Anabaptist Network of Communities: third annual gathering (2013)

Sue Haslehurst reports on the third annual ANC gathering:

On Saturday 9 February, around 45 people gathered for a day hosted by the Manchester Anabaptist study group at Didsbury Baptist Church. The day was an opportunity to get together people in communities which belong to this network and others who may be interested in Anabaptism in general or the network in particular. After the success of the last ANC gathering in Birmingham in November 2011, the steering group again delightedly and gratefully had entrusted the planning and leading of the day to the local hosts.

The Manchester study group created a warm welcome and had planned a fairly relaxed programme with plenty of time for conversation and connection as well as opportunities for updates from the communities represented there and from the wider Anabaptist Network.

The day included two ‘market place’ slots for presentations and discussion on a theme, with participants choosing between sessions on ‘Retreats and Spirituality’, ‘Who educates our children?’, ‘Forming a peace zone in school’, ‘Mentoring young people’ and ‘Preaching After Christendom’.

There were three brief pauses for worship, using scripture passages and Mennonite hymns related to them, as well as sessions for the eight children who used the time to prepare to lead us in worship at the end of the day and to make a bookmark for each person present as a reminder of a day spent enjoyably together.

There was a real sense of excitement about the day. General reluctance to return from the marketplace discussions was a good indication that the topics had been well-chosen and well-presented and that people were eager to engage with them, and the buzz continued over an extended lunchtime, with both the delicious hot meal and the space for conversation much appreciated.

The Anabaptist Network planned to cover the cost of the day, if necessary, but also invited donations from participants who could afford to contribute. Thanks to the generosity of Didsbury Baptist Church, which provided the venue for free, and of those attending, the costs were fully covered by donations on the day, which were enough also to provide a gift to the (student) couple who ran the children's activities.

The Anabaptist Network steering group was represented by Sue Haslehurst, convener of the ANC, and her updates from the wider network were appreciated, as was an update from Will Newcomb on developments in the Mennonite Trust.

It was interesting that of the 15 or so ANC communities only four were represented and a good number of those present came either as individuals from some distance away wanting to connect with fellow Anabaptists or as local people interested to find out more about Anabaptism. The day provided an opportunity to make these connections. We hope that they can be sustained in a variety of ways between gatherings – and are pleased to hear that the day served to strengthen some local links in Manchester.

All in all, a very successful day, wonderfully hosted by the Manchester Anabaptist group, who report that they enjoyed the opportunity to work together in the planning and on the day and that it was a very positive experience for their group.