This is the way it used to be: When someone asked about the Church of the Brethren, the answer was a halting, “Well, we’re a little like the Mennonites.” You tried not to say it, but out it came.
But 25 years ago we received something new: “Continuing the work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together.” After years of hand-me-downs, these words fit like a custom garment.
They were indeed our own. While they were “uncovered” and arranged by the insightful people at a communication company called Communicorp (now Crane), all the words were said by individuals at various gatherings across the church. They came from within ourselves. This tagline was previewed at an insight session at the 1994 Annual Conference, and then introduced to the whole church the following spring.
These words were not intended to be a mission statement or a vision statement. They have simply helped us give voice to who we are. Though we Brethren are different shapes and sizes, we have somehow found this garment to fit us well. Over the years, the tagline has made its way into everyday life, appearing on congregational websites, church walls, homemade T-shirts, chalk drawings on sidewalks.
Last June, in its report of a whole year of district conversations, the Compelling Vision Committee observed that the tagline was one of two key items providing “frameworks for repeated and connected themes” (the other being love feast).
From all the table conversations across the church, there were 325 responses that mentioned part or all of the tagline.
What is the work of Jesus? It’s healing and welcoming, saving and serving, going and discipling. It’s love made visible. The tagline is 25 years old, but in a sense it’s as old as the Brethren.
Wendy McFadden is publisher of Brethren Press and Communications for the Church of the Brethren.