“Going to church” with the MB Herald book club
Ever been catching up on your newsfeed and impulsively clicked something that caught your eye? Just a momentary spark of interest and suddenly you’re down a rabbit hole.
That’s sort of how I ended up joining the MB Herald book club this year.
A sinking feeling
A friend posted on Twitter about this online book study and something in the topic – a promise to explore evangelicalism and Anabaptism – resonated with me. I clicked. Within a few short minutes I had fired off an email to join the reading and discussion.
It seemed a great plan at first. Then, I took a closer look at the book title and description: The Activist Impulse: Essays on the Intersection of Evangelicalism and Anabaptism. This sounded a bit more academic than I’d bargained for.
Next, I checked out the others who had similarly responded to my friend’s tweet. A slow, sinking feeling settled over me – they were predominantly men with pastoral or academic vocations. “One of these things is not like the others” played in my mind.
A learning opportunity
I am an Edmonton mother of three with a passion for language and literature working part–time in government communications. Although I love my church community and am very interested in exploring topics of faith, I’m no theologian and have no academic background in church history.
Maybe, I thought, I can be a silent participant. I’ll passively soak up some knowledge as if taking in a lecture.
With this plan firmly in mind, I next learned the book club would meet via video chat. My hope of quiet background listening evaporated. We would all see each other face-to-face and converse in real time. No way to be an anonymous spectator.
At this point, I had a choice: back out quietly or face my discomfort and press on. For reasons I’m still not sure I can explain, I decided to push aside my considerable doubts and try it out.
I’m glad I did.
A community of online friends
For 15 weeks, we met every Friday afternoon for an hour to talk through each essay in the book. The essays were sometimes dry, often dealing with points in the history of the Anabaptist or Evangelical movements – usually people and places I had not heard of before. While reading, I needed my phone handy to look up theology terms.
At the same time, the essays almost always parallelled or resonated strongly with current topics and tensions within the church in some way.
And, fortunately, the conversations were rich. I thoroughly enjoyed the perspectives, interests, and questions each person brought to the meetings. Though the book was one I would not have tackled on my own, reading it together with this group of mostly strangers spread across the country was a joy.
In a strange way, it began to feel like we were doing church. Here we were meeting together, asking questions together, learning together, trying together to figure out what it means to be part of a denomination today that is both evangelical and Anabaptist. Though we weren’t studying the Bible, worshipping together, or breaking bread, we were all interested in discerning how best to be faithful in our lives, home churches, and ministries. We could listen and learn from one another.
Over the course of our conversations, I felt a community forming. These strangers became people I looked forward to hearing from each week – people who have contributed to my spiritual growth and understanding.
What began for me as an impulse click over social media became a meaningful opportunity for connection, community and learning. An opportunity for which I am very grateful.