Sunday, July 23, 2023

Reflections from MennoCon, Delegate Assembly, and VMC Summer Assembly

Being Transformed: Our journey with the wider church
2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 5:17; Isaiah 43:19-21

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MennoCon Reflections from Tomomi Naka (Tottori, Japan): Hello! I have attended Park View Mennonite Church services remotely for the past three years. The pandemic was certainly challenging, for me, but I was fortunate to spend time together with you, even from Japan. Thank you!

This was the first Mennonite Church USA conference I attended. Thinking that international travel might be easier by July, I asked Pastor Phil if I could participate in the conference. With Pastor Phil’s affirmative response, I decided to attend. The conference held many memorable moments and stories. Needless to say, meeting some of you in person for the first time was special for me.

I was impressed by the ways many participants and seminar organizers made efforts to be open to explore new ideas and to share their ideas. Prior to the conference, I only had a vague idea about what the conference was like. I imagined the conference might be something like a big family gathering or Mennonite relief sale. I imagined that most people would know each other, once they knew family names or backgrounds. Coming from non-Mennonite background, I find it fascinating to see how people try to place other people in their relational webs but also sensed that it could be a bit difficult for some. The actual conference, to me, however, was more open and friendlier. While it took some effort to start conversations with someone sitting beside me, he/she/they were usually willing to talk with me with adequate explanation of the relevant background information when needed.

Sometimes difficult topics were addressed in the seminars. I attended a seminar titled “Safeguarding in Christian Institutions.” The presenter divided the participants into small groups and posed questions. Some questions were fun exercises, but others were serious, such as how churches might create an environment that prevents abuse. I was impressed how many participants were willing to share their views about these questions. In another seminar, the person sitting beside me was also willing to critically explore how his church experiences fostered certain negative views towards other religions.

I also found it interesting that many seminar presenters were open to responding to participants’ input. Personally, I tend to seek concrete and quick suggestions to try, I was somewhat disappointed by such open-endedness. Gradually, however, I started to realize that the point may be more to have conversations together, than to provide answers and suggestions.

There are many other moments that I remember, but it took a while for me to process these moments into a shape. I was grateful to have an occasion like this to see different aspects of Mennonite communities at work.

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