Tag Archives: MennoCon 19

There is Always Hope in God

by Wendy Wong, Souderton congregation 

Sue Park-Hur, denominational minister for leadership development, introduces the cross of reconciliation during Wednesday worship. Photo courtesy of MC USA.

This was my first experience attending Mennonite Convention.  3000 attendees were among us.  I attended all the worship services and I was very impressed by the energy the worship leaders had and the amazing resonance from the attendees.  I loved the inspirational songs and the fact that the leaders were ethnically diverse.  The emerging intergenerational worship created an atmosphere of joy & unity.  The unique stories from each speaker touched the audience’s heart.  Pastor Sue Park-Hur talked about how they reached out to North Koreans, a country that many might consider to be like Nineveh back in Jonah’s time.

I loved the teaching from Tom Yoder Neufeld.  He said, “Church is a mess;” we responded, “Thanks be to God!” He taught that “unity doesn’t mean harmony.”  He showed a picture of a drawing of Jesus who gathers our diversity (physical and mental) into His womb to create new human beings.  Churches should have vision, be open, pray for each other, show hospitality, and be transformed.  Forbearance means long-suffering and forgiveness and always watching the horizon like the father of the prodigal son.  There is always hope in God.

Wendy’s table group. Photo courtesy of Wendy Wong.

It is an excellent idea to have youth delegates and I am absolutely confident of what they can do for the kingdom of God.  Nowadays youth are a lot smarter than my generation. In my opinion, a youth board member and a youth in the pastoral search team may not be a bad idea. 

I totally agree on the resolution against the abuse of child migrants on the border.  Churches should be loving our neighbor through lobbying for family unification and policy change, sending members to witness the conditions of migrants and sending immigration detention kits, and even sending concern letters to the Southern Baptists so they can raise the concern to the president of the United States.

Wendy joins in the conga line during delegate worship. Photo courtesy of MC USA.

At my table, I heard that delegates were still very bothered by issues like LGBTQ and women in leadership roles, and some were not sure they will come next time.  I like the delegates from my table, however, and it felt like a family reunion.  We had Russian, German, Swiss, and Chinese Mennonites at our table. We prayed for each other and shared each other’s burden in just a few days of knowing each other.

Without coming to this convention, I would never have known how much we can be the light of the world for Jesus as an individual church or conference because we are a part of MC USA.  Sue Park-Hur challenged us to go wherever the Spirit leads us with the Spirit’s peace.  Leonard Dow challenged us to receive the Spirit and follow His guidance to overcome the challenges in our life.  Glen Guyton challenged us to humbly serve the body of Christ and to go, disarmed, to witness to the world.

The Unfathomable Movement of the Spirit

by Justin Burkholder, South Philly summer intern

Mennonite Convention 2019 was a fresh experience providing fruitful conversations, an open space to connect with God, and learning from one another about how God is moving, particularly through the Mennonite churches in this country.

Delegate sessions were fulfilling because of the unique opportunity to unite in Kansas City as brothers and sisters of various ages across the country. Conversations circled around shortcomings, mountain-top experiences, future challenges, and the unity of the Spirit laid out in Ephesians. Through three sessions on Ephesians, delegates were equipped with the charge of living cohesively amidst the reality that the church is messy; both locally and globally. The church was reinvigorated to praise God instead of allowing the differences to divide or define us. Tension or chaffing can be helpful because uniformity does not allow the space for challenging one another. In a world stained by sin, complete uniformity is not an option. Living together in harmony is encouraged, however, as Paul heavily emphasizes in Romans 12:18. The call to the church in Ephesus to “maintain the unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3) has powerful relevance to the church in the twenty-first century.

Meghan Good teaches on the breath of the Spirit. Photo courtesy of Mennonite Church USA.

A speaker I thoroughly enjoyed was Meghan Good. Her sermon was titled He Breathed on Them. One story she highlighted was the unexpected call from God in her life. It was an ordinary afternoon when she felt an unquestionable revelation from God asking her to show up in a room for an unknown purpose. Waiting for her were two friends who were eager to pray for her life and calling. She felt the Spirit pour over her and comfort her in unfamiliar ways. It was a moment she felt renewed by God and credits it to the breath God breathed in her.

Meghan emphasized that much of our church has been running on empty, not seeking the source of our energy, our breath, our ruach. In scripture, God’s Spirit is also translated as wind, breath, energy. Meghan highlighted Genesis 2:7 which describes God breathing life into Adam. This is the original design and source of energy for humankind who believe in God as the creator. She gave the analogy of a hot air balloon because the balloon must be fueled by a consistent release of air or it will crash. Running through life without this source is exhausting and frustrating, but I—we—have learned to adopt the routine of faking it until it becomes too difficult on our own. God did not intend it to be this way.

Tom Yoder Neufeld led equipping times for the delegates on Ephesians. Photo by Vada Snider.

I believe our church must do a better job of accountability and vulnerability, because we have mastered and become comfortable with going through the motions. These motions are built to eventually return emotions of guilt, shame, and loneliness. God instead demands freedom. As Leonard Dow taught, the chains suddently fell off for Paul and Silas in prison when the wind-energy was released through the space (Acts 16:25-27). I believe God intends to release that energy through the church today so that we all witness and experience the power of God’s Spirit working through us. God is waiting with his arms wide open, ready for us to receive him. When we take one step towards him, he runs, eager to embrace us (Luke 15).

I was encouraged at convention to seek him directly. I do not want to run on my own and grow weary. We are not asked to go through any religious hoops to access him. Thanks be to God for the gift of his church and his Spirit.

              

              

Transformative Experiences at MC USA Convention 2019

by Justin Burkholder, South Philly summer intern

Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) held their biennial convention July 2-6 in Kansas City, Missouri. Three thousand energetic youth, children, and adults assembled for a week of learning, worship, serving, fellowship, and fun. The convention aims to build the vision and mission of MC USA as the church together embarks on God’s mission in the world.

Adult delegates met to discern the vision of the church together and for times of equipping.  Youth groups shared worship time with the adults and attended seminars during delegate sessions. Servant projects were also available each day for those who chose to join the efforts in the local community. The worship band was led by Seth Crissman (Walking Roots Band) and included various instruments, which created magnificent harmonies.

Youth worship in front of the stage at #MennoCon19. Photo courtesy of Mennonite Church USA.

Chuck Tirtasaputra was a youth attendee from Philadelphia Praise Center and found the worship especially meaningful. “There is something about a group of people singing together to worship God that moves me,” he reflected.  Youth crowded in front of the stage each worship session to gain the full experience of worshiping side by side with believers from all over the country. Mike Spinelli, pastor of Perkiomenville (PA) congregation, appreciated the passion of his church’s youth group: “The worship was a breath of fresh air as the youth enthusiastically moved to the front of the stage and full-on sang and jumped to the rhythms of grace.”

Beny Krisbianto (Nations Worship Center, Philadelphia, PA) in table discussions during #MennoCon19 delegate sessions. Photo by MC USA.

Worship also included a speaker each session who captivated the audience with an appealing story or message of God’s moving in their life. Speakers Dustin Galyon, Hesston College basketball coach, and Meghan Good, teaching pastor at Trinity Mennonite Church (Glendale, Arizona), were inspiring to Kyle Rodgers, youth pastor of Franconia (PA) congregation. Galyon emphasized that fear hates community, while Good highlighted that the breath of God is required to sustain our lives, in contrast to our own breath or the breath of others.

Delegate sessions were introduced on Wednesday morning with the formation of table groups. Tom Yoder Neufeld, professor emeritus at Conrad Grebel University, led three sessions from Ephesians titled Gathered as One on the unity of the Spirit. There was time for table discussions and eventually question and answer following each teaching session.

Justin Burkholder and Graciella Odelia become Franconia Conference’s first voting youth delegates. They were attending #MennoCon19 through the Step Up program. Photo by Emily Ralph Servant.

In the afternoon delegate sessions, table discussions centered around the Journey Forward, a conversation continued from convention in 2017. One discussion prompt read, “Identify one part of our shared peace witness we should work on together for the next biennium.” A variety of perspectives were discussed, including shared belief that our church must care for the migrants at the Mexico-United States border who are experiencing inhumane treatment. This focus was reflected in the passage of a resolution that condemned “the treatment of immigrants families and children at the border, as well as around the nation, [as] a horrific violation of the Image of God and God-given human rights.”

Another resolution that passed was the opportunity for congregations, churchwide agencies, and conferences to send additional voting youth delegates (age 16-21) to future conventions.

The next convention will be held in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the summer of 2021. As attendees reflect on lessons to share and ways to integrate what we experienced with our congregations and communities, the divisiveness in relationships remains an area for which the church yearns for God’s healing. Franconia Conference board member Yvonne Platts of Nueva Vida Norristown (PA) New Life echoed this thought as a significant take away from convention. She voiced that our churches and relationships are broken due to decisions and splits.  Tom Yoder Neufeld called this “checking the horizons” and still seeing the hope that is there. May we, as one body, look upon the horizons and see Jesus calling us closer to him despite our shortcomings.

Read further reflections on #MennoCon19 from Justin Burkholder and Wendy Wong (Souderton congregation):