Last week I attended a pastor peer meeting in the Bluffton area. It was the first time Renee Kanagy, the new pastor of Cincinnati Mennonite Fellowship, where I pastored before Columbus, was a part of this group. Over the course of conversation Renee mentioned that she lived in Columbus from age three to six, attending Neil Avenue Mennonite Church (the former name of Columbus Mennonite Church). I’m also aware of two other pastor friends who attended this congregation at some point in their young lives – Karl Shelly, one of the pastors of Assembly Mennonite in Goshen, Indiana; and Marty Troyer, pastor of Houston Mennonite Church. In other words, this congregation has helped form pastors currently leading congregations in Cincinnati, Houston, and Goshen. I’m sure there are others.
This academic year I’m glad we can welcome another potential future pastor. Chris Pedersen is a second year student at MTSO (Methodist Theological School in Ohio) and will be interning about ten hours a week with us from now until May.
Like a number of you, he encountered Anabaptist faith at Bluffton University and found a spiritual home. Among other things, Chris will be co-teaching our middlers Sunday school class, and serving as one of the worship leaders during Advent. He’ll be preaching in the spring and will occasionally write a blog or Lamplighter article. He could also be accompanying me or Mark on hospital visits. I’ll introduce Chris this Sunday and give him a chance to introduce himself.
Congregations that have regular interns are often referred to as teaching congregations. Whether or not this is an annual thing for us, it’s a valuable identity for us to take on. We are a learning community, a community of inquiry, and we are formed by the worship, study, fellowship, and service that we do together. It has been observed that congregations are one of the few truly intergenerational organizations in our age-segregated society. The young energize, challenge, teach, and give joy to the old. The old shepherd, delight in, teach, and mentor the young. And those in the middle get the best of both worlds. We can be intentional about calling out gifts in one another and providing space for people to experiment and grow in leadership.