As our conference grows increasingly diverse, questions of identity come to the forefront. Who are we and what does it mean for us to be in community together? Often we get stuck on questions of ethnicity and heritage.
But what if we were held together by shared practice? What would those practices be? This summer blog series listened to voices from throughout and beyond Franconia Conference to understand more deeply what we mean when we say that we are “Mennoniting” together.
How do you Mennonite? Add your own response by emailing Emily Ralph, associate director of communication for Franconia Conference. Please include your name and congregation.
[tab:Full blog series]
“What if we viewed our identities as followers of Jesus who Mennonite? What if we saw Mennonite not as our identity, but as our practice? What would the practices for the verb Mennonite be?”
–Emily Ralph, Associate Director of Communication, Franconia Conference
“But I know that Christians are not just about what is in their heads. To me, “to Mennonite” means to serve Christ with our heads and our hands, flowing out of the love that is in our hearts.”
–Dennis Edwards, pastor, Sanctuary Covenant Church
“Such non-conformity to the standards of culture is only possible if one takes Jesus seriously, not only on Sunday morning but in every encounter and experience throughout the week.”
–Donna Merow, pastor, Ambler Mennonite Church
“And some things I deeply appreciate are not of significant importance for following after Jesus. I recognize that every expression of faith takes on some cultural expression. Mennoniting is partly about discerning what is of Jesus and what is of culture.”
–Noah Kolb, Pastor of Ministerial Leadership, Franconia Conference
“This promise gives me hope for unity, for integration; for working together as people of God in the same spirit, a spirit in which the older generations share their unfinished spiritual dreams to the younger generations and empower them to accomplish those dreams.”
–Ubaldo Rodriguez, pastor, New Hope Fellowship/Nueva Esperanza
“I am a firm believer in physical rituals to remind us of things that are important. In taking off our socks, getting on the floor, and actually cleaning someone else’s feet or allowing ours to be cleaned, our body experiences what we train our minds and hearts for as Mennonites.”
–Maria Byler, Community Resources Coordinator, Philadelphia Praise Center
“I feel the question of “How do I Mennonite?” is an outstanding one and I appreciate how Mennoniting has led me to good works in the past. But for me, the follow-up question is just as important: And where does my Mennoniting go from here?”
–Ron White, moderator, Eastern District Conference
“It is not easy separating the noun “Mennonite” and the verb “to Mennonite.” I think it is because the terms are not mutually exclusive. Those of us who identify as Mennonite, ethnically or culturally, and practice a Mennonite faith are likely already Mennoniting.”
–Alex Bouwman, youth leader, West Philadelphia Mennonite Church
“For me, “to Mennonite” is to engage in communal discernment about the most important issues in the Christian life. To new leaders eager to make changes in the church, processing often appears as a weakness, if not a downright annoyance.”
–Ervin Stutzman, executive director, Mennonite Church USA
“Not complicated doctrine but simple acceptance of this mystery and living by it is what church is about. Not trying to be “realistic” about politics, war and economics, but simple obedience to the great Pioneer of our reconciliation, is what our church fellowship is, by birth and continuing discernment, about.”
–John Ruth, historian, Salford Mennonite Church
“Perhaps our most prominent expression of such love has been through conscientious objection to killing enemies in wartime, and this remains a vital Mennonite conviction. Increasingly, however, I wonder if we risk so focusing on enemies out there that we fail to learn how to love the enemies we make of each other.”
–Michael A. King, dean, Eastern Mennonite Seminary
“After I shared my conversation with the leaders and members of the church, no one objected. The leaders and I remembered, though, that we were now part of Franconia Mennonite Conference and we didn’t know if opening our church building would be the right thing to do according to Mennonite values.”
–Aldo Siahaan, pastor, Philadelphia Praise Center
“From their diverse viewpoints, what emerges to me is the sense that it’s our relatedness that is our distinction. It’s this relatedness that is both our biggest strength and potential as well as our possible Achilles heel.”
–Steve Kriss, director of communication, Franconia Conference
[tab:Response to blog series]
As one who did not grow up in the Mennonite community I found this series to be helpful, interesting, and insightful. We are wonderfully diverse, and this is an invitation to learn from each other and with each other. To all of our friends who contributed–thank you for sharing your stories.
–Chris Nickels, Spring Mount
I appreciated listening to the variety of perspectives about what it means to Mennonite and yet a central theme of ‘putting faith in action in practical ways’ seemed to emerge. To Mennonite means to not be content with simply knowing things about God but putting this faith into practice in tangible ways in local and global communities. We preach not just death but resurrection with our lives. Putting faith into practice within a diverse discerning faith community reminds me that we put our trust in God’s Spirit and not in ourselves. We trust that God is at work among us and big enough to shape all of our quirks into something greater than we can fathom. He has risen indeed! Thanks to all for contributing.
–Angela Moyer, Ripple Allentown