by Annie Lengacher Browning, Acting Conference Minister
I Corinthians 12: 15-19
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
I had the pleasure of visiting Carlsbad Mennonite Church for their Peace Weekend Celebration, and I was deeply moved by the warm welcome and hospitality I received from this beautiful community. You can read more about the details of their Peace Weekend in this edition of ZING! What moved me most about the weekend, though, had less to do with the activities of the weekend. Rather, the sense of interdependence and ecumenical community spirit was powerful. So many faith groups worked together, under the leadership of Nick King, to pull together a wonderful weekend, and I was amazed by what a small, but mighty, group could accomplish for their local community.
As I reflected more on my weekend at Carlsbad Mennonite, this idea of interdependency stayed with me. Carlsbad Mennonite Church is a relatively small congregation of about 30-35 individuals, and one of the gifts of their being a small community is that they have a unique grasp of what it means to truly need one another. Throughout the weekend, I watched how all of the local churches, from Pentecostal to Baptist to Mennonite to Lutheran, banded together to pull off a weekend devoted to praying and acting for peace and justice. Each brought their own flavor to the weekend and they were all encouraged and allowed to be distinctive in what they offered to the weekend. Somehow it all worked! Rather than focusing on their differences, they united under a common desire to bring a witness for Jesus’ message of peace to the people of Carlsbad, NM.
This is one of the gifts of being small. We visualize easily where we need to reach beyond our circle and overlap with the circles of others in order to achieve a larger purpose or vision. We more accurately assess what gifts we offer and where others’ greatest gifts can enhance our own work. Rather than focusing on where boundary lines end, we look for the gaps that need to be filled and actively pursue meeting those needs through others. The gift of being small is being inherently interdependent. It is an interdependency that does not stop at lip service. Rather it is necessary to thrive and survive.
We are a relatively small conference in the scope of MC USA. I wonder what it would be like if we owned this as a gift, as an opportunity to practice interdependence with one another, not only out of survival but also as a way of thriving together. Being small does mean acting small or from a mindset of scarcity. In no way am I suggesting an unhealthy interdependence that is void of any self-sufficiency. Rather, there is so much more we could become with an understanding that we need one another out of necessity and we need one another to thrive as the people of God.
I wonder what this might look like to be more interdependent as the people of Mountain States Mennonite Conference. I wonder what it might look like to follow Jesus together as a group of disciples that need one another as much as the original twelve. While there isn’t an easy recipe for interdependence, I walked away from Carlsbad realizing that this small congregation did two things well to build interdependence. First, they did one thing as a gift of love for their community (outside of their church building) and chose a visible location for their event. Second, they proactively asked for help and involvement from those who were outside of their church circle. And it worked!
I encourage each of us across Mountain States Mennonite Conference to consider what small act of interdependence we may take. It may be trying something new that intersects in a new circle. It may be asking for help from another sister congregation. It may be attending an event that is new. It may be getting to know another church in our region and seeking new relationships. I am more and more convinced that these small acts guide us into new ways of being, or as Richard Rohr says, ““We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”
Thank you, Carlsbad Mennonite, for taking action for peace and for living interdependently in your own context and community. May it be so for us all, as the interdependent people of MSMC, as we seek to pursue the dreams of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the way of Jesus Christ.