Caleb Schrock-Hurst, 18, is from Harrisonburg, Virginia and is a Freshman at Hesston College. Though he is currently undeclared, he hopes to study some combination of English, History, and Music. He has been a member of Park View Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg for the past eight years and grew up attending conventions alongside his parents, Carmen and Luke.
Mennonite Church USA Convention is always packed with fun and informative spiritual events. From the time I was born until now, I have only missed one assembly, and though I have only the weakest of memories from Nashville, Charlotte, and a few others from my early childhood, the impact that these gatherings have had on me cannot be overstated.
However, in order to get the most out of this event each time I attend, I try to focus on and find the answer to a few simple questions. Namely, why do we convene? Why do thousands of people from across the country spend hundreds of dollars and a week of their time to gather with strangers in a city that is unfamiliar to them? Why is coming together every two years for a few short days such a powerful experience?
The answer, though many forget it, is to confirm our common identity as followers of Christ from a Mennonite perspective. Despite the draw of fun activities and energizing worship, convention is made what it is because of the knowledge that can be gained about the Mennonite Church and the people in it. Speakers such as Mama Brenda and Shane Hipps bring words and instructions from the Bible to life. They consistently inspire everyone listening, from youth to adults, to live lives as followers of Jesus and His radical way of peacemaking. Convention is a powerful collective experience, bringing strangers together as friends and rekindling past relationships within the church.
One very concrete thing that can be done to make convention the most successful it can be is simply to spend as much time as possible at the Convention Center and Exhibit Hall. From playing ping-pong for hours in the recreation hall to listening to seminar speakers, there is always something worthwhile going on. At Phoenix, when many of my peers were napping, I enjoyed attending extra seminars and befriending fellow Mennonites from across the country. These small things can turn this event from a good week into a great life experience.
So, whenever I go to convention, I keep in mind what the ultimate goal is: to help create a unified and informed Mennonite Church.