A beautiful example of Anabaptist faith practice

This is the second post in a series of posts featuring reflections from participants at the 2018 Women Doing Theology conference organized by MC USA’s Women in Leadership.

Rachel lives in Johnstown, Pennsylvania with her family and attends Stahl Mennonite Church. Rachel is a Trauma Sensitive Yoga Teacher that works with community partners in a variety of settings and a Certified Music Practitioner bringing therapeutic music to patients and families in hospice.

I attended the “Talkin Bout a Revolution” conference as a fairly new Anabaptist excited to engage with the broader community of women at the intersection of spiritual practice and social justice.

Prior to attending, communication was consistent via email that we were going to get real, go deep and that a container of grace was being created in the planning and organizing of this space. I was grateful for this invitation to do challenging work as individuals and together as people, who come from different experiences, to be in a space of deep listening to one another. And especially if one has been centered in power and privilege, we were invited to listen to those who have not been centered in these spaces.

In every sense, this was truly dialogue, practice and the work of individual and collective liberation! This was true orthopraxy — doing the hard work of putting faith into action. We were invited to go deep into our beliefs and unpack how we have been socialized and work together to transform these beliefs so our thoughts, words and actions honor the inherent worth and value of all peoples and the planet.

These themes were so intentionally woven through the music, visuals and worship, the main presenters, the papers and workshops.

The worship experience was created with deep intention, and it was sacred, invitational, vulnerable and empowering. The richness of this experience is still resonating with me and I openly wept at the Saturday morning experience as my heart was so overflowing in the living liturgy of people being welcomed so fully and without condition. The heart of Jesus felt very present in the space as we shared communion. Jesus who continues to say to us, “In memory of me, live and love as I did. Love in hard places, difficult spaces. Love beyond barrier, border and boundary.”

Seeing and witnessing the representation of women of color and LBGTQ people who have traditionally been marginalized in many settings, including church was transformational. The conversation and dialogue during the workshops and paper presentations focused on the revolution of loving and the practice of love in action. Loving as Jesus loved. Loving at the margins, beyond borders.

For me, this experience held moments of tenderness, fierce kindness and empowerment, as well as the discomfort of wrestling with how much the values of, white supremacy, capitalism and misogyny have hijacked our hearts and souls as individuals and in communities where we call ourselves followers of Jesus.

Each one of the speakers brought various ways of imagining and then manifesting liberation.

The story of belonging is the story of knowing in our hearts that we are fully loved by Creator. Doubt and fear and the toxic messages interfere in our deep knowing of this love. For varying reasons, there is pain in this story for many of us. This experience did an amazing job of holding space for all these stories and, as a response, affirming the belonging of all God’s people and inviting us into the revolutionary act of loving each other into belonging.

For me, this whole conference — the grace, humble joy and vitality of the organizers and contributors, the hospitality of the seminary and the intention that was brought to this working practice of liberation — affirmed my chosen path to embrace Anabaptist theology. It was a beautiful example of the practice of growing in community as people centering Jesus, building peace (which can look like disrupting the social order and status quo), and engaging in reconciliation, uniting all things in Christ.

I am blessed by the beginning of new relationships that are emerging from this experience. I am inspired by the empowered women and people that attended, presented, shared, offered their hearts there, and I am so grateful to the organizers for their ability to hold deep, meaningful sacred space.

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Find out more about the work of MC USA’s Women in Leadership and contribute towards projects like Women Doing Theology here.