\"Sadly there are no diaries of the Grandmothers\" Healing Ancestral Wounds - An Exploration of Two Grandfather's Personal Mennonite Texts, 1852 - 1945

  • Author / Creator
    Eleanore Margaret Koop (MTS, Spirituality Specialization)
  • Before I began my studies at St. Stephen’s College, I had observed that I felt weary and trapped by traditional descriptions of God. As early as my first few classes I began to see the parallel myth of the Divine Feminine, something I had never been taught in my religious background. It ignited a spark within me and fueled a desire to understand. In the midst of this unrest I saw my own wounds, wounds that had manifested into both rational and irrational fears of harm coming to my children, risks of loss of property or finances, as well as a need to be pure and perfect. The longing to heal myself and explore the unspoken gap of the Divine Feminine led me to a study of my Mennonite ancestors, ancestry that can be traced back to 1584, when Mennonites were still a fledgling religion. In that study I learned about their traumas, their wounds, as well as the strengths that carried them through their lives. A trip to Ukraine in 2008 took me back to their homeland to learn more about the paradigm of their times in what was then Czarist Russia (1800s and early 1900s). There are three themes I observed as I have spent the last few years researching my ancestral history, their struggles, and some of their unanswered questions. These themes are the ones that weave their way into my present life and connect deeply with my own heart. The first theme is the births and deaths of babies and mothers, both before and during the revolution. Without birth control, many mothers birthed and buried child after child and eventually “they themselves were bled empty of all strength to nurture” and they lay in their own graves. Thus the initial statement of my title, “Sadly there are no diaries of the Grandmothers,” remains unexplored. These still quiet tombs are yet to come to life. The second theme is my ancestors’ response to the loss of property, finances, violence and hunger, as they watched everything they had worked to acquire and create, swallowed up in the anger and destruction of the powerful wave of revolution and anarchy. Their doctrines, theologies and beliefs often created conflicts and questions, the principle of Mennonite pacifism during periods of lawlessness being one of those dilemmas. The third theme relates to a sense of unworthiness that is especially prevalent in the diary of Great-Grandfather Epp. There seems to be a big chasm between the perfection of God and the sinful sinner. Amidst the emphasis on grace and forgiveness the words sinfulness and unworthiness are frequent throughout his writings. Two texts/journals of great-grandfathers, as well as attention to my night time dreams and experiential reflections, have been my road map to explore their paradoxical lives as Mennonites in Russia at the turn of the century. I have been enriched, enraged, and horrified by this journey and have felt both the gentle touch and overwhelming confusion of drops of shifting and healing deep within my ancient and present day wounds. My intense fears have lifted. I have experienced more passion and inner freedom to be true to that which is within me. My son, whose health challenges have kept me in a constant state of vigilance, tells me I have changed. I have been able to loosen my grip, and in small steps, open my hands, my arms, and my heart.

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  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Theological Studies
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  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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  • Institution
    University of Alberta
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  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Dr. Evangeline Rand
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Dr. Michael Pahl
    • Dr. Kae Neufeld