

Alicia Batten (Fall 2018)

Public Lecture: "Memory, Identity, and the Sermon on the Mount: The Case of André Trocmé"

Date: October 18, 2018

Overview: The communities of the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon in France have become famous for their efforts to rescue refugees fleeing from authorities during WWII. One of the leaders in particular, pastor André Trocmé, has received considerable attention. This presentation centres upon Trocmé’s interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount at various points in his life, and explores how social memory and identity figure significantly in the interpretation and use of biblical texts.

Professor Alicia Batten's research focuses upon the origins and development of early Christianity, as well as the history of biblical interpretation.

Remote video URL

Reina Neufeldt (Fall 2017)

Public Lecture: "When Good Intentions are not Enough: Confronting Ethical Challenges in Peacebuilding and Reconciliation"

Date: October 26, 2017

Overview: Good intentions. Good ends. Failure. People usually assume peacebuilding is morally good because well-intentioned people are pursuing good ends. Likewise, reconciliation. But, what happens when the moral values that drive peacebuilding become a problem?  

Reina Neufeldt explores how moral and ethical claims that are intrinsic to peacebuilding can contribute to failure and can be part of transformational engagement.

Remote video URL

Jeremy Bergen (Fall 2016)

Public Lecture: "Christians Killing Christians: Martyrdom and the Disunity of the Church"

Date: November 3rd, 2016

Overview: In the 1880s, dozens of Anglican and Roman Catholic members of the royal court of Buganda (now Uganda) were executed by their king.  Now honoured as the Uganda Martyrs, their memory has been invoked as one that advances Christian unity.  The king regarded them not as Anglicans or Catholics but simply as Christians.  Since Christian martyrdom may be understood as conforming to Jesus in a way that transcends denominational divisions between Christians, the honouring of particular martyrs has been proposed by Pope John Paul II and others as a potential practice of Christian unity.  Mennonites have even offered the legacy of Anabaptist martyr Dirk Willems as a sign of reconciliation with Catholics.  Yet, the fact that many individuals who are regarded as Christian martyrs, such as the Anabaptist martyrs, were killed by other Christians, points to disunity.  Moreover, some of the complex ways that martyr memories function may promote further enmity, division, or violence.

Remote video URL

Troy Osborne (Winter 2016)

Public Lecture: "The Bottle, the Dagger, and The Ring: Church Discipline and Dutch Mennonite Identity in the Seventeenth Century"

Date: March 31st, 2016

Overview: This lecture looks at 150 years of church discipline by the Mennonites in Amsterdam for what it can tell us about Mennonites’ changing place in the society of the Dutch Republic during the young country’s “Golden Age.” As the Dutch Mennonites disciplined their members, they created a public reputation as obedient subjects that they then used on behalf of repressed Anabaptists in other parts of Europe. Professor Osborne is a historian whose research and teaching interests center generally on Mennonite history and the Reformation and particularly on the development of the Dutch Anabaptist tradition.

Remote video URL

W. Derek Suderman (2014)

Public Lecture:  ​"Seeking Peace as the End of Lament"

Date: October 24, 2014

Overview: The Christian tradition has long been uncomfortable with the articulation of lament. For some, Jesus’ call to love enemies is even seen as a rejection of this genre, given the prominence of violent wishes or imprecations against enemies found within it. Over time praise and confession have come to dominate the liturgical experience of many worshipping communities, while lament has largely disappeared.

In the end, lament psalms confront Christian communities with contemporary brokenness and pain, challenging them to attend to such cries as calls to seek shalom. Are we listening?

Remote video URL

Susan Schultz Huxman (Fall 2013)

Public Lecture: "Speaking Truth to Power: Profiles in Rhetorical Courage for Church and Society"

Date: October 13, 2013

Remote video URL

Earlier lectures

  • 1981 - Walter Klaassen - “University: The Temple of Intellect Past and Present”
  • 1982 - Rodney Sawatsky - Commitment and Critique: A Dialectical Imperative”
  • 1983 - Calvin Redekop - “Promise of Work”
  • 1984 - Leonard Enns - “Music: Intellect and Emotion”
  • 1985 - Conrad Brunk - “Professionalism and Responsibility in the Technological Society”
  • 1986 - John Miller - “Envisioning the World’s Future: Neglected Prophetic Insights”
  • 1987 - Wilbur Maust - “Benjamin Britten’s Music of Conscience and Compassion”
  • 1988 - John Rempel - “ Christian Worship: Surely the Lord is in this Place”
  • 1989 - Helen Martens - “Mendelssohn’s Faith and Works: The Spiritual Odyssey of a Composer”
  • 1990 - Werner Packull - “Between Paradigms: Anabaptist Studies at the Crossroads”
  • 1991 - A. James Reimer - “Christian Theology and the University: Methodological Issues Reconsidered”
  • 1992 - Arnold Snyder - “An Anabaptist Vision for Peace: Spirituality and Peace in Pilgrim Marpeck”
  • 1993 - Thomas Yoder Neufeld - “‘Bound by Peace’ (Ephesians 4:3): The Reconciliation of Divergent Traditions in Ephesians”
  • 1994 - Carol Ann Weaver - “Kenyan Women in Music”
  • 1995 - Ron Mathies - “Service as (Trans)formation: The Mennonite Central Committee as Educational Institution”
  • 2001 - Kenneth Hull - “Text, Music and Meaning in Congregational Song”
  • 2003 - John Toews - “Toward a Biblical Theology of Leadership Affirmation: Rethinking Ordination”
  • 2005 - Hildi Froese Tiessen "A Mennonite Novelist's Journey (from) Home: Ephraim Weber's encounters with S.F. Coffman and L.M. Montgomery"
  • 2006 - Lowell Ewert "Law as a Sword, Law as a Shield"
  • 2007 - A. James Reimer -"Christian Theology Today: What is at Stake?"
  • 2008 - Marlene Epp "Midwife Healers: The Women who made things right"
  • 2009 - Laura Gray "The Idea of North: Sibelius, Gould and Symbolic Landscapes"
  • 2010 - Nathan Funk - "Peace Starts Now: Religious Contributions to Sustainable Peacemaking"
  • 2011 - James Pankratz - “Gandhi and Mennonites in India”
  • 2012 - Leonard Enns - "How can I keep from singing?"

For more information on the lecture, contact Birgit Moscinski or call at 519-885-0220 x24264.