From the Conference Minister’s Heart: Why Attend WDC Annual Assembly?
By Heidi Regier Kreider
I love WDC Annual Assembly! I love meeting sisters and brothers in Christ from Houston, Beatrice, Kansas City, Turpin and many other places in between. I love singing together in unison and in four-part harmony; in Spanish, English and Chin; from memory, off the screen and out of the hymnbook; with instruments of all kinds and with only our voices. I love eating food and drinking coffee together with other people. I love being moved by the Spirit in worship, inspired by passionate preachers to follow Jesus more closely, encouraged through stories of God’s faithfulness, and connected to contexts and resources beyond my own. I even love delegate business, as we offer to God the practical gifts of money, time, relationships, policies and priorities that guide our work.
Of course, some parts of Annual Assembly are challenging, even difficult: Having a conversation with someone who holds a different theological perspective; trying to relate to others through cultural and language barriers; singing unfamiliar songs; feeling overloaded with information or disturbed by new ideas; setting aside other priorities of family, work or personal life in order to give time to attend assembly; becoming exhausted by traveling, walking, sitting, or standing so much in one weekend….
As I anticipate the upcoming WDC Annual Assembly on July 29-30 at Bethel College (North Newton, KS), I think of other gatherings of followers of Jesus before us: Disciples sitting at table with Jesus; Jews and Gentiles brought together into one community; Christians meeting in households, monasteries and churches throughout the centuries and around the world… I think of our Anabaptist forebears meeting secretly in homes, barns, caves, or boats to evade persecution. In more recent centuries, Mennonites have had the freedom to gather at conventions, regional conferences, and global assemblies. Yet for some, it still takes incredible dedication to overcome the obstacles to participation. In some locations in the global Anabaptist communion, people must walk for several days to reach a church conference! In all of these gatherings, there have been – and continue to be – both inspiration and exhaustion, celebration and conflict. Yet it is in gathering that we are reminded of our common identity and purpose, we practice what it means to “be the church,” and we are strengthened for our ongoing journey of faith.
Matthew 28:16-20 tells how the disciples gathered in Galilee as Jesus had instructed them; there they worshiped Jesus, who again turned them toward the world, saying: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” Again and again, God calls us together in community and sends us forth in ministry. We are the church, “held together in mission.” I look forward to seeing you at Annual Assembly!
This is second in several articles related to the theme Held Together in Mission, which is being used to focus WDC gatherings in 2016. In April, the Spring Reference Council focused on being part of God’s mission in the rural context; and on October 22, the Fall Reference Council gathering in Dallas will explore what it means to be the church in the urban context. All are invited! Watch for more details to come.