This post is part of the MennoCon23 #BeTransformed series. MennoCon23 will be held in Kansas City, Missouri, July 3-6.
Rylee Weishaupt (she/her) grew up in Goshen, Indiana, where she attended Silverwood Mennonite Church. She graduated from Goshen High School, June 2022, and soon after started Mennonite Mission Network’s program Service Adventure, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She has since completed her service term, returned to Goshen and is planning to attend Hesston College in Hesston, Kansas, in the fall. Rylee will be majoring in Bible and ministry.
Once every two years, this crazy-cool event called MennoCon happens. From a youth’s perspective, I would describe MennoCon as a big Jesus party. A bunch of people who love Jesus get together to build community, experience different kinds of worship and grow in their faith — not to mention having a ton of fun through it all. I have been lucky enough to be able to attend the past three MennoCons: Orlando, Florida, ’17; Kansas City, Missouri, ’19; and Cincinnati, Ohio, ’21. However, as I mentioned before, it only occurs every two years, and a lot can happen in that time, especially if you are a teenager. That is why every year at MennoCon felt like a new experience for me.
The first time I attended MennoCon, I leaned deeply into the community that surrounded me. I was only 13 years old when I went to Orlando with our church’s youth group — perks of being a pastor’s kid. In Orlando, I was a part of the junior high group that met separately from the senior high and adult groups. In this group, I met so many people and quickly developed relationships with people who were strangers to me just a week prior. I felt a deep sense of community, which was hard to come by in junior high. The junior high group also got a small taste of what the rest of MennoCon was like from our worship services, service day and the seminars we were able to attend. My experience in Orlando shed a positive light on MennoCon that instilled a sense of excitement in me for the next time I would be able to attend.
The next MennoCon was 2019 in Kansas City. While the community was still present that year, I felt drawn more to the times of worship. I was in high school by that point, so I was able to participate in the senior high events. This meant I could go to the larger worship services, choose from the huge seminar selection and participate in more of the activities. I had also been baptized since the previous MennoCon and was excited to explore my relationship with Jesus in a new way. The worship services did exactly that for me. Whether your group chooses to sit in the front or the back, the energy of the service radiates throughout the entire room. I do not think I could count on one hand how many times I felt God’s joy inside my heart during those services. It was during those services that I allowed myself to fully open up and worship, which was something I had not done since I was a kid.
The sense of openness and freedom to fully worship in whatever way I felt comfortable is something that I will forever hold fondly in my heart.
And that brings us to the last MennoCon I attended. In 2021, we drove to Cincinnati for the final MennoCon that I could participate in as a youth. A lot had happened since the previous MennoCon, but the most prevalent thing would have to be COVID-19. I was ecstatic that MennoCon would still be happening, but I knew it would probably be different than the previous times I had attended. However, that did not stop God from working that summer. That week was when God planted a seed in me that called me to ministry. There was no big “ah-ha” moment, but for the first time in my life, I seriously thought about what my life could look like if I took that path. I connected so deeply with the people who spoke that year that I could actually start to envision myself in their shoes. Not only that, but I had such wonderful friends at that year’s convention that I felt free to be myself and lean into that calling that God put on my life.
Since then, I have continued to explore the call to ministry, as well as other things that were brought to light for me during MennoCon, such as different spiritual practices and deepening friendships. I truly believe that MennoCon23 can be just as transformative, if not more, for all of those attending, if you open your heart to what God has in store for you. I pray that you can have fun, try something new, meet some awesome people and see God in a way you have never seen God before. Have a blast MennoCon23!
Editor’s note: At the Delegate Assembly following MennoCon23, delegates will vote on proposed changes to the MC USA Bylaws, which includes changing convention from a biennial event to a triennial event.
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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.
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