How are we different? How are we the same?
These are the kinds of questions we are often wrestling with as people and as followers of Jesus.
When should we try to go our own way, following our convictions and personal passion towards independence? When should we give up the independence willingly to the greater needs and voice of the community?
Mennonites have a reputation worldwide for being a community that loves relationship.
Then there is also the struggle so often to reconcile this love for harmony with having a strong and distinct voice.
Our theme for the fourth day of Mennonite World Conference was Walking in Autonomy and Community. Fittingly, today were rich and diverse, as we heard music from around Europe and speakers who challenged both with conviction and grace.
As Europe is the birthplace of the Anabaptist faith, many of the songs where historical and significant. They were sung in French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and English; and this variety of languages itself reflected the beautiful tension created by such a diverse mixture of cultures. My personal favourites where the prayerful chants of the Taize communities, which while poetic and simple in their language, build to an overflow with emotion.
Beyond the content of the day however, I’m left with a sense of awe. Awe at the breadth and difference in the community of faith. Awe at the talent and power of men and women who speak boldly and prophetically to the Church.
A general highlight for me has been the fantastic communication from younger Anabaptists, who have been featured prominently every morning. I love being a part of a faith community that empowers and reveals in hearing from fresh and dynamic voices from around the world. One of the best lines I heard today was from young Anabaptist Kevin Ressler, who said,
“…one of the best ways for the Church to be the Church is through our vulnerability.”
Vulnerability is on display when we share our experiences. There is power in this confession, both of your sins and your successes. These stories inspire and strengthen people. We all have a story to tell, and I have loved see those stories written so poetically over the last few days.
Speaking of telling stories, it’s hard to ignore that with the event taking place at the Farm Show Complex, the signage has been more than unusual. It’s not often you see a sign telling conference attendees that they “assume the risk of equine activities” and that they should follow the Animal Concourse to their next meal!
I even heard one of the Complex’s workers saying it was the cleanest the building has ever smelled!
It has been a gift to be surrounded by people that are striving for non-violence in a violent world, who long for brothers and sisters to care deeply for one another, and for a world untangled from the traps of comfort and consumerism. I love that challenge because it is usual and unfamiliar.
We have a rich history in our Anabaptist faith, and it is on full display at Mennonite World Conference. We finished the day with communion, thousands together at once taking the bread and the juice, and the experience couldn’t sum up our time more. As one body for these few days, our uniqueness becomes a appetizer of the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven, and I’m loving how it tastes.