Mennonite leader goes on car-less drive towards simpler lifestyle

By staff writers
April 25, 2008

Nancy R. Heisey is being taken for a ride, but she's not objecting. Heisey, chair of the Bible and religion department at Eastern Mennonite University in the USA, is "trying to do my responsible part" in caring for the environment by leaving her car at home and getting to campus by other means.

For two years now, she has committed herself to walking, biking or taking public transportation for the 1.5 mile commute to work. It may seem like a small gesture. But in a society like America's which has a long standing love affair with the car, it is a counter-cultural step - perhaps more so than in Britain or other parts of Europe.

Heisey, who is also president of Mennonite World Conference, "especially enjoys" taking the bus, she says. “I've gotten to know some neat people who are regular users.”

Heisey said that she began thinking about riding the bus after reading Ray Dirk's book, In God's Image, which includes stories of Anabaptist sisters and brothers in Cuba and Zimbabwe waiting for the bus to go to church.

She also pays attention to recycling. "It was a student of mine who chided me some time ago for not recycling my office copy of the daily newspaper. I'm doing that now. It's no big effort to keep a storage container handy for recyclable materials."

Recently Heisey and her spouse Paul Longacre have "recommitted ourselves to simplifying our diets, purchasing locally-produced foods whenever possible and planting a garden every year." Unless the weather is bad, the couple usually walks to church on Sunday mornings.

Heisey and Longacre are members of a local Voluntary Tax Group ( that calculates what should be a reasonable price for fuel and contributes to a fund based on the alternative figures.

"Practicing recycling and other simple efforts to help care for God's creation can be a natural part of our daily activities," Heisey says. "It's a matter of being willing to do some planning and being mindful of how our actions affect so many others."

[Acknowledgements to EMU and MWC]

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