Five things Friday roundup: We are family: 5 Things to think about from the May Special Delegate Assembly

1. Prioritizing accessibility

An accessibility resolution was passed that can be read here. In summary, as a denomination, we commit to being as accessible as possible. People speaking during our open mic time reminded each of us the various types of disabilities people face and how important it is for us to be aware. Some commonly used accessibility modifications include ramps, large print materials, and clear, strong audio systems. Some disabilities that are sometimes not thought about are (but not limited to) chemical sensitivities, those who are sensitive to sounds and other potentially triggering stimuli, and folks who aren’t able to read. We learned alternate ways to “clap” and show appreciation, the benefit of using pictures and illustrations in our worship services, and being mindful of what scents we might wear to our church functions. Hearing these points was a learning opportunity for me and I hope it was for many others.

2. Talking in front of people is difficult!

One of the struggles with open mic time is fitting everything you would like to express in 2 minutes. One of the points raised by someone talking about the accessibility resolution was that for some, speaking in public and keeping a comment or thought to 2 minutes is nearly impossible. Therein lies the tension with allotted time and allowing everyone to speak. This was addressed by the demand to have table discussion time. Hopefully, in the future, we can have a good balance for introverts and extroverts, and those who wish to speak in public but have difficulty doing so within the confines of our schedule.

3. Struggling with Inclusion

In this month’s letter to the pastors of Indiana Michigan Conference, I reflected on how we interpret being “faithful” differently. I know the outcomes of this assembly caused a lot of big feelings. I also hope we can all agree that all are living out our vision of “faithfulness” based on  worldview, life experience, interpretation of scripture, etc. The difference this causes can happen without attacking others, using offensive language, or general disrespect from any party. It can also cause conflict, which we know (at least in our heads) is something that shouldn’t be avoided, rather, leaned into. Can we handle difference? Those of us still in this denomination have so far, to varying degrees of success. Can I hold pacifism as a tenant of my faith while other congregations hold it lightly? I think all avenues are possible.

4. Who’s Robert and why his rules?

I have always found Robert’s Rules of Order interesting. In my home church, these were not used during church meetings. In most other church meetings I’ve been a part of, some combination of a system that works for the group and Robert’s Rules. During this delegate assembly, it was clear that these rules were not always serving us, and the general confusion around them (there are a lot of rules!) leave people making motions and calls that may not convey their intent. Is it fair for our delegate body to come exceptionally well versed in these rules? Are the rules serving us or are we serving the rules? It was mentioned that these rules were created after a church meeting that went terribly wrong; such irony! This week I invite us all to think about what serves us and what doesn’t.

5. We are family!

One of my favorite quotes about the church comes from the theologian Stanley Hauerwas who said, “Liberal Protestants think that if we all just knew each other better we’d all get along. Have you ever been to a (swear word redacted) family reunion!?” I still laugh at this quote. Not all families get along in perfect harmony. There’s the outspoken uncle, your step brother who doesn’t say much, your dad who has completely different views than you do, a sister-in-law whose comments always come out of left field…it’s just reality! But despite the idiosyncrasies, we still love our family given that the family is not toxic to us (and for those who experience toxic families, I respect the need for disconnection). I heard a lot of things I didn’t agree with that weekend in May. However, these are still my siblings, and I love them. If we remember this, perhaps it can help us as we move on from here in the way of Christ.

Joanne Gallardo

Joanne Gallardo is conference minister of Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA in Goshen, Indiana. Read More

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