Biographical

Introductions

Hello.  My name is Josh.  And I am an Anabaptist.

Well, pretty sure anyway.  Theres only a small number of people using the label of Anabaptism is Australia, tho many more exploring the traditions and those related to it.

I came to anarchism and anabaptism through a marrying of my activism and earlier evangelicalism.

My wife and I live in a small community in Perth called Peace Tree.  Peace Tree has been around since ’04, living in a forgotten neighbourhood trying to work out how to live as Christians in a society more interested in security and money.  Our community is small, a max population of 8, but perhaps 20 with sympathizers.

My wife (Amy) and I are actually away from home at the moment as well.  We’ve been 5 months in Timor Leste (me working on a Permaculture garden and Amy mostly teacing english).  This coming weekend we go the UK for 5 months and are keen to catch up with communities and like minded ppl.  I came across this blog trying to find out what is happening (I saw another community member – Jarrod Mckenna – being written about as well).  So, yeah, hello – I like coffee and gardening.

Peace

Joshua

Joining the community

To quote one of my favorite Sesame Street characters of my early years:

“Hello, Everybodeeeee!” (gotta love Grover).

I’ve just been given the privilege to be a contributor here on YAR and it was suggested that I give a bit of an intro so y’all know who it is writing this stuff.

For what it’s worth, concerning my denominational “pedigree”, I was born and raised in the Mennonite denomination.  At that time, the churches I went to were the MC churches (as opposed to GC).  My life started in Puerto Rico as the second son of two mission minded people.  My parents got their start in PR in Voluntary Service and spent 10 years there all told.  So, culturally speaking, while I’m German Mennonite by descent, my preferred flavor of church is a little less traditional.

I’m not sure how “young” I am.  I’m 36 years old.  But I guess I’m “young” in that I’m not stuck in the Mennonite/Anabaptist “church as usual” mentality.  We need to start thinking about what it means to BE the church and not just GO to church.  Life in the “church” is so much more than Sunday morning and the “church” is so much more than the institution that runs that Sunday morning service.  “Church” is who we are every day and should define what we then do every day.  If Sunday morning “go-to-meeting” should go away, the church will still be the church. (more…)

Does size really matter?

People have asked me if I grew up in the country or in town.  Well, kinda.  I technically lived within the city limits of Goessel but I could see a wheat field from my back yard.  In addition, while Goessel was an official town (signified by it’s own telephone prefix and a post office) the booming Mennonite metropolis of roughly 500 people isn’t exactly what I’d call “urban”.  Being the biggest football player, not only in my high school but my entire league, I followed the natural progression and went to Bethel College in North Newton, Ks to play ball.  Eventually I wound up with a Bible and Religion degree.  After college I worked for Buhler Mennonite Church as a youth pastor as I began studies at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary Great Plains Extension (AMBS).  After four years at Buhler I finished up my degree at the AMBS main campus in Elkhart, In.  This last spring my wonderful, and patient, wife and I moved to Harper, Ks where I now work at Pleasant Valley Mennonite Church as the solo pastor.  Even though Harper is three times the size of my hometown (1,500 people) living here would still place us firmly in the rural category.  My wife works as a nurse at the local hospital which has a whopping 25 beds and an emergency room that is literally has a sign “ring bell for service”.  We’re not quite in the middle of nowhere, but we can see it from where we live.

That being said, if you have never been to the prairies to witness the great expansive and dynamic sky, then you are really missing out.  One can hardly question the awesome power of God watching a massive thunderhead develop in the hot summer evening.  With beauty comes power.  These storms that give life through their rain and are so beautiful to watch from a distance are also the same ones that have been known to destroy entire towns. (more…)

just starting…

well, i’ve never been a part of a blog before – not for travelling, for politics, or for random thoughts – but this one was too tempting to pass up…

i am a canadian mennonite living in ontario. i grew up in winnipeg manitoba – probably the closest one could get to a mennonite geneva. my grandfather was a missionary, my father is the executive director for the canadian conference of mennonite brethren churches, i went to a mennonite high school, college… well, you get the idea. borscht courses through my veins.

and yet my experience with the mennonites has been tumultuous. my home church in winnipeg was as evangelical as most of the other non-denoms (similar to how matt t described his situation in his opening post). it was unclear to most in the congregation what it was about this church that made it different from others. i moved to the usa to start graduate studies – a master’s in theology – and attended a mennonite church of a different sort. i was able to see how mennonites could be different. however, when i brought some of these ideas and opinions back home, i was met with hostility (including being black-balled from the mb canadian periodical. the senior editor there wants nothing to do with me – i guess that’s what makes this blog so attractive: everyone gets the floor).

currently i am having problems attending church. there is only one menno church in my city and it is neither young nor radical. i am doing a phd in religion and politics, so i like to think through the significance of mennonite practices in a politically hostile world (even canada is in afghanistan). i hope to contribute and be intrigued with conversations via yar

joe

Entering the YAR community

Hey y’all,

My name is Matt and I have been checking out your blog for a while now and decided that I wanted in on the action.

I am a Mennonite born and bred – in fact a Canadian Mennonite (so the y’all that I used above is put on). You can’t get much more particularistic than that can you? I am what is known as an ethnic Mennonite – quite an odd concept and all but there you go. I grew up in a church that was deeply conscious of the problems inherent in an ethnic definition of the term Mennonite and dealt with it by trying to do everything it could to get rid of anything distinctively Mennonite/Anabaptist. Maybe we were embarrassed about being Mennonite – God knows it was awkward to be associated with horses and buggies all the time. So we just tried to fit in with all the evangelical churches in town.

But the fact that we were just like all other churches meant that there was no good reason to go to our church (unless you liked Mennonite food!), so when I moved away for college I went to all kinds of different churches. Not until I worked for a Canadian Chinese Mennonite Church (OK, the category of Canadian Chinese Mennonite is even more particularistic than Canadian Mennonite!) did I find myself becoming committed to Anabaptist theology.

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Owning women you’ve never met.

I have a confession to make: I’ve never looked at porn. Okay, that’s a lie. But here’s the truth…….I’ve never sought out porn. Ever. Sure, there have been times in High School when a guy flipped me a rag, or in college when I went to a party and some guys were watching porn. And, like the rest of the 21st century world, I’ve accidently googled it from time to time. But I’ve never bought it, rented it, or pay-per-viewed it.

When I admit this fact about myself I get asked “Don’t you like it?”, “Are you not into chicks?”, “What’s the deal?”. Honestly, I never thought porn was good thing. I became a Christian at 19 so I had plenty of heathen years to look at this shit but I never thought it was right. Yeah, I’d probably like it. I’d probably like crack too.

I consider myself lucky. I’ve never met a guy who is in my position; who by 28 has been so “clean” of the stuff. Women might not know it, and maybe I’m letting the cat out of the bag here, but nearly all guys, universally, look at porn. Sorry to blow your cover fellas.

Anyway, an old Pastor of mine moved out to Arizona a couple years ago to start yet another church. He met this girl who used to be a very successful porn star. She comes to his church and is very vocal about her past. I’d post her myspace and what-have-you but I don’t feel like it’d be appropiate. So my old Pastor likes to make movies and they thought it’d be cool to make sort of an “inspired on a true story” type flick about this girl. They posted a “making of” online. (more…)

Endtroducing

Tim asked me to introduce myself before contributing to this blog. So here goes…

I guess I’m young–although my wife has discovered a recent influx of white hairs on my head. And I guess I’m Anabaptist–although my parents had me baptized as an infant. But I don’t think anyone wants to include me among the “radicals” since I’m a pastor. Everyone knows that pastors aren’t radical. They are (we are) just pastors.

My name is Isaac Villegas and I pastor a Mennonite congregation in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. As I’ve discovered from wearing name tags at Mennonite conferences, my last name is a giveaway: my family tree isn’t rooted in Europe. My blood flows from south of the border. I’m the child of Catholic immigrants from Latin America who settled in Los Angeles, California. My ecclesial story meanders through various traditions. But my first memory of church is set in a modern cathedral, with lavishly adorned priests walking down the center aisle, incense wafting through the rows, and Christ’s transubstantiated presence beckoning from the altar of eucharistic mysteries.

But my family was pentecostal Catholic at heart, and that kind of hybrid Catholicism didn’t happen in our LA neighborhoods. So we turned to the anarchic pentecostal and storefront charismatic movements. Then evangelicals took hold of me during college. But they left me high and dry when I wrestled with the need for a faithful response to 9/11. The Mennonites saved my faith; they offered a communal witness of peace that took seriously the bible and the miracle-working power of the Holy Spirit.

I moved to North Carolina to help start a house of hospitality called the Rutba House. When we discovered that lots of other folks were doing the same things, we invited everyone we could think of to Durham for a conversation on “a new monasticism.” (If you want more information, we put together a book of essays: Schools for Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism.)

While I experimented with what we were calling “neo-monasticism,” I worshiped with the good people at Chapel Hill Mennonite. They taught me how to do church Mennonite-style–granted, a grass roots (i.e., radical?) variety of Mennonite that makes most sense to me. And for some crazy reason they thought it was a good idea to call me as their pastor. Only the Holy Spirit does stuff that crazy.

Intergenerational Activist Conversation

An older woman activist that I admire came up to me. She was obviously weary, and looked a bit as if she had just been crying. I had just received an email from her earlier, calling all the activists, who stand and witness for peace on Wednesdays at the Civic Plaza, to an emergency meeting. She asked me and my friend to come, saying in all sincerity, “we need a word of wisdom from the younger generation. We really aren’t sure what we should do.”

Only 2 or 3 people have been showing up in the last two months to the public witness here in town. Should we go on with our Wednesday 4:30pm vigils? Recently, the entire leadership of these vigils fell to this older woman–because others wouldn’t or couldn’t do it–and she was feeling exhausted. In addition to hoping to share the load with others, the sadness of the whole situation (16 more people were killed today in Iraq, for example) and the state of the world overwhelmed her. (more…)

An Invitation To Express Yourself

Okay so we are Young Anabaptist Radicals—but that doesn’t mean that we are in agreement on the basics. I’m not talking about the basics of what is “young” “Anabaptist” or “radical”. These terms have been discussed. I mean the basics of what is significant—what is the good, what is truth, what is moral, what is justice, what is our hope, and how do we know any of these things? And what is the minimum that we expect others to agree with us in order to discuss any of these things? Some of the disagreements we have originate in differing opinions on these matters, and we often go to loggerheads in our discussions because we think others think as we do. Folknotions brought up this issue in Katie’s “Tired” post, and I thought that perhaps instead of assuming where we are all coming from, perhaps we should explore it.

So, this is my recommendation: If you can, put your basic worldview down in a paragraph or two, so we can know where you are coming from when we discuss things. If it is significant in your life, then talk about Jesus and/or Scripture, but the most important thing is that you talk about the foundation of your beliefs and morality, not what you think others want to hear. (more…)

I’m not a radical.

I’m not a radical. Not in the sense that some people might see it anyway. The term might be associated with those who espouse a more liberal socio-political worldview. It’s been used that way. And by that definition I am not a radical. Nor am I a “Young Anabaptist Radical”. If young means “under 25 & unmarried” then I’m lacking in the young department (I’m 28, if you want to know). I’m also not an anabaptist. Maybe not one that would generally fit into the traditional “anabaptist” stereotypes (if such a thing exists at all).

I thought I’d come clean.
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The Unexpected Pastor (To Be)

Greetings,

So recently YAR has had introductions from the The Reluctant Christian and The Impossible Anabaptist. So in the spirit of things, allow me to introduce myself as The Unexpected Pastor (To Be). I say “unexpected” because I never expected that I eventually would work on my MDiv at Eastern Mennonite Seminary. I never expected that I would want to be pastor. And in the darkest days of my disbelief and disorientation, I never thought I would want to be a Christian. However, since I graduated from Goshen College six years ago, I’ve had these quiet tugs pull me into this direction. Is this God? Is this insanity? Is this proof that God has a sense of humor?

I live with my wife Maegan and the expected Baby Yoder in Baltimore. We attend North Baltimore Mennonite Church, which currently is experiencing a lot of change since our pastor retired at the end of December. I feel change is a good thing — we needed to shake up status quo. There are good people in this community, but there are a lot of problems and divisions as well. Like a lot of urban Mennonite churches, there is broad theological/political diversity in the congregation and we have to somehow find a way to get along together.

What else? I grew up in Berlin, Germany and Evanston, IL. I am an alum of Reba Place Church and was there from 1988 to 1995. Reba’s has had a significant impact on me and what I feel churches should strive for. We attended Reba’s 50th Anniversary last summer and I it felt good to reconnect with Reba’s vision. (more…)

The Impossible Anabaptist

(x-posted at IndieFaith)
Greetings,

It is a blustery snow day out here in Waterloo County. I, however, snook into the church office before it got too bad . . . we’ll see if I get home. This is my first post here at YAR. And as I understand the tradition I should give a little sketch of myself.
I grew up in the Sommerfeld Mennonite church in southern Manitoba. I essentially stopped attending the church in junior high and after a brief hiatus from church-in-general I was baptized in the Evangelical Mennonite Mission Church just after I graduated from high school. At this time I pulled up stakes a did volunteering and eventually settled into a small non-denominational bible college (where I completed a BA and MDiv). In these years I was married to a former Catholic in the Anglican church while later attending a small house-church and inner-city baptist church. It was only after my academic career was put on hold (or extinguished) that I began thinking again about pastoral ministry. I realized that I could not pastor from nowhere. This eventually led me back to Mennonite church where I am now pastoring within Mennonite Church Canada. All this to say that my sense of Mennonite identity and theology are far from fixed. In my first year of ministry reflecting on what it may mean for me to be (or not to be) Mennonite led me to write the following article, The Impossible Anabaptist.
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Introduction… a great place to start!

Well, to start off I actually only found this sight a couple days ago. My father said someone recommended it to him, and being the online blog/facebook person I am, he told me about it. So here I am.

Currently I am 17 (birthday was yesterday actually!), and am an MK (missionary kid) which I absolutely LOVE! Two years after I was born our family moved to Swaziland, Southern Africa for a 6 year term with MCC. At the end of that term we lived in Harrisonburg VA for 2 years while my parents went through seminary and then headed off on another 6 year term with MCC, this time to Philippines. I feel I have been really blessed by God for this experience to live and travel in other countries. It has given me a large world view, one that has really helped me see things in perspective. I really love getting into discussions with others who have had similar experiences as I, and just sharing the knowledge and culture I have attained as well as always learning new things. (more…)

introduction and confession

I’ve been a member of YAR since its early days (a year ago already!), but have, for various reasons, remained a silent observer until today. I figured it was about time I offered some thoughts, especially as I’ve been so nourished and challenged by so many of your stories, words, thoughts, experiences. This is such a valuable space.

For a bit of an introduction… I find myself at Goshen College, after growing up in another Mennonite hub in Southern Ontario… and I’m the AMIGOS (Mennonite World Conference’s global community of young Anabaptists) representative for Mennonite Church Canada… and I like to think there are some other important things about me, too, but I’ll finish with this: I really like biking. And so this past summer, I was a part of BikeMovement Asia (which has also been mentioned in various earlier posts, and is also fairly well explained at www.bikemovement.org); the reflection below was penned during these days of cycling in late May, 2007.

So I apologise for beginning my posting career with a recycled post, but also hope that these words which grew out of my time in Southeast Asia continue to hold some relevance… (more…)

Come be my Light, by Mother Teresa

The NY Times featured an article about a new book containing revealing letters written by Mother Teresa (title above). The letters detail that one of the impetuses for her to leave the Lorento convent and live among Calcutta’s poor was a feeling of spiritual emptiness…a feeling she apparently struggled with for her whole life. The NYTimes says:

‘“I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe,” wrote Flannery O’Connor, the Roman Catholic author whose stories traverse the landscape of 20th-century unbelief. “What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe.”’

How do those words feel to you, YARs? Like, what do you think? I’m excited to hear. The NYTimes continues: (more…)