Postcard & a Prayer :: September Email Newsletter

Enjoy September e-news from Mennonite Women USA!

Check out our new format to get all the latest information, reflections and images that cover all our national and international happenings from our Sister Care seminars to our upcoming Timbrel coverage. We also include a prayer to bless your day, excerpts from women in the greater church and content relevant to Mennonite women everywhere.

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MW USA September Email 2016

Our “Faith Travels” Bible Study Guide Author, Marlene Kropf published on MC USA

This year’s Bible study guide from Mennonite Women USA Faith Travels was written by Marlene Kropf. We’re thrilled to see her featured on the Mennonite Church USA’s Menno Snapshots blogs with her piece “Pilgrimage in Any Season” originally published here.

In spring, Chaucer wrote, “folk long to go on pilgrimages.” Nowadays, the desire to go on a pilgrimage might erupt in any season of the year. Ironically, as church attendance continues to decline in the West, the number of people – Christian and otherwise – who go on pilgrimages continues to increase.

Ancient Irish Christians understood that to go on a pilgrimage was “to seek the place of one’s resurrection.” Pilgrimage was an embodied prayer, an engagement of the entire person – body, mind, heart and spirit. Wherever they traveled, pilgrims opened themselves to the movement and direction of God’s Spirit, seeking transformation into Christlikeness.

Recently someone pointed out to me that a pilgrimage has six identifiable stages:

  1. An initial yearning or longing invites us to a particular place or experience.
  2. Then comes preparation for the journey: reading, prayer and discernment, conversation with other pilgrims, checking out websites and deciding what to take along.
  3. We establish an itinerary for our journey: where we will travel, when, with whom and why.
  4. As the journey begins, we eagerly anticipate our arrival, even though we must first endure leaving behind what is known and familiar in order to enter the promised future.
  5. The sacred experience includes the events, encounters and solitude of the journey in which God’s call to new life is made known to us.
  6. At last, we return to our homes – refreshed, transformed and sometimes chastened by all we’ve experienced. Re-entering our familiar lives, we seek to integrate new images and learnings into our call to daily discipleship.

We need not travel far to reap the spiritual fruits of pilgrimage. Favorite places of spiritual pilgrimage today include the Camino in Spain; Celtic sites in Scotland, England and Ireland; the Holy Land; Assisi or Rome; early Anabaptist centers in Switzerland and Holland; or contemporary American settings connected with historical events such as the Civil Rights movement or the forced migration of Native Americans on the Trail of Tears. New pilgrim paths emerge as the desire to encounter these sacred stories continues to grow. For example, in Ireland one can literally walk across the land in the path of Saint Brigid or Saint Patrick. In Scotland and England one can walk on the path of Saint Columba, Saint Cuthbert or on the Canterbury Trail. As people listen deeply to stories of the past, they discern in fresh ways how God’s Spirit is calling us to live today.

Choosing to bike or walk on a Sunday morning to our place of worship can be a spiritual pilgrimage as we pass through familiar or unfamiliar neighborhoods, listening intentionally to the voice of God’s Spirit along the way.

Perhaps one of the richest benefits of pilgrimage is new relationships: encounters with strangers or deepened communion with fellow pilgrims. Praying together morning and night, sharing meals, enduring the rigors of travel and reflecting together on both the inner and outer journeys bonds people and strengthens their faith. They catch a vision of what ordinary church life might be like if the same practices were engaged at home.

Perhaps spiritual pilgrimages can be a key to spiritual renewal in our time.

Just as other spiritual practices in the past called the church to greater faithfulness, it may be that the embodied prayer of pilgrimage is one way the Spirit is working to transform the church today.

If the Spirit is calling you to go on pilgrimage, listen well!

We Help Make the Circle Complete :: Hyacinth Stevens on MW USA

This article by MW USA board member Hyacinth Stevens, first appeared in AAMA News: African American Mennonite Association’s spring edition of their newsletter published in March 2015.

Prior to becoming the AAMA representative on the Mennonite Women USA Board, I had very little connection with the work of the organization.

Mennonite Women USA is doing some great things! The organization is diligently working to live out its mission to empower women and women’s groups as we nurture our life in Christ through studying the Bible, using our gifts, hearing each other, and engaging in mission and service. (Adapted from the Mennonite Women USA Mission statement.)

The vision statement of Mennonite Women USA gives an invitation for diverse voices of women to be heard and celebrated. However, I realized that there are some voices missing. Over the last few years, Mennonite Women USA as an organization has been shifting its image to match its vision. This is not an organization that is fashioned for a select group of Mennonite women, rather for all Mennonite women!

The vision of the organization invites women across generations, cultures, and places to share and honor our stories, care for each other, and express our prophetic voice boldly as we seek to follow Christ.

I would like to extend the invitation to our AAMA congregations and networks to explore some of the resources Mennonite Women USA is using to impact women on a global level. This invitation is not just to utilize resources but to contribute our voice, our hands and culture to the circle of global impact Mennonite Women USA desires to have. Continue reading