Conference Season

It’s church conference season. 

This past weekend six of us headed up to Goshen, Indiana to represent CMC at the Central District Conference Annual Meeting.  This coming Monday five adults and five youth will head out to Kansas City for the biennial Mennonite Church USA Convention (during which delegates will be voting on whether to meet every three years rather than two). 

One of the threads connecting denominational, conference, and congregational priorities these days has to do with accessibility.  Last summer national delegates unanimously passed a resolution calling for an increased focus on removing barriers that may hinder anyone from being agents of God’s grace, joy, and peace.  Elevators and ramps are important, but it’s about a lot more than that.   

Our CDC annual meeting included a time to reflect on accessibility.  One person shared about multiple health conditions that affect their daily life.  Another spoke about how her eating disorder impacts her relationship with Communion and how meaningful it is to have the option to come forward with her arms crossed on her chest to receive a blessing rather than bread and juice.  Another person spoke about their congregation’s shift from language of “inclusion” to “belonging” since “inclusion” still implies an insider/outsider framework.  The planners included fidgets on each round table for folks who benefit from keeping their hands active while sitting for long periods.

These are all quite small in the scope of things, but it reminded me of the phrase “Death by a thousand paper cuts,” except the opposite, whatever that is.  “Life by a thousand _________.   Hugs?  Thoughtful gestures?  Affirmations?

Each year the CMC Leadership Team discerns a Vision for Ministry.  This year (through June 2024) it is:

We will extend our commitment to accessibility and inclusivity in all areas of ministry.

In light of the previous suggestion, perhaps belonging is a better word than inclusivity.  Which is right in step with the point of all this.  We aren’t attempting perfection, but we are attempting to keep learning, keep growing, keep extending our commitments. 

It was a happy coincidence to come home from the CDC meeting and have Sunday be the day when our new hearing assistance devices are up and running for Sunday worship.  Add that to the thousand ways we might inch our way toward removing barriers that may hinder anyone from being agents of God’s grace, joy, and peace.

All CMC Commissions and staff are wide open to suggestions of how to keep working at this.