B.C. Mennonites enjoyed a global experience on March 25 while gathering for Renewal 2023, a Mennonite World Conference (MWC) event with the theme of “Jesus Christ, our hope.”
The event, held at South Abbotsford Church, was part of Renewal 2028, a decade-long series of local events organized by MWC to commemorate the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Anabaptist movement.
British Columbia was the site for this year’s event because MWC representatives and executive members were meeting together in the Fraser Valley that week.
“Why do we need something like Mennonite World Conference?” asked César García, MWC’s general secretary, who hails from Colombia, in his opening greetings. “In contexts of persecution or violence, reasons why we need a global church seem more evident to our members. A global communion offers support when local congregations cope with difficult circumstances. Our Anabaptist tradition must recover the idea of a visible global church.”
Hope was a recurring theme for the six speakers who shared stories from their respective continents:
- José Arrais of Portugal talked about how European churches are helping Ukrainian churches in the war with Russia;
- Cynthia Duck of Paraguay shared how churches are reforming themselves following the challenges of recovering from COVID;
- Ashley Rempel of Canada told how her church youth group is giving hope through service to its community;
- Tigist Tesfaye of Ethiopia, who spoke by video, asked people to continue praying for her country in the midst of chronic problems, such as drought, inflation and conflict;
- Amos Chin of Myanmar, whose testimony was read aloud because he could not be present, gave details of food shortages and terrorist killings in his country; and
- Kkotip Bae of South Korea told how Korean churches are standing with conscientious objectors in a country where military service is mandatory.
A music team led by Heidi Epp had hands clapping and toes tapping as her music team led songs from around the world.
“Mennonites can really sing in tongues,” Epp quipped, as the congregation attempted a variety of languages, including unfamiliar African ones.
Henk Stenvers of the Netherlands, MWC’s president, reflected on the global nature of the evening’s prayers, songs and messages: “That is the beauty of Mennonite World Conference. Although our context is different, we are one in Christ. We are one in our hope that it is Christ that reaches out and says, ‘Follow me.’ It is on us to grab that hand and live in hope.”
Stenvers extended an invitation to attend a celebration in 2025, in Zurich, Switzerland, where the Anabaptist movement began, and to the 2028 Mennonite World Conference assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
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