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"This Is My Story: Personal Stories from People of Faith" - Shirley Showalter & Fred Swartz

  • Garbers Church of the Brethren 1275 Garbers Church Road Harrisonburg, VA, 22801 United States (map)
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This Is My Story is an evening of personal stories from people of faith, and this year’s storytellers are Shirley Showalter of the Mennonite tradition and Fred Swartz of the Church of the Brethren. The format for the evening is four distinct 5-minute personal stories from each storyteller, without interruption or comment, with time for fellowship and connection over the stories at the conclusion of the event. The storytellers are invited to share stories connecting to any of the four themes of the Heritage Center: Peace, Covenant Community, Alienness / Non-citizenship, Neighborliness.

Shirley Showalter is an author, public speaker, and former President of Goshen College in Goshen, IN. Showalter wrote a memoir, entitled “Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World,” and in her words the purpose for writing was “to understand where my drive to learn and to teach comes from.”

“When I was little, I wanted to be big. And not just big as in tall, but big as in important, successful, influential. I wanted to be seen and listened to. I wanted to make a splash in the world.”

Shirley Hershey, grade three

Shirley Hershey, grade three

Shirley (Hershey) Showalter, all grown up

Shirley (Hershey) Showalter, all grown up

"And here I am now, enjoying my encore vocation, circling around to the same desire I had as a young child — only now I would call my desire to become large instead of big. I want to be dissolved into something larger than myself. I’ve let go of a career I have loved; now I am living into my vocation. It’s still all about learning — and, by the grace of God, will be, right up to my very last breath."

Fred Swartz is a retired Church of the Brethren minister and the former Secretary of the Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren. He is the son of Avis Mundy Swartz and the late George W. Swartz, who reared him in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in the town of New Hope in Augusta County. He most recently served the Manassas, Va., Church of the Brethren, where he was senior pastor from September 1983 until August 2003. Prior to his pastorate in Manassas, Swartz was a member of the staff of the General Board of his denomination. In that capacity he was Director of Communications and Stewardship and book editor for Brethren Press.

Following graduation from Bethany Theological Seminary in 1961, Swartz served two pastorates: a new church start, the Summerdean Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va.; and seven years as pastor of First Church of the Brethren, Harrisburg, Pa., an inner-city congregation. He served ten years, 2003-2012 as Secretary of the Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren, an elected, volunteer assignment that ended with the 2012 Annual Conference, July 4-7, in St. Louis, Missouri. He is a past member of the denomination’s national deacon cabinet. An author of several books and articles, Swartz also conducted frequent workshops on deacon ministry throughout the denomination from 1983-2008. He served six years as a member of the Brethren HealthCare Foundation Board of the Bridgewater Retirement Community, Bridgewater, Va. He was active for 25 years as a volunteer in both local and state leadership for the Virginia Cooperative Extension service. He holds the rank of Eagle Scout.

Swartz earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Lancaster Theological Seminary in 1992. He also is a graduate of Bridgewater College, class of 1958. He is married to the former Nancy Lee Clements of Stuarts Draft, Va. The couple has two daughters, three granddaughters and one grandson. Fred and Nancy Swartz now live in Bridgewater, Va., where they are residents of Bridgewater Village, a part of the Bridgewater Retirement Community, which honored the couple with the 2012 Humanitarian Award. Fred and Nancy are members of the Bridgewater Church of the Brethren where Fred currently serves as Moderator. Fred has one brother, Ned, who lives in Richmond, Va., and is Associate Dean of the School of Professional and Continuing Studies at the University of Richmond.

A free-will offering will be received to support the mission and programming of the Brethren & Mennonite Heritage Center. To receive a receipt for your tax-deductible gift, please make a check payable to Brethren & Mennonite Heritage Center and be sure your check includes an address at which you receive mail.