Mennonite gathering slated for central Pa. in 2015
LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) — Mennonites and other Anabaptists from around the globe will gather in central Pennsylvania a year from now for the first Mennonite World Conference Assembly ever to be held in Pennsylvania.
The gathering, held every six years, will be in Harrisburg in July 2015. The last time it was held in the United States was in 1978, in Kansas. The 2009 assembly was held in Paraguay, Lancaster Newspapers (http://bit.ly/1tZsaNb ) reported.
Cesar Garcia, general secretary of the conference — which includes the Mennonite Church, the Mennonite Brethren Church, and the Brethren in Christ Church — said he hopes 8,000 or more people from 50 to 70 countries will attend the July 21-26 gathering at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center next year.
Garcia said Wednesday in an interview in Lancaster that it’s one thing for believers to see members of the community portrayed on television, but “to be here, and to know the real Mennonite world, to experience this area, it will be a wonderful experience.”
Attendance will depend on how many visitor visas are issued by the U.S. Department of State, something the conference has been working on for years, said J. Richard Thomas, superintendent of Lancaster Mennonite School, who is helping to plan the gathering.
Visas will be easier to obtain from Canada and Europe, but the concern is getting them from Latin America, Asia and Africa where almost two-thirds of baptized Anabaptists live, he said.
People attending the conference are to be hosted by families in the Harrisburg area, including Lancaster County. Thomas said about 850 houses already have been found but about 150 more are being sought.
Organizers said the gathering is not a policymaking conference, with the conference’s governing work done by a general council that will convene in Harrisburg before the assembly.
“This is much more of a fellowship,” with great music and people coming together,” volunteer spokesman Merle Good said.
It will feature a global church village, as well as workshops, discussions and service projects. Each day will begin with singing led by a multinational worship team.
Garcia said he hopes that people from beyond the Anabaptist community will attend.
It will be “a very good window into the Anabaptist world,” he said.
Information from: Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era , http://lancasteronline.com