ELKHART, Ind. (Mennonite Church USA)—Buoyed by the spirit of prayer that marked the end of the Mennonite Church USA convention in Phoenix, Ariz., in July—when thousands of Mennonites participated in a prayer walk around the convention center—convention planners are setting their sights on Kansas City (KC), Mo., the location of the next biennial convention, to be held June 30–July 5, 2015.
With the 16th Mennonite World Conference Assembly occurring later in July 2015 in Harrisburg, Pa., convention planners say they want to celebrate the international character of the Mennonite Church and to highlight global connections during the gathering in Kansas City, which they anticipate will draw Mennonites and Anabaptist-minded people from across the country and around the world.
“We’ll be working closely with Mennonite Mission Network to make it possible for international partners and friends to join in worship and work at convention,” says Glen Guyton, director of finance and convention planning for Mennonite Church USA. “There will also be learning experiences devoted to learning from and with our international guests.”
Hannah Heinzekehr, director of communications for Mennonite Church USA, notes that offsite learning experiences—as well as servant projects in collaboration with local organizations—will give convention participants a taste of the rich history and culture of Kansas City (pop. 459,787, according to the 2010 census).
She highlights some Kansas City distinctives: the city was an incubator for jazz music, which brought people together across racial/ethnic lines both to make music and listen to it. Often referred to as the city of fountains, Kansas City is also home to many museums, parks and performing arts venues, including the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum—the only museum in the country that commemorates the achievements of African-American and Latino professional baseball players from the 19th and 20th centuries. The city’s Spanish-style Country Club Plaza, built in 1922 as the first shopping center in the world designed for shoppers arriving by car, continues to be a shopping and dining destination. Kansas City is also internationally known for its barbecued meat—seasoned, roasted and slathered with sauce. Two professional sports teams call the city home: the Kansas City Chiefs (football) and Royals (baseball).
“We sometimes forget, when we come to a convention location, that there is a vibrant city beyond the convention center walls,” she says. “We want to give people opportunities to get out into the city.”
In preparation for KC2015, Guyton invites members of Mennonite Church USA congregations to dig into the convention week’s theme text—the entire chapter of Luke 24—over the next two years.
He notes that the passage begins with the story of the women coming to Jesus’ tomb—only to find it empty—and returning to the other disciples to share this good news, only to find that they are not believed. The text then tells the story of two disciples on the road to Emmaus who encounter Jesus. The chapter ends with Jesus appearing to the disciples and offering them a commission, a blessing and the promise of the Holy Spirit before ascending into Heaven.
“This passage is rich with theological content and stories,” he says. “We hope that people will already begin preparing their hearts and minds to come to convention, so we will be emphasizing the importance of ‘Dwelling in the Word’ with Luke 24 over the next two years.”
“Convention is really, at its core, about faith formation,” he continues. “As followers of Jesus, we are called to respond to God’s continual leading towards a better, fuller expression of faith. At convention in Kansas City, we want to remind ourselves to pay attention to and listen for these ‘nudges’—these movements of the Holy Spirit—and to remember and name that we do not walk this journey alone.”
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—Mennonite Church USA staff