Brenda MatthewsIt is with great sadness that we share with you today that one of our beloved former convention speakers, “Momma Brenda” Matthews, passed away yesterday after suffering a stroke during a routine surgery.

In a 2010 Facebook post, Matthews wrote, “Life is moving so fast and tomorrow is not promised. I was thinking if I died tomorrow, what would be my legacy? Mine would be that I tried my best to reach as many young people as possible. That I planted seeds of change across this country and even the world. That I loved and surrendered and gave my all to God, and that my living was never in vain.”

Columbus 2009_Matthews_Brenda

Brenda Matthews preaches at youth convention in Columbus, Ohio (2009)

As soon as she passed, Matthews’ own Facebook feed was a testament to the fact that these things were – indeed – her legacy, as messages of remembrance and tribute rolled in from people who called her a mentor, friend and spiritual guide. Matthews was a powerful preacher, poet and long-time community activist and mentor in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood. For the last several years, she served as a pastor at Ellis Avenue Church in Chicago. She spoke at four Mennonite Church USA youth conventions, from 2005-2011, consistently earning rave reviews for her high energy and her relentless call to youth and young adults to step out of their comfort zones and be witnesses for Christ in their schools and local communities.

We are grateful for the gifts Momma Brenda shared with us at convention, and for her passion and care for youth across the country. Our hearts are with her, her family and all those in her community who are mourning her loss. We celebrate the ongoing legacy she leaves behind!

Tribute gifts to help cover the costs of the funeral and ongoing youth outreach can be sent to Ellis Avenue Church, 5001 S. Ellis Ave, Chicago, IL 60615.