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Mennonite Study Days

Mennonite Study Days

Are we a receiving congregation or a congregation that sets boundaries? Henk Stenvers focused on this question about identity, the first evening of the Mennonite Study Days at Dopersduin, from 9-11 February. He explained two images to focus on at least as a congregation as Dopersduin had considered during a day of reflection.

The first image had a clearly outlined framework, recognisable for a membership-based congregation. The second had a dot in the middle with all kinds of arrows pointing at it. A symbol to make clear how in this vision of a community open to connecting with others. An image in which one is willing to receive.

In which identity do we recognise ourselves?

Again, the question of identity was the focus on Saturday morning. Fernando Enns quoted the German theologian Dorothee Sölle. For her, three elements are important for the formation of a faith community: 1. theology, 2. tradition and 3. context. Three elements which are always in conversation with each other, every time.

The participants were asked to think about themselves, about how these three elements interact with each other. And to learn more from each other, to draw the circle wider by learning to receive from another within the context in which we live. Questions to discuss with each other, over coffee, at a meal or during a walk. In other words: are we receiving the o(O)ther too?

The challenge was not so much formulating answers. It was mainly walking this faith pilgrimage together. This means, the challenge took place in celebrating together during the morning and evening celebrations and participating in various workshops on polarisation, Anabaptist history, grieving over shrinking congregations and forms of ethical Christian action. So, by celebrating and learning as the theme of the study days 'celebrating and learning together' indicated.

But wasn't the challenge, besides celebrating and learning, also in forming a living community or faith community with each other? To then experience how the whole of celebrating, learning and forming a community turned out to be a core value or source and touched those present?

Being touched as a recurring theme or core value

You heard exactly that: that many were touched. Through all that touched, phrases like: 'Never before in my aging life have I celebrated the meal of singleness with so many people'; 'One of the pastors first had to kneel to take the basket with bread from the small table in order to then be able to share'; 'In the silence in which the participants could share a glimpse of God, spoke precisely the carried silence'; 'There were children in prams and elderly people there with their walkers' - and all ages in between; 'There could be laughter'; 'The conversations and encounters continued at the bar'; 'Everyone in the little group could share what was home for them, or what touched on the congregation where they feel at home. ' And so on.

Doopsgezinde /Mennonite Study Days 2025

All this and more means that next year in early March, the second edition of these Mennonite Study Days is planned. An inspiring collaboration between Dopersduin, the Mennonite Seminary and the ADS. To note in advance!

Written by: Margarithe Veen


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