Confession: Sometimes I love being Mennonite.
This is not a popular thing to love nowadays, and I confess I don’t love it always. Sometimes I do.
Our congregation has been working for some time on hammering out what we call our “covenant”—our statements of faith and practice. This spring we had four issues at hand: music, media, roles of men and women, and personal appearance. Anyone interested in a topic was invited to sign up for a small-group discussion.
We held the discussions, hashed the issues, wrote proposed statements, and brought our work back to the congregation.
This was FUN, and one of the best things about being Mennonite.* No overseer hired to command us; no man permitted to fend for himself. We believe that truth is held by the body; that the Holy Spirit can be discerned corporately; that we hear from Him silently in our hearts and out loud in the voices of our brothers and sisters. When Scripture says “all of your children will be taught of the Lord,” and “I will pour out my Spirit on all people,” we do not hear “therefore the body has nothing to say on the topic,” but “therefore the body has everything to say on the topic.” All of you. I love this.
After our preliminary work, we held an intense congregational work session for the weekend, our beliefs and statements strengthening. We didn’t agree on everything. But in the end, our amended statements passed unanimously, and were incorporated into the covenant.
I know this is an asset of coming from a small, new congregation. Some of you from the hundred-and-some-year-old churches never had the opportunity to influence your statements personally. But I’ll hazard a guess the group that wrote them hashed them copiously.
We can be stubborn as pigs, but we believe in His voice through each other.
Here’s what we agreed about music:
We affirm and embrace our musical heritage of congregational a cappella singing in harmony. We desire to practice music among us in a way that worships God and builds the community, that our souls and spirits might be enlivened. We believe that music should be aesthetically pleasing, lyrics should be true and honest, and that the combination of the two should be redemptive. We encourage our members to train their ears and hearts to enjoy and express music that is excellent and orderly.
Believe it or not, this is all we have on the topic. To some of you, the statement will seem very prim. To others, hopelessly loose. Where are the prohibitions?
I’ll tell you—silently in our hearts and out loud in the voices of our brothers and sisters.
*Second only to our great cooking, of course. Heh.
Does your church talk about issues? Which ones?