Evana Network convention invites attendees to experience new life

Sing Love, a professional worship team based in Indianapolis, leads worship at Evana Network’s biennial national convention at Taylor University. Photo: Evana Network Sing Love, a professional worship team based in Indianapolis, leads worship at Evana Network’s biennial national convention at Taylor University. Photo: Evana Network

Re•Gen 2021, Evana Network’s biennial national church convention, was held July 1-5 at Taylor University in Upland, Ind. With the theme “New Wine, New Life” from Mark 2:18-22, 440 youth and adults were challenged to shed old wineskins to fully experience the new life of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Hannah Gronowski Barnett, founder of Generation Distinct, spoke during morning worship sessions. Generation Distinct empowers young people to make an impact in the world with an emphasis on justice and reconciliation by introducing them to a relationship with Jesus.

Other speakers included Marvin Lorenzana, president of Eastern Mennonite Missions, and Nehemiah Chigoji, pastor at Upland Peace Church in California and founder of the Nigerian Anabaptist Resource Center.

Evana staff members Tyler Hartford and Wes Furlong challenged attendees to beat weapons of death and war into instruments of life and growth, including ways we use our tongues to speak words of life or death to others.

Executive director Matt Hamsher urged attendees to consider whether they were trying to pour the new wine of faith in Christ back into wineskins of their former life, which could include seeking after popularity and acceptance for youth or political affiliation for adults.

Seminars covered a range of topics, from a focus on prayer to navigating gender identity in the church, from gap-year programs for youth to developing discipleship and local mission programs. Presenters came from Mennonite Disaster Service, Mennonite Central Committee and Everence, along with others from VidaNet, Global Disciples and other organizations.

With around half of the participants 20 years old or younger, worship focused primarily on youth and young adults, led by Sing Love, an Indian­apolis-based worship collective of teen musicians.

“The experience of being led by 15- to 17 year-olds, combined with a worship leader and main speaker in their 20s, was one of the most high-­energy, high-challenge corporate worship environments I’ve ever been in,” Hartford said. “Our network also highly values women in leadership, and I was personally blessed by the leadership of Gronowski Barnett and Sing Love worship leader Becca Totty.

“We had reports of youth groups staying up past midnight praying for each other. . . . Others have spoken of rededication and salvation, even one longtime minister who experienced praying in tongues for the first time.”

Delegates affirmed new terms for Evana board members and approved a bylaw change to continue meeting every two years without requiring a meeting in even-numbered years. Outgoing board members Moises Angustia of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Sonya Miller of Sarasota, Fla., were affirmed for their service. New board members Rex Broad of North Canton, Ohio, and Marketo Michel of South Bend, Ind., were introduced.

“This past year was a difficult one for our pastors and our churches,” Hamsher said. “But God has been good in allowing us to finish the year in a strong financial position and even add another full-time staff member.

“The delegates affirmed our theological identity and pursuing new relationships with others who resonate with our desire to follow Jesus above current politics and ideologies, to stand firm on our biblical convictions and to seek God’s justice and God’s peace in our world today.”

Evana is a ministry community whose common ground is Anabaptist and Mennonite theology and whose mission is to live out Jesus’ Great Commission.

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