How I became Anabaptist

Tim Nafziger told me I was one of few British Anabaptist/Mennonites who more or less found is own way here. I replied with the story of my journey, with an emphasis on Noel Moules' Workshop course. I posted our conversation on my weblog. He suggested I post it here too. So here goes.

Tim wrote:
Thought you might be interested to know that you got mentioned at the steering group meeting of the Anabaptist Network today as an example of someone who became Mennonite in the UK without any contact with the Anabaptist Network or the London Mennonite Centre. Everyone was quite impressed...

Hi Tim,

Here's how it happened:

I joined Bridge Christian Fellowship in 1998 because friends went there, and I lived with the pastor, Nigel Leppitt, for a while. I was impressed with their work on values after they began their church, particularly Nigel's "upside-down pyramid" idea of leadership, where the point is at the bottom: the leader serves his team who serve the people. I found out that a lot of BCF's thinking was informed by the Workshop course.

I attended Workshop not knowing what an Anabaptist was. I was impressed with Noel Moules' gestalt approach to things, exemplified by his "Salvation Landscape" module - an overview of history from a spiritual point of view. I was also impressed by his open approach to divisive questions. Rather than dictating "we think this", he would say "so and so thinks this, so and so thinks something else, and here are some pros and cons of each view". At the end of the course he revealed he is an Anabaptist and explained what that means. In fact, I noticed he even has his own form of "plain dress", always wearing denim.

After that I visited the London Mennonite Center a couple of times, when I was in London, and noticed they sang songs from the Iona Community. I first encountered Iona at Greenbelt. I also started reading Third Way magazine at this time. Eventually it dawned upon me that there was some kind of unuttered conspiracy going on between all these groups, or at least a collegiality, and the oldest source for this was the Anabaptists.

When I moved to Gainesville, I simply looked up "Mennonite" in the phone book, visited the local congregation and loved the people there. I ended up setting up Emmanuel Mennonite Church's web site and helping to run a struggling student group, which got little interest either from Gainesville's pagan peace activist circles nor the evangelical Christian groups.

If the story needed a "next step" it would be this: I am an Anglican. I like real wine in my communion, and I like worshipping using words and forms that go back centuries. I feel a strong kinship with the people at www.bridgefolk.org and I hope the Mennonite gifting for reconciliation can be applied to the fractured church. If the radical reformed can reunite with the Catholic, then shouldn't that embarrass everyone in between to grow out of denominationalism?

Finally, thanks for giving me the opportunity to ramble, and 10 precious minutes of distraction from writing my PhD.

Peace

Paul