Accept the Invitation. Show up.

Accept the Invitation. Show up.

I am sharing this Menno Minute as a member of the North Edmonton Ministries Advisory Group.  In this context, I have been given the lead role of walking alongside Donna Entz over the last three months as she concludes her work in our midst.  This time with Donna has given me ample opportunity to reflect on the world we live in and how a local ministry such as NEM can speak into the converging issues emerging and evolving around us.

As a white, educated, English-speaking person, I came into this role recognizing that I walk with quite a lot of unearned privilege.  And yet, what I have been reflecting on as I walk with Donna, is the strength of my Mennonite identity – shaped by my faith in God as revealed through Jesus – and how this identity can create an opening for authentic relationship-building with people whose identity and privilege might differ from my own.

Throughout my life, I have had mentors and opportunities for experiences that have taught me what I believe is the critical starting point for how Jesus calls us to walk in this world.  Abe Janzen and Orlando Vasquez summarized this well for me years ago: “We are called to ‘show up and hang out.’”  Everything else that happens in our lives grows out of that.  In other words, it is not about our job title in a hierarchy, or our pedigree when it comes to wealth or education.  We show up as ourselves – but with a well-formed identity.  For me, this identity has been shaped by stories of Jesus, mixed with experiences that have challenged and nurtured me within the church collective.  As Mennonites, our identity is that delicate balance of personal and collective or communal.  My life experience toggles between these two poles and ultimately helps me stay the course of being a Jesus-follower in community.  And in the context of my vocation, and recent work with Donna, this community has merged my Mennonite faith community with many people from diverse walks of life.  We have, in fact, come together!

In dialoguing and reflecting with Donna over the last three months about her work, the impact of this work, and the value of continuing this work, I am keenly aware that a good mentor always goes back to the source.  In Donna’s case, that source is Jesus.  Jesus showed up all over the place – always with the same identity – but playing many different roles.  When he showed up for Zaccheus, it was an invitational role that challenged someone working within a system that oppressed others.  When he showed up for the woman tugging at his cloak, he took up the role of healing.  When he showed up at the well of the Samaritan woman, he took on the role of counsellor – of knowing someone else deeply.  In this story, what could be experienced as shaming was received as invitational and liberating!  When we know each other deeply, in love, we liberate each other.

One thing I have learned from my interactions and learnings from the Indigenous community is the importance of showing up for each other from an identity rooted in our teachings, and – just as importantly -- ready to take up the role that emerges from the context of our encounters.  That role can change.  We may be a helper in some situations, a leader in others. We may be called into a pastoral role, or a healing role through prayer.  If we are called to show up and hang out, what follows is engaging with others to explore the right role for ourselves in this context.

It is this gift that Donna Entz has left us with.  She modelled for us how to show up and hang out, and how to take the gifts that come from these encounters to the next level:  to accept the invitation to play a role --- be it a pastoral role in her daily walks with friends, a leadership role in organizing dialogues, a mentor role as she empowered others to take on leadership, and a ministering role as she preached and taught in our midst.