Tradition

Global Anabaptism – present reality, realistic goal or hopeful optimism?

I haven’t written into this space for some time now. I apologize for the ways in which that is obvious in what I write below and for the ways it may cheapen my requests from you all. Almost embarrassingly, I’ve been forced to skim over your most recent YAR conversations so that my input doesn’t completely fail to hit some thread of relevancy and interest. Disclaimers…disclaimers… here’s the word I’d like to share:

This is, firstly, a ‘howdy’ from Southeast Asia – northern Laos (Vientiane), at the moment. Secondly, it is a more direct plug for BikeMovement Asia, recently alluded to indirectly on this site by Hinke, Jason and possibly others. Thirdly, it is a suggestion that BikeMovement – in its attempt to draw out individual and collective stories – is one way to approach the theological/social ‘doing’ that is being reckoned with in conversations here. BikeMovement Asia does a lot of talking too. The same sort of talking/analyzing that happens on this sort of site. But we live the stories as well. (more…)

Church mailbox scandal

After being a member of my home church, Foothills Mennonite in Calgary, Alberta, for 5 years I’m starting to wonder when I’m going to get my own mailbox. It’s not that I have a lot of mail to collect or that I dislike sharing a mailbox with my parents. It’s that getting your own church mailbox is a sort of right-of-passage for the young Christian. At least that’s the way it has always been presented to me. But apparently my home church in Calgary doesn’t “hand out” mailboxes willy-nilly.

3 years ago when I decided to attend the Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Manitoba, my dream of having a mailbox at Foothills was shelved. “Why should I have my own mailbox when I’m not there for 8 months of the year?” I said. My decision to stay in Winnipeg this year and work with the Federal Government over the summertime helped subside the feelings of mailbox disenfranchisement at Foothills…until last week when at Bethel Mennonite, the church I semi-regularly attend in Winnipeg while I study at CMU, gave me my own mailbox after I made an off-hand remark to their Senior pastor that I wanted to get a little more involved by attending Adult Bible study.

I went from mailboxless to mailboxed after my first conversation with the Senior Pastor of Bethel Mennonite. After taking my name and phone number into his pocket address book he said, “If you’re going to be around in the summer, I’ll get you a mailbox.”

(more…)

The importance of frustration

Doug Pagitt
“Educational theory tells us people really only learn out of frustration- the frustration that they don’t know but need to, the frustration that life isn’t working but there could be a better way. Frustration is not a bad thing- it’s a necessary thing.”
– Doug Pagitt

In case you hadn’t grasped the connection yet, the picture above is of Pagitt himself. I’ve been reading Preaching Re-Imagined, a great great book that’s scratching me where I itch right now. Introduction aside, my girlfriend Bethany and I have talked about Pagitt’s subject often recently (really over the course of our entire friendship that moved into a dating relationship); reality is often frustrating! And we often interpret that frustration as a negative thing. But what if that frustration is neither positive nor negative, but instead teaches us that reality is mysterious and complex, and so we can’t nail it down right away? So we wrestle with ideas and people and remain committed to growth and find that somehow, in the midst of the frustration, some degree of clarity arises that wouldn’tve if we hadn’t let the frustration motivate us. (more…)

Vegetarianism: A freak hippie fad or a way to be a radical Christian?

What’s the matter? Now that we know our conversations are to be summarized in another venue, we stop talking? I hope everyone’s just busy being radical in their offline lives.

The real reason for my post is to talk about vegetarianism and animal rights/welfare. This is another topic on which many Christians (perhaps especially Mennonites in rural areas) have only vague notions of why anyone would decide not to eat meat. It seems silly, pagan or perhaps even anti-Anabaptist when you’re talking about “meat canned in the name of Jesus for the missionaries to eat.”

It’s with some trepidation that I write this. I don’t want to come off as a zealot who believes everyone has to do as I do. There’s just so much misinformation out there it’s hard to know where or how to begin. It would certainly be encouraging to discover YARs aren’t scared to talk about something that is at once philosophical and immensely practical for those of us who eat three meals a day. (more…)

My Life in a Box

First, I think a short introduction is in order before I begin. I am a university student. I live in a city of about 750,000 people that has a large Mennonite population, but in addition to that, I live in the ‘Mennonite suburb’ of the city, where Mennonite churches are found every block and everyone is related to their neighbors. I am Mennonite, and proud of it:). And I have now officially, after many months of reading the articles but not participating, joined YAR. Upon the recommendation of my good friend ST, I accessed this site and found myself part of a community much different than my own.

When I began reading the articles on YAR, I did not know what to expect. ‘Young Anabaptists’ I understood. But ‘Radicals’? Weren’t those just our ancestors, people from years ago who fought for a bible in the vernacular, for the believers baptism and for a right not to enter combat? We don’t still have ‘radicals’ now do we? By this point, I can only imagine what many of you are thinking based on my naive and ignorant questions. However, I currently find myself within a community, a church family and a school environment that is, sadly, apathetic. With so many resources accessible for me to access global news, with so many protests, rallies and demonstrations happening to raise awareness for good causes, and with so many people around me suffering from my ignorance, why is that I rarely feel compelled to do something? I have participated in missions trips, I have spent time in the inner city with homeless people and prostitutes and I attend a University right in the middle of the most impoverished area of the city, and yet I have managed to remain in my bubble, separating myself from the things that are too difficult to acknowledge.

(more…)

Garrison Keillor Likes Mennonites?

Today the Writer’s Almanac featured another “Mennonite” poem. You can read it online at the Writer’s Almanac Archive. I will also copy it below:

First TV in a Mennonite Family” by Julia Kasdorf, from Sleeping Preacher. © University of Pittsburgh Press.

1968

The lid of the Chevy trunk couldn’t close
on that wooden console with a jade screen
and gold flecks in the fabric over the speaker.

They sent us to bed then set it up
in the basement, as far from our rooms
and the dinner table as they could get, (more…)

How do we get the straight white men to shut up?

Before anyone gets offended, that’s hyperbole. Bet it got your attention, though. What I’m really asking is how do we achieve diversity on YAR? I have noticed something these past few weeks on YAR. The regulars who tend to dominate the discussions on race, gender and inclusion are… men. (Or I presume so based on their screen names.) I recall several saying they are straight and white. In no way am I saying I don’t enjoy reading what they have to say. I’ve certainly been challenged by them in many ways. It just seems to me there’s something anachronistic about a core group of males who are probably also straight and white being the primary discussors of these matters in this venue.

I remember a recent race and church discussion here in which someone said straight white males should step down from church leadership to give women and minorities* back some of the power. How much does YAR function as a pulpit? We know more people are reading than simply those who post and comment. We’re even going to give periodic summaries of our discussions to an Anabaptist publication.

My fear is that with several straight white males being so adept at sharing their (thoughtful and insightful) views on the subject, the women and minorities* who would like to speak up will see YAR as ultimately no different than any other straight-white-male-dominated venue. I’m not one to just shut my trap on here, heh, but not everyone is like me. Hopefully those who know far more than I ever could will find this a safe place, too.

Maybe I made some of you mad. Good! If I’m wrong, tell me so. Come up with a better solution. Tell me which are the right questions to ask.

*I’m including GLBTQ in “minorities.” Hopefully that’s not a problem.

Anabaptist and College

I just finished reading Loren Swatzendruber’s article, “Liberal or Conservative” in the Spring 2007 issue of Our Faith. It was a good article, although his conclusions seem to be very different from what the title would indicate. I found myself enjoying the article, and felt like giving a hearty amen by the end of it, but then I remembered that I just graduated from a Mennonite institution (Bluffton), and my feelings deflated. My initial reaction was to write a letter to the editor of Our Faith with my thoughts, but instead, I will publish my thoughts here on YAR. (more…)

Nature vs. Nurture

I’m curious about something here, though it may be something for a later poll.

I am 23 and only recently “became” Mennonite. I had a spiritual rebirth as a result of my attendance at a Mennoniite church and through reading the Confession of Faith, though I was almost enticed to Catholicism because of my fascination with the Catholic Worker movement (though I have serious reservations about particular aspects of Catholic theology).

I’m one of two people in the whole place who are even in their twenties; everyone else is either a teenager, a small child, or mid-30’s on up through their 80’s (most folks being baby boomers).

How many people here grew up in a Mennonite/Brethren family? How many people here came into the Mennonite/Brethren church later in life? For either answer, how do you think this influences you view of the church and your faith, if at all?

college students (and a few others) on the church

Every now and then, I freelance articles. It’s a fun gig since it lets me cover some really cool events and pays me (admittedly not much) at the same time. I spent last weekend at a conference on the Ministry Inquiry Program, which was held at Eastern Mennonite University. MIP is jointly run by Mennonite Church USA and a number of Mennonite-affiliated schools and it lets students do 11-week internships in churches as a way to explore their callings to ministry. I had many, many quotes I wanted to include in the article but wasn’t able to do so because of length, so I’m including them here. I’m not identifying anyone since I never asked permission to do so, and also because I don’t have everyone’s names, but I found what they had to say to be both energizing and hopeful. (more…)

Lancaster Conference Credentialed Leaders Respond to Recommendation Regarding the Ordination of Women

Good grief! I need to be studying, but I was sucked in by the latest poll (look to the right)[update 4.15.07 – click here for info about the poll]. Whoever put that up deserves a gold star!! Ever since I read the report about the ordination of women in the Lancaster Conference News last month I have been thinking about posting something about this (Katie already did). I’ve copied the relevant report below from the February 2007 issue. I think the poll speaks for itself; its commentary is more poignant than any I could muster. (more…)

Ain’t I a Woman?

I ain’t actually, but Sojourner Truth was. I copied this from the Modern History Sourcebook.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): Ain’t I A Woman?
Delivered in 1851 at the Women’s Convention, Akron, Ohio

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about? (more…)

Prayer Requests at a Mennonite Church

This is the poem from today’s Writer’s Almanac. I don’t know if [I’m] allowed to post this poem, but Garrison Keillor apparently got permission to post it on the Writer’s Almanac Archive.

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: “Prayer Requests at a Mennonite Church” by Todd Davis from Some Heaven (buy it here). © Michigan State University Press.

Pray for the Smucker family. Their son Nathaniel’s coat and shirt were
caught in the gears while grinding grain. Nothing would give, so now
he is gone. We made his clothes too well. Perhaps this is our sin. (more…)

Ins and Outs

It’s a concept I learned in Sociology 101.

To have a group, you’ve got to have a boundary. Something that establishes the “in” from the “out.” What is a group without a clear line of demarcation?

Our church’s lines of demarcation used to be coverings, plain coats, black cars, no TV, etc., etc. Lots of time spent on who was in and who was out, and what defined separation from the world.

It’s not a conversation we have much anymore, but one I feel like we’ve got to have if we’re going to survive as a group. Are there new ways we can define what makes us counter-cultural? Things like the way we spend our money, the way we react to violence, the way we welcome and forgive and share grace . . . but these things are much harder to measure than whether or not someone is wearing her covering. And grace and forgiveness are not the same as apathy and tolerance, but they often look alike.

So what can we offer that is different than what our prevailing culture offers? Do we care enough to do that? And how do we do it without getting wrapped up in legalism?

Just stuff I’ve been thinking about.

Joy that has a Serious History

(I originally emailed this in some form to some YARites, and TimN, kind soul that he is, suggested that I post here. So here we are, I apologize for the length.)

Part 1: The Introduction

Despite being a member of the Original cast, I have remained in the shadows, a lurker, secretly, greedily taking your thoughts and keeping them, without so much as an insightful comment, an empathetic pat, or a hearty guffaw. But today I join the ranks of YAR, and walk anew into the light!

So, I’m Paco, a friend of TimN. There were some legit reasons for not posting before. For instance, I was living in Afghanistan for more than half of the last two years. But now I am in Korea which is like the internet capital of the world, so there aren’t as many excuses left available to me.

But enough of that, the reason I am posting, aside from merely getting one in, is to introduce this virtual community to my physical one, and introduce myself here, in hopes to meet some of you in person, when I return to tour the US in about a month. (more…)