Connected by the Spirit

Assembly is a life changing experience. This event every six years was the “conference” in Mennonite World Conference for several decades. It remains a highlight for members around the world – both those who are working daily to foster connections within the AnabaptistMennonite family, and those who mainly attend the big events.

It is a time when Anabaptist-Mennonites from around the world encounter each other in our differing worship styles – especially the more Pentecostal influenced styles that often characterize the Global South.

“Once you’ve been to one, you can’t stop because a global fellowship like this is rare,” says Elina Ciptadi, who first went to Assembly in Zimbabwe in 2003.

“My favorite memory is the exuberance and joy of making music together with songs from all around the world,” says Mark Wenger, a pastor from Pennsylvania who sang in the 2015 international choir.

These memories drive excitement for the extra-long-awaited Assembly 17 in Indonesia. It was postponed one year due to the pandemic.

The long tail of the pandemic touches Assembly as well; attendance is restricted to 700 participants – far below the expected thousands. But we hope to gather nevertheless, as we have learned these past two years, connecting as tiny faces on screens and tenuous internet links.

“[Assembly is] where we find co-conspirators on the journey of building the kingdom of God. Here we meet other Jesus followers who are passionate about justice, peace and community. Other kindred spirits,” says Rianna Isaak-Krauß, who met her husband at the Pennsylvania Assembly in 2015. “That connection is really powerful.”

The Holy Spirit is part of what makes that connection between diverse peoples happen and in such a powerful way in the body of Christ.

The Holy Spirit has played a stronger role in moments of the Anabaptist movement and has been relegated to the background of our thinking and speaking as churches in others. In the last decades, Pentecostal movements have brought individual and corporate spirituality that emphasize openness to the Holy Spirit. These movements have both invigorated and threatened our churches.

This issue looks at some of the challenges and opportunities Anabaptist-Mennonites encounter as we relate with Christians from Pentecostal movements and those within our own family who might be called “Mennoscostals.”

We will have further opportunity to learn about being connected by the Holy Spirit (and the internet) in our diversity of worship style and theological leanings as we gather by the thousands for Assembly in July. May the Spirit reach through our screens and guide us on our journeys as co-conspirators, encouraging each other to seek peace and justice as we build the kingdom of God.

—Karla Braun is editor of Courier and writer for Mennonite World Conference. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada.

This article first appeared in Courier / Correo / Courrier, April 2022

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