Convention News Fresh Daily July 6, 2017 Orlando, Florida
In this issue Mennonite Women 100th Year MennoTalks Inclusive Worship Service â€œLove is a Verbâ€? at convention Rachel Held Evans Mennos with Moves Updates and announcements
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Celebrate Women Orlando 2017!
Mennonite Women USA celebrates 100 years Last night, hundreds attended Mennonite Women USA’s Centennial Celebration. Mennonite women leaders shared poems, dramas, songs and stories to celebrate the resilience of their predecessors. The theme of MW USA’s centennial year, “Fruit from the Vine,” honors all that Mennonite women have achieved while gathering together in faith and fellowship. Linda Dalke, of Salem Mennonite Church, composed the song “Fruit from the Vine,” which debuted during last night’s event. Talashia Keim Yoder, pastor of College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana, choregraphed a dance to “Fruit from The Vine,” which also debuted last night. The new song celebrates women’s ability to lead in the church and everyday lives. Representatives from the Women in Leadership Project shared the important history of both biblical and Mennonite women leaders by offering an interpretation of Proverbs 31, entitled “A Woman of Strength.” Other readings, an “Ode to Mennonite Women” and the “Drama: Book Talk,” also celebrated the women who rose to leadership in times of struggle. In an “Ode to Mennonite Women,” Rhoda Keener spoke of the women who “challenged the church to recognize their faithful service, to respect their
leadership abilities, and to support them as they courageously stepped out to study theology, to serve in other lands in missions and to become doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, writers, artists,and technicians.” In “Drama: Book Talk,” Marlene Bogard, Alma Ovalle and Anita Hooley Yoder shared compelling excerpts from Hooley Yoder’s new book Circles of Sisterhood, which explores the history and persistence of Mennonite women of faith. Hooley Yoder said that “the real authors of the book are the thousands of women who participated in women’s groups over the past 100 years.” While some of the stories from Circles of Sisterhood focus on the typical sewing and quilting circles, there are also stories from the fringes of Mennonite society. “The fringes are where interesting things are happening. I might even say the fringes are where God is,” said Hooley Yoder.
After the drama, Bogard invited attendees to share their gifts with MW USA in support of the organization’s ministries. At the end of the night, Hooley Yoder signed copies of her book. While the event was in honor of the MW USA’s past, it was also a celebration of hope for the future. Berni Kaufman, executive assistant of MW USA, said: “We stand on the shoulders of some strong women. … They declared themselves important.” Kaufman hopes that future Mennonite women will continue to declare themselves important as they continue to shape the church with their unique talents. --Katie McKinnell, Communications Manager, Mennonite Women USA
race, religion and justice MennoTalk | Thursday, 4:30 - 5:30 p.m. | F4 2
MennoTalk challenge to church: Honor gifts of women Wednesday kicked off the first convention MennoTalk with a panel of five who paid tribute to 100 years of Mennonite women in the church. The five women discussed past personal and female accomplishments, struggles and celebrations. Alma Ovalle, who serves on the board of Mennonite Women USA, and Sarah Ann Bixler, coordinator of adult worship, spoke on women’s influence both on the conference and on others’ individual formation. Ovalle discussed the Conferencia Femenil Hispana Menonita and the women who created the influential conference, quoting the conference founder: “We wanted to gather, to have a group of our own. Most were pastor’s wives and women in the church. And they wanted to get together to be with each other.” Despite a lack of leadership roles for women, Bixler said women have always found subversive ways to enact power. “Let us continue to bring our authentic selves to this work,” Bixler said. “May we not assume hegemonic, masculine approaches to leadership, but may we lead boldly and with compassionate authority.” Jenny Castro, coordinator of Mennonite Church USA’s Women in Leadership Project, kicked off talking about oppression and issues facing women; in the church and broader community. “Girls and women move about in the world under incredible pressure to fill blatantly unrealistic ideals,” she added. Castro’s call to action was to be diligent in our actions and to not hide our potential, but to embrace ourselves and
our faith and be change agents. “It matters,” Castro said. “It matters what we do in our real-life relationships and in our spheres of influence. Our behaviors matter.” “We have to be aware of the messages we are communicating. When we compliment a girl on how cute she looks after she nailed the science project presentation, or when we ask a young women to tone it down in her presentation to the board… We have to be aware of what we are communicating,” she continued. Along the same vein, Abby King, a sophomore at Goshen College, reflected on her own struggles with self-love. On one presentation slide, King asked, “How could I be 7 years old and already hate my body?” She worked to reclaim words used to tear her down, found feminism and learned you must love yourself before you can love others. “Once I realized ‘bossy’ is just a word people used to make women quiet, the word shriveled up and disappeared,” King said. 3
“When you think of all the negative words you use to describe yourself, take a moment and figure out if you actually feel that way or whether society is telling you to feel that way.” Hannah Heinzekehr, the editor of The Mennonite, spoke about microaggressions alive today in the Mennonite Church. She cited situations like letters to the editor diminishing minority writers, objectifying comments on a presenter’s appearance, and a Mennonite leader who thanked a pregnant board member for “continuing to populate the Mennonite Church.” “The truth is the systems of oppression aren’t just maintained by blatant hatefilled acts.” Heinzekehr said. “They are propped up by micro aggressions like these often perpetrated by well-intentioned people and our unwillingness to name them for what they are.” While some topics edged on serious topics, each speaker ended with an action for a hopeful future. They encouraged participants to speak truth into their daily life and self-images, point out injustices and propel women and the conference forward. “May we have the courage to do this hard and countercultural work,” Castro said. “Not only for ourselves, because that’s not enough.” --Erin Bradley
Inclusive Worship Service Remembers LGBTQ Victims of Violence Worshippers gathered on Wednesday afternoon for an Inclusive Worship Service honoring the victims of the 2016 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, welcoming new congregations into the Supportive Communities Network and anointing worshippers for ministries of healing.
racial minorities,” said co-organizer Joanna Harader, who pastors at Peace Mennonite Church in Lawrence, Kansas. “We also wanted to name the violence that our own theology sometimes perpetrates against those same peoples, and to offer a word of accountability to the church.”
The service balanced celebration and lament, and affirmed the equal dignity of and God’s love for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) peoples.
ing to overcome such violence.
Harader said it was important that the service embodied LGBTQ people and allies as full participants in the church striv-
“There is such an underlying sense of joy and appreciation and valuing of this community, this space and these gifts, and you hear voices that you don’t often hear because they are not asked to do anything, and they are incredible voices,” said co-organizer Carol Wise, who serves as director of Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests.
Gathering in Orlando just weeks after the oneyear anniversary of the shooting at the Pulse nightclub, in which 49 queer, mostly Latinx people died and at least 58 others were injured, the service included a ritual of remembrance for the victims. Congregants spoke and wrote each one’s name while singing the hymn “There Is More Love Somewhere.” The service also voiced lament for victims of discrimination and hatred within the Mennonite church.
The service was planned by Wise, Harader, Philip Kendall, Joanne Gallardo, and Janie Beck Kreider.
“Being in Orlando we thought it was important to discuss the shooting and wanted to be clear that the Pulse victims were targeted as sexual and
Article continues on page 7
LOVE IS A VERB at convention...
How have you seen “love is a verb” acted out in your home congregation? “Probably our biggest ministry and outreach is our hunger center. We have allied with several churches in our area to fund a hunger center for people in the area. We are in Cleveland, and in the heart of Cleveland there is a lot of poverty. Our goal is to make sure there is no one unfed. Not only are we giving food, we are giving them toiletries as well as giving them the Word. For us, that is something that matters. We are the only Mennonite church in Cleveland, but that means we get to work alongside Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians and a Seventh Day Adventist Church, and come together as a body of Christ and feed people.” - Shlana Sims, Cleveland, Ohio, Lee Heights Community Church
“We all try to watch out for each other. We don’t really ever let anyone go somewhere by themselves. We’re always protecting each other. We also think back to the tornado [in our community] and how everything was damaged. We got the chance to help out.” -Kasey Sutton and Mayme Hinh, Wayland, Iowa, Wayland Mennonite Church
“Our home congregation is very focused on volunteering in the community. We all get along and love each other, can’t wait to see each other in the church. We have a food pantry in which we donate to the community one Tuesday each month, as well.” - Brooke Dominicci, Meridian, Mississippi, Jubilee Mennonite Church
“Our church congregation wasn’t big enough to have one youth group, so we partnered with two other small Mennonite churches to form one large youth group. Through this large youth group, we have seen a really small community with three separate churches who had their own groups and sets of rules come together as one.” - Dave Balzer, Inman, Kansas; Inman Mennonite Church, Hoffnungsau Mennonite Church, Buhler Mennonite
Held Evans makes the case for a more authentic church Spoiler alert: Millennials are not looking for a hipper church. They’re looking for the presence of Jesus Christ.
Churches often get in their own way, Held Evans said, usually because they don’t fully believe that baptism is enough to keep people in the church. Instead they focus on membership, their own ideologies and deciding who’s in and who’s out.
That was the point of Rachel Held Evans’ seminar Wednesday. Held Evans, a New York Times bestselling author and featured convention speaker wants to “keep the church weird.” She says millennials are looking for a truer, more authentic Christianity, not fog machines or coffee bars.
“We’re a little scared,” she said. “If we get out of the way, God might use people and methods we don’t approve of, which God has an annoying habit of doing.”
“Time and time again, the assumption is that the key is to make style updates,” Held Evans said, “but we millennials have been advertised to our entire lives. Everyone is trying to sell us something and entertain us, but church is the last place we want to be sold something.” Held Evans is often asked why millennials are leaving the church, and her answer is always the same. “Millennials are tired of the culture wars and party politics,” she said. “Jesus was certainly political, but not partisan.”
Held Evans says she doesn’t have the perfect answer on how to keep millennials in the church. She does have some ideas, but she also encourages the church to not be afraid of death (dwindling numbers).
Held Evans warned that millennials’ passion for social justice should not be ignored. “The church without social justice or social justice without Jesus renders the church unnecessary,” she said.
But millennials’ issues with the church go beyond just politics and the difference of culture that comes from different generations.
That quote stuck out to millennials like Caleb Schrock-Hurst, from Harrisonburg, Virginia.
“They want to be real with people,” Held Evans said. “They want to ask real questions without predetermined answers, and they want to talk about all of the Bible’s messiness and weirdness.”
“I think the church can keep millennials by being honest about its shortcomings and prioritizing Jesus while prioritizing justice,” he said. “Social justice without Jesus and Jesus without social justice are equally as incomplete.”
When millennials look at the church these days, they don’t see that. “They see racism, misogyny, lying and greed,” she said, “and they see it’s not the way of Jesus.”
Held Evans’ talk of social justice also made an impact on Quinn Kathrineberg, from Salina, Kansas. “Faith and social justice have to be intertwined,” she said. “That was really profound for me.” 6
“Maybe a little death and resurrection is what the church needs right now,” she said. “Death is something that empires worry about. Nobody ever said the fruit of the Spirit is success.” Karl Lehman, from Evanston, Illinois, found that part to be extremely profound. “Whether you have to actually close your doors to have that happen, or whether you can do that spiritually and emotionally and then move forward,” he said, “that seems very applicable to the Mennonite Church and every other church in the world.” While Held Evans isn’t sure what the resurrected church looks like, she is confident that it isn’t strobe lights or iPad giveaways, but rather it is keeping the church weird. “Baptism in and of itself is enough, as weird as it is,” Held Evans said. “We don’t have to dress that up.” —Jordan Waidelich
Mennos with Moves
Inclusive service, continued from page 4 Worshippers offered donations to benefit the LGBT Center of Central Florida, which played a key role in supporting and empowering Orlando’s LGBTQ community amidst the traumas of the Pulse shooting.
From traditional Latin and pop selections to the Moana soundtrack, the moves at Wednesday morning’s Zumba class were, according to first-time Zumba participant Alyssa Goering, “fun, but difficult.” “It’s a good way to wake up.” she added.
“We want to offer a practical way for us to support the community here in our host city,” said Harader. Preacher Regina Shands Stoltzfus invited all in attendance to consider how Mennonite Church USA is facing up to the challenge to love actively, to “love not with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). She also acknowledged that many LGBTQ people and allies were not present, having left the church wounded by a lack of love, support and acceptance. One of many ways to keep your body moving and energy high, Zumba will take place every morning at 7:30 in the Rec Hall. What’s in it for you?
“Not everyone survived. We’re not all here. We need to bear witness,” Shands Stoltzfus said. “May our living be a testimony to those who aren’t here, who did not survive.”
“Good energy, a good way to get the blood flowing,” instructor Jill Schlabach said.
The service included a ritual of anointing, marking glittery signs of healing on foreheads and hands. Participants were exhorted to go out into the halls and into the wider world to work for the healing of others.
But there are other benefits, too. “It’s fun to meet people from all across in the country in a different setting than you do in seminars and other things. There’s a certain inhibition that’s lost when you’re trying to dance and keep up and everyone’s on the same level.” —Erin Bradley
“I thought the service itself was beautiful because it was honest and about real lives,” said Wise.
As the service drew to a close, worshippers sang the hymn “How Can We Be Silent” before streaming out into the Convention Center.
• Daily running - 6:30 a.m. (meet in hotel lobby) • Rec room - Thurs., 12 - 11 p.m., Fri., 12- 7 p.m. • Morning prayers - Daily, Thurs., 8:30-9 a.m., Fri. &
-By Luke Beck Kreider and Emily Kauffman
Sat. 7:30-8 a.m. (221C)
• Quiet room - open daily (office 15 next to information booth)
updates TOPTEN & Announcements TODAY’S
Top 10 Reasons Mennonite Girls & Women Rock! 10 “As a group, they are solely responsible for
the careers of Ani Difranco, Sadie Gustafon-Zook, Dar Williams and the Wailin’ Jennys.” - News Sheet Team
9 “During Sunday School, they never forget the Goldfish and fruit snacks.” - News Sheet Team
“They’re resourceful, creative, generous and just PLAIN awesome.” - Kim Becker, via Twitter
“They know what they want, and they’re not afraid to go after it.” -Abby King
“They survived the patriarchy.” - Marathana Prothro
“They do more with less” - Timothy Betts
“Let’s be honest. They totally carry the congregation during 606.” - News Sheet Team
Seminar/Workshop Cancellations: Thursday, July 6, 9:00-10:00 a.m. – Internships Across the Denomination has been cancelled Friday, July 7, 9:00-10:00 a.m. – How To Do College Right (The First Time) has been cancelled
Girl from Harlem: Transforming Self and Society has been moved to 224G Need Accessibility Services? Paper copies of the Songs? Litany? Stop by the Accessibility Services table next to the Information Booth to get them.
Saturday, July 8, 9:00-10:00 a.m. – How To Do College Right (The First Time) has been cancelled Saturday, July 8, 9:00-10:00 a.m. – Leading Beyond a “Grass Is Greener” Mentality has been cancelled. Room Changes: Thursday, July 6, 4:30-5:30 p.m. – Sexuality: Navigating the Sexual Landscape has been moved to 231B Saturday, July 8, 9:00-10:00 a.m. – A Mennonite
CORRECTION: Last night in a caption, we attributed the play “Discovery: A Comic Lament” to Ted Swartz. Although it’s been touring with Ted & Co. this summer, the play is in fact written by Alison Brookins. Sorry for the mix-up.
3 “We are here because of the women who
came before us--women of strength.” - Melissa Florer-Bixler
2 ”They make a way where there is no way.” 1 “They created their own platforms in living rooms and in church basements, leading subversively. “- Mennonite Women USA
tomorrow’s prompt: Top 10 Mennonite Theme Parks Submit your answers using the hashtag #Menno10 Adults gathered for morning worship with speaker Phil Kniss, pastor at Park View Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg Virginia. The service followed the theme “You Are Loved by God.” 8