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 Remain Committed to You, Mennonite Women” MW USA Responds to CLC Question

by Marlene Bogard, Executive Director, Mennonite Women USA

Mennonite Women USA is a constituency group of Mennonite Church USA. Basically, this means we are strongly affiliated and collaborate with the denomination, but we do not receive any funding. MW USA has its own budget, mission statement, staff and programming. The MW USA Board Chair and Executive Director are invited to the twice-yearly gatherings of the Constituency Leader’s Council (CLC) for discernment of matters pertaining to the entire denomination. Prior to the fall gathering of CLC on October 19-21, 2015, all participants were asked to respond to this question:

To what extent has the delegate assembly (decisions) at Kansas City affected your group/conference’s relationship with Mennonite Church USA?

And here is our response: Continue reading

KC2015 offerings to support sexual abuse survivors, Racial/Ethnic leadership education

This piece was originally released via Mennonite Church USA’s News Service.

(Mennonite Church USA) — At every Mennonite Church USA convention, an offering is received to support a particular ministry or initiative of the church. This summer in Kansas City, convention goers will have the opportunity to contribute to the Care and Prevention Fund established through Mennonite Church USA by the Discernment Group on sexual abuse and the church and the Racial/Ethnic Leadership Education Fund (RELE) administered by Mennonite Education Agency.

Care and Prevention Fund

Over the past two years, leaders in Mennonite Church USA have been working to address the painful and complex legacy of sexual abuse by renowned theologian and professor John Howard Yoder and the church’s inadequate responses to that abuse, as well as abuse by other church leaders.

The Discernment Group on sexual abuse and the church, formed in August 2013, has taken concrete steps to provide a fuller historical account of the abuse Yoder committed while serving at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS), Elkhart, Indiana, and with other church agencies. The group is inviting the church to repent of neglecting to intervene effectively to stop Yoder’s abuse and the abuse of other church leaders. Group members have submitted a statement addressing sexual abuse and prevention for consideration by the Delegate Assembly at KC2015.
Continue reading

Interview with Carol Knieriem of Dove’s Nest

I had the great fortune of sitting down with Carol Knieriem from Dove’s Nest to learn more about how this important organization was born and what we can look forward to in its growth and development.

Carol, tell me, how did you get connected with Dove’s Nest?
I’m vice director of a local organization that acts as special advocates for abused children having received court-appointed monitoring. I recruit and train volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in the court system. We meet with the children and we talk with anyone involved in that child’s life. We even talk with professionals who are working with the family. Volunteers then write reports to the court about what’s going on and they advocate on behalf of the child. Continue reading