Church Incognito; A peace church, liturgical and intergenerational; my experience at a Mennonite church

Last Sunday I went to Christ Community Mennonite Church on an intentional whim. As of late I’ve been reading more books on theology in my free time. I recently came across a book on Anabaptists and other historically known “peace churches” and their views on pacifism have intrigued me to be more committed to pacifism AND social justice. With that in mind I went to commune with Mennonites, to listen, to talk, and ultimately to be.

What I gathered upon entering this particular congregation is that while small in numbers, there were several inter-generational families who worshiped together. I also noticed that with the exception of a song or two, the entirety of the worship was a Capella and the song choices were varied; from newer songs to songs sung in Swaziland.

Amy, the pastor, delivered a message on Jesus’ interactions with those who were looked down upon in his society. She posed the question of whether we write ourselves into the stories found in the gospel, do WE reach out and engage with the marginalized, the oppressed and the unexpected. She talked about how we should still move and engage others because God too continues to move and engage with humanity. We should, out of love and out of response to who Jesus is to allow ourselves to take in the new wine as new wine skins, that is to allow new experiences move us rather than not be moved at all and  be stagnant in our faith journeys.

After the service there was a communal meal. It was during this time that Pastor Amy and a member named Art introduced themselves to me. They were both inquisitive as to me visiting them that morning and I talked to them about my project. Over lunch those gathered discussed some church-related issues, Art and I talked about theology and he filled me in on some information pertaining to Amish, Hutterites, and Mennonites.
After lunch, Art and I talked more about these followers of Christ and how their lifestyles influence their faith and vice versa. Since another church uses their space after they do, we decided to talk more at a local coffee shop.

Art’s information and integration in these communities (as he is a friend to many) made me realize that he is a passionate man who embraces knowledge of the heart as well as the mind. I am a big fan of someone passionate people, and people who have merged the mind and the heart are my favorites.

I had a very good experience with those who gathered at Christ Community Mennonite Church. Their hospitality and inclusiveness was certainly felt by me. Because of them and other peace churches, it is my intention to find ways to engage with them in the near future.

~Nathanael~

Church Incognito; Social Awareness and Social Justice, my experience at a Church of the Brethren

A couple of months ago I went to church at a Church of the Brethren, a denomination I knew that was known for conscientious objectors and being very verbal when it came to issues of social awareness and social justice. The Sunday I went to was no different as the church shooting in Charleston was brought up and discussed at length (which I for one think is a good thing). It was very encouraging to hearing this issue brought up as well as police shootings of recent brought up in church, as I think that these are issues that people face all too often and I think that the church should foster discussion about this more often. The church does already, but I think more is required, and not just by pastors but by the congregation as well.

The congregation was multi-generational; it was encouraging to see kids with their parents and grandparents coming together to worship God together. When it came to worship music it was very hymn based, and I enjoyed that because I don’t worship in a setting where we don’t sing hymns. I tend to fall in the middle when it comes to contemporary worship music and hymns, I like a good deal of them and appreciate the sentiment expressed.

After church I struck up a conversation with one of the parishioners. He shared with me what being a follower of Christ meant to him as well as what being aligned with the Church of the Brethren church. He had been a member of the church for a long time, and for him faith kept him following Christ but also the memories tied up in attending that church for so long. All the while he had a nostalgic look upon his face and I gathered that with the stories he shared with me.

I was also encouraged by their posture in reading the Bible, that for the most part they read the Bible seriously but not altogether literally. Marcus J. Borg’s Reading The Bible Again for The First Time comes to mind when followers of Christ choose to do this, and I for one agree it must be done in this fashion.

I too can say one of the reasons that keeps me coming back to The Orchard every weekend is the memories I have associated with it and yet I realize that it’s not a bad reason to go but I realize it shouldn’t be the only reason I go. Yet we all go through seasons of life, and sometimes a church works for a while and there are times where your best bet is to leave on good terms and find something else (not necessarily better in all occasions).

Overall it was a good time communing with the people who attended the Church of the Brethren. I appreciate followers of Christ who exemplify the beatitude of “blessed are the peacemakers” because it is one of several things I want to align myself with and practice in my faith system of a Red Letter Christ-centric Universalist. I want to have a hand in Tikkum Olam / Healing The World, and it starts with my individual efforts that ripple outward rather than inward.

~Nathanael~