On July 7, during a free afternoon at Charlotte 2005, the joint convention of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, more than 350 people joined in worship and the proclamation of the lordship of Christ, using these themes:
Throughout the event, our language was Christ-centered. We had a worship gathering rather than a peace rally. We took a prayer walk rather than had a march. Our signs reminded us of Jesus' words (e.g., "Love your enemies means don't kill them"). These purposeful choices were one way to invite people new to public witness to give it a try.
A half-dozen dynamic speakers led us toward the big event, putting in writing how we would continue this proclaiming after we got home. Each participant received a long sheet of paper with 15 ideas for follow-up, including a first resource (see <http://peace.mennolink.org/resources/gathering2005/witness.html>). About 170 people of all ages finished this sentence on the postcard we'll mail back to them in a few months: In response to the love that God showed me when I was God's enemy, I am willing to risk for peace by committing myself to:
Numerous people picked up on the themes of the afternoon by saying they would:
By the time we reached the recruitment center, the deluge began. Most people had rivulets of water soaking them for about 40 minutes. One person wisely said, "I'm glad it rained. This will fix today's events in the minds of people for whom this witness was a first-time event." Perhaps the person whose digital camera and cell phone were destroyed will remember the sacrifice best.
But who was most affected by this witness? The people along the prayer walk route, who gestured up or down as they passed us by? The people who read the Charlotte or the Mennonite news coverage? Or was our biggest witness to ourselves, encouraging the long-term peacemakers to keep on the path and inviting new ones to join us? How do we measure and improve on faithfulness and effectiveness as we continue to try to share the good news of Christ's call to peace in a world at war?
A final note:
There are a few extra copies of the handouts available on a first-come basis. We'll appreciate a donation toward printing costs and postage and seed money toward the next public witness. There were three handouts: