You may know Mennonites best as those people who drive horses and buggies and live "off the grid" as a way of preserving their faith as a community. But most Mennonites don't live that way. At Rouge Valley Mennonite Church (RVMC), we're pretty ordinary folk and are not easily identifiable by what we wear or drive. We are part of a broad network of vibrant and growing Mennonite congregations, from small towns to major urban centres across North America and around the world.
Mennonites have been around for almost 500 years, part of a Protestant Reformation movement called Anabaptism that rejected the allegiance between church and state, emphasized personal transformation within community, and called for a radical way of living with peace, and compassion, following the way of Jesus in daily life.
To learn more, watch the following 4-minute video, "Who Are the Mennonites"
We believe in the centrality of Jesus as the one sent by God to bring reconciliation between the Creator and a broken world. God is the savior—known in the vulnerability of Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection—who shows us how to live and love. God is the Spirit who enables us to make a difference in our world and in the lives of others. Ultimately, we try to emphasize the connections between faith, words and actions for the common good. We believe baptism and church membership should be voluntary. We also emphasize community, peace and love, helping others and being a diverse and multicultural church.
We believe that the Bible is a beautiful, God-inspired, complex, and challenging book. We believe that its message of grace matters most when we live it out in a way that people’s lives are changed (our own lives included). Like previous generations, we wrestle with how to understand the Bible for our times, especially in our post modern world. We attempt to recognize with humility the limitations of our understanding. We seek to discover how the Spirit is leading for today without pitting faith against science or putting doctrine before people. We believe that we don’t have all the answers and that disagreement and discussion are healthy. We believe that Christian community is Christian not because it’s like-minded on every issue but because it is rooted in Jesus.
We believe peacebuilding is an achievable way of life. Because God is loving and just, Mennonites feel called to live lives that reflect this reality. We believe that peace and wholeness is a real possibility in time and space. It's how God intends us to live here and now, and we have been given all of the necessary tools to achieve this through our faith in Jesus Christ. Living as peacebuilders when war comes is not easy because many in our society believe it is foolish to refuse to defend oneself and one's country in the face of aggression.
Walking the talk. Mennonites have become increasingly recognized as leaders in the art of conflict resolution — even on an international scale. Mennonites have been involved in helping differing groups or factions talk to each other in places like East Africa, Northern Ireland and Central America. Mennonites were also involved in some of the early developments in offender-victim reconciliation organizations in Canada and the United States, and in promoting restorative justice as a way of responding to criminal and antisocial activity. Organizations such as Mennonite Central Committee, Christian Peacemaker Teams and Mennonite Disaster Service are channels through which Mennonite volunteers work in relief, development, peacemaking and restoration around the world.
Locally, RVMC is involved in working with street involved people through Lazarus Rising and Mosaic Interfaith Out of the Cold, and Markham Interchurch Committee for Affordable Housing. We also seek to nurture children, youth, and families through Willowgrove. Other local initiatives seek to engage senior care at Parkview Services for Seniors, and international development through our local Care and Share Thrift Store. One of the biggest challenges for Mennonites is speaking out about what we've learned along the way. Many are calling for Mennonites to speak more boldly — to talk the walk.
Mennonites recognize the value of "organized religion." Throughout history, religious faith has helped people understand life's meaning and encouraged cohesive social order. But at times the lines between church and state have blurred and the church has also been part of oppressive movements, suppression of individuals' rights and even wars. Some even feel religion is the greatest cause of war. This is a familiar issue for Mennonites. But we also recognize the need to be organized as a group of Christian disciples. We try to be most concerned with trusting in the leading of God's Spirit in a way that reflects the life and teaching of Jesus. Inside each of us is a yearning to understand why we are here. Mennonites believe the answer lies in both believing in and following Jesus.
Mennonites are a global people. Once mostly of European heritage, Mennonites have become increasingly multicultural and multinational. The global Mennonite family now includes about 1.6 million members, with people of colour now the majority. We cherish our connections with vibrant churches in Africa, Asia and South America, with whom we connect through Mennonite World Conference.
We believe our emphasis on community is a positive response to the indifference of modern culture. In an era of mass marketing, uncontrolled consumerism, loneliness and growing violence, we are working to create a sense of community for ourselves and our neighbours. We are committed to the transformative and messy work of nurturing a church where all people feel truly welcome and valued. We believe that every human being is created and gifted by God; therefore, people of every race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, age and background, ability and disability, and theological conviction are invited to be a real part of the church. We believe that the best response to cynicism, doubt and isolation is to invite both friends and strangers to share the burdens and joys of life together –in Christ's new community.
Adapted from an article by Ken Gingerich
You can learn more about Mennonite beliefs, values, culture and practices at these sites:
- Third Way Cafe
- Mennonite Church Eastern Canada
- Mennonite Church Canada
- Mennonite World Conference
- The Canadian Mennonite (national news magazine)
- The Quickest Ever DVD Guide to Mennonites and their Values (A funny, breathless 4-minute YouTube video produced by Mennonite Health Services)
- listeningchurch.ca (Listening to the stories of LGBTQ+ Mennonites)