Snapshots into Journey Forward: The Reference Council

Mennonite Church USA is building upon the work of the Future Church Summit at #MennoCon17 in Orlando. A dynamic group of writers has been called together to produce a concise description of MC USA’s shared values and guiding theological foundations. We’re calling this process Journey Forward. Over the next few weeks, the Menno Snapshots blog will be featuring interviews with the Journey Forward Writing Team and Reference Council, giving you a peek into the diverse life and faith experiences that are coming together in this moment in MC USA’s history

Katherine Jameson Pitts is executive conference minister for Pacific Northwest Mennonite Conference. She is a member of Portland (Oregon) Mennonite Church. Katherine is a member of the Reference Council for Journey Forward.

Tell us one interesting or fun fact about you – something we wouldn’t already know. I spent the last 30 years saying that I had no hobbies beyond raising our three children and reading mystery novels (at the rate of about 150 per year my Kindle tells me!), but the birth of my granddaughter 16 months ago prompted me to take up quilting. It surprises me how much I enjoy the process of constructing something tangible and having this small creative outlet. After a lifetime of working with words and people, the quiet tactile nature of quilting restores my soul.

Tell us about one of your spiritual heroes / heroines. How have they been influential in your faith journey? Fifteen years ago Sister Mary Luke of the Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Indianapolis, Indiana, had a vision for connecting Catholic religious sisters and Protestant women clergy with a Lutheran spiritual director. That vision gave birth to the “Women Touched by Grace” renewal program that I participated in from 2003 to 2006. It is not exaggerating to say that the program changed my life and my ministry. When I think of the gifts that Sr. Luke gave to us through her gifts in administration, fundraising, hospitality and pastoral care, I am in awe. She hasn’t written any books or spoken at any conventions, or had a record breaking retweets, but her faithfulness to her vision and her ability to put legs onto it is a reminder to me that spiritual transformation can take place, even through old institutions, when we are open to new visions and willing to do the work to bring them to reality. It’s a good reminder as I work in the institutional church — the things we build can have transformative power when we listen to God’s dreams for us.

What is your favorite worship song or hymn? Why? This is a hard one. I like many forms of worship and the music that goes with them. Traditional hymn: Lift High the Cross (preferably with pipe organ). Modern hymn: Gather us in (You’ve got to have some Marty Haugen. It’s actually a close call here between this and Healer of our every ill). Worship song: You are holy, you are whole (love the line, “always ever more than we ever understand”). These are the kinds of songs that give me goosebumps when sung in community through their declaration of the enduring power of God and the incredible gift of being called to be God’s people.

What draws you to this work with Mennonite Church USA and Journey Forward? After being on the Theme Team at the Future Church Summit, I am excited to see how the church will move forward with the understanding of who God has called us to be in this time that began to emerge there. I sometimes say, only half kidding, that my spiritual gift is the ability to synthesize and summarize large amounts of data. I love raw data! I’m hoping my gifts will be useful as we look at feedback from across the church on this journey together. The value of the Journey Forward will be in that feedback, coming from all of us, and I can’t wait to hear our many voices speaking into the future direction of Mennonite Church USA.

Our Journey Forward core values document will reflect what we think is most important as Anabaptists, specifically as MC USA. When you think about your identity as Anabaptist-Mennonite, what value, belief or idea most excites you – what grounds you in your faith? Jesus, discipleship, community. Those three seem to come through in every expression of our faith as Anabaptist-Mennonite Christians. They are what drew me to this expression of faith in the first place and keep me in this church. As I’ve worked with various groups in the church over the past few years, it amazes me how well our Vision: Healing and Hope statement has held up and how widely it is embraced. I hope that our Journey Forward builds on that identity in a way that can move us forward so that “God’s healing and hope flows through us to the world” in new and living ways in the 21st century.  There’s an old adage that says “God isn’t finished with me yet” and I believe that is true of Mennonite Church USA. We have deep roots, and I know God will give growth to new leaves and new fruit in the days ahead.