Editor’s Note: Pastor Jacob Curtis wrote this reflection to his congregation, Ambler (PA) Mennonite Church, on June 30, after attending the candlelight prayer service in South Philadelphia. This is reprinted with his permission.
On June 29, five of us from Ambler (PA) Mennonite Church made the hour-long trek down I-476/I-76/I-95 to Centro de Alabanza on the corner of 5th and Snyder in South Philly. We were there for a candlelight prayer service in solidarity with Asian Americans who are being targeted for hate crimes.
The service was powerful. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how to describe what happened—in the service and inside me—but here are a few of the things I fell asleep thinking about:
1) It is such an honor to be part of Mosaic Mennonite Conference.
Honestly, I don’t know how a beautiful, fragile thing like our conference can exist in the world, or how we are allowed to be a part of it. But somehow—and I can only assume it is by the grace of God—we find ourselves in community with Swiss-German and Russian Mennonites, and also with everyone who’s been drawn to what they planted here in southeast Pennsylvania.
Our Conference includes churches like Franconia Mennonite, which built its first log meetinghouse in … oh, you know, 1748! … and churches like Nations Worship Center, which purchased its building from a catering business in an Italian neighborhood of South Philly in 2012.
We are Matahelemuals and Krisbiantos and Siahaans, as well as Yoders and Millers and Martins. And because of our Conference, we get to sit outside with all sorts of other Mennonites on the breezy, noisy, sunlit corner of 5th and Snyder, praying in all our languages to the living God.
2) Maybe there’s an opening here?
Ambler Mennonite Church is not (and never will be) Franconia Mennonite Church, with its history and its resources. Nor will we ever be Centro de Alabanza, located right in the middle of a densely-populated, diverse urban neighborhood. But might we become a little bit of both?
Might we grow into an identity as the part-city, part-country church? Might our congregation be black without being all black, brown without being all brown, white without being all white? Might we be the church where conservatives and progressives learn to respect each other and find a way through our cultural and theological gridlock? Might we lean into our particular spot on the map—just north of Philadelphia, just south of the old Mennonite heartland, an in-between place for a bunch of in-between people?
I don’t know. I don’t know exactly what God has in mind for us. And I don’t know what’s possible in the Borough of Ambler as it is now, getting rapidly younger and whiter and wealthier. But these are the things I think about as I fall asleep.