LONDON (Mennonite Mission Network) - What are the hallmarks of an Anabaptist community? How can members of that community work together at a distance? And what are the benefits of being part of such a community?
Two new branches of the Anabaptist Network met in London on Oct. 2 to discuss those questions. Approximately 50 representatives of the Anabaptist network of communities and the Anabaptist network of organizations, along with other Anabaptist individuals, gathered for a day-long event that included speakers, resources, introductions and conversation about how to best support each other.
The Anabaptist Network is, according to its website, a “loose-knit network of individuals and churches in Britain and Ireland interested in the insights of the Anabaptist tradition.” Many of the members come from non-Anabaptist denominations, but all share a desire to
explore the implications of Anabaptism for discipleship, mission and church life in contemporary culture. The community and organization branches grew out of a desire to provide concrete ways for churches and groups to affiliate with Anabaptists and with each other
“This was an encouraging event—the first time that representatives of our new networks of communities and organizations had gathered intentionally in this way,” said Stuart Murray Williams, author of the recent book The Naked Anabaptist, who helped to coordinate the meeting. “The spirit was excellent, both relaxed and purposeful.”
Jenna and Peter Liechty Martin, new Mission Network workers in Northern Ireland, attended the event. “It was interesting to see people from a wide array of denominational backgrounds gathered together around shared Anabaptist beliefs and values,” they wrote.
Hosted by the London Mennonite Centre, the event’s keynote speaker was Dennis Byler, a long-term worker with Mennonite Mission Network in Burgos, Spain. He shared his story and spoke about the characteristics of an Anabaptist network and how those characteristics manifest themselves in the community in Burgos.
“One of the nice aspects of this event was the partnership between the London Mennonite Centre and the Anabaptist Network,” said Tim Foley, Mennonite Mission Network’s Director for Europe. “The LMC took responsibility for much of the logistics such as location, set-up, refreshments and meals. The Anabaptist Network planned the program and several Network organizations had publicity at the event. And of course the speakers were Connie and Dennis Byler, MMN workers in Spain.”
Ali Phelps (who chairs the network of communities) and Noel Moules (who chairs the network of organizations) presented the final session, exploring the theme of “shalom” and its implications for organizations and communities that draw on the Anabaptist tradition.
In addition to the speakers, the group met together for two meals, “speed networking” and worship.
“Our ‘speed networking’ was especially helpful,” said Murray Williams. “It provided opportunities for one-to-one conversations in a structured but fun environment.”
According to Foley and Murray Williams, the event was a successful collaboration.
“We plan to meet again next year,” said Murray Williams. “Between now and then we are encouraging the various communities and organizations to continue to build links and develop shared activities.”
“The LMC plans to work more closely with the Anabaptist Network by becoming a place of hospitality, conversation and learning for UK Anabaptists and for anyone interested in exploring issues of faith,” Foley said.
Mennonite Mission Network staff in London contributed to this report.