By Meg Short
KANSAS CITY, Missouri. (Mennonite Church USA) — This year’s opening worship, a combined service for youth and adult attendees, focused on drawing all together in Christ. Worshipers were encouraged to celebrate the fact that God is doing something great in the midst of God’s people.
The theme for the event was “Come Together on the Way.” Glen Guyton, chief operating officer of Mennonite Church USA, opened the service with prayer. He invited Erica Littlewolf, program administrator for the Mennonite Central Committee Indigenous Visions Center, to the stage to recognize the long list of indigenous peoples who used to occupy this area. In honor of those who continue to suffer from 500 years of mistreatment, Littlewolf read a poem by Simon Ortíz, Native American writer, entitled “Mid-America Prayer.”
Michelle Armster, director for Mennonite Central Committee Central States, spoke on Luke 1:1-24:3 and challenged the audience to reflect on the stories of those who have been oppressed, both in the Bible and recently, because they “remind us that the Jesus movement is costly.”
“There are challenging parables [in Luke] and perplexing teachings of Jesus and the religious, political, and economic institutions,” Armster said. “Those institutions wanted to keep people out, and only some in, to keep people poor, and only a few rich. And Jesus was confronting [the institutions] and demanding transformation for all people,” she said.
Armster discussed biblical women who are oft overlooked but actively participated in the ministry of Jesus. In Luke 10, Mary and Martha “boldly testified and joyfully preached the gospel.” Armster also said that stories of courageous women whose lives ended in horrific death in ‘Martyrs Mirror’ should remind us that we must help give a voice to those that society, or even the church, are trying to silence.
“We must speak up! We can no longer be the quiet in the land where a young man can walk into a church and murder at a Bible study,” she said, referencing the events earlier this month in Charleston, South Carolina. “The Jesus movement is not for the comfortable, or the satisfied, or the insiders. May we, like Mary and Martha, be bold for Christ once again.”
At the closing of the service, Nancy Kauffmann and Terry Shue of the Mennonite Church USA Leadership Development team invited all those in pastoral ministry to come forward and receive prayer.
Adult worship will be held from 8-9:15 a.m. each morning, while youth worship will occur at 10:45 a.m.-12 pm each day. Youth evening worship is from 7:15-8:45 p.m. All worship services occur in Exhibit Hall A. Worship service videos will be posted the following morning and will be available to view online for approximately 24 hours.
Michelle Armster addresses youth and adult during combined worship on Tuesday, June 30, 2015, in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Meg Short)