Convention Theme Appears, With Minutes to Spare
Earlier in the planning session, they did settle on a scripture text: 2 Corinthians 5:16-20, which says in part, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
They then turned their attention to molding the verses into a theme.
“The group decided quickly that we needed something bold, something that called us to be witnesses for Christ,” said Rachel Swartzendruber Miller, director of convention planning. “And we said it has to have something to do with bridges.”
That was the scene in January 2010 when the separate youth and adult convention worship planning committees met together to prayerfully discern the focus and theme for 2011 convention.
While touring the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for the first time, the bridges outside of the center’s floor-to-ceiling windows caught the committee’s attention. They began working on ways to fit Pittsburgh’s landmark bridges into the theme. Taking the concept of bridges from the convention site also gave planners a way to think missionally.
“Truly being missional is taking in your surroundings and taking in your community,” said Swartzendruber Miller. She believes that this theme embraces the idea of a missional church.
Shé T. Hall, a member of Calvary Community Church in Hampton, Va., and one of the worship leaders for the youth convention, said the group was drawn to the theme “Bridges to Cross,” but that they felt it was still missing something.
“It did not take into account that individually we have our own bridges we must cross to get to God,” Hall said.
So, with only 10 minutes left to meet, Hall said God’s creativity took over.
“When I was looking at ‘Bridges to Cross,’ I took out my mental Sharpie and started editing in my mind. God said, ‘O.K., the theme is good, but you forgot something important.’ That’s when ‘Bridges to (the) Cross’ popped in my mind.”
The theme encompasses two meanings, while also embracing a missional presence in Pittsburgh. Planners hope the theme inspires Mennonites to both recognize that we have “bridges to cross,” and yet can also be “bridges to the Cross” for others.
“It was one of those ideas where you know it’s God-inspired, because it was a perfect fit at the right time and right place,” Hall said. “What makes it even more wonderful is all the rich imagery that’s loaded in the theme – the horizontal and vertical reconciliation that form a cross when put together, the double meaning of the word cross as both noun and verb, the use of the word bridges and the many bridges we have to cross in Pittsburgh.”