Throughout the 2021 MC USA convention, a feeling of transformation was palpable. It buzzed and hummed in the air of the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. It reverberated through seminars and delegate sessions being held in a virtual space for the first time. It manifested itself in youth groups across the country through the Service in a Box servant projects. And, at the worship service on the final day of the convention, that transformation was named and embraced through the new biennial theme for the denomination.
During this season of transformation, Mennonite Mission Network maintained a strong presence throughout the convention, both in-person and virtually. Below is the full list of the Mennonite Mission Network-connected articles, seminar recaps, blogs as well as select video recordings of seminars.
Convention worship connects through screen and stage
Tuesday worship service
A couple of lines from the song "Waymaker" sung during opening worship July 6 struck me as I joined virtually from the Kansas prairies in Newton:
Waymaker, miracle worker, promise keeper, light in the darkness,
my God, that is who you are. …
Indeed, that is who God is – the Waymaker for a first-ever dual convention that is unifying folks from home and folks in person.
Lamenting, repenting and naming
Wednesday Bible study
When was the last time you remember someone portraying God as a divine warrior who is like a woman giving birth to something new?
Or, the last time you remember being encouraged to offer up your pain, rather than praise, to God in prayer?
If you are anything like me, a pastor or speaker may have come close a time or two, but it has been so rare that I cannot remember it.
Seminar attendees encouraged to seek shalom, service
'What You Do Next Matters' — Eric Frey Martin
Even though it was in the first time slot on Wednesday morning, Eric Frey Martin had a quiz ready for youth attending the seminar, 'What You Do Next Matters.'
Frey Martin, recruiter and church relations representative for Mennonite Mission Network, listed off a number of "notable" people who had all graduated from either Bethel College (Kansas), Bluffton University (Ohio), Eastern Mennonite University (Virginia), Goshen College (Indiana), or Hesston College (Kansas). Jeff Timmons of the music group 98 Degrees. NFL coach Katie Sowers. Peace activist and Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee.
The question, Frey Martin asked, was which institution did each graduate from?
Finding shalom with hunter-gatherers
'Changing the Narrative — Climate What?' — Jane and Jerrell Ross Richer
At the start of their seminar, 'Changing the Narrative: Climate What?' Jane and Jerrell Ross Richer passed out papers to each table with a single word printed on them. Environmentalist. Conservationist. Agriculturist. Hunter-gatherer. Then the questions started. What does your table's word mean to you? What kind of response would your table's person have to climate change? Which one do you relate to?
Stirring Up Peace
'Stir Up Peace: How Nonviolent Direct Action Creates Change' — Jonathan and Sarah Nahar, Sharon Norton
The first exercise that Jonathan and Sarah Nahar led in their seminar, 'Stir Up Peace: How Nonviolent Direct Action Creates Change' began with simple instructions. Separate into pairs, with one attendee role playing "Person A," and the other attendee playing "Person B." The second step was just as straightforward, but a bit more alarming. "Person A," instructed Sarah. "I need you to put yourself into the mindset of someone who is kicking a dog."
Breathing in the expanse of God
Wednesday worship service
I imagined the expansive prairie night sky as Dr. Meghan Good gave the sermon July 7. She opened her message on "Jesus is the Peace" by describing this: space is rapidly expanding as planets, galaxies and stars move away from each other faster than the speed of light. As a result, eventually, people standing in the middle of a wide wheat field will look up and see only darkness.
Transforming voicelessness into sharing voices together
Thursday Bible study
Safwat Marzouk's morning Bible study July 8 on the story of Joseph and his brothers makes me think of Voices Together. For years, planners and creators of the new Mennonite hymnal and worship resource listened to the stories, songs, and hearts of a diversity of people. This helped them to create a tapestry of narratives in song and prayer that speak to the diverse realities reflected in their lives. As the introduction described, they strove to "assemble a collection where worshippers find themselves and their stories honored and expressed."
A Jesus-approved guide to confronting injustice
'I Fight Authority, Authority Always Wins' — Eric Frey Martin
After a brief opening mixer (and John Mellencamp acknowledgement), Eric Frey Martin started his Thursday morning seminar, 'I Fight Authority, Authority Always Wins,' with a question.
When was a time that an authority figure failed you?
Entering the eye of the storm by touching the hem of his garment
Thursday evening worship service
Ana Hinojosa, speaker for evening worship July 8, shared how the storms of COVID-19 raged throughout her family, as her father almost died from virus complications. And yet, in a woman-touching-the-hem of Jesus experience (Mark 5), after seven days in the hospital with all his vital organs failing, he left the hospital and is alive today.
Befriending those babies
Friday Bible study
After listening to Safwat Marzouk unpack the Exodus 1-2 story about how Pharoah's daughter rescued Baby Moses from the Nile, I am rethinking the phrase, "random acts of kindness."
Building peace in Africa by bridging relationships
'Peacemaking in Africa with Muslims and Christians' — Nehemiah Chigoji, Christy Harrison, Sharon Norton, Peter Sensenig
Peace between Muslims and Christians is about relationship. Instead of framing the seminar "Peacemaking in Africa with Muslims and Christians" as about an issue and conflict with a quick fix, the discussion focused on the slow work of building interpersonal connection.
Embracing mission, evading conquest
'Two-Way Mission' — Jane and Jerrell Ross Richer
One of the first pieces of knowledge that Jane and Jerrell Ross Richer presented in their seminar, 'Two-Way Mission' came courtesy of the World Bank. While indigenous people occupy roughly a quarter of the land on earth, they protect 80% of the planet's biodiversity.
Pandemic challenges foster agency growth
'Future Driven Partnership: Pursuing God's Call at Mennonite Mission Network' — Mike Sherrill
Mike Sherrill has had a wild year.
He stepped into the role of Executive Director at Mennonite Mission Network in August, 2020, and after nearly a year in the position, came to his seminar, 'Future Driven Partnership: Pursuing God's Call at Mennonite Mission Network' with good news. The challenges surrounding the pandemic had driven the organization to innovate and grow.
[WATCH] Breaking a Mission Mold in Africa — Joe Sawatzky
Join this virtual seminar to learn from the editors of a forthcoming book, Unless a Grain of Wheat, which explores the more than 60-year-relationship in mission between North American Mennonites and Africa Initiated Churches (AICs). During the seminar, Joe Sawatzky, church relations representative for Mennonite Mission Network and former mission worker, guides the discussion between editors James R. Krabill, professor and former mission worker; Jonathan Larson, retired Mennonite pastor and mission worker; and Thomas Odoro, principle at Good News Theological Seminary. Learn firsthand from participants in this fascinating and path-breaking chapter in the story of Christian cross-cultural engagement.
Watch the full seminar here.
[WATCH] Shaping Our Stories; Sharing Our Stories — Eric Frey Martin
Join this virtual seminar led by Eric Frey Martin, recruiter and staff person for Program Human Resources for Mennonite Mission Network, to look at how we tell stories: not just the verbal ones that we relay to friends; but also the narratives we shape around who we are and how we project ourselves to others. The seminar is focused on helping us to "join our stories with God's stories," Frey Martin said.
Watch the full seminar here.
Roosting, or flying free?
Saturday worship service
When our foster daughter, Symphony, was in our care for two and a half years, I often said this to her during the tumultuous twos: "Symphony, we pick and choose how we are going to do handle things."
To my shock, one day as I was melting down from a bad hair moment, she said, "Mommy, you know we choose and pick."
Living out commitment to peace
By Faith Bell
MennoCon21 was the first Mennonite convention I attended. I had heard stories about my church's past youth groups basking in worship. I had heard colleagues tell of the experiences of connecting people with service opportunities. As always, a lived experience brings a greater understanding.