(To Mennonite Blog #3)
by Donna Merow, Ambler
In a sermon titled Transformed Nonconformist, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority” (Strength to Love, 27).
To “Mennonite” is to be creatively maladjusted to a society that promotes materialism, nationalism, militarism, and violence.
I was introduced to the Mennonite/Anabaptist perspective at Providence and Methacton more than thirty years ago. This was the era of Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger and Doris Jantzen Longacre’s Living More with Less. The lifestyle of simplicity and service such books advocated captured my imagination in a big way. My sister describes me to her friends as “almost Amish,” and, in some ways, I suppose I am. We decided to raise our children without Santa Claus or television. A clothesline replaced the dryer and kept us connected in some small way with the rhythms of the natural world. We built a little house in the woods and lived on one income so I could be a full-time stay-at-home mom until my daughters were in high school.
Such non-conformity to the standards of culture is only possible if one takes Jesus seriously, not only on Sunday morning but in every encounter and experience throughout the week. This was something I saw modeled in the first “salt of the earth” Mennonites I met. Doing so means thoughtfully considering what following Jesus looks like in decisions big and small—the purchases one makes, the words one speaks, the actions one takes, how one spends his/her time. Should I spend a little more for organic produce? Do I really need that new dress? Can I skip that trip and take a walk instead? How do I speak the truth in love in this delicate situation? Will doing this honor/model Christ?
To “Mennonite” also means taking community seriously. I was rebaptized and became a member of the Mennonite Church on my first wedding anniversary. One of the most memorable questions posed to me as part of this public confession was, “Are you willing to give and receive counsel in the congregation?” The mutual accountability and responsibility inherent in the question continues to remind me that we are in this relationship together. Everyone, I think, needs to have someone in his/her life who loves him/her enough to risk speaking the truth, however painful it may be. The vulnerability this demands of both giver and receiver is powerfully present each Holy Week in the simple act of kneeling before each other to wash feet. But the love symbolized in this annual ritual is evident throughout the year as we celebrate life’s milestones, care for children, prepare meals, clean houses, move possessions, offer advice, or listen with a sympathetic ear.
This spring I did a six-week class on memoir writing at the Mennonite Heritage Center. Our last assignment included considering a possible title for our would-be memoir based on the writing we had done during the class. I called mine “Closet Rebel,” and the Mennonites are largely to blame. I am grateful to those who “Mennonite” at Ambler and Methacton for giving me the space and encouragement I needed for my quiet rebellion against the status quo. They have accepted me wholeheartedly, creatively maladjusted as I am.
Next week, Noah Kolb, a forty-year minister in Mennonite congregations, will wrestle with his splintered heritage of faith and practice. How do you “Mennonite”? Join the conversation on Twitter (#fmclife) or by email.
Who am I? (To Mennonite Blog #1)
Serving Christ with our heads and hands (To Mennonite Blog #2)
Quiet rebellion against the status quo (To Mennonite Blog #3)
Mennoniting my way (To Mennonite Blog #4)
Generations Mennoniting together (To Mennonite Blog #5)
Body, mind, heart … and feet (To Mennonite Blog #6)
We have much more to offer (To Mennonite Blog #7)
Mennonite community … and community that Mennonites (To Mennonite Blog #8)