I still remember the words of my tour guide in St. John Lateran in Rome. She referred to our group’s Protestants with loving disdain. She announced, “For the Protestants here, I want you to remember that this was your ‘Vatican’ — the center of the Western church….”
As we neared the park, the police officer guiding our prayer walk through the streets of Phoenix thanked Mennonite Church USA’s leaders for allowing her to participate in the event. “Many groups string out and lag behind,” she said, “But you guys stick together, you’re fit, and you’re prayerful. You’ve made my day.”
When relatives get together who haven’t seen each other in many years, they share their stories of their journeys with each other. They share where they have been, what they have been up to, how they have occupied their time. In some ways, the last couple of years of relationship between Eastern District Conference and Franconia Mennonite Conference have felt somewhat like that.
For the last two years, moderators and conference ministers have been meeting about every two months to share stories and reflect on where God has taken us in the past and where we sense God is taking us forward. It’s been a journey of revealing what we share in common as well as our differences as we become more aware of each other’s conference systems and how they function. In the midst of this journey, we have intentionally invited God to make his presence real guiding our path.