U.S. Mennonites and Brethren in Christ inviting Anabaptist from around the world to PA 2015
By Phyllis Pellam Good
The worldwide Anabaptist family reunion will come to the United States next summer for only the second time in Mennonite World Conference’s (MWC) 90-year history. The event was last held in the U.S. in 1978 in Wichita, Kan.
Registration has begun at www.mwc-cmm.org/pa2015 for Pennsylvania 2015, MWC’s every-six-year-assembly to be held in Harrisburg, Pa., July 21-26, 2015.
U.S. Mennonites and Brethren in Christ are inviting everyone in the global Anabaptist fellowship of 1.7 million souls to attend PA 2015. MWC staff are preparing for 6,000 to 10,000 people.
“It isn’t possible to have real communion with those with whom we don’t communicate,” says MWC general secretary César García, a Mennonite Brethren from Colombia. “It isn’t possible to build a global community if we don’t talk with each other. It isn’t possible to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep if we don’t know each other’s joys or sufferings.
“If we share our experiences, our resources, our gifts and our fears and doubts, we will be strengthened and we will be more effective. Isn’t this what it means to be Christ’s church?”
Since 1997, MWC Assemblies have included both Assembly Gathered, which takes place in one location, and Assembly Scattered, which takes place at multiple sites, with some events before Assembly Gathered and some following.
The Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg will host Assembly Gathered activities. This is close to the large Pennsylvania Mennonite and Brethren in Christ communities of Lancaster, Grantham, Chambersburg and Franconia, and an easy drive from Philadelphia and the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
Under the theme “Walking with God,” each day will begin with singing, led by a multinational worship team. Each morning will feature a presentation from one of MWC’s four Commissions: Faith and Life, Missions, Peace and Deacons. A young adult, selected by the Young Anabaptist group, will respond.
All attendees will join a small multicultural group of 15 to 20 people for fellowship and a deeper discussion on the morning theme. The same groups will continue to meet throughout the week, creating an opportunity to form new relationships.
In the afternoon, participants will choose between workshops, service projects, historical and cultural tours, outings for hiking and shopping or sports—even a Mennonite World Cup. The Global Church Village will be open every afternoon, featuring church and cultural exhibits, global music and art exhibits.
A total of 47 tours are offered during Assembly Gathered. Ten full-day tours will take place July 20 and 37 half-day tours will be available during the week. Details are available on the registration form for PA 2015 at www.mwc-cmm.org/pa2015
Evening worship services will be led by a different continent each evening, with testimonies, singing, prayer and times of encouragement.
The platform language will be English, though there will be simultaneous translations for Spanish and French speakers.
Specific activities planned for children, young adults
The assembly will include a children’s program. After morning singing, children will experience their own multicultural program all day, including lunch.
The assembly will include a youth program for ages 18 and under. After morning singing, youth will meet for their own presentations, discussions and service projects. They will join adults for games, workshops, sports, tours, music and relaxing in the Global Church Village.
Before the assembly, an international young adult convention, the Global Youth Summit, for ages 18 and up, will take place July 17-19. It will be held at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, just across the river from Harrisburg. Its theme is “Called to Share: My Gifts, Our Gifts.”
Assembly Scattered will take place in more than 10 communities during July 2015.
“Many of the Assembly Scattered sites for PA 2015 also include visits to nearby historical or cultural landmarks,” says Liesa Unger, chief international events officer for MWC. “Hosts will introduce their guests to places and activities they’ve read about. But this is more than tourism. By experiencing each other’s settings, we learn to know each other better,” says Unger, who is from Regensburg, Germany.
Many reasons to go
There are many reasons to attend the assembly, MWC leaders say. If assemblies continue to be held every six years, rotating among the five major continents, it will be another 30 years before the assembly comes back to North America. It is relatively inexpensive to attend, compared to the next assembly, scheduled for 2021 in Indonesia.
Most important, worship with sisters and brothers from around the world — many of whom live in inhospitable settings—will feed and nourish souls and faith for years to come.
Dennis Becker, Bill Braun and Trent Voth, all of Fresno, Calif., are the USMB representatives to MWC.
PHOTO: Mennonite World Conference Assembly Program Committee member Vikal P. Rao of India, chief international events officer Liesa Unger of Germany and general secretary César García of Colombia take part in a kickoff celebration for the 2015 Mennonite World Conference assembly July 20. — Merle Good/MWC
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