October 30, 2015

The discernment process

On September 17, 2015, Eastern Mennonite Missions purchased a building at 450 North Prince Street in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This purchase was the result of an 18-month discernment process with EMM staff, board, Representative Council, church leaders, other EMM partners and numerous alumni.

At the heart of this discernment process, the EMM community asked some challenging questions about the context of missions and EMM as a 100-year-old organization: 

  • How do current realities of global migration, urbanization, globalization, and pluralism affect our context for missions?
  • How does EMM need to adapt or innovate to make our work fit the context of a rapidly changing world?
  • Should we consider some new or different expression of the work we have done for the past 100 years?

We sensed God nudging us to dig deep. These questions were not easy to answer. But they have taken us on a journey of exploration and conversation that we believe is Spirit-led, and, to some degree, still uncertain. But EMM is committed to engaging its stakeholders in helping to discern direction for the organization.

In our discussions throughout the EMM community, several key thoughts have surfaced:

  • Should EMM be more local? Can we find ways to minister locally that builds on our experience globally?
  • Should EMM be more “urbanized”? Is it time for our administrative office to get out of the suburbs and find our place in an urban context? How might a new environment change us?
  • Should EMM more intentionally nurture local networks and partnerships to multiply efforts? Can we find ways to “give away” or multiply our work by building a local presence through extensive partnerships?  

As we discerned, the answers to the above questions were primarily “yes.” But at the same time, we didn’t have a complete sense of how we would accomplish these “goals.” Neither did we think we could discern next steps in isolation from our networks and relationships. But when the opportunity came along to purchase the building on North Prince Street at a greatly reduced price, we decided to act. At the core, we felt we had enough direction that this should indeed be a next step. EMM would commit to a city presence, even if we hadn't worked out the details of what that presence would look like.

Last modified on January 26, 2016