We who call ourselves Mennonite often talk about what that means. I imagine most religious groups, as well as many other kinds of groups, talk about their identity.
It is worth asking, however, how we decide if we are Mennonite.
Perhaps it’s unanswerable. Perhaps all who call themselves Mennonite are.
Many among us want to define that term by what one believes. Do we, for example, adhere to the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective? Some may still ask who you are related to. Others may quote Jesus: “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16).
Palmer Becker has come up with the simple description of Anabaptist Mennonites as people who see Jesus as the center of their faith, community as the center of their lives, and reconciliation as the center of their work.
This spring, Mennonite Church USA began a storytelling campaign that takes off from this description.
This campaign is called #WeAreMenno and includes stories from various parts of Mennonite Church USA.
Its website (www.mennoniteusa.org/wearemenno) states: “Although each of these stories is different, in every situation Mennonites are seeking to follow Jesus’ call on their lives in their own unique local context.”
What better way to identify people than to learn about what they do?
After all, we can talk all day about what we believe, but our actions tell others what we really believe.
When disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus to ask if he was “the one who is to come,” he told them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard” (Luke 7:18-23).
So the approach of #WeAreMenno has a biblical flavor because it emphasizes incarnation and local context. We know that God comes to someone in the Congo differently from someone in Philadelphia or Fresno.
For one thing, it will be in a different language.
We believe God is at work in every context, and it is important to pay attention to that. #WeAreMenno is one way that helps us do that.
This initiative also shows us that this group called Menno spans a wide spectrum of experience and displays an abundance of gifts. Reading these stories—most have run on our website and several in this magazine—introduces us to faithful disciples of Jesus all across the country.
We learn about Mennonites working with immigrants in Aurora, Colo., Tucson, Ariz., and Brownsville, Texas. We learn about a Peace Farm in Pennsylvania (April) and an Anabaptist songwriting challenge (May). We hear from a hospital chaplain in Chapel Hill, N.C., and a family support worker in Iowa City, Iowa.
I’ve always believed, and it rings true in my experience, that everyone has an interesting story. It may be tragic or comedic, but it is always complex. That describes who we are as humans.
As Mennos, we are also complex in how we seek to live out Jesus’ teachings about love for God and neighbor.
We do that in different ways, yet these all form a beautiful mosaic.
Jeanne and I were in San Antonio, Texas, last month and visited the Riverwalk. A wall on one of the buildings there displays a mosaic that is made up of hundreds of thousands of colored tiles. One artist placed them all there, one by one, to form a large picture that is stunning. Think of the patient commitment required for such a work.
Let’s share our stories.
We may not all use the same language or confess the same theology, but in our efforts to see Jesus as the center of our faith, community as the center of our lives, and reconciliation as the center of our work, we can paint a beautiful picture that brings glory to God.
Have a comment on this story? Write to the editors. Include your full name, city and state. Selected comments will be edited for publication in print or online.