Over the last year our work with the #WeAreMenno campaign has highlighted stories from across Mennonite Church USA. As we talked with incredibly diverse individuals and congregations, we encountered the work of the Spirit, and were inspired by stories of faith and partnership. In this collective reflection, the Mennonite Church USA communications staff offer their thoughts about what it was like to work with this campaign over the past year.
I became part of the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board communications team the same month that the #WeAreMenno campaign launched, in February 2015. At the time, Hannah Heinzekehr was directing the communications team, and she dreamed up this campaign during a season when the church needed to be reminded that there were hopeful things happening in our midst. In her own reflections on #WeAreMenno, Hannah said that “the goal was not to weave all of these stories into one cohesive, unified message, but to present a beautiful cacophony of voices, each of them articulating how they sought to follow Jesus in their own context as a part of a Mennonite Church USA congregation or organization.”
I started as the #WeAreMenno feature stories writer, and it has been my job to connect with diverse members of our church community from across the country who are living out what it means to be followers of Jesus in creative, inspiring, Spirit-led ways. I have met some truly amazing Mennonites living out the call to discipleship, and have been honored to share their stories with the broader church.
Looking back I recognize what a gift this campaign has been.
During an especially challenging time for this denomination, marked by intense disagreement and deep pain, working with #WeAreMenno has been a way to hold together the complexity of who we are as a church — yes in all of our brokenness, but in our beautiful humanity, too.
Moving forward, my hope is that we continue to listen to one another’s stories, letting our lives speak to all the diverse ways that #WeAreMenno.
—Janie Beck Kreider, communications project director
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” — Teresa de Ávila
As we near the end of the #WeAreMenno campaign, I’ve been thinking of this quotation from Teresa de Ávila. It’s been energizing and fun this year to be part of a creative team working at capturing and sharing glimpses of Mennos being Christ’s hands, feet and eyes and body across our country — to God be the glory!
Mennonite Church USA wouldn’t be Mennonite Church USA without the individuals and congregations who make it up — each doing our best to follow Jesus in our own contexts.
The #WeAreMenno content has continually reminded me of how we are better together; I am richer for each new bit of information I’ve learned about a fellow member of our body of believers.
Highlights for me have included:
- being part of creating the video showing people across the church saying why they choose to be Mennonite
- seeing the #WeAreMenno photo wall come together throughout the week at KC2015
- the cumulative effect of the blogs, stories, videos and memes over the months — each adding breadth and depth to the picture of what it means to be Mennonite in the U.S. today
- the congregational selfies, because congregations are where it’s at — where God’s love takes form through relationship, where we can know each other and be fully known, and where we gain inspiration and strength for the journey.
Thanks be to God!
—Annette Brill Bergstresser, editorial director
I think we did a lot of things right and #WeAreMenno provided much-needed mediation space in the midst of the ongoing heavy conversations. At least that’s how I envision what we’ve been trying to do—providing a space that gives expression to the diverse and yet cohesive vision that makes us Mennonite.
I’m very glad we did the campaign. I think it helped soften the rough edges as our long-held assumptions and hopes about what the church could be have been damaged, and in some places shattered.
I’m encouraged that the number of social media followers continues to grow steadily.
I also think there is much creative thinking and potential happening around the edges of our tottering edifice that we need to pay attention to and nurture.
I hope this department can continue to play a key role in bringing that energy toward the center.
—Ken Gingerich, creative director
As a relatively new Mennonite (I joined the church three years ago), the #WeAreMenno campaign has been a learning experience in the best way. It has been my joy to see and hear from so many congregations and individuals across the country about the ways the spirit is moving. Of all of the pieces that I worked on, I think the Congregational Selfies have been my favorite.
I’ve loved being able to see little snapshots from so many different churches, and in some small way get a better understanding of what the broader Mennonite church looks like.
My Mennonite experience is limited to the two congregations I have attended, and these selfies have allowed me to “visit” many, many more!
—Alyssa Bennett Smith, web and social media content manager
I am filled with awe at the inspiring, passionate followers of Jesus that call themselves Mennonite across the United States. It has been an absolute joy to offer a platform on the Menno Snapshots blog to people from all around Mennonite Church USA to share their personal stories about the movement of God in their lives and all around them. These stories have enriched my faith and I am sure, the faith of many across the church. I have been amazed as I’ve worked with these writers, getting to know them – their boldness in walking the journey set before them, their faith in trusting God, and their openness in sharing their stories with the broader church.
It has been an honor to highlight these stories for all to see and hear, to watch as people respond with love, learn from, and encourage one another.
I’ve seen people who wouldn’t have connected in real life, form connections over passions that they share. And I’ve watched as folks recognize their experiences reflected in the stories others have brought and feel “in this together.” It’s been fun to watch the church be church in our own virtual corner of the world.
—Jenny Castro, communications associate and coordinator for the Women in Leadership Project