This blog is part of our Special Session of the Delegate Assembly Open Call for Blogs series, which will run throughout May. This blog is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board or the resolution writers. Readers are encouraged to consult other resources related to the Special Delegate Assembly, engage the writers of the resolutions and discern within their own context.
Jeryl Hollinger is the pastor of Mountain View Mennonite Church in Kalispell, Montana. He is an avid gardener of onions and anything else that will grow in the short summer season. He is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite College (now Eastern Mennonite University) and Lancaster Theological Seminary.
I have a weakness for onions. When ordering seeds, while winter has a hold on the world, it is easy to get lost in the onion section of the seed catalog. Under grow lights in the spring, I envision summer’s bounty, as flats of onions send up their brave stems. As autumn closes in, I look with pleasure at the cellar stocked with their papery-skinned, hidden and layered juices. They are a delicious treat throughout the year when sliced raw as a condiment, but my favorite way of indulging is to bake them to tenderness with a bit of balsamic vinegar.
Onions know who they are.
Underneath their deceptively unimpressive coats, they embody a power. Deliberately responding to the latitude where they are planted, unapologetic for their unique flavor and insistent on each type’s storage ability, they throw their whole lives into whatever dish is being prepared. Onions know who they are and insist on being themselves.
“Will you represent us?” was the question asked of me, after our Sunday evening discussion about the Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) resolutions being presented at the Special Session of the Delegate Assembly in Kansas City, Missouri, this coming weekend. A group had met in the fellowship hall for the purpose of learning more about the approaching special delegate session. We were eager to hear each other’s thoughts.
I hadn’t been sure I wanted to attend the Kansas City gathering. Being at the geographical edge of all things Mennonite, we sometimes wonder what it means for our life and mission to be part of the larger church. And it’s inconvenient and expensive to get anywhere from here.
But the leadership team strongly encouraged my attendance. We want to be part of the church. We know who we are. Attending assemblies and being involved in the conversation seems to be a wonderful way to keep connected and contribute our unique flavor. So the team scheduled a Sunday evening meeting to engage the congregation about the resolutions.
The evening meeting was enjoyable and covered a lot of ground. We watched a segment of a webinar, talked about MC USA structure and the role of resolutions, wondered about the appropriate use of power in the church, and debated the pros and cons of some of the resolutions.
We asked what difference any of this meant to our life together as a congregation.
Reflecting on the evening’s proceedings, I had a deep sense of peace. It felt like the church of Jesus in action. There was a spirit of engagement and charity. A variety of opinions were expressed about almost everything. Areas of concern and emphasis were unique to each individual. And, in the center of it all, was a kindness and openness to listen and deliberate together. Intrigue, politeness, discovery, gentleness.
No decisions were made. No one pushed us to come to conclusions. We recognized the controversies that swirl around us and could disrupt our sense of ourselves as a faith community. The value of the evening was in throwing ourselves into it — in hearing each other and knowing that being a faith community is in the practice of it.
“Will you represent us in Kansas City?” It was partly asked in jest, because, for us, “us” is not a single-minded fellowship. Based on our discussion, any vote won’t be in keeping with everyone’s desires. We are uncomfortable with church becoming a community of power’s whims. Our congregation is made up of a mixture of backgrounds and visions. We have learned to live and love within that reality. We celebrate it.
Knowing we are a fellowship centered around Jesus makes our life together, and my role as leader and delegate, much easier. Like the onion, which I have come to appreciate, underneath our skin, I know who we are. I know the Spirit that makes for unity and the fellowship that makes for peace. At the table in Kansas City, I will represent us. I will bring our unique flavor. Others will bring theirs. May it be delicious.
View resources for the Delegate Assembly, including the resolutions, webinars, a prayer guide, and registration link, here.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog belong to the author and are not intended to represent the views of the MC USA Executive Board or staff.