Honest testimony of eight decades
DreamSeeker Books, 2009
You Never Gave Me a Name: One Mennonite Woman’s Story is Katie Funk Wiebe’s memoir of growth and change over eight decades. It describes the evolution of a theologian, a woman, and a denomination.
The book, organized in four sections, records Funk Wiebe’s journey as a reluctant bride, young widow with four children, Mennonite Brethren college professor and women’s advocate, and finally elder, speaker, and storyteller. It allows readers to peer into a world of church services segregated by gender, four-cent love letters, and college evangelism courses requiring students to witness “cold turkey” to strangers on the street.
You Never Gave Me a Name is compellingly honest and thorough. Funk Wiebe is one of the most accomplished MB writers of the last century, author of hundreds of books and articles, and not one to sugar-coat her views.
The book provides frank and emotional testimony about the struggles of a generation of women who fought to have their gifts recognized. I was humbled to realize I now reap the rewards of their trials. Much has changed since Funk Wiebe was a young widow and it’s good to be reminded how far our church and society have come over the last 60 years.
I appreciated the author’s candid views about certain MB practices and theologies. “I miss a sense of the mystery of God, of transcendence, in an MB church,” she writes. She also wonders about the validity of other world religions, and asks the difficult question, “Is there power in prayer?” How refreshing to know that even leaders may bear doubts about their faith!
The book was a bit cumbersome at points, with Funk Wiebe deviating from her narrative in the first section to go into thematic asides. She repeated certain events and details in other sections. But I’m glad I persevered to the end of the book with its jewels of octogenarian wisdom, presented in essay-style chapters.
“What have I learned over the years?” writes Funk Wiebe. “An incredible amount of self-knowledge comes with age, not automatically, but with self-awareness.” This is a memoir filled with self-reflection from a woman who learned to appreciate and name her God-given story. It’s definitely worth the read.