For three centuries, the Philadelphia region has provided a significant space for Anabaptist-Mennonites from around the world to put our nonviolent Christian faith into practice. Waves of church planting have fostered new connections in New Jersey, New York, and Vermont and recently, connections with churches in California and Florida have expanded the Mosaic Conference geography to reach from coast to coast.
Since 1725, local pastors and elders of Mosaic Mennonite Conference have gathered regularly to counsel, pray, and encourage one another. In that year they met with other Pennsylvania leaders to affirm the Dordrecht Confession of Faith as a foundation of the Mennonite Church in America.
The conference community has experienced painful divisions and joyful reunions. In 2019, a major division was healed by reconciliation of the Eastern District and Franconia Mennonite Conferences, which had separated in 1847 over issues of progress, tolerance, and governance. Out of that reconciliation, “Mosaic Conference” was born.
Those who have joined the conference from many nations and cultures have brought fresh perspective and energy, transforming and revitalizing practices of peacemaking, service, and supportive community. The U.S. Mennonite community has struggled along with other traditions in dismantling racism and patriarchy, but in the second half of the 20th century, a steady growth of understanding and experience has led to a new era in which the church globally and locally is led by women and men of diverse backgrounds.
Knowing that their ancestors were tortured and killed for their faith, the descendants of European Anabaptists for many years sacrificed evangelism for security, stability, and Christian discipline. The influence of Evangelicalism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, however, inspired the founding of mission congregations in rural and urban communities, many of which have survived and continue to thrive in the 21st century. In addition, both Eastern District and Franconia Conferences sent mission workers around the world to respond to perceived social, spiritual, and humanitarian needs in the name of Jesus. More recently, mission has focused on community development and service, including initiatives both globally and in U.S. urban centers.
When eastern Pennsylvania was more rural, Mennonites were mainly farmers and tradespeople like their neighbors. As urban and suburban centers grew and education levels rose, many Mennonites became office workers, business professionals, and entrepreneurs while others moved away to continue farming. Some Mennonites today still work to preserve natural and agricultural lands as a part of Christian witness.
The Mosaic Conference community today is not free of the problems and inconsistencies of following Jesus in an affluent society, but we are still thankful for opportunities to learn and grow in this time and place. The Conference prioritizes working missionally, interculturally, and formationally, centered in Jesus. At each conference assembly, we affirm together: “We are still willing to continue in the simple and nonresistant faith, looking for that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.”
For more detailed history:
Eastern District Conference: https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Eastern_District_Conference_(Mennonite_Church_USA)
Franconia Conference: https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Franconia_Mennonite_Conference_(Mennonite_Church_USA)