Sharing the name "Mennonite Brethren" guides our corporate identity
By Connie Faber
I have only a misty memory of Grandpa Winter, my grandma’s father. Maybe I think I can remember him because of a black and white photo of my sister and I standing by this tall, thin old man—but I’ve had the memory for all my life so I consider it a legitimate recollection. This is the season for recognizing the influence of parents: Mother’s Day is observed in May and Father’s Day follows in June. So it’s an appropriate time to say how thankful I am for the privilege of remembering at least one great-grandparent and of having clear and happy memories of all four of my grandparents. I am also blessed that my grandparents and great-grandparents were followers of Jesus Christ, as are my parents. I am proud of a heritage that includes the names Winter, Eitzen, Loewen and Jost as well as the names Faber, Van Grouw, De Boer and Hengeveld, thanks to my husband.
My spiritual heritage includes another name: Mennonite Brethren. I was reminded of the importance of knowing and claiming this spiritual heritage during Named 2015, the National MB Youth Conference held April 9-12 in Denver, Colo. The intent of the Named 2015 planning team was to put together a national youth event that would instill in students a new or renewed understanding of what it means to have their identity rooted in Christ, a truth that many of those who work with the youth in our churches say Christian teenagers often struggle to understand. Speaker John Richardson did an excellent job of outlining just what it means to have one’s true identity rooted in Christ and of challenging the students to live out that identity.
Richardson talked with the students Saturday evening about their shared identity—“us together” as a Mennonite Brethren family that is making a difference in local communities and around the globe. He talked about Mennonite Brethren having a passion for reconciliation and peace, community and togetherness and social justice. “I’m Mennonite Brethren because this family fleshes out what it means to follow Jesus better than any other I’ve seen,” Richardson told the students.
The next morning during the closing session, Wendell Loewen, a Tabor College faculty member, elaborated on Richardson’s description of the Mennonite Brethren family. Loewen gave a brief run down of the events that led to the formation of the Mennonite Brethren Church and summarized our understanding of what it means to be followers of Jesus, including proclaiming the gospel in word and deed. “God is on the move through this tiny movement called Mennonite Brethren,” he said, noting that thanks to our mission-minded spiritual ancestors there are more Mennonite Brethren today in India and Africa than in North America. “This is part of your identity,” Loewen reminded the audience that morning.
I am thankful for the upcoming holidays that remind me of the good people that populate my family tree. But more important than the Hallmark holidays is the church celebration May 24 of Pentecost, when we commemorate the gift of the Holy Spirit. That Spirit guided the founders of the Mennonite Brethren Church. May it continue to guide us as we claim our identity as followers of Jesus.