Author Archive: Jason

People’s Summit in Winnipeg – Why is it we gather?

After attending the “People’s Summit for Faithful Living,” in Winnipeg a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about the reasons we gather.

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Some fine reports were written on the summit, here and here. The only things I would add or highlight would be…

In addition to Canadians, white people were also over-represented. (Out of 570 participants, I’d estimate around 550 were white.) Not to say that such numbers preclude valuable interactions or prove tokenism – I greatly appreciated some the learning tracks that connected indigenous traditions with relating to our creator and caring for creation – but I think it’s important to notice.

I also had a notable conversation with a young pastor who’s drawn to working with suburban youth – creating vibrant alternatives to our destructive culture and showing them there can be more to life than what we consume. I’m glad to know those conversations are happening.

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So as a participant I got some ideas and resources, met some cool folks, and ate off compostable plates. But I’m still not sure that conferences like this are justifiable in their current form. (more…)

Wisdom from Those Gone Before

ST’s post reminded me of a conversation I had last September with someone I’ve admired for his consistent commitment to justice-making over decades (peace and development work in Vietnam during the American War in that country, international and community interfaith work with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, etc).

Knowing that it can be easy to burn out or drift toward the mainstream, I was interested in how he’s sustained his passion and activism over the course of the years. His answers came almost faster than I could write. (more…)

Neighborhood v. Conference?

A friend and I were invited to be respondants at the upcoming conference — “At the Crossroads: Promise and Peril 2008″ in Winnipeg. I feel like our household is involved in kingdom work and has plenty of connections/theological grounding for the work. And it sounds like some solid folks are already going to be there, representing much of what I would be saying. So I’ve been wrestling with whether to leave life-giving work in my neighborhood for a conference I’m unsure about.

QUESTIONS ASKED BY THE CONFERENCE:
Why does God work through people-hood even when that people is not deserving?
What does covenant mean and how does that inform our questions of faithfulness?
What are the temptations of God’s people in the land in which they live?
Where do God’s people find security as they live in the land and are tempted by wealth, power and ownership?

I have my working answers to these questions. We’re working to live them out in the neighborhood. (more…)

Global Discussion on Shaping our Spiritual Life – Una Discusión Global sobre la Formación de una Vida Espiritual

In order to learn from one another’s experiences, AMIGOS periodically sends out discussion questions to be shared among young people connected with Mennonite World Conference. The current questions are:

– What do you do to shape up your spiritual life?
– How do you pray? (for example: times in silence, etc.)

Para aprender de las experiencias de los demás, AMIGOS periódicamente manda preguntas para discusión para ser compartidas entre jóvenes conectados con el Congreso Mundial Menonita. Las preguntas actuales son:

– ¿Qué haces para mantener tu vida espiritual en forma?
– ¿Cómo oras? (Por ejemplo: tiempos en el silencio, etc.)
(more…)

What if ‘going home’ was our calling?

In the past few months I’ve been noticing a startling trend. Some of the most passionate people of my generation are returning to their home communities. After college, after working overseas, a surprising number of my peers are deciding – when they could go almost anywhere – to move back to the places they grew up.

Now, you might say that I’m biased – having just moved to back Elkhart, IN for Mennonite Voluntary Service when I grew up one town away in Goshen. And I am certainly excited about how our unit is flourishing in its first year — serving as a means for a number of us young people to re-commit to an area where we’ve already had ties.

But it’s not just us. A woman raised in central plains has returned to commit herself to finding ways to live sustainably. After two years with the World Council of Churches in Geneva, a seminarian returns to intern at a congregation of farmers and businessfolk. A group of recent graduates from Goshen College decide to travel among the Central States conference for a summer of learning about how people in their home region approach peacemaking. (more…)

On BikeMovement — What spurs our communities to action?

Some recent discussion here has suggested relating posts to action, which is part of what motivated me to post this note here. Many of you all may have heard about BikeMovement (young Mennos biking across the US and talking about church last summer, biking SE Asia this summer), and there’s a documentary on the US trip being finalized in the next month.

I’m writing about it here because I’m working on a study guide that will be sent out with the DVD to Mennonite congregations across the US, hoping to continue and expand conversations we had along the trip — what does it mean to cultivate a relevant community? how does that play out (or not) in church as we’ve known it? where do we go from there?

As I’m working on this study guide, I’ve been thinking some about style and form — how can this be most accessible and useful for the folks who we’ll be sending it to? Impact that a number of the planners are hoping for is that people who use it will feel empowered and hopeful, think critically about their church experience, and want to work for broader and more authentic inclusion in daily lives and the church.

I was wondering what resources, study guides, or Sunday school curricula you all have found useful for working on these kinds of questions — extra points if these do well addressing questions of race, sexuality, age and/or education levels among participants. Cause it seems like there would have to be good materials and models out there which spur churches to critical reflection and action, I just haven’t been around using any to know what they are.

So any tips and links would be much appreciated — and perhaps helpful in a broader sense as we consider what can help new action happen in the fleshy faith communities we find ourselves in.

Men Challenging Patriarchy in the Church?

Maybe I should explain where I’m coming from. For a while now I’ve been struggling personally with how to deal with patriarchy in the church – most specifically male language for God, the male images of God I can’t seem to get rid of, and views about sexuality from the church and the Bible that seem to vastly over-represent the experience of men. I’ve been reading Sue Monk Kidd’s Dance of the Dissent Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from the Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine, which has very beneficial in helping me see things like the workings of male dominance and how one woman responds. But as Monk Kidd notes in the book, it seems that for those who have grown up male, the process of challenging patriarchy in our spiritual lives is distinctly different than for those who have grown up female. There may, of course be some overlap, but Monk Kidd suggests that perhaps the journey for the latter category is toward recovering the self, and the former toward humility. So I’m looking for some role models, men who’ve thought deeply and tried to act and live in new ways – because I think men fighting patriarchy has to have a different slant to it than when women do.

For comparison, reading Tim Wise’s eye-opening and personal insights in White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, gave me an idea of what it can look like act as a conscientious white person attempting to be anti-racist. And in that vein, I’m wondering if other folks are aware of well-grounded stories of men writing about what it’s like to confront patriarchy in the church and their personal spiritual lives (preferably confronting heterosexism too, but such texts might be few and far between). I’m interested in male feminist theologians too, but the details of day-to-day life and church seem more pressing to me at the moment. So, recommendations?

Intro to Jason

I’m someone who’s mostly been away from Mennonites for the past three years, but having the distance has shown me (maybe by omission) the value for me of relationships with young Anabaptist folks — particularly ones who are passionate about investigating what it looks like to try to form our lives and relationships based on taking seriously this faith we supposedly ascribe to.

I was talking with Sarah Thompson — who’s the North American representative to AMIGOS, the Mennonite World Conference’s global young adult network — about those sorts of interests (wanting to get to know passionate Menno young folks, to talk about the church and if/how it fits with us), which is what tipped her off to nominate me for the position I’m now in as the Mennonite Church USA rep to AMIGOS. More specifics will be coming up on AMIGOS, I’m sure, but feel free to check in or ask any questions y’all like. (more…)