MennoCon19 Day 1: Handshakes, Reconnection and IDI

Alicia D. Manning, MBA, Ed.S is a member of Calvary Community Church, Hampton, Virginia, and is an educator, minister, caretaker and entrepreneur. As CEO of iC Solutions, LLC and Club Z! Tutoring Services, Alicia has expertise in organizational change and development, student progress, student achievement, and family-community partnerships. Alicia and her husband, Shawn Manning, have served as foster parents for traumatized children with therapeutic needs for more than a decade; they have been married for 15 years and reside in Toano, Virginia.

Hands together, as in prayer, we faced each other and lowered our arms until our thumbs were up and ready to go. We brushed the backs of our hands against one another and started . . . one, two, three, palms together patty cake style . . . four, five, hip bump right, hip bump left, turn towards each other and shimmy for six, seven and eight. That’s how I met Mia, my handshake buddy from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, during the intergenerational worship session on the first day of MennoCon19.

Hours earlier upon arriving to the convention center, I checked in with ease, and immediately noted the vivid design and vibrant colors of this year’s convention t-shirts. I consoled myself for not having purchased a t-shirt with my online registration and learned remaining shirts would be available for sale starting on Wednesday.

In the hallways I saw familiar faces, most of whose names I remembered (thank God). The conversations were full of smiles and hugs. Sometimes we sat and other times we walked and talked, but we always reconnected, shared and were genuinely grateful for the concern, the attentive listening ear, and most importantly of all, the love we felt. Occasionally, I was distracted though, by the little people and their utter cuteness. There were smiling babies in strollers, little ones with fat cheeks and thunder thighs hanging from miniature hammocks across their parent’s chests or strapped to their backs, toddling hand in hand with parents, and my personal favorite … running ahead with loved ones chasing behind.

Then, I participated in the Journey Towards Cultural Competency session and had the opportunity to discuss case studies with a table group of phenomenal women. We crafted resolutions to help the fictious Mennonite university leaders and campus pastor in our case study to move from positions of polarization and minimization to adaptation. We unanimously agreed that the internal politics and organizational constructs contributed to the stagnation and lack of receptivity to divine growth opportunities. The rich table discussion and caliber of information shared encouraged several participants to plan to take the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) and to invite their church leadership teams take the IDI.

When I went to the worship session, “God Invites Us,” I was nearly tuckered out for the day. In fact, it was the handshake activity that gave me about another 15-20 minutes of extended personal battery energy. The worship songs were amazing and so well integrated with the theme of the conference and as I sang, a bit more rejuvenated, I looked around in awe. There were teens on my row, behind me and all around singing, women singing, kids on the floor coloring and singing, boys singing and men grown men, older men of all races, standing, some with hands in pockets, some rocking, but many were indeed singing, worshiping.

I sang my way back to the hotel that night, refreshed and comforted that the we had accepted, really accepted God’s invitation to worship together. What a witness!