Catholics make the sign of the cross, Baptists kneel by their bedsides, and Pentecostals speak in tongues. But when it comes to prayer, Mennonites distinguish themselves by grasping firmly to the sweaty hand of the family member next to you. To some, this ritual may seem strange, but we’re here to explain it to you. After all, there are some very good reasons why all Mennonite families pray holding hands.
- It makes the prayers more effective. Reliable studies from numerous prominent Bible schools across the Canadian Prairies suggest that praying while holding hands is 37% more effective than praying with your hands folded neatly on your lap. The Penners will get that new Minivan one way or another!
- It’s a form of courtship. You’re going to have to marry one of these cousins someday, so before you get hitched you better get some sense of what their hands feel like. Better safe than sorry.
- It shows everyone who’s in charge. The person with the firmest grip gets to call the shots for the next week. Usually it’s Dad, but once in a while, Jakob really gives it his all and squeezes until Maria yells out in pain and then he gets to make up the rules for the next seven days. It usually means a later bedtime and extra platz during evening snack.
- It builds up immunity. An important aspect of any healthy Mennonite is building up an immunity to all those germs Peter brings with him from the hog barn. You know he never washes.
- It allows Dad to ramble on. Even Mom tends to get a little restless with Dad’s prayers/sermons. Holding hands ensures that everyone keeps focused throughout the duration of the prayer/sermon. It tends to max out after about 40 minutes.
- It’s a form of family bonding. When a Reimer grasps the hands of another Reimer there’s a implicit message of ‘oba, we’re all Reimers here yet’. There’s nothing more special than the bond that forms by being forced to hold hands with your slovenly brother Heinrich every meal for 20 years.
- It keeps little Timothy from stealing the formavorscht. Timothy is always up to something, and if you don’t have a firm grip on him, when you open your eyes the farmer sausage will be all gone.