By Kevin Opett
“In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all matters, love.”
“In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all matters, love.” These words left an indelible mark in my understanding of Anabaptism after participating in the Introduction to Mosaic Class, offered by Mosaic Institute and led by Steve Kriss and Rose Bender Cook.
As part of Mosaic’s credentialing process, seven classmates and I spent time on Zoom and in person learning about the development and contributions of the Anabaptist movement to the Christian story. We read books, traveled to rural and urban churches, visited historical places, and talked with memorable people who represent the diverse makeup of Mosaic.
Our cohort was a microcosm of the conference: it included both life-long Mennonites and newcomers to the fold, Americans and immigrants, as well as representations of several racial/ethnic backgrounds. Each of us had our notions of Anabaptism challenged, expanded, and enriched.
We started out as strangers but ended up as brothers and sisters who care deeply for one another. We enjoyed deep discussions and sought to understand our different perspectives as we galivanted around Pennsylvania, to Souderton, Harleysville, Philadelphia, and Lansdale. On the final in-person day of the class, a sabbatical retreat at Fern Rock bonded us together as we sang praises to Jesus and shared what he is doing in our hearts.
I was fascinated to learn that Anabaptists were not always the “Quiet in the Land,” a people who kept to ourselves. Far from being docile, our forebears were radical, urban-based, and adamant that Christians are to spread the gospel far and wide. Relentless persecution from other Christian traditions led to a centuries-old retreat into isolation that only now seems to be turning the tide, as our story widens and deepens with new cultures and people adding their unique perspective to the Mosaic story. We are being reacquainted with the Great Commission to go and make disciples of the nations by the fresh movement of the Holy Spirit in our world.
The course offered a solid foundation to understand the Mosaic vision of being a Conference where homogeneity is not a prerequisite to cooperation. Like a patchwork quilt, no two congregations look or function the same. Mosaic includes both rural, traditional churches as well as urban immigrant congregations. There are multiethnic and multilingual congregations. Some were established 100 years ago, while others are just starting out. This array of diversity makes Mosaic Conference unique and beautiful.
The diversity enables a person like me, whose background resembles a denominational kaleidoscope, to feel welcomed and to thrive just as those who can trace their ancestry back to the earliest expressions of the movement. We can each find our place in Mosaic and mutually support one another as we strive to live out the teachings of Christ and share the Good News to the communities around us.
On behalf of my classmates, Brandon, Chidi, Michelle, Ramona, Scotty, Susan, and Tracey, I wish to convey our sincere appreciation to all who made this class so rewarding. The time you invested in us and the stories you shared allowed us to experience such a meaningful time together. We hope we have been as much of a blessing to you as you have been to us!
Kevin Opett resides in the Philadelphia area and currently serves as pastor of Alpha Mennonite Church in New Jersey. You will usually find him toiling in the yard of his new house or cooking international cuisine when he is not engaged in ministry work. Kevin just celebrated 21 years of marriage to his beautiful wife, Petra.