By Clare Ann Ruth-Heffelbower, executive conference minister, Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference
As many churches continue learning new ways to do ministry outside of the church walls during the pandemic, Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference is building community and connection with new congregations – some that offer refreshingly different ways to worship and live into their faith. At PSMC’s annual meeting this summer, delegates voted to accept three California congregations into Conference membership – All Souls Christian Center in Los Angeles, Church of the Sojourners in San Francisco and Wild Church in Fresno.
All Souls Christian Center was founded in the 1990s by Charles Opong, Sr. and joined PSMC in the early 2000s, but Conference membership lapsed several years ago. All Souls Christian Center has now rejoined and is eager to reengage with the PSMC community. Their letter requesting membership stated, “We…embrace the culture of community as a way of serving God, sharing, caring and fellowshipping, also lending help to the weak and strengthening the mission of peace and justice for all.”
Church of the Sojourners is an intentional Christian community. It began with three families moving into San Francisco’s Mission District in the early 1980s to be involved in ministry. The Church of the Sojourners website says, “Our mission is to learn to live together in genuine peace and love – and let others in on it.” Church of the Sojourners has identified as part of the Anabaptist movement over the years without a formal tie to any Anabaptist organization. In the past few years, they have built relationships with people and congregations in PSMC and have now chosen to become part of the Conference.
Wild Church is a church plant in the Fresno, California area led by Katerina Friesen. The church began about two years ago and is connected to the Wild Church Network, a group of congregations that meets outdoors, seeking to deepen relationships with God, community and creation. Wild Church meets monthly, often on the bank of the San Joaquin River. Rooted in the Anabaptist tradition, it gathers people together who “feel called to create beloved community, re-connected with the soil, water, plants and all creatures of our watershed here in Fresno.”
Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference is comprised of 28 congregations and is one of 16 conferences of Mennonite Church USA. Mennonite Church USA is the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States. An Anabaptist Christian denomination, MC USA is part of Mennonite World Conference, a global faith family that includes churches in 86 countries. It has offices in Elkhart, Indiana and Newton, Kansas. mennoniteUSA.org