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Harold Jantz: A Heart for the Mennonite Story

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From a young age, Harold Jantz had been interested in and learned about storytelling, including his own. “I grew up in a home where we knew ourselves to be new immigrants to Canada,” recalls Jantz. “My parents were amongst the first of the 1920s wave of Mennonites to come to Canada from Ukraine, and I learned stories from them.”

Jantz’s first introduction to traditional storytelling was in university, where he found himself working as the editor for the MB Bible College student paper. Upon graduating from university, Jantz worked as a teacher at Eden Christian College in Ontario. It was here that he was first approached to take on the editor position for the, MB Herald. In 1964, at 27, he took on the role, doing everything from writing and copy editing to circulation, selling advertising, design, and layout. Despite an initial steep learning curve, Jantz delivered a new issue every week.

While Jantz enjoyed working for MB Herald, it was challenging. Harold felt the demanding workload, as did his family. “Neoma [Harold’s wife] will tell you that she and the children sometimes paid the price for the amount of time I was putting into the magazine,” said Jantz.

One of the biggest challenges was balancing the Canadian Conference perspective and the reader’s point of view. “The difference between readers and leaders,” Jantz calls it. “I knew when I went to a convention, especially a Canadian Conference convention, the people would expect me to cover everything.”

Despite this tension, Harold discovered a way to cover the various angles and stories about what was happening at the Canadian Conference in a way that he describes as “freeing.”

After his twenty-year stint at the helm of MB Herald, Jantz decided to pursue something new. Jantz stepped down in 1985, and after taking a short break, he began laying the groundwork for a new evangelical paper called ChristianWeek. Jantz’s goal for this new project was to put forth a paper covering theological perspectives from across Canada, not just within the Mennonite Brethren perspective. The first issue of Christian Week was published on April 1st, 1987. “A funny day to have our first issue come out,” chuckled Jantz. “But we published continuously after that.”

Jantz also edited, authored and published historical works, notably Leaders Who Shaped Us (2010) and Flight (2018). Leaders Who Shaped Us compiles the stories of 25 key leaders in the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Conference. Jantz served primarily as editor and publisher. The book was released to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Conference.

“I’ve always been interested in our [Mennonite Brethren] story,” said Jantz. “This is where the book Flight came from.” Flight tells the story of the Mennonite Brethren in the Soviet Union between 1929 and 1930, adapted through newspaper articles found in the German publication Die Mennonitische Rundschau. Still telling stories, Jantz is currently doing archival work and researching both sides of his family.

Hear more of Harold Jantz’s story in our video interview series here.

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