At the end of 2022,
Seattle Mennonite Church (SMC) donated its former
Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) house to the
Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, free of charge and with no strings attached. They did this as a reparative action.
An article from Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) details the intentional and yearslong process that SMC went through to make this decision.
This is not the only Mennonite house that has required intentional discernment as times and neighborhood needs have changed.
“MVS was started out of a time when people needed alternative service opportunities to being conscientious objectors,” said
Marisa Smucker, interim executive director of Mennonite Mission Network, who has worked closely with MVS.
With no draft and a wider variety of service opportunities, the program has had to adjust.
“Our MVS communities have had to take a look the gentrification process and their own accountability in it. The accrual of value that is unexpected calls us to reassess where we want to be in our service, which I think is what churches are doing,” said Naomi Leary, regional director for North America at Mission Network.
The International Guest House in Washington, D.C. sold for $1.35 million in 2020, and Allegheny Mennonite Conference redistributed these funds to MC USA justice ministries and congregations. San Antonio Mennonite Church developed their property into a hospitality house for asylum seekers who are released from detention.
Where there were once 150 MVS units, Smucker said there now remain five that continue with strong community investment. In all of these, she points to the “ripple effect” that takes place, even as MVS houses shift and change.
“Every time someone comes into a place, it changes the character of the place and, reciprocally, the person is changed,” she said. “Conditions change, people change — that’s transformation, that’s growth.”
“As an organization and as individuals, we honor the past and the good work that has been done and, as we see cultural changes and needs, we try to respond in a way that fulfills what God is calling us to do.”