Soacha, Colombia – Tears flowed freely as a Mennonite World Conference delegation of international visitors exchanged stories and blessings with members of Iglesia Menonita de la resurrección (Mennonite Church of the Resurrection) in Soacha, Colombia on 18 May 2014.
The delegation, with persons from around 18 countries, was enroute to Bogotá from a Catholic retreat centre in Fusagasugá, where they had met for five days. The meetings included the Executive Committee, the YABs (Young Anabaptists) Committee, a representative from each commission and some MWC staff.
Members of the Soacha congregation shared stories about their ministry with persons displaced by violence in their communities. They sang. They danced. They shared food with the delegation in their street level facility called Comedor pan y vida (literally, dining room or cafeteria for bread and life).
They extended their hands in blessing to the international visitors who responded with their own stories that resonated with those they had heard. Rainer Burkhart of Germany asked delegation members to extend their hands in a return blessing as he prayed in German, which was translated into English and then into Spanish.
“Thank you so much for coming,” exclaimed Adaia Bernal, leader of the Soacha congregation. “Don’t lose contact with the umbilical cord to the base communities that make up the church.”
The ongoing challenge of helping to connect Anabaptist-related communities around the world was high on the agenda during the Executive Committee meeting. To increase its own capacity to build relationships globally, the committee began its meetings with a training session on intercultural competence.
The committee accepted into MWC membership two national churches, the Brethren in Christ Church in South Africa and the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Mennonitischer Brüdergemeinden in Deutschland (Association of Mennonite Brethren Churches in Germany).
Upon affirmation of this decision by the MWC General Council, the total MWC membership will be 103 national churches in 57 countries with about 1.3 million baptized members.
Excitement about the 2015 global Assembly permeated the meetings. Staff reported that plans for the 21-26 July Assembly in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania are well underway, with anticipated attendance of 7,000 to 10,000. Registration will begin mid August 2014.
MWC General Secretary, César García, reflected his enthusiasm for the 2015 Assembly theme “walking with God” (Spanish: caminemos con Dios; French: en marche avec Dieu) by announcing that this theme, together with the Emmaus road story in Luke 24, would serve as the overall framework for MWC program planning for the six years following the Assembly.
The theme, said García, emphasizes that the Christian walk is a journey. “We have not arrived at the goal. We are in process. We have not yet completed our knowledge about God. We need to be transformed continually.”
García also emphasized, “We walk in community. We need each other to discover the truth. We resist the tendency to walk away from each other when we do not agree.”
World Fellowship Sunday and the one lunch offering
To help fund its networking ministry, MWC requests a “fair share” contribution from member churches on each continent. Every member church contribution is linked to its capacity to give, based on its relative wealth and relative size, and all contributions are valued.
To help member churches reach their Fair Share targets, MWC leadership is promoting the idea of inviting congregational members to annually donate the equivalent of what one lunch would cost in their context.
MWC already promotes World Fellowship Sunday each January, an invitation for Anabaptist churches all over the world to celebrate the global Anabaptist communion. Some congregations already hold an offering for MWC on World Fellowship Sunday.
Whether fasting together, eating together, or offering together, the gift of the local value of one lunch per member on World Fellowship Sunday is an easy way for the global community to take shared responsibility for its life together.
MWC release by Ron Rempel