By Don Neufeld, board member of Mennonite Men and therapist who works with men; Hans Peters, coordinator for Mennonite Men Canada; and Steve Thomas, coordinator […]
Madalyn Metzger is vice president of marketing for Everence. Madalyn and her husband, Kris Brownlee, live in Bristol, Indiana, and attend the Goshen (Indiana) City Church of the Brethren.
Over the course of the past 12 months, I’ve had three different offices. I started out in one that was in the heart of the Everence® marketing team’s space, with a big window and good natural light. I’d been in that office for a handful of years, and it had become a comfortable space.
Then, I packed up my stuff and moved two doors down so two of our new marketing directors could have adjacent offices, to better collaborate and meet one-on-one with their staff. It didn’t hurt that this office had even more windows and better natural light.
But, just four months later, I packed up my books, computer, office supplies and furniture and moved again. This time, I relocated to an office located across the entire building (admittedly with a smaller window and less natural light) to be closer to my colleagues on the Everence senior leadership team.
This last move has been an adjustment. In my 12.5 years at Everence, this is the first time I’ve sat in a space that was so far removed from the marketing team – a group of people with whom I work, collaborate and lead, a group of people I care deeply about. There are times I miss being in physical proximity with my marketing group. My new space doesn’t yet feel quite as familiar and comfortable.
For many, church is meant to be a place of familiarity and comfort, a place where our church families gather to worship and to lean on one another. I felt that while gathering with other Anabaptist leaders of color at the seventh annual Hope for the Future event in San Antonio, Texas. As we arrived from places such as Goshen, Pittsburgh, Hesston, Philadelphia, Harrisonburg and Miami, we celebrated being together, in a comfortable and familial space.
But in reality, is the church actually that familiar and comfortable for all?
Today and for centuries past, our society and the church have struggled with – and sometimes been complicit in – the oppression of fellow brothers and sisters. Behaviors, beliefs and attitudes around supremacy, racism and suppression separate Christians from each other and from God.
As Christians, these injustices run counter to our understanding of the will of God for the church and the world. And as Anabaptists, these injustices run counter to who we are as people called to live together in community, in service to each other and to God. Over the years, we’ve learned this, and we’ve taken steps to fix this. And yet the pain and the injustice still exist for many in the body.
Kathy Tuan-MacLean, Ph.D., is associate director of graduate and faculty ministries for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA. In a 2016 Christian Century article, “Can People of Color Really Make Themselves at Home,” she writes, “There’s a big difference between being a guest in a largely white organization and being able to ‘move the furniture.’”
Tuan-MacLean goes on to describe how she has spent her entire life in predominantly white institutions, including churches. While she would presume that those institutions likely wanted to be welcoming communities, she often found that others saw her as not an equal owner in the community, but as a guest. And it’s impolite for guests to move the furniture around.
Have we, as a church, done enough moving of furniture? Have we done it at all?
Over the past year, I’ve moved some furniture around to find new ways to lead, invite others to grow and develop fresh ideas. And Everence has moved some furniture around to focus on a strategic goal to build a more diverse staff and serve a broader community. This gives me so much hope because I can see others embracing a new vision of what it means to be the church, by integrating different perspectives, trying new things and being willing to experiment and learn with each other.
Turns out, all that furniture moving helps improve the way we live and work together as the body of Christ.
As I return to my new office and look out ahead, I invite all of us to move some furniture around in our churches, agencies and organizations. How might we march forward, together, to explore new methods of building community with one another? How might we contribute in different ways to build up the body of Christ, to make reality the Revelation 7:9 vision of all people, from every nation and tribe, gathering before the throne?
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