Denver church an intercultural effort

Pastoral couple from Mexico part of bigger conference ties

Mar 11, 2019 by and

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A Denver area congregation’s efforts to be intercultural go far beyond being merely multicultural.

Rather than a collection of cultures and identities tolerating each other but lacking mutual roots (multicultural), Beloved Community is seeking something more.

“This concept of community is deeper,” say Fernando Pérez and Rebeca González, a Mexican couple who are working with the congregation as part of a bigger partnership between conferences in the U.S. and Mexico. “It is being open to the challenge of having deep relationships with those we do not know from cultures different from ours.”

Fernando Pérez and Rebeca González are oastirs frim the Conference of Evangelical Anabaptist Mennonite Churches in Mexico working in the Denver area with Beloved Community and Mountain States Mennonite Conference. — Mennonite Mission Network

Fernando Pérez and Rebeca González are oastirs frim the Conference of Evangelical Anabaptist Mennonite Churches in Mexico working in the Denver area with Beloved Community and Mountain States Mennonite Conference. — Mennonite Mission Network

After being part of the very beginning of Beloved Community: A Mennonite Congregation, located in Englewood, Colo., Pérez and González of Mexico City received visa approval in the fall to return to the church, a member of Mennonite Church USA’s Mountain States Mennonite Conference.

The couple say the Conference of Evangelical Anabaptist Mennonite Churches in Mexico, or  CIEAMM, had been growing in its own way since becoming financially independent from outside funding 16 years ago, but had few relations with the global Anabaptist family.

That changed in 2014 when it was decided CIEAMM would send letters to Mennonite conferences in the U.S. seeking fraternal relationships. Mountain States Conference responded.

The following year, Pérez and González combined attendance at the Mennonite World Conference assembly in Pennsylvania with visits across Mountain States. Beloved Community Pastor Vern Rempel invited the couple to be part of constructing a multicultural congregation.

They were part of Beloved Community’s first six months three years ago as part of a growing relationship between CIEAMM and Mountain States. After this, Mountain States began an application process for 30-month religious visas. It took two years.

While waiting, González and Pérez served short-term in ministries supported by Mennonite Mission Network in Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico. They arrived in Colorado in September and have begun an evening Bible discussion in Spanish and other outreach initiatives in the Denver area.

“The access they have to Spanish-speaking folks is phenomenal compared to anything we have,” said Rempel, who jokes that his roughly 60 percent grasp of Spanish is similar to the couple’s handle on English.

As for taking part in pastoral roles within the congregation, they say they have been more interested in facilitation than “traditional ecclesial leadership.”

“We have listened, seen and asked to learn, and in a participatory way build the community of faith dynamic together,” Pérez and González wrote by email. “At the moment we are working together on the identity of the congregation. . . .

“We are eager to have deep human relationships, where the community of faith is a familiar, comfortable space for people from diverse contexts.”

Closer conference ties

Pérez and González, in relationship with MMN, are seeking to develop closer ties between CIEAMM and Mountain States Conference. They wrote an article, “Building a Relationship of Mutuality Between Two Conferences,” in the October edition of Vision: A Journal for Church and Theology, published by Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary’s Institute of Mennonite Studies.

While one focus is on intercultural ties between conferences across a national border, the couple are also putting emphasis at the congregational level, inspired by the early church in Romans 12, which brought together Romans, Greeks and Jews into a new creation finding new life in Jesus.

“This tremendous clash of cultures had to live together without making separate meetings of Romans and Jews in the same worship facility,” Pérez and Gon­zález say. “They were challenged to have deep relationships. . . .

“In Jesus we are all equal. This change of mentality is also the key in the current context for churches to become interculturally worthy of the gospel of Jesus.”

Rempel says Beloved Community has been working with Mauricio Chenlo, MMN minister for church planting, on connections with other multicultural congregations in Mennonite Church USA. These connections can offer insights on things like best practices.

“He said you are the only white liberal church doing this,” Rempel said of the congregation’s inclusive posture. “The others tend to be more conservative evangelical.”

For Beloved Community, it is important to not lose sight of vulnerable, relatively invisible populations. Members of Colorado’s undocumented Latino community live in fear daily — of white people, of black people, even of other non-U.S. citizen Latino people who have sufficient documentation to be in the country.

Rempel and others were relieved to hear from Pérez that they understand Jesus’ gospel as being for everyone and to know that the Mexican church was willing to develop a relationship with their conference.

It all comes back to Pérez’s and González’s Romans 12 vision.

“God did not call us to tolerate, but to accept and love others, our neighbor as ourselves,” they say.

‘Beautiful Feet’

Mennonite Mission Network’s 2019 Sent church planter conference will take place April 26-28 at Beloved Community in Englewood, Colo.

Inspired by Romans 10 and using the theme “Beautiful Feet: Hearing Christ’s call to proclaim the good news,” the church- planter gathering will feature presentations by Rebeca González, Fernando Pérez and Vern Rempel. Other speakers include Mountain States Mennonite Conference moderator Ken Gingerich; MMN board chair Madeline Maldonado and her husband, David; Sojourn Mennonite Church Pastor Zach Martinez of Greeley; Defiance Church Pastor Matthew Shedden of Glenwood Springs; and Skip Tobin, USA ministries director at Virginia Mennonite Missions.

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