Mennonites look toward future in Craig with new church
They don’t mean to draw attention to themselves.
They don’t go to war. They don’t run for office. They don’t smoke. They don’t use drugs or alcohol, though they’re known to enjoy the occasional cup of coffee. Their women wear long dresses and white bonnets in grocery stores and public spaces.
They prefer to keep things simple, the way Jesus taught mankind to live in the New Testament.
“We aren’t out to draw attention to ourselves,” said Mennonite Minister Dale Martin. “We have no desire to be flamboyant.”
Craig’s Mennonite congregation keeps growing, so the group of more than 100 received the green light from the city to build their new church across Moffat County Road 7 from Memorial Regional Health. Construction has already begun and the group hopes to have it mostly complete by sometime next year.
Craig’s Mennonite church has several small classrooms where about 30 children of all ages were attending school Monday morning. As the snow fell hard, the kids bundled up for a quick recess game of “three base,” which was basically a raucous snowball fight in front of their Mennonite Church.
As hurled snow flew by and the joyful shrieks of children filled the air, Josh Weaver offered words of caution after arriving at the church Monday.
“Watch it,” he said with a smile. “You might get hit.”
As a Mennonite deacon, Weaver walked unscathed through the snowballs into the Mennonites’ existing church — a series of several temporary office spaces huddled together. After he knocked off his boots, Weaver said they’ve made good use of a temporary space.
“These are old office buildings,” Weaver said of the simple space, complete with pews, a pulpit, and hymnals for church members. “When we put these in years ago, this was supposed to be a temporary setup.”
The Mennonites made their simple space work for at least the last 15 years.
For the most part, Mennonites are similar to most Christian faiths.
“Like most Protestant churches, we endorse the Apostles’ Creed and teach the Bible as the inspired word of God,” said Wayne Miller, a Mennonite lay member and church brother.
The Mennonites are known as one of the peace faiths in the same category as the Amish, Brethren, and the Quakers. Martin explained what separates the Mennonites from most other Protestant Christian faiths is their adherence to the New Testament.
The Mennonites especially revere Christ’s sermon found in the Book of Matthew, chapters five through seven.
“That’s all referred to as the sermon on the mount,” Miller said. “We take that very literally.”
The sermon on the mount is one of the most famous speeches in the Bible because it contains the basis for the Lord’s Prayer, and Christian teachings of humility and compassion for the sinner. It was these teachings of loving your enemies and doing good toward those who harm you that were in direct contrast to Old Testament teachings of an eye for an eye when you’re wronged.
“Jesus’s new way, the new will of the father, does not give any room for practicing the Old Testament,” Miller said.
“We believe the Old Testament is in the past,” Weaver said.
As to how all that translates into being an American, Martin explained they’re not political and see themselves first as children of the kingdom of God.
“We’re not part of that government. We’re not part of that kingdom,” Martin said. “We do pray that God will overrule the affairs of men and government. We believe we pay our taxes and abide by any laws of men and God, but we are not political.”
Craig’s Mennonites are praying efforts to legalize recreational marijuana fail and city leaders act to prevent it.
“Our concern is giving up godly principles for monetary gain…” Miller said. “Our prayer is the decision about marijuana be made from a spiritual standpoint in light of the fact we will spend eternity in heaven or hell based on how we respond to the word of God… As a church, we’ve been praying about the marijuana issue.”
That doesn’t mean you won’t be welcome to worship in the new Mennonite church if you’ve partaken of the occasional joint.
“We love everybody,” Martin said. “We love the people who love marijuana. We just think there’s a better way for them.”