Work and Hope: Finding Christ in the Church is a blog and e-zine dedicated to the experiences and perspectives of young Anabaptists in their twenties and thirties. Our vision for Work and Hope is to start a conversation that we believe is missing from both the official church channels and its margins. We hope that this space can become a forum that both affirms Christian discipleship and wrestles with the ambiguities of what that means in today’s world.
Like many mainline Protestant denominations, Mennonite Church USA is in the midst of a demographic crisis. In 2007, Conrad Kanagy’s study, Road Signs for the Journey, provided sociological evidence of disengagement by young people from MCUSA. Since then, the focus of discussion at the institutional center has been about our peers that have left the church. From the margins, the discussion has often centered on what it means to be culturally or ethnically “Mennonite” without belief in traditional Christian truth claims. While both of these conversations are important, we want to start another one among those of us young Anabaptists who continue to seek Christ within a denominational context.
When we started daydreaming about this magazine/blog, Jeremy came up with the name Work and Hope. The motto “work and hope” (Arbeite und Hoffe) frequently appeared as the inscription to the Martyrs Mirror until the 1990 edition. The motto speaks to us about the perseverance and faithfulness inherent in the Anabaptist tradition. At the same time, Finding Christ in the Church, signals the ambivalence that many of us feel about denominations and church structures. Our whole name, Work and Hope: Finding Christ in the Church, attempts to name some of the complex and often conflicting dynamics on what it means to be a Christian during this anxious time, when many US Christian denominations struggle with dropping membership and internal challenges to traditional understandings of faith.
Ultimately, we believe that our work here is a sign of hope for the church.
Hope keeps us working toward something even when we have no idea if it’s going to turn around, or go in the right direction. We hope for the church, even when many in our generation express hopelessness over the institution’s dysfunctional and fallen nature. We hope that the work of Christ continues in this group of people who sometimes get it totally wrong. We hope that the Spirit can still sway people and moved them to do something that would have seemed completely absurd to them at any other time. We work because we hope.
In this issue, we feature several short reflections from some of our peers on why they still identify themselves “Mennonite” or “Brethren.” We hope that this issue provokes, inspires and helps start this much-needed conversation. Please respond in the comments section to each post.
While we editors will be blogging regularly, we intend to put out an “issue” every quarter that will feature a broad range of perspectives by young Anabaptists on a particular topic. Our next issue will come out in October, with frequent posts by the editors in between. In the October issue, we will ask the question, “What is Church?” If you’re interested in writing for future issues of Work and Hope, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org . Ω
– Laura Amstutz and Jeremy Yoder
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