Every now and then I am at a luncheon or a cocktail party with some non-Mennonite friends and/or family members and the conversation naturally turns to the habit of individual Mennonite congregations to secede from the broader Mennonite denomination.
Yes, this sort of thing comes up in my social circles.
The first question I am always asked when this happens is:
“But, do they get to keep calling themselves Mennonite?”
On the one hand, I love this question because it suggests that calling yourself a Mennonite is an enviable privilege. On the other, I hate it because it suggests that my social circle is entirely composed of intellectual property professionals. I might want to get out more and mingle.
The truth is that none of the myriad variations of Mennonite in the Mennodom actually own the trademark on the name. If you asked the leaders of the two largest bodies of Mennonites in North America, they would probably say something about forbearance and try to make it sound that we avoid litigation out of good will to our seceding brothers and sisters.
Which sounds very nice and noble but I gotta think that we’re also just not that sure we’d win. You can just imagine Mennonite Church Canada or Mennonite Church USA showing up in court with history books, charts and loads of statistics and then standing in front of a judge and jury who point to the empty-handed Old Order Mennonite and says “Nope. That’s the Mennonite.” I don’t know if that’s how Trademark law works but I don’t think any of us want to risk it.
I don’t really mind. Within the Mennosphere, we’re pretty used to understanding that one Mennonite is not like another Mennonite. We can even tell one First Mennonite from another. It’s true that people outside of our circles haven’t a clue, but we’ve grown accustomed to that as well.
A little hint, though, for people wondering. The name “Mennonite” might mean something different for everyone you ask, but only the biggest organizations of Mennonites in Canada and in the US get to use the image of that cute little birdy clutching an olive branch in its stylized beak. Fully protected by the intellectual property laws of Canada and the United States, that one-eyed pigeon’s ours.
I say this realizing that by the letter of the law, I too could quite possibly be prosecuted for my cavalier use of the Mennonite Church logo. As a member of an affiliated congregation, however, I maintain that the priesthood of all believers extends to logo usage. Once again, I’m not sure if trademark law is on my side on this one but I’m pretty sure no one wants to watch that theological debate play itself out in the courts.
Not a lot of Churches have logos. I know this because I recently wasted a good hour and a half on the national trademark registries looking up Christian denominations. Did I mention I need to get out more?
A lot of denominations have logos for their schools or particular ministries but we’re one of just a small number that smack a logo for the entire denomination all over our letterhead, Church phone books, newsletters, websites, outdoor signage, clothing and children’s face painting booths.* All of this branding is maybe a little ironic since a sizable minority of Church also eats, sleeps and breathes the doctrine articulated 16 years ago in Naomi Klein’s No Logo.
Never mind. Our logo’s different.
A lot of people just call the logo, “The Dove” but I find that yawningly unimaginative. It could be that other Mennos have their own personal nicknames for the birdy logo (which is also their right as part of the priesthood of all believers) but to me, the logo is none other than “Twig ‘n Beaky,” referencing the immortal Arky Arky camp song which has the line:
…Then Noah sent dove to take a peeky peeky; Dove came back with <clap> twig in beaky beaky…
The youtube versions of the song tend to leave the dove out of the story. Which is a travesty and an insult to doves everywhere. We don’t leave it out. We love the dove.
Today’s cocktail honours the logo.
The cocktail is a variation on the Dark ‘N Stormy, a cocktail which is itself trademarked and whose trademark is vigorously defended. The addition of coconut milk makes this clearly NOT a dark ‘n stormy but it brings it to a nice dove-grey colour and adds a certain smoothness to balance the zing of the ginger beer. Of course, to be authentic it needs some sort of a twig as a stir stick. Use something non-toxic. As I don’t live anywhere close to olive trees, I chose a cedar branch. Which doesn’t look much like an olive branch but, oh well.
The Twig ‘n Beaky
- 2 oz dark rum
- 3 oz ginger beer
- lime juice
- splash of coconut milk
- an olive branch (or such)
Measure and pour rum into the bottom of a short glass. Mix in the juice of one lime. Top with ginger beer and add a splash of coconut milk. Stir gently. Add ice and some facsimile of an olive branch.
This isn’t a particularly strong drink but it should be strong enough to have you up and singing old camp songs and/or planning a twig ‘n beaky tattoo to show off your faith and allegiance to the Mennonite Church™.
*Couldn’t actually find an image online of a face painting booth doing this so you’ll just have to take my word on it. It happens.