From the Conference Minister’s Heart, September 2016

Why Go to Dallas on October 22?

    by Heidi Regier Kreider, Conference Minister

I love the city! I love its diversity of communities and cultures, and am captivated by the sight of a city skyline, art museums and artistic graffiti.   I love the different tastes of food I have eaten in cities:  Thai, Ethiopian, Salvadoran, Indian, soul-food and sushi, BBQ and hummus. I love the sound of human voices speaking in different languages and accents.  I am intrigued by down-town bustle, mass-transit systems, open-air markets, store window displays, cathedrals and coffee-shops.

As a 3-year old, I lived in the city of Brussels, Belgium, where I experienced my earliest memory (the smell and taste of a hot waffle sold by a street vendor).  My parents were there to study French to prepare for mission work in Congo, where as a youth I spent several years in the city of Kinshasa, living in a boarding home and attending the American school.   Back then, Kinshasa was a city of around 2 million people; now its population has exploded to 11 million.  Later, during a pastoral sabbatical I stayed six weeks in the city of San Antonio, TX, attending Iglesia Menonita Comunidad de Vida, working to improve my Spanish, and learning to navigate the traffic!  But mostly I have lived in smaller towns; urban centers are primarily places I have visited: Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Calcutta, Nairobi, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Kansas City, Oklahoma City… These urban contexts are both fascinating and overwhelming to me.

What does “urban” mean to you?  The word “urban” may make you think of your favorite city, the beauty of human populations, amazing architecture, job possibilities and cultural enrichment.  It may offer invitations for church planting, mission and creative peace-making.  It may also bring to mind homelessness, sprawling development, a dizzying maze of buildings, traffic congestion, pollution, consumerism and anonymity.

Whatever your experience, assumptions or questions, you are invited to attend the WDC Fall Reference Council gathering on the theme Held Together in Mission: Being Church in the Urban Context, Saturday, October 22, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at Iglesia Luz del Evangelio in Dallas, TX.   All WDC church members, pastors, board and commission members are invited to participate, because the realities facing urban churches and communities in Western District Conference impact our whole conference and the wider church.  Lois Barrett, Professor of Theology and Anabaptist Studies with Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary and member of Church of the Servant in Wichita, KS, will offer theological, scriptural and missional reflections about the urban church.  Storytelling by people living and working in the urban context will consider how congregations are shaped by and impact their urban settings. Table conversation will explore the unique opportunities and challenges of the urban context, and what gifts urban and rural congregations have to share with each other as we partner in God’s mission.  The congregation at Luz del Evangelio will serve a delicious lunch!

God loves the city – and so does WDC!  Come to Dallas to explore more about what it means to be the church in the urban context, and how God is calling us all to be the church together.  To RSVP, contact WDC at wdc@mennowdc.org or call 316-283-6300.

(See http://mennowdc.org/wdc-sprouts-march-29-2016/ to read Heidi’s earlier column on why she loves the country, written prior to the WDC Reference Council in April at First Mennonite Church in Beatrice, NE, focused on being church in the rural context.)

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