I went to a day and a bit of Pennsylvania 2015—the 16thAssembly of the global Anabaptist family. I enjoyed myself of course. I doubt that my reflections are unusual are more insightful than anyone else’s, but here is a bit of what I experienced.
I was reminded again (not for the first time, as Bilbo thought often on his travels) that I tend to complain first and enjoy later. This time I complained about the cost of attending the gathering. I think I have a reasonable complaint. North Americans and Europeans paid more than others who attended, because we have more. Trouble is: Some Mennonites in NA have more than others, and putting the cost up discriminates in favour of wealthier Mennos and against others. I would prefer a means test to a geography test.
But this is such a minor problem; Mennos from other countries faced obstacles just getting there. Our government (USA and Canada act alike on this one) keeps out so many people from Africa as to make such gatherings unnecessarily difficult. Many efforts were made to open the doors, but even so a choir from Kenya scheduled to sing at PA 2015 had to perform with only five of their usual 40 members. And I complain about cost? Petty.
I was reminded also (again, not for the first time) that Global Anabaptism is much more than the North American Church. Speakers throughout the event came from all over the Anabaptist world. Their concerns were not the same as ours, and the answers were not the same as ours. Although I may think that we sometimes have the right answer, and they are wrong, I believe we need to listen carefully to our Mennonite sisters and brothers from Congo and Zimbabwe, from India and Indonesia, and from Paraguay and Argentina.
Talking with a few of my international friends, I noted that they were aware of their status as guests and slow to criticize or judge us. We are too quick to judge when we go abroad and can learn from them even in learning how to be guests overseas. But when they did describe what they see in us, I decided that what I thought were our main issues were not the ones they picked on. Consumerism—our attachments to money and things, and our tendency to measure everything by money—is a bigger problem.
I observed a great deal of life and energy in the global Anabaptist movement. We worry sometimes that the church is ready to die. Not if PA 2015 is anything to go by. Perhaps the NA church is getting older and needs renewing, but the global church is a showcase of God’s goodness and life. Being part of PA 2015 was a wonderful opportunity to participate in that energy and life.
I wonder how others experienced the week. I may have told more about myself than about the gathering, even in what I noticed, but this description is a bit of what I experienced. The next assembly is six years from now in Indonesia. I doubt that I’ll be there, but I’m looking forward to it anyway.
P.S.: I would have added pictures, but the MWC website has better pictures than I do.
P.P.S: Regrets? I wish I could have been part of the Anabaptist World Cup, which had participants aged from 15 to 64. Cool!