Day 5, Day 4, Day 3, Day 2, Day 1

I arrived early (very early) to Kansas City, with plenty of time to get registered and reacquainted with the KC Convention Center before the begin of our Journey Forward: Peacemaking workshop.

The workshop started with singing Longing for Light and My Soul Cries Out/Canticle of Turning. A beautiful way to begin a peacemaking gathering!

We engaged in “speed networking” to meet a few other participants and share what organization(s) we were representing, what peacemaking activities we are involved in, and what we were excited about for the gathering.

Our facilitator (the same who helped facilitate our denominational discernment at #MennoCon17) worked with us through several methods for examining and discussing what we are experiencing with peacemaking. These included introspection, paired discussions, small group discussions, and various all-room activities.

Some of the peacemaking topics our communities and organizations have been engaging in: Some of our local peacemaking partnerships: Some of our worldwide peacemaking partnerships:

Several themes emerged multiple times or in multiple groups throughout the day, including:

  • expanding our peacemaking activities beyond the struggle against militarism and overt violence
  • an increasing acknowledgement and focus on the sources and systemic issues that contribute to violence
  • an acknowledgment of the intersections and interconnectedness between many of those issues
  • an increasing understanding of ways we have been complicit in those systems
  • struggles with strategizing or building effective coalitions when there are so many fronts in the struggle
  • placing great value in relationship-building and local peacemaking partnerships

During Open Space Technology time, I hosted a group to discuss the idea of aligning our church body by watersheds, instead of governmental boundaries (and our current Districts and Conferences). Watershed discipleship breaks down barriers between urban and rural people. It also highlights the many ties among ecology, economy, politics, and other factors affecting those people whose well-being and fates are tied together. While we know there are potential challenges (such as practical implementation issues and avoiding exclusionary “local nationalism”), looking at peacemaking through this lens yielded fruitful conversation and many ideas. We also discussed that church communities can start partnering in their watersheds, regardless of denominational structural changes.

The peacemaking gathering shared many options for initiatives we could take after the gathering, and there was resounding agreement to have further engagement and sharing on these topics.

We closed the gathering with communion and blessing.

Later, the whole convention had our first worship. This year, adult and youth worship are combined. There’s nothing like 3000+ Mennonites singing together. “How can I keep from singing?” 🎶 (Worship sessions will be streamed live all week, if you want to follow along.)

I appreciated the “land acknowledgment”, with respect shown to the place we are inhabiting and the First Nations that stewarded it. I also appreciated that the worship team brought a variety of instruments and music, and that prayers were heard in many languages, including American Sign.

Executive Director Glen Guyton reminded us that we are a diverse group, but that he hopes “we are unified in our desire to bring healing and hope to the world.” May it be so.