Monday, October 13, 2008

Library, Centre Mennonite de Paris (Mennonite Center in Paris)

The main reading and conference room:

Neal presenting a public talk at a conference on slavery:

Janie teaching one of her English classes:

The periodical room:

The atrium leading into the Library:

Yves and Janice discussing cataloguing options:

Neal and Janice pondering how to classify new acquisitions:
Although there are perhaps no more than about 2,500 Mennonites in France in some 32 congregations, they, along with other European Mennonites and the Mennonite Board of Missions (United States and Canada), established a Student Centre in St Maurice just outside Paris in the 1976. The program evolved and in the late 1980's the Centre mennonite de Paris was born. This Centre houses an excellent library in three rooms on the main floor. There is a periodical room with comfortable reading chairs for visiting scholars, and a main reading room which houses most of the books. This room also has a large central table which enables people to spread out while working and accommodates discussion groups. The library office has substantial book shelves and a desktop computer which gives access to the library's online catalogue (about 2,800 books are listed). Wireless access is available to visitors interested in working on subjects such as Christian faith, the community of faith, peace and nonviolence, reconciliation, the church and peace, the radical reformation, inter-denominational dialogues, Anabaptist Studies, Mennonites in France, racism, etc. (for another list of subjects, see: Patchwork.)

Neal and Janie Blough work together as the directors of the Mennonite Centre in Paris. Neal received his doctorate from the University of Strasbourg, where he specialized on Pilgram Marpeck, an early Anabaptist thinker and writer who died in 1556. Neal lectures on church history at the Faculté Libre de Théologie Evangélique, Vaux sur Seine and is sought as a speaker at public events and occasionally also by the French media when it is interested in learning about evangelicals' thinking on societal and political concerns. In addition to her assignments at the Centre, Janie Blough (once described as "the soul" of the Centre) is undertaking doctoral studies at the Robert Webber Institute for Worship Studies in Florida. She has also served the local community by offering English classes which can engage adults in topics of interest to the Centre.

Neal has been overseeing the library for the past twenty years. Under his guidance, the Mennonite Centre and its library have been instrumental in issuing or in assisting publications on Anabaptist history and theology of interest to Mennonite evangelical readers. Yves Garet, a retired theology teacher and chaplain, is now helping to catalogue the holdings, and Janice Kreider (retired Canadian librarian) also assisted for one month this past spring. She started cataloguing the library's holdings during the 1988-89 academic year. Plans are afoot to integrate the Centre's catalogue with those of seven other institutions with collections of interest to Protestant theologians and scholars in France. The French national library has recently expressed interest in incorporating these catalogues into the Catalogue collectif de France which would make the Centre's Library known to many more scholars interested in aspects of Mennonite thinking and writing.

Anyone interested in using the Mennonite Centre's library in Paris should visit its website and make an appointment.