Lead Pastor Phil Waite and College Mennonite Church has been given a grant for a sabbatical leave that includes his family and the congregation. The foundation for Phil’s activities was laid by Joe Springer.
Joe is a mentor to Phil’s son. Joe did a study of his mentee’s ancestral roots and collected the information into two booklets; one for the Waite root, and the other for his mother’s Bontrager roots. Phil came to the Mennonite Church from the “outside.” He attempts to understand and describe his relationship to the Mennonite Church as a grafting in experience. (Read a biblical story of grafting in Romans 11. ) The information about diverse ancestral roots is guiding Phil’s travels and studies and also the conversation within the church that he helps to pastor.
The congregation will experience a kind of sabbatical also, as we contemplate our roles in expanding and enhancing ministry through grafting. The congregation is publishing a new magazine with the hope that it welcome diversity and beauty. The first issue came out in the month of April and is titled “Sing”. On the front page of the second issue Phil reported his anticipated sabbatical experiences. (“Sing”is on line, and you can read the sevond issue by clicking here.)
My 56 years in Florida was a learning experience about the value of grafting in citrus trees and my crude attempts at church planting and growth by grafting. Jessica Bennet is the head of CMC’s food service department. When I see her I remember her grandfather, Frank Bennet. Frank was a Florida “snowbird”. He didn’t live in Tampa but he made frequent winter visits to Tampa because he owned a citrus grove south of Plant City. Bennet welcomed my family to the South by taking us to his citrus grove. He first took us to what he described as the “original” citrus tree. We learned that the tree had a strong root system and its fruit looked good to us, but on first taste, it’s fruit was unbearably sour. We spit it out.
Next, Bennet took us to a tree that had been grafted, and the fruit was wonderfully sweet. He advised us to visit his grove any time, and taste fruit until we found an orange to our liking. He advised us to pick all the fruit we wanted from that grafted tree. I expect that no reader has ever tasted fruit from an ungrafted citrus tree. So, back to the metaphor. I’m reminded of simple words attributed to the Master Teacher. He said that by their fruits you shall know them.
The original anabaptist root is strong and enduring. It has lasted for 500 years and the tap root reaches all the way back to the teachings of Jesus. But the fruit of the original tree can be hierarchical, exclusive, divisive, and hypocritical. A bud grafted to the original root may flourish and bear fruit that is true to Jesus, welcoming, tasty, and nourishing.
may be vigorous and strong
grafts improve the fruit