Young Folks

Tragic Bus Accident

The Bluffton College baseball team was in a tragic bus accident in Atlanta. They were traveling to Florida for spring break training. From what we’ve learned on the news, we know that 6 are confirmed dead and more than a dozen are injured. The bus was traveling on 75 and apparently went over an overpass.

Susan Gascho, former pastor at Atlanta Mennonite Fellowship is at Grady with some of the injured. AMF is helping by hosting families and friends of the players.

Please be in prayer for the families and friends of those killed and injured. And also remember that while this is the most salient tragedy now, there are lots of other people hurting for a variety of reasons.

Bluffton University Baseball Team
Photo of the Bluffon College baseball team from Bluffton website

Introduction, confession and questions

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. (more…)

In a different spirit

I wrote this yesterday before I read Angie’s post. Her thoughts on Dorothy Day and the church reflect very well my own thoughts. While Angie’s post is thoughtful, mine is angry. Maybe in a few days, I can manage thoughtful but for now, this is what I’ve got:

A Little Stunned

A couple days ago, as I was skimming through the Mennonite Weekly Review. I noticed this item on the front page. My immediate response was to roll my eyes and think, “well, they would wouldn’t they?” and I went on with my day. Now, the more I think about it, the saltier I get. Carol Oberholtzer, the chair of the conference’s Women in Leadership Subcommittee, said she “was a little stunned.” Well, I guess so. I mean, this is 2007, and they are having a vote on whether women can be ordained? LGBT people don’t have a chance there. Here’s what I have to say to all those “credentialed leaders” who took that vote: “well done, the church will be better for it.” No, I’m not just blaming the minority that voted against women and justice but all of them, and the rest of the Mennonite Church with them. (more…)

Split Youth in the Southern Cone

Bouncing directly from Angie’s latest post… always got to give a shout-out to Dorothy! But Last week the passion for exclusion came not from the institution, but from the people themselves, YOUNG people, and a student in seminary…

At the Southern Cone Mennonite Anabaptist meetings in Uruguay last week, there was a large division among the Chilean, Argentinean, Paraguan and Uruguayan youth about what was important about church and our lives as Christians. After a large time of dialogue together as young people, a small group of youth got together and wrote a letter (which was read in front of the whole assembly) about the fact that they were worried about a few themes (of the many that were mentioned in the youth meeting and throughout the conference). They took an anti-dialogue stance towards the mention of issues such as homosexuality, abortion, sex before marriage, and referring to God as Mother and Father/inclusive language. In the letter they invited everyone to do further study of the bible so that it is clear that all these practices are sin and they condemned anyone who practices or teaches these things. (more…)

Church and Young Adults

Young adults and church: I have had this conversation with way to many people way to many times. Everyone wants to know why the young adult (18-?) population is so small in churches, and everyone seems to have a different opinion about this, especially young adults. As much as I don’t want to start up the cyclical, never-ending and frustrating discussion, it has been on my mind a lot lately so I am going to spill my guts onto your computer screen. Enjoy. (more…)

Introducing the Anabaptist Network

In his post on January 20th, Benjamin Anderson asked for ways we could act on the ideas and values discussed on this blog. Here’s one suggestion: the Anabaptist Network.

In the last few months, I’ve posted some information about a developing networking project aimed at helping Mennonite young adults (a generally transient group) to better connect with each other and with the broader church. We’re starting with a group on Facebook (yes, Facebook) and exploring the idea of a web site, as well. If you have a Facebook page, come find us, and if you don’t, just know that you no longer need an email address with “.edu” in it to sign up for Facebook. We have no idea where it will go, but the project is building on the frustration of talking so much about issues within the church without any tangible ways to address those frustrations. We’re trying.

What’s Next?

I really enjoy YAR. There are great discussions about great things here, they are intriguing and they make us think. But what’s next. Do we just continue to talk about these things and hope that some day our churches and our communities will change? Or do we do something. I would love it if we could start discussions about practical ways in which we can do these things we have discussed. But of course, not stop there implement these things in our churches and communities and then report back on YAR how God is working. In this way we can honor our heritage as radical Anabaptists and continue to reform the church in the 21st century.

living tribute

I learned of Martin Luther King, the hero of the Civil Rights Movement, in school.
I learned of Martin Luther King, the peacemaker, at church.

In both cases I learned about King as an icon. He was like an angel-man, superhuman. King became a real person when I moved to Atlanta.

It was a fall from a pedestal of sorts, when I learned about all of the trials, the fractures, the tribulations, the anguish, and the arguments that went on behind the scenes of the marches and the committee meetings. To listen to lectures by the veterans of the movement, (Former Ambassador Andrew Young, Rev. Joseph Lowery, R. D. Abernathy, Rev. James Orange) all still involved, but some bitter, some who have appropriated the movement…whew! I learned about the hundreds of sidelined and under-recognized women who laid the groundwork for so many of the church meetings, boycotts, and potlucks (Septima Clark, Montgomery Women’s Council, Ella Baker, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson). Most of all, when I saw the struggle of his immediate family to know how to live out the legacy of the father they lost when they were young children, it all became so tangible. (more…)

generic anabaptism and postmodernism

I’ve been reading DreamSeeker Magazine for a few years now, and was struck by two articles in the most recent issue. DreamSeeker is published and edited by Michael A. King, of Telford, Pennsylvania (he’s also the pastor of Spring Mount Mennonite Church). The mission statement says DreamSeeker is “dedicated to publishing ‘voices from the soul,’ meaning writers aching to share passionate and personal dreams of how the void has been or could be shaped into a new creation.” It features predominately Mennonite voices, but stretches the definition of such.

The first article, found here, is entitled “At the End of Ethnic Mennonite Life” and is by Michael King himself. It touches on the cultural expressions of Mennonite faith versus the spiritual practices and the tension sometimes inherent in that.

The second article is entitled “Cultural Agoraphobia: Why Young Postmodern Mennonites Struggle to Follow or Lead,” by David Landis. He writes of the incredible number of options available to young adults and how quickly it can overwhelm, saying “The trick to countering this paralysis is to name the power we have in a way that allows us to trust ourselves and others as leaders. Although this seems like an obvious statement, it’s one I have seen Mennonites and sometimes other Christians hesitant to embrace. Postmodern culture’s default setting seems to be doing a good job at encouraging engagement, but it doesn’t seem to be naturally promoting empowerment.”

NEW Year

It’s January 2, so I’d like to write an entry for the NEW year.

Growing up, I learned that “the blood of Jesus washed me white as snow” (It confused me, since I’m bi-racial…but that’s another blog entry). Anyhow, there was emphasis put on the fact that an acceptance of Jesus “made you NEW, CLEAN,” You were born again (Like Peter, I was the kid in Sunday School who asked the anatomy question, but I get it now). Today, I recognize that I still cling to this concept and feeling state because I remember that I did feel NEW and different when I accepted Jesus.

I thrive in NEW situations, but sometimes begin to trip up as the NEW situations become routine. Sometimes I feel sad or angry at my inability to maintain the special NEWness feeling. At these times I turn to the meaning of faith to get me through, but I crave the NEWness again. That is partially why I love the coming of the NEW year and New Year’s Day so much. (more…)

Looking for youth to blog on peace and justice

I got this from Susan Mark Landis, Peace Advocate of Mennonite Church USA, today. Thought I would put it out there…

Friends,
Sometime early next year, my office will be sending postcards to
Mennonite youth in high school, encouraging them to
Choose life!

(If you go to a Mennonite congregation that has given addresses of youth
to the Mennonite Education Agency, your youth will receive the postcard.
If not, you may send names/addresses to LisaA at Mennoniteusa dot org and she
will do a special mailing. The postcard is intended for Mennonite youth,
but we’re glad to send it to high schoolers from other denominations.)

The postcard will refer youth to a NEW! webpage for youth, about peace.
We’re looking for several youth who are articulate, willing to have
their words looked over before posting (it IS a church website),
thinking about peacemaking and willing to write at least weekly. As I
understand, this is called a blog.

Please talk to youth you would recommend and have them send me a note
expressing their interest, telling me what they would write about, how
they feel about the idea. (do NOT click return, please):
SusanML at MennoniteUSA dot org

Peace,
Susan

The Union Project

For a few months, I’ve heard a smattering of chatter about something in Pittsburgh called The Union Project. It’s a neat group of young people, many of them Mennonite (and some are alumni of Goshen College), who have purchased an old church building in a once-great, now-going downhill neighbhorhood. Their work promoting geographical and spiritual community in their neighborhood is refreshing. Among their projects are a cafe, which employs students from a local high school’s culinary arts program, a stained-glass business, and office and meeting places for local organizations. These include a church called The Open Door, which seems to be part of the “emerging church” conversation.

The Union Project promotes art exhibitions as fundraisers and partners with the city of Pittsburgh in community redevelopment. They are also located one block away from MennoCorps’ Pittsburgh unit, which is called Pulse. And those of us who have participated in BikeMovement might be interested to know that a local bike shop in their neighborhood sponsors a bicycle team. And some of you may know Brad Yoder, a locally-based “singer-songmaker” who lives in their neighborhood and first came to Pittsburgh through Pulse.

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…)

some small thoughts

radical self love
a roommate once wanted to start a “masturbate for peace” campaign. he was shot down by everyone he talked to. i now wish i had backed him up. but this isn’t really a post about that…

“love your neighbor as you love yourself.” is that a command or a statement of fact?

make someone happy – buy yourself an iPod.
maybe this is a post about that after all…

world peace
i’ve discovered the key to world peace. (more…)