Columbus Mennonite Church
This week I emerged from my den of studying and sadness (my apartment) and put on real clothes (not my robe) and even took a shower to go to church. My fellowship exam is on Wednesday, and I have been spending the past week or so drowning in flash cards and making up silly mnemonics to remember stuff. Leaving my apartment and meeting my friend Allison for breakfast and church was so lovely and refreshing. When I’m studying like I am now, doing anything non-study related makes me feel guilty, but the premise of this blog “forcing” me to go to church was a nice break of not studying AND not feeling guilty about not studying.
We went to City Egg, which I would highly recommend to those who haven’t tried it, and then went to Allison’s Columbus-based church, Columbus Mennonite. It surprised me when Allison initially told me she was attending a Mennonite church. The word “Mennonite” always conjured up pictures of very conservative, fundamental Christians, which isn’t how I would describe Allison at all. However, there seems to be several ways to define Mennonites – ethno-religiously and just religiously (kind of like how “Jewish” can describe a race of people and a faith). Mennonites trace back to 16th century Friesland (a province in what is now the Netherlands) and is characterized as a Protestant faith believing in adult baptism (Anabaptism or “believer’s baptism”) and pacifism. Many moved to Germany and then to the American colonies due to religious persecution of Anabaptists. Being pacifists, they openly opposed slavery and the revolutionary war. Their culture was similar to that of the Amish – they practiced shunning and were called “plain people” for their lack of individualism in attire. These German-descended Mennonites are the ones I was thinking of when I thought Mennonites were very conservative. Those types of communities still exist, but other, modern Mennonite churches, like the one I visited today, are characterized as more liberal, focusing on acceptance as well as pacifism and adult baptism.
Phew, that is more history than I normally provide, but I thought it was interesting and I think important to the context of the service I attended today since I wouldn’t describe it as conservative.
The service today focused on affirming a woman into the ministry and formally beginning her licensing process in the Mennonite church. They allowed her to deliver the sermon and we all stood in a circle around her and sang in affirmation of her journey. It was kind of cool to witness, but it means I didn’t attend an “average” CMC service.
The young woman preached barefoot and her sermon focused on Psalm 23, of which she wrote her own version to share with us. I had to ask Allison after the service, “is that how psalms work? You can just write your own versions?” She said not traditionally, but it was more about taking something from the Bible and reimagining it in a way that applies to your life. It kind of reminded me of assignments I had in high school where we would read a short story or poem and then the teacher would ask us to write our own interpretation of it.
Anyway, this is the traditional Psalm 23, which she said was “everyone’s favorite Psalm” and seemed to assume we all knew it. (I did not).
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
She made several edits to the above to make it more applicable to her own life, such as replacing “You anoint my head with oil” with “You anoint my forehead with puppy dog kisses.” It was kind of sweet, kind of silly, and very true to her own self.
My favorite edit she made to Psalm 23 was that she replaced all the male pronouns with female pronouns. I forget that God is a being, and that we can’t really assign a gender to Him/Her, so there is no need to characterized God as a man necessarily. It’s weird how that one change, from male to female, can make God feel more nurturing and loving. That’s kind of my own bullshit conception of women as more nurturing, but I like the idea that you can customize your perspective about God to view Her in a more loving way. Churches always preach about God’s love, and, to me, female love in my life has always felt more open and accepting (except you, Dad, you’re my #1). So, if I can think of God as a woman, and that makes me view Her as a more loving creator, then maybe I should. Maybe that’s one extra way I can connect with God.
I tried writing my own interpretation of Psalm 23, and realized the God I was describing was basically J.K. Rowling. So, there is that fun look into my internal monologue.
I can’t say for sure what a normal Sunday at CMC would be like, but this Sunday served an important purpose for the woman they were affirming. I can also tell they are dedicated to serving their members (they were hosting a benefit meal today for a family that had recently lost a portion of their income) and are on a crusade with other churches in the area to lobby for more affordable housing for the low-income community. A church like that is serving many needs in the community, and that deserves major props.