Why I am a Mennonite

December 14, 2011 | Young Voices
Aaron Epp | Special to Young Voices

When Daniel Eggert was growing up in Edmonton’s First Mennonite Church, there were 12 other people his age in Sunday school. From that group, only he and one other person still attend the church today. The other 11 have stopped going to church or they attend services elsewhere.

When asked why the 26-year-old is a Mennonite, and why he is committed to attending a Mennonite Church Canada congregation, Eggert responds that it is the community that keeps him going. “It’s a very supportive community and it’s raised my family and I’m a product of it,” he says. “I feel it’s my responsibility to put [something] back into it.”

Ask other young Mennonites what attracted them to the Mennonite faith, or has induced them to remain in the Mennonite church, and you will get a variety of responses.

For 22-year-old Stephanie Siemens of Osler Mennonite Church, Sask., the Mennonite commitment to pacifism is important. “Nonviolent peacemaking and social justice are really important, I believe,” says Siemens. “Also, living simply in a way where you don’t use more than you need.”

Siemens adds that those things are important to her because of Jesus’ example. “I believe that he’s on the side of nonviolent peacemaking and I’m pretty sure he lived a pretty simple life,” she says. “Trying to follow his example is something that we [in the Mennonite church] all try to do, and those things are important.”

Kalynn Spain of Hope Mennonite Church, Winnipeg, Man., agrees with Siemens. “Pacifism, simplicity and having the value of service, and the idea that there are problems in the world and we should be a part of the solution, instead of the problems—those are core values that I think really define Mennonites,” says Spain, 23.

“I think faith has a lot to do with how you live your life and you need to look at the choices in your life,” she adds, citing simple living as an example. “We live in a society that encourages us to get more things all the time. To live a life of simplicity is to change your attitude. If we are more thankful for the things we already have, then we don’t feel like we need to get more things.”

Joel Kulik grew up in the Evangelical Free Church before attending a Baptist church for nine years. The 28-year-old began attending a Mennonite church four years ago when he met his wife, Tamara Petkau. Kulick, who now self-identifies as a Mennonite, says one of the first things that struck him most about the Mennonite faith is its focus on service.

“I see Mennonites as being more action-oriented and more humble than other denominations,” says Kulik, who attends Charleswood Mennonite Church, Winnipeg. “I think it’s important because that’s what Jesus taught us and it just seems to me that in a lot of churches there’s always the thought of, ‘What’s in it for me?’ [Whereas] I find that Mennonites seem to emphasize others’ well-being over themselves.”

Kulik also appreciates the Mennonite emphasis on community. “It just seems no matter where you go in the world, if you meet other Mennonites, you feel like you’re truly brother and sister,” he says.

At the same time, Kulik still considers himself somewhat of an outsider because, in his experience, those who grew up outside of the Mennonite heritage can find it difficult to become a true member of the community. “The first question someone will ask you is your name, so you say your name and often they’ll ask again,” Kulik says. “So you tell them again. They’ll say ‘oh,’ and the conversation stops. . . . I just got the impression that some people were reluctant to go into deeper conversation with me because they had the perception of me that I wasn’t really a Mennonite.”

This observation leads Kulik to another thing he appreciates about being Mennonite. He has found Mennonites to be comfortable questioning themselves.

Siemens agrees. “My impression is that Mennonites are open to talking about different opinions without telling other people they’re wrong,” she says.

Spain adds that that is one of the things that keeps her coming back to Hope Mennonite Church. “I want to remain with my group, even if I don’t always agree with all of the things Mennonites believe in,” Spain says. “Just because I disagree with some of the things the larger church does, I still think it’s important to remain a part of [it].”

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