by Christine Sine
Yesterday was Covenanting Sunday at Seattle Mennonite Church which we are currently attending. For the first time I publicly offered my “yes” to their congregational covenant affirming my commitment to the church and its beliefs.
This was not an easy decision for me. Even though we have occasionally visited the Mennonite church over the last 30 years, our commitment, until last year was to our local Episcopal congregation. Moving pushed me outside my comfort zone. I loved the sanctuary at St Andrews which we attended for the last 15 years, and the liturgical worship which fed my soul. In some ways, however, I realize that my enjoyment of worship, without a sense of commitment to action made me complacent and satisfied in places that I should not have been.
Tom and I have always been more drawn to Anabaptist theology and its focus on living into the ways of Jesus. The core of the Anabaptist faith is that living as citizens of the kingdom of God by obeying New Testament commands (like those found in the Sermon on the Mount) is essential to the Christian faith; holding right beliefs is also important, but not as important as holy living.
Since I worked in the refugee camps in Thailand in the mid-1980s, and was given a book entitled From Saigon to Shalom, I have been attracted to the images of the shalom kingdom of God that is very much at the heart of Anabaptist theology. The result of my many years of study was my booklet Shalom and the Wholeness of God, though I continue to grow in my understanding of what God’s peaceable kingdom means and what it means to live today towards a just peace.
Attending the Seattle Mennonite Church over this last year has opened up new areas of understanding. I love that we recite a land acknowledgement at the beginning of each service. It is not just a statement of belief in the wrongness of how Native peoples have been treated,. It is an invitation to engage in the issue. I love too that we light a peace lamp each week and pray for a “just peace” for all peoples and for creation. I have learned too about the Coalition for Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery and the important work being done to overcome the patterns of oppression throughout history that still continue to dispossess Indigenous Peoples of their lands.
Standing up and committing to this covenant is a challenging though also enriching commitment for me. I hope that I will continue to grow and learn over the coming years. I hope you enjoy reading through the covenant I agreed to and the practices it encourages.
Congregational Covenant Seattle Mennonite Church
As an Anabaptist community of God’s people,
we at Seattle Mennonite Church receive with joy and humility
the mystery of God’s grace, truth and love.
In response to God’s initiation, we make this covenant
with God and with each other, to join in worship, praise, and service.
We affirm our faith in God, the source
of life and love, the Creator of the world.
We commit ourselves to follow Jesus Christ,
who reconciles and reveals God to us through the Holy Spirit.
We welcome God’s Spirit to transform, empower and guide us,
as together we discern and follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We pledge to care for each other, including our children, nurturing the gifts of each person,
and living towards just, nonviolent, and transformative relationships in community.
We renounce evil, both personal and corporate,
and join God’s plan for healing the earth, and bringing just peace to its people.
We accept God’s call to share the good news of transforming love,
and welcome others to faith in God and belonging
into Jesus Christ’s beloved community.
We encourage and pray for each other as we live out this covenant which gives us hope
for the time when God brings all of creation into wholeness
and an end to all suffering.
Affirmed at an SMC congregational meeting, March 22, 2015.
Congregational Practices – Seattle Mennonite Church
We believe our Covenant calls us to the following practices in this time and context:
1. Active participation in congregational life
a. Worship – God calls us to be the church together. We encourage participants to honor
their gifts for teaching, preaching, leading, responding, and otherwise contributing to
our corporate worship.
b. Discernment – members are encouraged to practice personal spiritual discernment in
order to faithfully contribute to discerning God’s will for the congregation.
c. Hospitality – members are called to care for each other through table fellowship,
sharing our lives and spiritual journeys, and ongoing prayer.
2. Ongoing spiritual transformation
a. Spiritual practices – in addition to participation in Sunday worship, we engage other
avenues of spiritual growth such as practicing spiritual disciplines; attending spiritual
retreats; meeting with a spiritual director; and regularly reviewing our stewardship of
time, money, gifts, and other facets of faithful living.
b. Spiritual formation of children – we seek to lead children to life in Christ through love,
care, formation in the Gospel of Jesus, and embodiment together of the Way.
c. Spiritual journey – we encourage each other to publicly claim and proclaim faith in God,
and we also grant each other the freedom necessary for searching and questioning.
d. Giving and receiving counsel – we believe we are not an island unto ourselves but need
the larger body of Christ for our mutual growth.
3. Acting on our commitment to the Gospel of Just Peace.
a. Relationships – our commitment to peacemaking begins with fostering healthy
relationships. We commit to practicing Christian love and faithfulness in our primary
relationships, supporting healthy marriages and families, and seeking reconciliation in
situations of brokenness.
b. Economics – continue to actively live out our calling to engage in God’s jubilee
c. Creation care – we commit to grow in understanding our impact on God’s creation, to
act to reduce the adverse effects of our actions, and to celebrate and support the rich
diversity of all creation.
d. Justice for oppressed people – we advocate for concerns local and global, act on our
biblical convictions against war / militarism and for particular presence and response to
the poor, to immigrants and to all who are dispossessed. We are a congregation which
actively seeks inclusion for our LGBTQ kin.
The points listed under each practice are not meant to define the totality of how we engage a particular
practice. They are meant to highlight key aspects of that practice to which members are committed.
Also, we intend for this list of practices to be periodically reviewed and for changes to be made as we
discern new ways in which God is calling us to faithful discipleship