Continuing a series featuring profiles of congregations in WDC

Maybe it’s no surprise that Mennonite Church of the Servant and Iglesia Menonita Aposento Alto (Wichita, Kansas) share a consistent commitment to immigration justice.  After all, they share a building and are continuing to get to know each other. What you may not know is that Mennonite Church of the Servant had been concerned about the issue of justice for refugees and immigrants long before they began sharing a building with Latino and Latina brothers and sisters in Christ.

Another bit of history that both groups share is that they were each Western District Conference church plants, Mennonite Church of the Servant in 1977 and Iglesia Menonita Aposento Alto beginning in 2014.  As urban church plants, both groups also include many “convinced Mennonites.”  Lois Barrett noted, “Some folks who came to be Mennonites as adults are very committed, sometimes more committed than those who grew up in the Mennonite church.”

The two congregations also have other shared values.  They share Anabaptist Christian faith which is lived out through worship of God and care for their neighbors.  Each congregation has invited the other to their special worship services and outreach ministries from time-to-time.  Aposento Alto invited Mennonite Church of the Servant to their Thanksgiving worship last fall.  Mennonite Church of the Servant asked Aposento Alto to join them at their Immigration Rights Fair last year.  At the fair, members of Church of the Servant passed out “Know Your Rights” cards by MCC in both Spanish and English.  These small cards can help an immigrant know his or her rights as an immigrant if ICE agents knock on their door.  At the same event, Aposento Alto friends passed out free BBQ.  Neighbors who may or may not have immigration documentation saw their Anglo and Latino neighbors working together to support them in their concerns and fears.

Not all neighborhood outreach of the two congregations is quite so sobering.  Both congregations have joined together to play soccer and kickball with neighborhood kids. They also participated in a neighborhood garage sale.  The two groups are planning an ice cream social in the park this summer.  Sometimes Christian hospitality is just plain fun.

The two congregations are making a conscious effort to get to know each other better. This is important because both groups experience a certain amount of transience, with church members and friends moving away.  This is common in any urban environment, but with the complications of the immigration system, this is even more of an issue for Aposento Alto right now.  Pastors Jaime Cazares of Aposento Alto and Asia Frye of Mennonite Church of the Servant are committed to planning fun events between the congregations they serve.  Recently, they raised their voices in a bi-lingual hymn sing, then played board games and ate together.

In addition to sharing a worship space, the two groups share Anabaptist Christian values.   It’s no wonder they make time for God, for their neighbors, and for each other.

     –  Kathy Neufeld Dunn, WDC Associate Conference Minister (Kansas-Based) – with thanks to Lois Barrett and Nita Nikkel for their reflections