Fellowship stronger than lockdowns

Congregations around the world celebrate Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday

Members of Rajnandgaon Mennonite Church in India share a meal after their Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday service. — Preshit Rao/MWC Members of Rajnandgaon Mennonite Church in India share a meal after their Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday service. — Preshit Rao/MWC

Around the globe, congregations in the Mennonite World Conference family celebrated Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday on Jan. 24. It was an opportunity to remind communities of faith they are all part of one body made up of many tribes, languages and nations.

“Together on [Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday], we feel connected to our brothers and sisters all over the world,” said Jannie Nijwening, pastor at the Zaanstreek Mennonite congregations in the Netherlands.

Churches tagged themselves on an online map on the MWC website, leaving pins from GKMI Bukit Hermon Depok in Indonesia to Birkenhof Evangelical Mennonite Church in France, Renewed Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Church in Brazil, Central Evangelical Mennonite Church of San Pedro Sula in Honduras and Boulder Mennonite Church in Colorado.

In their recorded service, the Zaanstreek congregations included greetings from Columbus Mennonite Church in Ohio; Teusaquillo Mennonite Church in Bogota, Colombia; and three Colombian Mennonites studying peace in Amsterdam.

“We feel connected, and we wish you all the best success in all the challenges that society is posing to you: tensions, violence, separation between peoples. We hope you can contribute to more fellowship between peoples, like we also hope we can do in our country,” said Jannie Nijwening as she addressed the Colombian church.

In turn, the congregation in Bogota included greetings from the Dutch, along with greetings from missionaries in Casa Grande children’s home in Benin and a song from Mennonite Church of Quito in Ecuador.

In India, local health orders permitted some in-person gatherings.

“We had a blessed time of worship and prayer together with our brothers and sisters around the world,” said Vikal Rao of Rajnandgaon Mennonite Church.

Bethel Mennonite Church in Balodgahan taught about Anabaptist beginnings and practices, including persecution for faith, separation of church and state, and practicing nonviolence.

Pastor Ashish Milap said Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday “has surely united and encouraged us to grow in a global manner.”

In Ontario, Hamilton Mennonite Church used videos from the 2015 MWC assembly in Pennsylvania in the worship resources for congregational singing, Scripture reading in Hindi and English, and prayers and testimonies.

In the Fresno, Calif., area, Willow Avenue Mennonite Church, First Mennonite Church of Reedley and Mennonite Community Church held a joint service with MWC general secretary César García as the speaker.

Hamburg and Altona Mennonite Church in Germany planned to hold an ordination on Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday, “in part, because we wanted to embody the way preachers are called to serve the whole church, not just the local congregation,” said Marius van Hoogstraten. But lockdown conditions moved the service online, delaying the ordination. However, the virtual celebration of communion was “weirdly powerful. There is something stronger than lockdowns keeping the church together!”

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