Being initiated into the Mennonite version of the Christianreligion was pretty simple. As soon as your age group graduated from the eighth grade, they put you in catechism class, where Reverend Prediger checked you out to see if you’d been paying attention all those years in Sunday School; whether you’d memorized the correct order of the books of the Bible and the Scriptural proofs that Jesus was really God in disguise.
A year of catechism and you were ready for baptism.Your class had to stand up in front of the whole congregation and take turns answering questions like,“Do you renounce the devil and all his works?”The correct answer was “I do,” and everybody in my class got it right the first time. I mention this because when Billy Bauman had gone through this process he’d asked Reverend Prediger to please repeat the question.Then the Rev poured a couple handfuls of tapwater over your new crew cut and down your neck and onto your new shirt and tie. Last of all he gave you a Holy Bible (With Helps) and quoted a verse he’d chosen especially for you.
The girls’ verses were loaded with advice on the importance of a young woman keeping herself pure, the preferred method being, as ol’ Dearly Beloved had advised Annie and Penny and Margaret in catechism, to take Jesus along with them on their dates. Bobby Joe’s verse began, “The race is not to the swift,” which we all later agreed was a personal insult. Gary’s verse was, “His mischief shall return upon his own head,” which sounded more like a threat than friendly Christian advice. My verse was,“And I gave myself to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly,” etc., which was appreciated by about half the church, judging by the number of snickers. Then he stopped and looked at me and said,“You already know madness and folly, now it’s time to work on the wisdom part,” which to be truthful was a comment I could’ve done without. Later I mentioned this to Aunt Lena, but she told me not to take it all that seriously, the verse could be interpreted as a compliment and besides, Dearly Beloved’s remark had the ring of truth to it.