Canadian Mennonite
Volume 6, number 19
October 7, 2002

Homer Simpson has Canadian Mennonite roots

First comes the news that the irreverent, beer-guzzling, dough- nut-chomping cartoon character Homer Simpson is Canadian. Now it turns out he’s got Mennonite roots as well.

“The Simpsons” is a popular television show created by Matt Groening. In a front-page article in the August 23 Regina Leader-Post, Scott Foster notes that Homer Simpson is named after Matt’s father, Homer Groening, who was born to Mennonite parents in Main Centre, Saskatchewan, in 1919.

Matt’s great-grandfather had moved to the area from the United States in 1908 to homestead. Most of the family, except an Uncle Frank who married a local woman, Agnes Cornelson, later returned to the U.S.

Asked about Homer Simpson’s ancestry at a comedy festival in Montreal this summer, Matt Groening said that since his Dad was born in Canada and Homer was named for him, “that would make Homer Simpson a Canadian.”

The revelation created a small buzz in the media.

“I hope Canadians won’t hold it against the show now that they know,” Groening said.

(A web check reveals that Great-Grandmother Groening was Aganetha Klassen, daughter of Kleine Gemeinde minister Abraham Klassen of Kansas.)

Although Matt Groening named the Simpsons’ characters after family members, he insists the personalities do not match. In fact, says reporter Foster, Homer Groening was the “antithesis” of the Simpson character. He was “a model citizen,“ active in the Boy Scout movement and later attending Linfield College, a Baptist school. He was a decorated war hero.

He was also filmmaker, cartoonist, and ad man who inspired his son Matt.

“He was a hard-working, complicated guy who had a lot of conflicting impulses,” Matt has said of the real-life Homer. “He was raised as a Mennonite, which is sort of like the Amish, and he spoke German until he went to school. He and I had a contentious relationship.”

To those Mennonites uncomfortable with the Simpson connections, Bart Simpson would probably say, “Don’t have a cow!” Main Centre oldtimers might shake their heads a little over both Homers—real and fictional—and mutter that it just goes to show what can happen when you let the boys off the farm.

—Dora Dueck




The October “Equipping Canada” packets to churches includes a song, “God of our refuge,” for use on Peace Sunday, November 10. The song, written by Arlyn Friesen Epp to commemorate September 11, uses the text of Psalm 46. The music can be downloaded from “The war on terrorism is another reminder for the church to remember, to reflect, to pray,” said Marilyn Houser Hamm, director of Worship and Spiritual Formation for Mennonite Church Canada. She called on the church “to affirm that our strength and security come from God, and that our call is not to a spirit of fear, or retaliation, but to live and work for God’s peace in this time of increasing militarization and a climate of uncertainty.” Equipping is available online at

—MC Canada release

James E. Horsch will assume editorial leadership for Adult Bible Study and the new Adult Bible Study Teacher, beginning next summer. These guides replace the Builder Uniform Series which will end in May. A quarterly leadership journal will replace Builder General, beginning next fall. Horsch, an editor with Mennonite Publishing House, also works with Purpose magazine and Mennonite Bulletin Series. Adult Bible Study is based on the International Bible Lessons and provides weekly Bible study for Mennonite congregations.

—From MC Canada release


Arts notes

Amish columnist dies

When Elizabeth Coblentz, an Old Order Amish woman from Indiana, died in September, The New York Times published an extended obituary, complete with her recipe for “Nothings” (Sept. 22). Coblentz, 66, was a syndicated columnist whose weekly musings ran in 105 newspapers. She wrote at her kitchen table in a house that had no running water, electricity or telephone. Her themes ranged from horses to children’s funerals, from religious faith to a typical day on the farm. But the constant theme was food. Coblentz started writing in 1952 for an Amish newspaper. Kevin Williams, editor at Oasis Newsfeatures, discovered her in 1991. While she refused to be photographed or taped, she had nothing against personal appearances. She was on a tour to promote a new book when she died of an aneurysm. The Amish Cook: Recipes and Recollections From an Old Order Amish Family is to be published in November by Ten Speed Press of California. Her earlier book, The Best of the Amish Cook, published by Oasis, is a collection of her columns. Coblentz’ husband died in 2000; she is survived by 8 children and 35 grandchildren.

—From New York Times

Peace festival

An evening of music, storytelling and readings, entitled “The Way of Peace—a Festival,” will be held at St. Jacobs Mennonite Church on November 9 at 7:00 p.m. The event is to raise money for the Visitor Centre in St. Jacobs.
Featured musicians will include soprano Stephanie Kramer and pianist Amy Wideman, and the Da Capo Choir conducted by Leonard Enns. Allan Rudy Froese will present readings on peace.
Also at the event will be members of Peaceful Tomorrows, an advocacy group founded by families of September 11 victims.

—From release

Hymns for the Over 50 crowd

•It is well with my soul, but my knees hurt
•Nobody knows the trouble I have seeing
•Just a slower walk with thee
•Count your many birthdays, name them one by one
•Go tell it on the mountain, but speak up
•Guide me O thou great Jehovah, I’ve forgotten where I parked.

From Mennonite Association for Retired Persons newsletter)

Table Grace

Stomach of guest smaller than horn of goat

In early August, I attended a meeting in Zimbabwe on the formation of a Global Mission Fellowship of Anabaptist churches. Our brothers and sisters there are inviting us to experience their hospitality at the Mennonite World Conference assembly next August. We should honour that invitation.

They told us of a local proverb: “The stomach of a guest is smaller than the horn of a goat.” In other words, a guest is easily fed.

The churches are ready to host us—even with the prospect of a food shortage. Nelly Mlotswha demonstrated the depth of their welcome by suggesting that each household in their congregations start by setting aside a small portion of salt or sugar. Then in one year there would be enough to serve the guests at the assembly.

Is this idea naïve or realistic? Practical or sacrificial? Probably all of these. But most important, it is faithful.

There is no doubt that conditions in Zimbabwe are difficult. There are already shortages of certain food items. If rains do not come in October and November, basic foods will be lacking. The country has political tensions and problems. The eviction of white farmers is but one of the flashpoints.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 was drawn to our attention during our meetings in Bulawayo. Here the writer declares readiness to rejoice in the Lord though the fig tree does not bloom and the fields do not yield food.

The brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe want to live according to this word. We from the lands of wealth and stability are called to accompany them in their attempt to rejoice in God in a time of material deprivation.

Let’s encourage at least one of our church members to go to Zimbabwe. Perhaps we should select people who seem especially able to learn from a global gathering, so that they can cope with the stresses that might befall them. Let’s send members from our churches to Africa 2003.

—Peter Rempel

The writer is Mennonite Church Canada facilitator for partnerships in Africa and Europe and coordinator of the Council of International Anabaptist Ministries.

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