Monday, May 27, 2013

Episode Three: Coming Home Again

A few weeks ago I was with a group of friends--a monthly gathering of the Columbia Mennonite Fellowship Group.

Columbia Mennonite Fellowship Group is made up of about 16 folks--individuals who, in one capacity or another, identify as Mennonite.  Some are "ethnic Mennonites," meaning they were born into a Mennonite family.  Others, like myself, stumbled into the Anabaptist tradition through relationships with friends or partners.

We gather in one another's homes for potlucks, shared song, and deep fellowship.  Each month it's incredibly life-giving--a rich time of connection and laughter.

This past month while we were sharing supper, I found myself talking about what it means to me to ever-so-slowly locate myself within the Mennonite tradition-first, through my relationship with Sarah and now, as a part of my own multi-faceted theological identity, an identity that continues to grow and take root.

"Discovering the Mennonites was like coming home," I said, "to a home I didn't even know I had."

I am an ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  This denomination is my foundation, providing the nourishment and community for much of my theological journey.  But, in the almost six years I have known Sarah, the pacifism, the simplicity, and the sacrament of four part harmony have all begun to seep into my theological soil--laying the foundation, creating space, for home.  A theological home that feels so comfortable, so right, that once I arrived, I realized I had been missing it all along.  The CC(DOC) is still my place of residence.  But that residence continues to be changed, transformed, and made new through constant dialogue with the beautiful, complex, grace-filled theological strains of Anabaptist ethics, tradition, and thought.

So maybe we don't have just one home after all--maybe there are many places, several groups, multiple folks, waiting for us to come home again, perhaps to a home we didn't even know we had.

Thanks be to God.

A few of the youngest Mennonite Fellowship-ers.


  1. Welcome home, Jamie.

    I think I know what you mean about having multiple homes. I was raised in the United Church of Christ in Southern Illinois, but I too also had Anabaptist experiences, for my mother had attended a General Conference Mennonite church only three miles away, and many of my maternal cousins continued attending that church. I can recall at times attending Sunday school there as a small child with other family members, my grandmother if no one else, who continued attending there. Then, in high school I was hit with a heavy dose of Anabaptist thought through interacting with my high school girl friend, who was the Mennonite minister's daughter. That was supplemented by my interactions with some of my cousins as well, one of whom had served as a CO during WW II. My senior year I wrote a term paper on conscientious objectors in the military; nevertheless, I continued attending the UCC - where I had increasing problems understanding why the congregation had been so passive during the civil rights movement and continued their quietude during the Vietnam War.

    Eventually, I became unchurched for 25 years, and then gradually returned to a more theologically liberal and activist church - the Unitarian Universalists. Gradually I became more active and involved in my new religious home, enough so that I eventually attended seminary and was ordained, going onto serve two different UU congregations. That obviously had become my theological and religious home.

    After retiring from the parish ministry, I moved to Seattle and discovered the Seattle Mennonite Church - which felt very much home to me - combining and tolerating/accepting my liberal theological outlook with my emphasis on social justice. When I return to my home town in Illinois, the church of my childhood and youth serves as my religious home-away-from-home. On the West Coast, SMC is very much my home. And in NY and PA, the UU congregations and NY Metropolitan District of Unitarian Universalists remains a home to me as well.

    My spiritual and religious home is very much an amalgam or type of patchwork quilt with various traditions weaving throughout it, including branches of Christianity, Unitarian Universalism, Buddhism, and Judaism. Theologically, I remain a Unitarian Universalist in outlook and belief, and yet, I am strongly drawn toward and perhaps compelled by the Mennonite's pacifism, peacemaking, and service to others.

    And yes, the four part harmony is wonderful! I'm glad we share a common spiritual home together, Jamie, allowing some overlap between us.

  2. Thanks for sharing your words and experience Jim...I'm also glad we share a common home my friend!