Over 50 participants from around WDC gathered October 22 at Iglesia Menonita Luz del Evangelio in Dallas, TX, to worship, do Bible study, and share stories and conversation about what it means to be the church in an urban context.  This was the second of two Reference Council gatherings exploring WDC’s 2016 theme, Held Together in Mission.”  (An earlier gathering in Beatrice, NE, in April focused on being the church in the rural context.)

Lois Barrett, Professor of Theology and Anabaptist Studies at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary and member of Mennonite Church of the Servant (Wichita, KS) gave theological reflections. She noted scriptural references to cities such as Jeremiah’s call to Jewish exiles in Babylon to “seek the welfare/shalom of the city where I have sent you” and Paul’s letters to Christian churches in cities such as Rome, with a population of a million people.  Within the city, the church has to figure out how to navigate issues raised by ethnic, social and religious diversity.  Lois highlighted Romans 14:1 – 15:13, as one model of the church doing theology within a diverse community.

Roger Neufeld Smith, Doug Penner, Janet and Larry Dixon, and Guy Smoker from Southern Hills Mennonite Church (Topeka, KS) told about cultivating connections in their neighborhood and advocating together with other churches for justice and peace concerns.   Damian Rodriguez told his story of immigration from Honduras to becoming pastor at Iglesia Menonita Comunidad de Esperanza (Dallas, TX), which hosts a community child-care center.  Pastor Simon Tlumang from Chin Emmanuel Church (Houston, TX) shared the challenges of being a pastor for an immigrant community from Myanmar (Burma) in the largest city in Texas. Lee Lever, pastor at Austin (TX) Mennonite Church, introduced Brisa Peacock and Omar Salavarria, who reflected on cross-cultural experiences as young adults in an urban church.

Participants embraced the challenge and joy of conversation across language and cultural differences, and appreciated the delicious food and warm hospitality generously provided by Pastor Juan Limones and members of Luz del Evangelio.  Together, we got a glimpse and a taste of the “New Jerusalem,” God’s holy city of shalom!

– Heidi Regier Kreider, WDC Conference Minister