Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mennonite Relief Sale

This past weekend, the annual New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale was held a short distance outside the city. The event, which started in 1967, is held on the last Friday and Saturday of May. All proceeds from the sales go to the Mennonite Central Committee, which distributes funds and volunteers to areas of the world suffering from poverty, natural disaster, conflict and oppression.

The event is famous for its quilt auction and each year hundreds of donated quilts are sold to the highest bidder. I admired the displays during the Friday night preview and there is no doubt that quilting is an art form.

The amount of work that goes into the design, piecing, embroidery and bindings of each quilt would seldom be adequately reimbursed at a minimum hourly rate at the time of sale. The featured quilt sold for $11,100.00 this year, and the total quilt auction sales were $187,285.00.
Quilting is still a common social activity in the Mennonite community. Church and community groups meet together throughout the year to work on a large project, and the women share a friendship and camaraderie that is becoming a thing of the past.

The Relief Sale featured plenty of other interesting venues. Crafts from around the world were sold in the Ten Thousand Villages tent. We have a number of these stores in South Western Ontario that sell fair trade items, from crafts, jewellery and gifts to coffee, tea and sugar.
No Mennonite sale would be complete without homemade foods. One of my husband's young co-workers described how he had worked with the group who made 1500 pie crusts that morning. On Saturday these crusts were made into fresh strawberry pies, constructed in assembly line fashion by many volunteers. There were ethnic foods as well as the usual Pennsylvania-Dutch fare. The line up for tea balls was soooo long;- they must have been really good. Jars of dandelion jelly were sold along with local honey, elderberry jam and other delicious preserves.

The Mennonites and Brethren in Christ are peace churches, spiritual descendants of the Anabaptists of Europe. While they will not carry arms, they work in areas of conflict as peacemakers. This song from their hymnal describes the mission they feel is their calling in the world. Without a doubt, their labours of love and compassion were evident on this occasion.

Brothers and sisters of ours are the hungry
Who sigh in their sorrow and weep in their pain.
Sisters and brothers of ours are the homeless
Who wait without shelter from wind and from rain.

People are they, men and women and children
And each has a heart keeping time with our own
People are they, persons made in God's image
So what shall we offer them, bread or a stone?

Lord of all living, we make our confession
Too long we have wasted the wealth of our lands
Lord of all loving, renew our compassion
And open our hearts while we reach out our hands.


  1. Gosh! I'm sure more than $11,000 worth of work went into that quilt, but what does one do with a quilt that costs that much?

    It's beautiful!

    Apple butter is one of my favorite treats in the world - hard to find around here, though I do have a recipe....

  2. Laura- Quilt collectors come from all over to bid at these auctions. In 2003, a quilt called the Kaleidoscope of Nations went for $44,000.00. There are people out there with more money than I have. Many quilts go for much less money, and are real bargains.
    Apple butter is readily available around here, no sugar added. In September there is the local Wellesley Apple Butter festival.

  3. To give so selflessly of one's time - it reminds me that all is not lost - that decent, caring people put their communal shoulders to the plow in all manner of work and service to others.

    Whenever I look at these incredible quilts - I marvel at the patience, skill and time embodied in every looping thread.

    Dandelion jelly. Now doesn't that sound delightfully sunny?

  4. We too have a big Mennonite quilt sale to raise funds. They are lovely.
    What is the hymn tune for the words you posted? I recognize the words, but am drawing a blank on the tune used.

  5. Wow, those quilts are gorgeous! That puts me in the mood to take up quilting again...maybe this summer.

    Looks like a wonderful event.

  6. Cathy- Yes, this is a labour of love. There is no monetary value you can place on that. I didn't try the dandelion jelly. Maybe next year.

    KGMom- THere are many other Mennonite Relief sales and quilt auctions in America. Can't post the tune of the song, but it is Hymn 142 from Hymnal, A Worship Book published by Mennonite Publishing House, Scottdale, Pennsylvania, text by Kenneth I. Morse, and music by Wilbur E. Brumbaugh.

    Ginger- I have never quilted, but you have! It must be a great way to unwind and express your creativity.

  7. Those quilts are exquisite! Indeed, an art form. I can't even imagine the work that goes into creating one.

  8. I was surprised - $11,000? But when I think about it - it was quite labor intensive, for sure. A good project for a group to bond, too.

    I would have enjoyed the sale.

  9. What a neat story. The quilts were fabulous. It's wonderful that all the proceeds go to help others.

  10. Ruth--you don't need to post the hymn tune. All hymn tunes have names, and if you can find that, I can look up the actual music.
    Or, I could just Google the words and see what I come up with. Well, I tried that and only come back with websites for "Who Are the Mennonites."

  11. KGMom- I know what you mean about the hymn tunes, but some modern ones are not like that, and some less traditional hymnals do not put in that information. I will keep looking. :-)

  12. Jayne- I dislike hemming, so I couldn't imagine myself being a quilter, especially now that it's getting harder to thread a needle (no glasses yet!)

    Mary- The people who buy them know they are giving to a worthwhile charity. It amazes me what people will pay for unusual things...like the grilled cheese sandwich that looked like the Virgin Mary.

    RuthieJ- You know better than most the work of creating something by hand. Your knitting is as intricate as the quilting.


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