1. Be Transformed.
“Be Transformed” has been the theme of this week. Though workshops, worship speakers, activities, and guided conversations, this has been a transformative time for many. Messages focused on healing, mission, and the future of the church. There was even a selfie wall with “Be Transformed” written surrounded by greenery and flowers. While I believe in personal transformation, I think there’s something missing if we only look inward. Looking at our institutions, agencies, personal relationships with those who harm us or hinder us. . .what kind of transformation can happen there?
Healing was mentioned several times throughout the worship services. There was even a time of anointing for the gathered body. I took the time to reflect on the similarities and differences between personal and corporate healing. The church (the Christian church, including the Mennonite denomination), has harmed so many. What does it mean to heal the Mennonite church after so much marginalization? What about institutional and personal harm? We are all in need of healing. Included with that is the corporate church. This comes with salvation. What does it mean to be saved from sin, from personal sin, and the sins of white supremacy, homophobia, ableism, classism, and xenophobia? What does it mean for us to be saved from the bombardment of things we “should” be, the way we should” look, the things we “should” say?
What struck me was something Bishop Leslie Francisco said during a multi-generational panel. “Mennonites are very process oriented,” he said, and maybe we don’t give as much time and attention to solutions (paraphrase). This has been my experience in the church as well. I appreciate being attentive to the process, but I have sometimes found that we have a fear of conflict that keeps us from solutions, even solutions we’ve processed together for the good of the church. This is something I want to focus on in my own ministry before the next convention.
4. LGBTQ inclusion
The church has miles to go yet in terms of the inclusion of queer and trans folks, but having been part of the church for 22 years, I’m still amazed at how far we’ve come. Three queer justice-focused workshops were held (one of which I had the privilege to help lead), and there was a booth dedicated to intersectional justice. I saw so many queer siblings who haven’t come to convention for years due to fear of being harmed. Queer and trans youth were stepping up and speaking out. People who have been out for years told me they felt like breathing a sigh of relief. This is something I’ll be reflecting on for a while.
I had the honor of being on the Anti-Racism Monitoring Team. We are a church of predominantly white folks, but with a growing number of BIPOC members. I noticed the sharing of space, as well as white folks who spoke on behalf of people of color. I saw good interactions between different cultures and age differences, but I also heard some things that made me uneasy. I saw BIPOC persons excluded from projects along with BIPOC voices being centered. This is a journey the church is still on. What I want folks to remember is that often I hear rhetoric about churches that are “predominantly” (fill in the ethnicity, race, or culture). There are many of us who attend predominantly white churches but are nonetheless BIPOC! There are churches where the demographics are equal across the board. With the growing diversity of the church, let us not lose sight of those who are in the ethnic/racial minority in their very own congregation.