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):