Do I qualify as a YAR? I’m not quite sure. I have the A — I feel strongly about the Anabaptist vision and have committed myself to working for three Mennonite institutions during my thus-far career. But young? Who knows, anymore. At the last church-wide convention, where I went as part of my job, I was turned away by the big biceps at the front desk for having already (if barely) eclipsed the 30 threshold.
I’m Ryan Miller. I write. I take photos. I think about ways to communicate within the church and outside of church structures. I’ve worked for Mennonite Mission Network for the last two-and-one-half years, which puts me in the midst of a church structure — a job that can offer ascending stories of inspiration . Does that leave any room for radical? And do I define radical in terms of conceptual theology or as an action-based, lived-out, grit-under-toenails type of Christianity that not only identifies with the poor and oppressed, but goes out of its way to address their needs.
So I’m not sure if I fit here. And that’s not the confession.
This is the confession: I’m participating because I’m writing a story.
The story is about young adults and Web communities. It’s for an online publication called Urban Connections. As a serial lurker, I have no experience as an actual participant in these types of forums, but I’m interested in exploring the nature of the community that can be found online, especially among folks younger than I am who discovered the Internet before late college. And how does that community tie into the traditional forms of church — the building, the steeple (or not, depending on your type of church), the people.
So my questions to this gathering, and for my story:
What is the role of the stereotypically traditional church for young Anabaptists, radical or not? Has this blog, or online conversations at others sites, become a church community in and of itself? What does that mean?
And what drives you, as participants, to hold these conversations here? Are they in place of similar discussions in physical communities — as opposed to virtual communities?
If, as TimN wrote in the AboutUs section, the goal is “to root our lived faith today (and tomorrow) in the spirit and soil of early Anabaptism,” can that tree be adequately nourished in the virtual world alone?
Finally, as a group of committed, concerned young Anabaptist radicals, how do you respond to the generations bemoaning the supposed lack of involvement among peers?
These are perhaps too many and too detailed questions for proper response, but I hope some of you will feel willing to respond, if not in the comments below, then by writing me at ryanm [at] mennonitemission.net. I feel like today’s young people have much to teach the established church. Hopefully this site can help.
(For full disclosure, unless told otherwise, I will use responses as part of my story. Anyone who is mentioned in the eventual story will have the opportunity to read and comment before we go live online.)