As I slowly make my way around the churches of Barrie, I’ve encountered a number of streams of Christianity. I’ve met Pentecostals, Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians and Lutherans.
But I haven’t yet found an Anabaptist church.
This seems to me to be a glaring omission. Are there really no Anabaptists in Barrie? While this has never been a huge movement globally (I understand that there are only two Anabaptist churches in all of England), I know that they are strongly represented in Southern Ontario, especially in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. And in Oakville we have what I suspect is the only Anabaptist ‘mega’ church in the world. But none apparently in this city.
I have a huge level of respect for this tradition. During the Reformation Anabaptists were persecuted by both Protestants and Catholics for their approach to Christianity, and to the present day they have been seen as very ‘fringe’. Yet they bring some very important emphases to the theological table, and I think that we would be poorer without their contributions.
Anabaptists are known for a number of distinctives, including a focus on Jesus’ teachings as summarised in the Sermon on the Mount, a history of building close-knit communities, and a practical ethic of serving basic human needs through such organisations as the Mennonite Central Committee.
But to me perhaps the most attractive facet of this stream of Christianity has been their centuries-long tradition of peace and restorative justice. Anabaptists are known for choosing non-violent approaches to resolving conflict, for sending peacemaker teams to conflict zones, and for working towards the restoration of broken relationships.
Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers, and I know of no other denomination that has made this ideal such a central part of their theology and praxis.
So, where are the Anabaptists in Barrie? Have I just not found them yet? Are they hiding somewhere? I hope so, because their voice needs to be heard in the conversation.