A room divided
We hope the world will know us for our love
My first in-person reporting assignment, two months into this job, will be etched in my mind forever. Although I had attended church gatherings before, I had never experienced such deep tension, such direct honesty, such awkward silence.
It was October 2010. Hundreds of leaders representing Mennonite Church USA, churchwide organizations and area conferences were gathered in Pittsburgh. A core agenda item was whether to move the 2013 MC USA convention from Phoenix due to Arizona’s controversial immigration law, which had passed five months prior.
Understandably, people passionately disagreed about whether MC USA should hold a churchwide convention in what some considered a hostile environment. Discussion became heated. Some people left their seats and stood on opposite sides of the large ballroom. Others stayed seated at their round tables. The room was divided.
I thought: I have to report on this? Objectively?
It was late, and many of us left the ballroom quietly. Some prayed; others were seemingly stunned into silence. I found my good friend, Goshen (Ind.) College President Jim Brenneman. “We’re gonna get through this,” he said to me. I agreed with him. And still I wondered: Can we be the church while doing so?
Looking back, I know the Spirit stirred among us that day, whether we noticed it or not. Somehow, by the grace of God, the leaders agreed to commit themselves to solidarity with immigrants and to discern God’s will together. Somehow, by the grace of God, I found a way to describe what I saw and heard.
More than just the Pittsburgh gathering, these last two years have challenged me. I have learned that Mennonites in the United States are much more diverse than I ever realized growing up in southeastern Pennsylvania. And I’ve learned the broader body of now more than 1.7 million Anabaptists worldwide is even more diverse.
We vary in our languages, our food, our transportation, our styles of worship and, not least of all, our beliefs. Still, we share common practices. We are followers of Jesus who long for our beliefs and values to occupy our entire lives. We seek to be obedient disciples. We hope the world will know us for our love.
In the past two years I’ve sought to tell stories that document how we share our love — for God, for each other, for the world, for all of creation. I hope my work and MWR in general allows you to see God at work. As we struggle to discern well, I pray that we notice the Spirit stirring.
I will need the Spirit’s guidance as my journey takes me to perhaps the most divisive place of all: Washington, D.C. I leave my job as assistant editor and web editor to work with Eastern Mennonite University. Starting Aug. 15, I will be assistant director of EMU’s Washington Community Scholars’ Center.
I’ve lived in Washington before. It’s a politically, spiritually, emotionally and culturally charged place, much like that Pittsburgh ballroom. As people of faith, we must stand firm, knowing that God is at work among us. Uniformity may not be possible, but unity is. Working for MWR taught me that.
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