Mennonites hold many common core beliefs and value our history as a people of God. Our beliefs in God and Jesus Christ link us with other Christian denominations. However, Mennonites try to live out God’s call in some ways that are distinct. Worshipping as a community of believers and studying the Bible to listen to what God is saying to the church today are very important to Mennonites. We also believe that the church is called by God to share the good news of Jesus in word and deed, showing others a glimpse of what life is like under God’s rule.
Story from Russian heritage
In Russia in the 1870s, a threat to a long-standing exemption from military service caused Mennonites to look for a new place to live. Both the United States and Canada were eager to have hardworking, knowledgeable farmers settle some of their western lands. Many Ontario Mennonites took immigrants into their homes for awhile, helped them learn how to get around in a new country, and provided food and clothing. Jacob Y. Shantz, a Berlin (Ontario) Mennonite business entrepreneur, rallied church members to put up their own homes as backing for a government loan of almost $100,000 to assist these immigrants in moving farther west to settle in Manitoba.
Mennonites practice adult (or believer’s) baptism. Baptism symbolizes God’s grace washing people clean of sin through Jesus’ death on the cross. At baptism, people make a public commitment to identify with and follow Jesus.
Story from East Africa to Seattle
Sisay Desalegn grew up in Ethiopia at a time when religion and baptism were outlawed. One day, Sisay was leading a Bible study when officials took him away, interrogated him for six hours, then took him to prison and told him that unless he renounced his faith, he would not leave alive. After numerous beatings, they finally released him. Later he brought good news to East Africans in Seattle, Wash., supported by Seattle Mennonite Church.
Peace and Love
Mennonites believe that Jesus, when he lived on earth, revealed a way for people to live peacefully and nonviolently. Mennonites believe in giving ultimate loyalty to God rather than to nations or to the military.
Story from military reservist
Tom Oliver grew up fascinated with the military. “I wanted to be like James Bond, a killing machine who could make a bomb out of a toothpick.” But after being in the military reserves for a number of years, he became disillusioned. Meanwhile, he married and with his wife began to study the Bible seriously. They came to realize they were pacifists. After visiting several Mennonite churches, Tom decided to leave the military. Today Tom is a screenwriter in Los Angeles where he and his wife have been members of Peace Mennonite Church.
Mennonites aspire to follow the example and words of Jesus Christ in everyday life, including service to people in need.
Story of Edna Ruth Byler, early forerunner of Ten Thousand Villages
In 1946, Edna Ruth Byler visited Mennonite volunteers in Puerto Rico who were teaching embroidery to students living in poverty. Byler brought home several embroidery pieces to sell to friends and neighbors. By the early ’70s, the flourishing handicraft project moved out of Byler’s basement and today has become Ten Thousand Villages, a nonprofit alternative trading organization that provides fair income to people in developing countries by selling their handicrafts in stores all over North America. Today, more than 300 stores in the United States and Canada sell these crafts, made by an estimated artisans you can meet here, from numerous countries.
Mennonite Mission Network, the main mission and service agency of the Mennonite churches in the U.S., offers myriad opportunities for service and witness in North America and all around the world.
Open to All
From the beginning, Mennonites have shared their faith and passion for Jesus with others. Mennonite churches are open to anyone who confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and wants to live as Jesus taught.
Story from Taiwan to Silicon Valley
Stewardship touches on simplicity, service, and helping others. Mennonites place high value on Godly stewardship. Everything we have belongs to God, who calls us to live as faithful stewards of all that’s been entrusted to us. Therefore we pay attention to giving not only monetary gifts, but our gifts of time and talents in the service of God.
Everence is a faith-based, member-owned, financial services organization which offers stewardship education and training, as well as assisting individuals and congregations being faithful stewards of God’s gifts.
Mary Oyer dedicated her musical gifts and interest in music in various cultures around the world, to serving God and the church. You can see part of her story and witness in a video at the Everence website.