Reaching out, in, through, and toward

Why be connected to our neighbors and engage in community ministry?
What do we hope our impact will be?
What needs face the Rosedale neighborhood where Rainbow Mennonite is situated?
What will Sharing Community Rosedale, Inc. be like in 5-10 years?
What are our passions and interests—what would we like to see happen in this community?
How might we recruit more volunteers?
Where and how are we willing to engage as a church?


These are just a few of the questions that we at Rainbow will be wrestling with this weekend during extended church-wide conversations about the who, what, where, how, why, and when of community outreach. We will be joined by Consultant Joy Skjegstad, author of Starting a nonprofit at your church and Winning Grants to Strengthen Your Ministry. 

When I think about outreach and community ministry, my mind goes to a National Public Radio Humankind interview that featured reflections from Rev. Kristin Stoneking. Kristin is the Executive Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an interfaith pacifist organization founded just prior to WW1. Kristin grew  up in the house (now a Mennonite Voluntary Service house) down the street from Rainbow. Her father John Stoneking was then serving as the United Methodist pastor. John was one of many Methodists instrumental in welcoming the Mennonite congregation (now Rainbow Mennonite) to worship in the Methodist building starting in 1969. Click here to read more about our history.

During her interview with Humankind’s host David Freudberg, Kristin said that she came to non-violence organically. She credits her parents for exhibiting the three dimensions of Gandhian nonviolence: personal transformation, spiritual transformation, constructive program, and political action. She also credits the Mennonite congregation. Here is what she said:

Both of my parents were religious in the sense that we were a part of a religious community. And the Mennonites in my early life, as a historic peace church…with persons who really valued being a peacemaker and held up practices of peace as serious business, really influenced me.

I saw my own parents embracing spirituality, but also working very hard at creating programs that lifted people up, that lifted up choices towards life. One of my earliest experiences was of living in the inner city of Kansas City and our  congregation was across the street from a school that the KC school board decided to close and the decision was to sell the property to a company that was going to bury old oil drums on the site and knock down the school, knock down the playground, the only playground for miles.

And my dad and our congregation took on the school board. And through lots of political machinations and attempts to get this congregation to go away, they won. They won the site for the people of the neighborhood and built a playground there. They did so through organizing, they did so through different kinds of resistance and campaigns.

That is classic non-violence in action. But I never heard that term. It was sourced from the community that held each other up spiritually. So what I saw demonstrated was that in order to take on violent systems or violence in the world, it’s really important to have community of accountability and support to remind you what you believe in and where you come from.

You can find the full interview here: Kristin is interviewed at about minute 7:00 on segment 2.

I love that line: “It was sourced from the community that held each other up spiritually.”

I hope that the conversations we begin this weekend will inspire, challenge, and motivate us to be this community of accountability and support, holding each other up spiritually as we reach out and reach in, hopefully always reaching toward one another as we seek a more peaceful and more just neighborhood and world.

Our conversation on Friday will begin at 6 pm.

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