Eleven members of the PMC MYF and three adult sponsors met at Portland International airport on Monday, July 1st to embark on a journey that was two years in the making. After having served breakfasts at Easter, and selling wreaths at Christmas and dishing up strawberry shortcake this spring and last we were finally going to Youth convention in Phoenix Arizona. Upon arrival we checked into our hotel and tried to come to terms with the record heat we had just experienced when we walked out of the airport. After catching a quick dinner with Duncan Smith, Lin Rush and Rachel Ringenberg Miller we slid into the youth convention worship hall just as the worship band was finishing their prelude. It was the last time we arrived late! Worship sessions at convention follow the same rules as attending an open seating concert. Get there early and have a plan!
One of the highlights of the week for me was attending the “intergenerational conversation rooms” where issues like Biblical interpretation, and human sexuality were discussed. Our group had decided before convention that these experiences were unique to the convention and reflected the essence of being Mennonite and that we would attend them together. The first time we arrived at this event the folks at the door handed us numbers and told us we could not sit with anyone we knew. I was worried that the youth would be freaked out by this experience. My worries went away when some of them volunteered to share their experiences of being there with the room of 200 people at the end of the session. I was so proud of them!
I would encourage you to ask members of the MYF what their favorite part of convention was when you get a chance. Youth convention was a wonderful experience and we have this congregation to thank for making it possible.
Thank you! ~ Curt Weaver
Christians at the Border
The most engaging speaker during the delegate sessions was Dr. Daniel Carroll. He spoke for two hours and those two hours flew by. He spoke on immigration in the Old Testament. Dr. Carroll reminded us how immigration permeates through the Old Testament. Abraham and Sarah crossed a border for food in Genesis 12. Joseph is taken and sold in Egypt. Joseph integrates into Egyptian society, is bilingual, and marries an Egyptian (Genesis 41). Over and over God’s people are told to remember when they were slaves in Egypt, to remember how they were strangers in a foreign land. They are not to treat others like the Egyptians treated them. You shall love the stranger, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt (Deut. 10:19)
~ Rachel Ringenberg Miller
Pacific Northwest Mennonite Conference met June 21 and 22 in Portland. Our conference is made up of 35 congregation in five states; Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. We meet annually to discuss the business of the conference as well as to hear how God is at work in other congregations. This year we had two new delegates, Tim Gannett and Rachel Joy, who share their experiences below. Other delegates were; Charlene Epp, Marty Lowen, Harold and Gloria Nussbaum, Rachel Ringenberg Miller, Lin Rush and Curt Weaver.
As someone still very new to the Mennonite Church, going to the conference was completely a learning experience. I got a better understanding of how the church is structured in general, but it raised a lot of questions about how the different congregations within the conference are connected to each other. I think the most I got out of being a delegate was simply the chance to meet delegates from other congregations and hear what is going on in other congregations around the conference, what their concerns are, what issues they're dealing with, and so on. It really drove home the diversity of congregations, and their diverse needs and resources. It was a valuable experience for stepping back a little bit and looking at the church in a broader, regional context, challenging me to try to think through how each different congregation can support others and build stronger connections--one thing brought up was (if I remember correctly; it may have just been discussed at our table) that the regional conference might be able to facilitate support for various projects by sharing information about needs with individual congregations and allowing them to take offerings for specific purposes, or to go specifically to the region for such purposes. Again, simply discussing some of these ideas with delegates from very different places and congregations was incredibly valuable.
I went to PNMC curious about what Mennonites are like beyond my home congregation, since PMC has been my main exposure to this denomination in the 9 years since I made my baptismal commitment within this generous group of people. I expected that I would be confirmed as an outsider. To go as a representative of PMC, to be told to show up at the table and be myself, was my first clue that the love of God is greater than our differences.
At the first business meeting, I learned that we are a region including churches of many sizes, speaking multiple languages, of varied ages and many different leadership and mission styles. Some said they addressed challenges with fasting and prayer, others with potlucks and social retreats. I spoke with people from Boise and Seattle, who shared urban concerns about how to organize and worship. The re-organization process that Seattle Mennonite has recently been through shone through as vitality in the faces of the representatives I met from Seattle, and reminded me that as we talk about our future at PMC, other congregations have been through change and offer resources and encouragement.
I expected business to be a lot of discussion about things I might not know much about, but as we talked about the role of delegates, about how PNMC can help congregations better, and about conference finances, things about which I had almost no prior experience, I learned that the people around my table, and at the tables around the room, were concerned about preserving the movement of Spirit in our dialogue. Questions were as welcome as opinion. That attitude of openness finally convinced me that perhaps, after all, I do really and truly belong in this group. As Katherine Jameson Pitts said at the beginning of one business session, the ear can't say it's not part of the body because it's not a toe. I finally, amid the many voices and ears and hands and feet at PNMC, believed it, and accepted myself as a member of this body.
At the seminars I attended, following my personal interests about global issues, poverty, and interculturalism, I was happy to find that others share my concerns. We are nowhere near perfect in our diversity, but we are working together to find a way to speak God's love in ourselves, with each other, and throughout the world.
The PMC MYF, along with leaders Henry Janzen, Lois Gearhart, and Curt Weaver will be joining Rachel Ringenberg Miller in attending convention during July 1-9. The average temperature in Phoenix has been over 100 degrees lately so we will be missing our Northwest weather but are looking forward to a great week of worship, learning and fun. There are a few ways you can connect to convention from your couch here in Oregon. Some of the sessions will be streamed live and everyday a newspaper is printed called the Phoenix Flyer. Thank you for allowing us this time away and a big thank you from the MYF for helping us raise the funds to attend.