Fellowship is stronger than lockdowns

February 24, 2021 | News | Volume 25 Issue 5
Mennonite World Conference
Celebration of Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday at Bethel Mennonite Church, Balodgahan, India. (Photo courtesy of Ashish Milap)

“Together on [Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday], we feel connected to our brothers and sisters all over the world,” said Jannie Nijwening, pastor at Doopsgezind Gemeente Zaanstreek in the Netherlands. 

Around the globe on Jan. 24, congregations in the Mennonite World Conference (MWC) family celebrated Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday as “an opportunity to remind our communities of faith that we are all part of one body made up of many tribes, languages and nations (Revelation 7:9).”

Congregations tagged themselves on a Google map on the MWC website, leaving pins from GKMI Bukit Hermon Depot in Indonesia, Eglise évangélique Mennonite du Birkenhof in France and Igreja Evangélica Irmãos Menonitas Renovada in Brazil, to Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Central de San Pedro Sula in Honduras and Boulder Mennonite in Colorado.

In its recorded service, the Zaanstreek Dutch Mennonite congregation included greetings from Columbus Mennonite Church in Ohio; Iglesia Mennonita Teusaquillo in Bogotá, Colombia; and from three Colombian Mennonites who are currently studying peace in Amsterdam.

“We feel connected and we wish you all the best success in all the challenges that society is posing to you: tensions, violence, separation between peoples. We hope you can contribute to more fellowship between peoples like we also hope we can do in our country,” said Nijwening as she addressed the Colombian church.

In turn, the congregation in Bogotá included greetings from the Dutch congregation, along with greetings from missionaries in Casa Grande children’s home in Benin and a song from Iglesia Menonita de Quito in Ecuador.

In India, local health orders permitted some in-person gathering. “We had a blessed time of worship and prayer together with our brothers and sisters around the world,” said Vikal Rao of Rajnandgaon Mennonite Church.  

“We started this Sunday worship by introducing Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday,” said Pastor Ashish Milap of Bethel Mennonite Church in Balodgahan. India. The congregation used the MWC worship resource materials in their service in addition to teaching about Anabaptist beginnings, including persecution for their faith, separation of church and government, and practising nonviolence.  

“We were blessed,” said Milap. “We thank MWC to lead us in wonderful and blessed celebration of Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday. This has surely united and encouraged us to grow in a global manner.” 

Hamilton (Ont.,) Mennonite Church also took full advantage of the worship resources provided, using videos from from the 2015 assembly in Pennsylvania for congregational singing, Scripture reading in Hindi and English, sharing prayers and testimonies from the worship package, and basing the sermon on the suggested materials.

In California, Willow Avenue Mennonite Church, Reedley First Mennonite and Mennonite Community Church held a joint service hosting MWC general secretary César García as their speaker.

Mennonitengemeinde zu Hamburg und Altona in Germany had planned to hold ordination on Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday, “in part, because we wanted to embody the way preachers are called to serve the whole church, not just the local congregation.” Unfortunately, lockdown conditions moved the service online, delaying the ordination for a later in-person event. 

However, the virtual celebration of communion was “weirdly powerful,” said Marius van Hoogstraten. “There is something stronger than lockdowns keeping the church together!” 

Whenever congregations celebrate Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday, “we are in a continuous process of seeking unity and of sharing love and hospitality,” said Nijwening.

Celebration of Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday at Bethel Mennonite Church, Balodgahan, India. (Photo courtesy of Ashish Milap)

Rajnandgaon Mennonite Church in India shared a meal together after its Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday service. (Photo by Preshit Rao)

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