I’m a first generation Mennonite who embraced the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective in 1997. My wife and I have attended each of MC USA’s seven biennial conventions since the denomination’s official formation. We attended Nashville 2001, Atlanta 2003, Charlotte 2005, San Jose 2007, Columbus 2009, Pittsburgh 2011 and most recently Phoenix July 1-5, 2013.
I always enjoy these events. Although, my congregation in Harrisonburg is very small, I revel in the large worship services and the presence of so many youth and adults. Sometimes I have been a delegate but most recently in Phoenix I was there as an employee of MennoMedia. My wife Chris came as a volunteer and helped with the children’s activities.
I was glad to be involved in two workshops, one as a presenter (Parenting After Divorce with Kirsten Klassen, Gerald Mast; Melodie Davis, moderator) and another as a host (The Push and Pull of Movements and Institutions Within the Church, with Joanna Shenk and Mark Van Steenwyk).
I also worked at the MennoMedia bookstore, where we had a book signing for Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations and were happy to host two of the authors, Kathy Mclellan and Lovella Schellenberg; there was also a pre-release reading by two authors, Shirley Hershey Showalter sharing excerpts from Blush: A Mennonite Girl Greets a Glittering World, and Ervin Stutzman reading from Jacob’s Choice.
One of the most significant parts of assembly was when Terry Shue and Nancy Kauffman, from Mennonite Church USA’s Leadership Development Team, called all pastors forward at the joint worship service on Wednesday morning to bless them. Terry and Nancy presented a three-fold blessing which included a prayer from Numbers recited while people seated in the assembly extended their hands toward the pastors in blessing. They gave each pastor a white ribbon which identified them as pastors and could be redeemed at the MennoMedia bookstore for $25 toward any item there. Many participants, including the pastors, spoke of how moving this gesture was for them. As pastors returned to their seats many ran a gauntlet of young people with hands extended in the “high five” position. Others were mobbed by their youth groups when they returned to their seats. One pastor’s reception (Nicholas Detweiller-Stoddard) reminded me of the major league ball player who hit a walk off a home run to win game seven of the World Series. Pastors said they felt deeply affirmed, while young people witnessed strong affirmation for those who have answered God’s call to pastoral ministry.
I also helped count both of the worship offerings. One of them benefited MennoMedia’s campaign to develop a new Anabaptist Sunday school curriculum for children called Shine. Those gathered gave more than $10,000 toward this initiative.
If you’ve never been to one of Mennonite Church USA’s or Mennonite Church Canada’s biennial assemblies, I encourage you to go. They are not just for delegates. You’ll probably enjoy it even more if you aren’t a delegate. The worship and workshops are always great and of course there’s the attraction of a MennoMedia store which usually carries many new releases, sometimes at a significant discount. The 2014 MC Canada assembly will be held July 3-6, in Winnipeg, and the 2015 MC USA assembly will be held in Kansas City, also the first week in July. Maybe we’ll see you at one of these events!
Steve Carpenter, MennoMedia Director of Development