dancing in the aisles

I became a Christian in a Mennonite/Brethren, Christian (communal) community, called Reba Place Fellowship. When I got there it was beginning to develop various gifts of the spirit and soon became a charismatic church. Because of this, my Christian formation was tinged with an openness to the mystical. The year was 1972. Communes were popping up all over the place and many people—young and old—were searching for spiritual dimension. It was the time of hippies with long dresses, long hair and ripped up jeans, Jews for Jesus, Jesus Freaks…and communes, both secular and non-secular.

In the 8 years I was there, the church fellowship grew from 28 to approximately 250. We lived in extended households of anywhere from 8 to 20 people. We lived a Jesus-centered, discipleship life, practiced the giving and receiving of counsel, and the reconciliation procedure outlined in Matthew 18:15-20. We were far from perfect, in fact, we weren’t even hitting the mark 50% of the time, and bad things happened as well as good.

I left there in 1979 after some very painful experiences. During the decades that followed I received confessions from those that hurt me and I granted forgiveness—the 2 requirements for reconciliation. We are now reconciled and I choose to separate the good from the bad. I don’t forget the dark side, I just set it aside because, 40 years later, I see that the light side was good…very good and not something I have found since. It was real communal living—maybe something like Israel’s kibbutzim—and it was 24/7. I like to refer to this affectionately as, the Reba Boot Camp. (Whoops, I think my tongue just got caught in my cheek 🙂 )

What I want to say about this time is that it was a living, breathing experience. One could say that I learned Discipleship Christianity by the immersion method. I don’t mean language, although there is a language to be learned and understood, but more like being rough stones in a rock tumbler. I don’t know how I could have understood the concept of discipleship if I hadn’t lived this way. And I don’t think I could have managed the dark elements without the charismatic experience that taught my heart to swell, my feet to dance and my voice to praise. I don’t think I could have managed without those very high times of God in me.

The Charismatic Movement of the time certainly had its pitfalls, but for me it was a path to the sense of knowing (gnosis) that I enjoy today.  I have not found a Mennonite congregation that will walk this path with me. Mennonites sing, but they don’t dance and they don’t sway to the music and they don’t say “Praise God” and they certainly don’t shout, “Hallelujah”! But when we sing, we do it well…4-part harmony. So when my congregation sings a really uplifting or soulful song, I am swinging and swaying, praising and happy. No one joins me, but so far none have made comments, for which I am grateful. One of these days when the mood is just right I’m going to grab someone and hop up to the front of the sanctuary and just do it! (Might have to be running a fever to do this, but you never know.) It’s something I think about doing and wish I would do, so maybe one day the holy spirit will just hop into my shoes and move me on up there fearlessly…maybe when I’m too old to think straight.

Mennonites are Anabaptists. Many in the denomination today came to it because of its peace and justice values (reconciliation), but that is just part of the faith. In community I lived the 3 core values of Mennonite Anabaptism—Discipleship, Community and Reconciliation. In the newly revised booklet by Palmer Becker, What is an Anabaptist,  these values are summarized in the following statements:

1) Jesus is the center of our faith.

2) Community is the center of our lives.

3) Reconciliation is the center of our work

I don’t know if it’s all that easy to live the first 2 values outside of some form of community. Life can be very tough. Anyway…I’m glad I learned what I did and am what I am…and don’t have to do it all over again!! 🙂

2 Responses to “dancing in the aisles”

  1. 1 korin
    June 24, 2010 at 10:33 am

    It’s good to be reminded of the 3 core values, they get lost sometimes in the, certainly worthy and needed, peace and justice focus. Please don’t ask me to dance down the aisles:)

    • 2 Naomi
      June 24, 2010 at 10:57 am

      No, I won’t ask you. But wouldn’t it just be glorious to do that with a couple of enthusiastic people? Uplifting and inspiring. Maybe someone from my church will read this and actually volunteer!!!

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June 2010

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