As I’ve spent the last several years learning about and trying to orient my spirituality toward Jesus through Anabaptist theology and church life, I’ve become more and more convinced that recently emerging, counter-cultural expressions of Christian life can be a good fit with what Mennonites are up to all over the United States.
But wait a minute… some of these new movements (Emergent, New Monasticism, etc.) are pretty feisty, even radical. Does that really fit Anabaptists? Aren’t Mennonites more simple folk, the “quiet in the land?”
These days simple living and relating to the land with some quietness can be pretty radical. So can opening your home to strangers, advocating for social justice, living among the poor, praying a whole lot. You know, stuff Anabaptists have been doing for 500 years.
Check out this guy, Mark Van Steenwyk (he blogs here). He lives in Minneapolis and made a small church with some friends. Better yet check out the church’s Web site. Here’s Mark describing the “new monasticism” many use to describe how he and his friends live:
What Christian tradition are these kooky people affiliated with? Some zany social-gospel branch of Episcopalianism? Urban Pentacostalism gone wild? The Franciscans?
Nope. Mark’s a Mennonite pastor, and this radical little church is seeking affiliation with MCUSA.
Mennonites in the U.S. and Canada are starting to wake up to the fact that some of their most deeply held ideals of peace-building, community, service, hospitality, contemplative life, listening, and consensus building are being discussed and taken seriously by the emerging church.
From a MC Canada press release last spring:
“When participants gathered in suburban Philadelphia, for the 2007 Emergent Conversation, they were surprised at how many Mennonites were a part of the group. For Jess Walter, who works with Franconia Mennonite Conference, the reason was obvious …. ‘I told them,’ said Walter, who helped to coordinate part of the gathering, ‘You are on our turf!'”