My personal spiritual narrative has universalism as a fairly central theme. One of the tensions I try to keep in balance within me is that of seeing the broad picture while also aligning myself with the church of my childhood and youth, the Mennonites. Even as my own sights have taken me into far fields, something always holds my identity firmly in the soil of Anabaptism. Separating it all out into Either or Or has always felt limiting and counter-intuitive to me. Especially as I have grown to claim my spiritual story as my own, I have found that I don’t want to spend time saying, “I’m this, but not this, or this, or this.” Instead, what feels right and best to me is to say, “I am this, and also this, and this, and this.” So when my Mennonites are in a time of crisis, I can no longer say, “But I don’t really care, because I don’t really belong there anymore.” Because I do. These are my particular people.
Today, the word came out that the Lancaster Mennonite Conference, a large and historic group that belongs to the Mennonite Church USA demoniation, is considering pulling out of the larger denomination. We have a history of such divisions, but this one is big, and it affects a lot of people I love. My own church is not part of this particular conference, so it does not directly affect me. If I am honest, this impending church divorce between Lancaster Conference and MC USA pains me more than I let on. If I don’t touch that painful place, then it just boils out as glib snark. When it was just me sitting on the fringes, I could pretend not to care. Now, though: Now I have stepped onto a web that includes so many tender young people. Now I love so many of the teenagers who stand to become the most lost in the wake of this divorce. Just this week, at Mennonite World Conference (where many denominations of Mennonites from around the world gather together every six years), Remilyn Mondez of the Philippines spoke of growing up in a church in conflict: “Remember, there are children and young people who are trapped in the midst of church conflict,” she said.
Today, as I was outside with my Chromebook, writing with a friend about some of my worries, especially for the youth, the hummingbird reappeared. This time, she moved from the corner of the building, right to me, at eye level, only a foot or so away. If you listen to such things, hummingbirds are messengers who travel between worlds. I choose to believe that this one had a message of comfort and hope, and also a task–to commit to the work of caring for these who may be caught in the middle of the mess.
Before I read the letter that announces the proposed “divorce,” I had spent some time with Parker Palmer’s reflections on Rumi’s poem:
“Out beyond ideas
of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down
in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
– even the phrase “each other” –
do not make any sense.”
I see us out there, with Hummingbird, in that field, keeping our heart-eyes on the fragile ones and the young ones, opening our ears and our palms to listen, to lie down in the grass where “ideas, language–even the phrase ‘each other’–do not make any sense.”
1. Rumi’s field
2. The nest Josiah made in his room by spreading blankets and pillows over the floor–Fredthecat approves. He has found a new favorite napping spot.
4. Molly Kraybill’s 100 Women photography project. From 1 to 100. I began at 100 and worked my way back through the spiraling decades to 1. Then I went back again to 100. All those faces. All those changes.
5. Tonight. We’re going back for the final Mennonite World Conference service tonight. More singing. More thoughtful words. More time with these thousands of loving and messy Mennonites. More holding one foot in the center and another on the fringe.
May we walk in the fields.