Assembly prayer network connected Anabaptist body to each other and God
Winnipeg, Canada – “When people came together in the prayer room, many times no words were needed,” says Joanne H. Dietzel, Lancaster Mennonite conference coordinator. “A prayer, a touch, offering a tissue for tears, a smile – all transcend language barriers and build up the body of Christ.”
Mennonite World Conference is a worldwide network of churches whose major face-to-face meeting occurs once every six years. Along with a yearly celebration of World Fellowship Sunday each January, prayer is another way its members connect in the interim.
“It is sometimes hard to understand all the dynamics of what is happening in other parts of the world; however, as we share in prayer, we become one body,” says Dietzel.
Dietzel coordinated the prayer network for Mennonite World Conference’s Assembly PA 2015 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA. A year before the event, she recruited a team of seven others, plus MWC staff Lynn Roth and Rebecca Pereverzoff, who met monthly to plan and to pray.
They coordinated a prayer room during Assembly (sequestered upstairs between the quilt exhibit and Maclay Street friendship group hall) at the Farm Show Complex, and developed a worldwide network of praying Anabaptists to prepare for the event and support each other in spirit.
Some 250 people from around the world signed up to receive email prompts, including a dozen each requesting correspondence in Spanish and French.
Themes were assigned to each month (e.g., registration, visas and World Fellowship Sunday) and day of the week (e.g., hospitality/fellowship, safety/travel/health, Global Youth Summit/youth/children, and wisdom and discernment). Dietzel circulated prayer items collected from MWC staff and coordinators, but also received petitions from those on the list, often for travel mercies or healing from illness.
During Assembly, the prayer room offered a restful place “off from the noise and bustle of the rest of the Assembly,” says Dietzel.
People of all ages stopped by for moments or hours. “I was blessed with the number of young adults who came,” says Dietzel, noting many of the attendees at the daily morning prayer were young adults.
Volunteers were available to pray with those who requested. Visitors engaged one of the six activity stations that offered creative ways to pray (e.g., colouring) or tools for meditation and contemplation (e.g. a small fountain).
Many left prayers and lit a battery-operated candle on the 24’ X 40’ (7.3m X 12m) world map (loaned by Rosedale Bible Missions) that covered the floor. They prayed for Christian unity, named friends in need of healing or a transformative encounter with Jesus, asked for healing from colonialism, violence or corruption in specific regions, addressed issues like climate change and sexual abuse – and more.
“One group of children came one afternoon and wrote beautiful, short, prayers and placed them on the map,” says Dietzel.
Some 161 visitors left their names on the guest registry in the prayer room, but many came and went without signing in.
“We here in North America could learn a lot from our global brothers and sisters about prayer,” says Dietzel. She recalls several women from Indonesia who came daily and prayed loudly on their knees.
“I was truly blessed by the connections made through spending time together with global brothers and sisters in the prayer room. While we could not always understand each other, we came together at the foot of the cross knowing we are all in need of God’s grace and mercy.”
—MWC release by Karla Braun
Click here to download World Fellowship Sunday materials, another way to transcend language and distance to connect with Anabaptist brothers and sisters and God through prayer and worship.
Samples of prayers left on the world map
Drip down, O Heavens, from above and let the clouds pour down righteousness. Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit and righteousness spring up with it.
Lord of hosts, you destroy the swords of the mighty and beat them into plowshares. You call on your people to do the same.
Mother God, your children are vibrant, glowing, creative, bursting. They are your image. Let your light shine in the hearts, minds and bodies of your children.
Six activity stations in the prayer room at Assembly offered visitors creative ways to become quiet before God. Photos: Kristina Toews
"Drip down, O Heavens, from above and let the clouds pour down righteousness. Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit and righteousness spring up with it." On a large map in the prayer room at Assembly, visitors left written prayers like the one above along with a battery operated candle. Photo: Kristina Toews
Click here to see a high resolution version of the cover photo. Click on the other photos to see the high resolution versions.