Thoughts in My Head: On Being “Mennonite”

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2 Responses to Thoughts in My Head: On Being “Mennonite”

  1. Marco Funk says:

    I like this, Michael. I sometimes wonder if Mennonites are as community-minded as we’ve often told ourselves we are. In business, we seem to be fierce individualists. We don’t really do any kind of communal discernment when it comes to spending our money or organizing our finances. Nothing like our Hutterite cousins. We do theological discernment in community; but then we’ve also split numerous times over theological/ethical differences. I’m not convinced that community is an actual marker for us as Mennonites anymore, if it ever was, and perhaps more an ideal we like to think of but live out less and less in any significant way. Perhaps I’m being far too pessimistic. There are times when the beauty of community shines through – it brings me to tears. But I’m not sure I can say this is a telling marker of what it means to be Mennonite in contrast to some other denomination. When I think of the clearest examples of community, in our world today, I think of folks in the New Monastic movement, or the ‘old’ monastic movement, the Hutterites perhaps.

    • Michael Pahl says:

      Thanks for this, Marco. I agree that we don’t generally “do community” the way we used to – which, as I say in the piece, is not all bad. I also agree that we don’t necessarily “do community” as well as some others do or as well as we could – though one’s ideal of “doing community” will be different from person to person, I would think (I don’t personally long for a “New Monastic” kind of community, nor do I think that is a “more biblical” or “purer” form of community than other models). But I wonder what your experience of non-Mennonite churches is? My thoughts here come out of my own experience. I’ve been quite involved in Baptist, Lutheran, Evangelical Free, and non-denominational churches, as well as Mennonite ones, and through all that my best experiences of community have come in multiple Mennonite churches. As I put it in the piece, “some of the most caring, most challenging, most encouraging, most welcoming, and most egalitarian communities I have been involved in or have seen have been Mennonite.” Again, not that other groups don’t “do community” well, and not that we can’t learn from others about this, but in my own experience we “have taken this commitment [to community] as seriously as any other Christian tradition and more seriously than most.”


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