Today’s OtherSpeak post is an interview between me and Regina Shea. I asked her if she’d be willing to answer some questions about her experience in adopting Mennonite practice and belief.
Regina lives in Chino Valley, AZ. She is “married to an amazing man, and mom to three sweet young adult daughters.” She blogs at Covered Wife of Tim.
What drew you to Mennonite practice if you weren’t raised Mennonite or don’t attend a Mennonite church?
It is the way Mennonites obey the Scriptures literally and don’t compromise on sticky issues regarding nonresistance, men leading in home and church, the Christian women’s veiling, etc. When our family visited a conservative Mennonite church for the first time in California, I was instantly hooked! This is what I wanted.
The person who probably had the biggest influence was a wonderful brother named Richard Mummau (Papa Richard to many people), who through his family letters and his knowledge of Scripture encouraged me in my desire to obey the Scriptures. He’s with the Lord now, and I really miss his wisdom.
How long has it been since you made the change?
It’s been about 15 years. It’s been rewarding but difficult as well.
What do you love most about your new way of living?
I think what I love most is not having the daily struggle of what to do with my hair. I remember before I started covering, I would get upset with God and wonder why He made us black people with kinky hair and everyone else with “good” hair. ????♀️ The Lord worked on my heart in that area. Now I just comb my hair, put it up in a neat bun and pin my covering on.
What do you miss the most from your previous denomination? What was hard to give up?
I’m still at a Baptist church but I will say giving up wearing shorts in the summer, especially now that we are in Arizona. I discovered I’m more comfortable in my long dresses than I ever was in shorts. I love how God does things like that.
Do you have friends who have made the same changes you have? How does your family feel about your change?
I don’t have friends who have made the same changes as I have because they feel it’s legalistic and not for today. My husband and adult daughters support me in my changes though they have yet to seek the Lord in this area. I do my very best not to pressure my husband about some of the errors I see in our church and I don’t bug him about wanting to make the hour plus ride to Congress to visit our friends at their fellowship. I still wear my wedding ring because my husband would be deeply hurt if I stopped wearing it.
How do you deal with the loneliness and the sense of being looked at funny? Do you laugh? Cry? Retreat? Want to fight for what you believe?
I have to admit, in all my fifteen years of living this lifestyle it is still hard. I know that it would be probably be easier if my family made the same changes so I would be less lonely. And I will admit, there have been times when I’ve been to Christian women’s conferences and there would be the group of women who would look at me and say something amongst themselves and look at me again. How I wish I could read lips so I would know what they are saying about me. That’s when I want the earth to swallow me up. Not because I’m embarrassed or ashamed but because I just don’t like being stared at. I don’t want to fight for my beliefs. It’s just better for me not to say anything for fear I may be asked to leave my church. Whenever a pastor teaches against head coverings as ours did last year, I want to crawl into a hole and cry.
How can a Mennonite church be supportive and welcoming to newcomers? What would help you most? What hurts you?
This one is hard to answer since I’m not able to attend a Mennonite church except when we visit our friends in Congress at their fellowship. When we visited a Mennonite church the first time in Lebec, CA, the brothers and sisters were so kind and welcoming – and it was the same at the Congress fellowship. I know not all congregations are the same, as in any denomination.
I think it would be helpful for newcomers to know they can ask questions about what the Mennonites believe and why they believe what they do. Encourage questions about the Bible, and supply Scripture for them to study. Make sure newcomers know they are welcome to come again, and if possible, exchange contact information.
– Regina Shea
How would you like to respond to Regina? What other ideas do you have for making newcomers welcome at church?