Glen Guyton in incoming executive director of Mennonite Church USA.
A rough translation of the phrase dim sum means “touch the heart.” You may be familiar with the Cantonese style dining process in which an endless variety of little dishes or tins of food are brought out to be shared with friends and family.
The beauty of dim sum is the variety of affordable delights that one gets to experience in one sitting. No one who shares dim sum should leave the table dissatisfied.
Thanks to Sue Park-Hur, our new denominational minster for Leader Development, and the wonderful people of Pasadena Mennonite Church, I was able to try dim sum for the first time and I can honestly say my heart was touched. But my heart was not only touched by all of the delicious food I consumed during my trip to the Los Angeles area, my heart was touched by the wonderful diversity of Mennonites who make up Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference (PSMC).
The constituency of PSMC represents a broad spectrum of those who call themselves Mennonite. In some sense, it is a micro Mennonite World Conference. During my brief journey through the conference, I was able to worship with a variety of MC USA constituents. My first stop was a Saturday morning Dove’s Nest seminar with close to 50 pastors and church leaders. This amazing group had immigrant pastors from Africa, Latin America and Asia. There were also people from German and U.S. backgrounds in attendance. They all came together to learn how to be better witnesses to God’s peace by ensuring the children and youth in their congregations would be protected. A few weeks ago, I provided the same training to PSMC leaders in Fresno, California. I would encourage all our churches to the advantage of Dove’s Nest training. I am grateful for Executive Conference Minister Clare Ann Helffebower and Regional Conference Minister Anthonia Onye for making this training a priority. Following the training, I had a wonderful Q&A with the immigrant church pastors who bathed Sue and me in prayer. I experienced my own new executive director mini-revival while hearing their cries for revival and renewal in MC USA (an important part of the Journey Forward Process).
On Sunday I was able to preach at two MC USA congregations — Pasadena Mennonite and Peace Mennonite Fellowship in Claremont, California, a house church that has been in existence for almost 25 years, the same amount of time I have been a part of this Anabaptist family. Although we had a snack crisis at Pasadena Mennonite, I felt instantly at home at this congregation which meets in the round in a facility shared with Pasadena Church of the Brethren. The church is lively with a young pastor and plenty of young families. The children and youth are included as part of the worship experience. Pasadena Mennonite will most certainly be helping to shape the next generation of Mennonite leaders. If you are ever in the area, the church promises to have the snack issue resolved. But go for the congregational sharing, the singing, the community engagement and the regular observation of communion.
My experience at Peace Fellowship was no less rewarding. After my Sunday afternoon dim sum and a quick nap, I was off to evening worship in Claremont with David Ausberger and a smaller group of seasoned Mennonite leaders. We sat on sofas in front of the warmth of a crackling fire as David unpacked his collection of well-worn blue hymnals. David’s booming baritone voice gave us our notes as this group sang together in perfect four-part harmony. I was assured from the beginning that no words would be projected on the screen. The service was very traditional, but had a spiritual depth that reminded me of my time worshiping as a young layperson at various churches in the Warwick District of Virginia. I love a good litany. Like Pasadena Mennonite, the group shared in communion, but this time we used real wine and not grape juice. I was told that they share in communion each Sunday. The service, prayers and setup were quite simple, but I felt just as blessed in this small house church as I did when the immigrant pastors laid hands on me the day before. After the service, there was a potluck, and we broke bread together as a small group of believers with a long commitment to the ministry of this denomination and to sharing the love of Christ with the diverse people of our world.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the PSMC thrift shop, Full Circle Thrift Shop in Altadena, California. The thrift shop supports peace and justice work locally and globally. The Dove’s Nest training was made possible by funds generated by the thrift shop. If you live close by, you might be interested in volunteering. If not, you might want to show your support financially. For those of you just looking for affordable or great vintage clothing, know that it was voted the best thrift shop in Altadena.
As I enter into the role of executive director of Mennonite Church USA, I am thankful for the great work of the people of PSMC.
They are to demonstrating the love of Christ and helping people in their community experience the transformation only possible through the leading of the holy spirit. I was thankful for dim sum, the touch of the heart, in southern California.