I published this interview with Leah Wenger two years ago today on my blog for The Mennonite under the title Moving beyond the belittlement of the youth: An interview with Leah Wenger. Glen Guyton and other Mennonite Church USA convention staff rose to Leah’s challenge and worked with Leah and others to launch the Step Up program at the convention in Orlando this past summer that invited 3 youth from each Mennonite conference to the delegate assembly.
1. What led you to attend the Mennonite convention in Kansas City?
I have always loved spending time with my youth group, and that was one of the main things I was looking forward to in going to Kansas City 2015. I love spending time with this group of people that I would not hang out with normally. We are truly a group with no judgment, and always have been, so I never feel like I have to be someone else. We have such a strong connection as youth at CMC, and I was looking forward to building that connection throughout the week.
I was also looking forward to simply being in the Mennonite realm for a week. I was excited to be together with all these people as so many different parts of the same body of Christ. I wanted to be there to renew my faith in God and in the Mennonite church, and to remind myself about how incredible of a privilege it is to be a part of a family of faith such as this. I wanted to find a place where I felt the spirit moving in a large way.
September 4, 2017
Mennonite Church USA, Young Folks
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“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19
“…the hands of none of us are clean if we bend not our energies to righting these great wrongs.” W.E.B. DuBois
I traveled to Ferguson, MO from August 21-24 along with two other community organizers from New Orleans, LA. We visited the Canfield Green apartments where 18 year old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer and where beautiful memorials had been created. One sign referenced the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4: 8-10 — “And the Lord says: ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out.” And indeed, roses lined the street where traces of Michael’s blood were still evident, crying out for those with ears to hear.
We talked with Ferguson residents, including a group camped out in a parking lot across from the police station and some youth camped in the “approved assembly area” in the parking lot of an old car dealership. Both of these groups said they planned to stay until Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Michael Brown was indicted, and we brought them water and ice and fruit as a way of expressing our support and appreciation for their persistent call for justice.
That evening, we saw how W. Florissant Avenue was closed to all thru traffic beginning at its intersection with Chambers Road, a full mile away from the “approved assembly area.” Anyone who wanted to join the protest had to walk a mile just to get to the protest site and then march in a spot cut off from the rest of the public, where police imposed a “5 second rule” which required protesters to keep moving, breaking up any conversations among groups of protesters who began to gather together.
This was only the most recent attempt to contain and squash people’s cries for justice. Others who had been in Ferguson earlier reported even more intense police repression. Police shot tear gas and rubber bullets at unarmed people who were in places they had every right to be including their own backyards, driveways and doorways. Purvi Shah of the Center for Constitutional Rights was part of a multigenerational crowd –including a number of children– into which police fired tear gas, with no warning and a full three hours before the midnight curfew that had recently been established. Many first person stories of encounters with police oppression are available if you look for them. What we saw in Ferguson was a community under occupation by police. No one felt safer. The constant threat of violence by police toward protestors was palpable.
August 30, 2014
antiracism, Current Events, empire, Nonviolence, Peace & Peacemaking, Police, Police Brutality, Power, Race, Social justice, Social movements, Violence, Young Folks
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This post was originally featured on The Jesus Event, and is part of a series entitled “I once was raised… but now I’ve found…” where some of the author’s favorite writers, bloggers, scholars, and theologians explain the transitions they have encountered along their own faith journey.
Below is an interview with The Jesus Event’s Tyler Tully and the Femonite’s Hannah Heinzekehr
Tyler- There are a lot of misconceptions out there about being a Mennonite and being raised as a Mennonite. You seemed to have been raised by parents who made room for good theological frameworks. How would you explain what it is like being raised as a Mennonite?
Hannah- Well, for me, being raised as a Mennonite didn’t mean looking “outwardly different” at all. For me, what it meant to grow up Mennonite was that there was always an emphasis on Jesus’ story and what that meant for how we lived. And some of the ways that this got expressed were through baptism later in life — baptism occurred when you were old enough to make a conscious choice that you have to make on your own to follow Jesus. It also included an emphasis on peace and nonviolence as part of the way that we were meant to live in the world. For my family, being Mennonite also meant being pacifist and resisting violence in all its many forms. This doesn’t mean that we are passive — I think we also strongly believed that we were meant to protest against injustice in the world — but we weren’t going to use violence to do this work. And the third thing that I often think of is that being Mennonite, for my family, meant being part of a church community that was active in each other’s lives and not just on Sundays.
I think there was a strong emphasis on communal decision making and being willing to give and receive counsel to one another.
August 10, 2013
Anabaptism, Biographical, Blog, children, Church, Discipleship, Family, Mennonite Church USA, Theology, Writing, Young Folks
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I am a new contributor here and I thought I would take this time to introduce myself and provide a little background information regarding myself and my journey towards Anabaptism.
I have questioned things all of my life, because of my inquisitive nature especially in the area of Christianity and religion I became an atheist at an early age. The reason for this was that I scrutinized the actions of my family. I saw how their behavior was not consistent with the Missionary Baptist faith they professed. During my late teens, I experienced some mood-associated disturbances that eventually led me down the path of faith.
While on this trek, I stopped off for the night at many spiritual inns as it where, I encountered numerous faiths and many Christian related groups.Â I learned a lot in the process, at one particular spot I was introduced to the Swiss Brethren/Anabaptists. Even though it was a brief encounter, there was something about the ancient group that fascinated me.
Soon after I attempted to look more into these Anabaptists but all I could find at the most was short remarks about them in Church History texts (blink and you’ll miss it). This earnestly irritated me so I went and checked the internet and I found a plethora of information. Shortly after I began to attend Bible College at a school intimately associated with a renowned Southern Conservative evangelical theological seminary.
In the beginning, everything was fine, things even got to the point where I was receiving all sorts of assurances that I would obtain an adjunct position once I entered graduate school. However, at this time I was also delving deeper into the Anabaptist belief system, which led me to question publicly in class certain things I was taught there at the College. As a result, my “friends list” of professors became shorter and shorter. The final straw for them was when I completed my studies and started applying for graduate schools. All the professors that continued to associate with me desired for me to attend the seminary that the College was associated with but by this time, I was too far-gone. I chose a Quaker Divinity School in the area since it was the closest to an Anabaptist institution I could find.
All the promises of a teaching position went out of the window. According to some, they could not have me because those “heretics that only got baptism right” too heavily influenced me. My thinking was “okay well now I know where I belong”. I then looked into the Mennonite Church since they were supposed to be the descendants of the original Anabaptists but what I saw was completely different from the group I read about in practice and doctrine. This was a good thing because I really did not intend to join a Protestant mainline Church because that is what the present-day Mennonite Church resembles to me, at least the ones I have seen.
Presently I am 34 and trying to figure it all out, I am endeavoring to get to the “root” (radix) of Christianity. Â I hold to the core convictions of Anabaptism (I know this is heavily debated but at least the ones I see as the central ones). Along the way, I have embraced theologies and practices that I think complements or improve upon those principles and teachings of my spiritual predecessors. These teachings have labeled me as an outcast as well but so be it. Since I do not have any links to the Mennonite Church through blood or even membership, I feel that I am a Neo-Anabaptist and I take it as a privilege that I have the ability to contribute to this fine group.
December 14, 2012
Anabaptism, Bias, Blog, Church, Exclusion, Group Identity, Mennonite Church USA, Spiritual Life, Stories, Young Folks
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It was only recently that I have come to identify with Anabaptist Christianity, and it has only been within the last few days that I have come in contact with Young Anabaptist Radicals. Nevertheless, I have been graciously invited to share my story with you, and introduce myself.
My religious journey really started out like most Americans. I was raised in a home that was culturally Christian. We occasionally went to church (typically Christmas or Easter), were baptized at a young age, attended Sunday school every so often, and were read stories from the Bible. My family was the standard Mainline Protestant American family. Despite my early experiences with Christianity, I never did actually believe in it. Really, I was more of an agnostic on most days, and an atheist on some. I spent most of my early childhood like this.
Despite my secularism, I did eventually develop an admiration for the Buddha, and before I knew it, I was reciting the Three Refuges, reading Buddhist literature, and identifying as a Buddhist. Then, due to by brother’s influence, I developed a small interest in Christianity. I got my first Bible, and I began attending church with my brother. Unfortunately, it was an Evangelical Free megachurch that had an unholy mix of the Prosperity Gospel and Fundamentalism. It is needless to say that I did not last long in that church, but it did have an effect on me. I associated it with Christianity and returned to Buddhism.
This would all change when I came across a book by my favorite Buddhist scholar and activist — Thich Nhat Hanh. His book Living Buddha, Living Christ completely changed my understanding of Christianity. It introduced me to St. Francis of Assisi, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, Elaine Pagels, and numerous others. For the first time in my life, I was introduced to some good theology. Not a theology of greed or hate, but one of social justice and love. So with this book, I developed an interest in Christianity again.
November 2, 2012
Anabaptism, Biographical, Blog, Community, Interfaith, liberation theology, Politics, Social justice, Spiritual Life, Young Folks
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Since we’ve been covering Anabaptist Mission Project events here on YAR, here is info about upcoming event:
The Spirit’s Work in Mission: Prophesying about many peoples, July 30-July 1
Anabaptist Missional Project, a group of young leaders in the Mennonite Church, hosts its second annual gathering June 30-July 1, at Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, Philadelphia, PA. Leonard Dow, Madeline Maldonado and David Maldonado will lead conversations that focus on the Spirit’s work in the growing diversity of MCUSA. Proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ brings diversity. Now what will we do? More details and registration are here.
See YAR coverage of their first annual gathering last year.
June 23, 2012
Anabaptism, Young Folks
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My young, my very young anabaptist radical friends,
you’re all much too young to remember this, so let me – as an ancient of days – tell you about something that is much older than you. …
No actually, I don’t want to talk about the past, but rather about how a past event is being overcome by the present and future! This October it will have been (note the future perfect tense!), yes this October the 28th of 2012 it will have been 1700 years since Constantine won the battle of the Milvian Bridge bearing on his standard the sign of the cross. He raised the severed head of his enemy on a spit as a sign that the “Christian god” had shown him favour.
This occasion is a sad day for many followers of Jesus who regret that our church leadership decided to accept the offer of the Emperor to endorse his military victory and accept the generous sinecures of the state. TheyÂ laid down the cross andÂ took up the sword. The unholy alliance between Constantine and the bishops of the Roman empire is the most significant (human) event of church history. As a consequence, the Church aided in the violent aggression against Jews and Muslims, against Africans and other peoples, against so-called witches and heretics. The medieval church believed that pope and emperor were entrusted with the two swords of Christ (Luke 22:38). Unfortunately, the repercussions persist to this day. (more…)
April 13, 2012
Anabaptism, Church, History, Nonviolence, Young Folks
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Some people find it odd that I am both a pastor and against having mandatory prayer in the public school system. After all, didn’t Jesus say things like, “Go into all
the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation,” and “Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory”? Aren’t we called to boldly proclaim the Gospel in every area of ourÂ life?
The short answer is “yes.” Unfortunately, that’s an answer to the wrong question. The real question for me as a pastor does not have to do with religious freedom but rather with religious coercion. In other words, the question is not, “Can I freely share my faith,” but rather, “Can I force others to share my faith?” As I said, the answer to the first question is “yes,” but the answer to the second is “no.” More importantly, considering that our schools and teachers are representatives of the federal government, the second question is not simply, “Can I force others to share my faith,” but rather, “Can the government force others to share myÂ faith?”
In fact, these two questions are tied together, and the answer cannot be “yes” to both of them. If we live in a society where the answer to the second question is, “Yes, we can force others to have or express a particular faith,” then it is also true that, “No, we do not truly have the freedom to express our faith as we seeÂ fit.” (more…)
April 3, 2012
Anabaptism, Church, culture, Mennonite Church USA, Prayer, Uncategorized, Young Folks
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PART 1. INVITATION AND REFLECTION
So, you have read about intentional community in Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution years ago and new monasticism has now become a part of your everyday vocabulary. Maybe you are nearing the end of your college career, or maybe you are facing another life transition and wondering how to integrate your values in to those exciting next steps. In other words, what now?
Or, perhaps you are someone who has been living “in community” for some time now, but the experience has increased your skepticism and cynicism rather than given you new life-giving perspective. Your expectations were not met, probably because you carried too many expectations with you. Your impression of “community” has officially been sobered. As Bonheoffer says in Life Together, the earlier a community can let go of its wish dream, the better for the community.
This post is for the excited college graduate, eager to combine faith and practice. It is also to the sobered young adult who has already faced some of the world’s harshest realities, and to anyone in between who is still somehow interested in this word (more…)
March 19, 2012
activism, Books, Community, Contemplation, New Monasticism, Peace & Peacemaking, Young Folks
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As the new millennium dawns, anabaptists do a new thing in the city: Build a communal neighborhood populated by tens of thousands of simple-living sectarians.
The project is initiated by the Bruderhof and some Old Order Amish, partly for practical reasons: (1) the Amish and Bruderhof population explosions, making it necessary to continually branch out and establish new settlements; and (2) the shortage of affordable farmland, making it difficult to maintain a rural way of life.
More importantly, the initiative stems from a “quickening” amongst these plain people, who realize they’ve lost their ancestral impulse for going into the marketplaces & street corners, inviting others to become co-workers in God’s kingdom. They also realize geographical isolation no longer protects them against worldly influences. So they branch out to the Bronx, where they can influence the world instead.
January 18, 2012
Anabaptism, Awesome Stuff, Change, City, Civilization, Community, End Times, Ethics, Group Identity, Love, Nonviolence, Peace & Peacemaking, Sex, Tolerance, Urban Ministry, Wealth, Young Folks
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This article was originally published in the Autumn newsletter of the London Catholic Worker
After having the inevitable and frustrating conversation with my Granny about the riots – the one where she says,“it wasn’t like this in the 1930s, children did what their parents said”, “why do you want to live in Hackney?” etc, and I can’t argue because she’s my Gran — I needed to write something…
According to my Gran, there used to be lines of starving, emaciated men waiting in queues patiently to find work. Nowadays, the young don’t even want to work. In the old days you would never have gone out if your parents told you to stay in, nowadays kids have no respect. They’re not starving, they’ve got loads of stuff — they’re just greedy, lazy and selfish.
So why the change, what has happened to make us (and she does still include in me in ‘the youth’!) so disrespectful and selfish? And, depending on which media you read/watch, are these rioters disrespectful, selfish thugs who’ve never had it so good? Or are they victims of a era of austerity cuts, unemployment and a Tory government? (more…)
December 6, 2011
Class, Consumerism, Current Events, Exclusion, Young Folks
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Last Friday, the city of Philadelphia handed out eviction notices to Occupy Philadelphia, notifying the residents that they had to leave by Sunday at 5pm, or they would be removed.
While, I haven’t been a part of this movement, I’ve been observing them from the edges.Â And, when I heard about the eviction, I was anxious.Â I saw the UC Davis footage, I read stories about violent evictions in other cities–I was worried about Occupy Philadelphia.
The Interfaith Clergy group called on Philadelphia pastors to go to City Hall on Sunday night, to stand as a witness and reminder that we are called to the way of peace.Â So, my colleague and I headed downtown.
It was obvious that we were clergy–some people would walk by us, and thank us for coming, but mostly we were relegated to the edges of the event.Â We were marginalized, and that was ok.Â We were observers, not participants.
When the Eagles football game let out, we saw more movement around the Occupy Philadelphia encampment.Â Disappointed sports fans were coming up from the subway, and streaming into the square.Â Many were intoxicated.Â A few were very angry with the Occupiers.
One group of young men concerned me right away.Â I heard them making plans to pick a fight with the protestors, to get themselves on the news.Â They were convinced that they would be hometown heroes.
November 28, 2011
activism, Anabaptism, Church, Conscientious Objection, Emerging Church, Faith, Nonviolence, Peace & Peacemaking, poverty, Power, Tactics, Young Folks
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We are Marginal Mennonites, and we are not ashamed.
We are marginal because no self-respecting Mennonite organization would have us. (Not that we care about no stinkin’ respect anyway.)
We reject all creeds, doctrines, dogmas and rituals, because they’re man-made and were created for the purpose of excluding people. Their primary function is to determine who’s in (those who accept the creeds) and who’s out (those who don’t). The earliest anabaptists were also non-creedal.
We are inclusive. There are no dues or fees for membership. The only requirement is the desire to identify oneself as a Marginal Mennonite. We have no protocol for exclusion.
We are universalists. We believe every person who’s ever lived gets a seat at the celestial banquet table. No questions asked! Mystic-humanist (and anabaptist) Hans Denck was quoted saying that “even demons in the end will be saved.”
We reject missionary activity. Christian mission, historically, goes hand-in-hand with cultural extermination. We love human diversity and seek to preserve it. Thus, we oppose evangelistic campaigns and mission boards, no matter how innocuous or charitable they claim to be.
We like Jesus. A lot. The real Jesus, not the supernatural one. We like the one who was 100% human, who moved around in space and time. The one who enjoyed the company of women and was obsessed with the kingdom of God. The one who said “Become passersby!” (Gospel of Thomas 42), which we interpret as an anti-automobile sentiment. (more…)
November 7, 2011
Anabaptism, Awesome Stuff, Change, City, culture, Dumb Stuff., End Times, Ethics, Evangelism, Exclusion, Fun, God, Group Identity, History, Interfaith, Interpretation, Love, Mennonite Church USA, Nonviolence, Pornography, Schism, Sex, The Bible, Tolerance, Urban Ministry, Wealth, Young Folks
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Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled
It’s been a month since I wrote a piece on Young Anabaptist Radicals about my experience of visiting Occupy Chicago. It was three days after they had started camping in front of the Federal Reserve of Chicago and 10 days after Occupy Wall Street (OWS) kicked off in New York. At the time, I wrote with a mix of enthusiasm and skepticism. The visit gave me a glimpse into the sense of possibility that I remember from watching the Seattle protests but also a dose of skepticism bordering on cynicism. What could such a small group of people really do?
A month later, the answer seems clear: plenty. It still seems miraculous in many ways. While announcing the death of apathy and despair in the United States (as Michael Moore did at Occupy Oakland on Friday) is probably premature, the OWS movement has gone a long way towards tearing down the barriers that prevent so many of us from working together for change.
I’d like to share a few observations building on the framework that Steve Kryss developed in his article for the Mennonite Weekly Review. He named these parallels between the OWS movement and the Anabaptist movement that sprung up across cities in Europe nearly 500 years ago:
The Anabaptist movement emerged largely among the young. It moved through the urban contexts of educated Europeans without clarity but with a clear bent toward justice for the poor.
It emerged in and around the Peasant Revolts, which threatened established governments and religious perspectives. The radical Anabaptists were sympathetic to those whose lives were controlled by overlords.
Early Anabaptism was a movement of conversing, addressing powers and protesting. It was met with ridicule and with sympathy. There were dialogues and diatribes.
I notice three other parallels with early Anabaptism that inspire me: (more…)
October 31, 2011
Anabaptism, Corporations, Group Identity, Politics, Tactics, Young Folks
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Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled.
Tottenham High Road by Nicobobinus Some Rights Reserved
Last week, riots and looting moved through neighborhoods in London that I know well. The broken windows, fires and shouts of “I want a satnav*” were juxtaposed with a familiar map that I bicycled through to work for nearly two years. I found myself turning to Facebook to reach out to friends in those neighborhoods and processing my thoughts through comments on my favorite blog.
August 19, 2011
Anabaptism, Social Media, Technology, Young Folks
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