Walls: Divine and Dividing

2006, 23 pp
When you read the title of this year’s Season of Prayer material, how many of you wanted to respond with “but… good fences make good neighbours”? Both are part of Robert Frost’s famous poem, “Mending Wall”. There is an irony in our theme that we cannot escape. Walls, or fences, are neither good nor bad, but they do have good and bad functions. As we discerned this year’s theme, we experienced this tension as we spoke of the need for walls, or fences, with doorways and windows.

Mennonites have a love/hate relationship with walls. We want to be welcoming. Being missional has a lot to do with hospitality and extending a genuine welcome to others. But we have also seen ourselves as a separate people. At Mennohof in Shipshewana, Indiana, a wonderful museum that shares the Mennonite story with the broader public, there are repeated references to the fences of accountability that are needed for a Christian community to flourish, so that it can reach out to the world. Is this still true of the Mennonite church? Are we still a separate people? Most of us live fairly integrated lives, but the call to live within society according to an alternative vision remains a strong part of our identity.

At Assembly 2006: God’s People Now!, the Faith and Life Committee of Mennonite Church Canada encouraged us to hold holiness and hospitality in a positive tension, much as one needs to breathe in and breathe out to stay alive. This positive tension also needs to be part of the way we live with all the walls in our lives, so that they can fulfill their positive functions without excluding those whom Christ would have us invite in.

It is our hope and prayer at Mennonite Church Canada that this year’s Season of Prayer booklet will be a guide to prayer that engages all its users with the powerfully reconciling gospel of Jesus Christ.

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