By Jeanne Zimmerly Jantzi
Process Consultant

Metaphors engage us in new ways with imagery for exploration.  In the last session of the 2024 Ohio Mennonite Conference meetings, I invited delegates and other attendees to unleash their creativity to brainstorm metaphors to describe Ohio Mennonite Conference (OMC) as they currently see it.  This article contains a sampling of the many imaginative metaphors coming from the gathering.

One person saw Jesus as the mother hen who sits on a diverse collection of eggs.  The Conference is the nest where we (the diverse eggs) are united under Jesus’ love.

Another person imagined OMC as maple syrup.  The sap of the Spirit flows without our effort.  It’s our own choice to tap into it.  Even after the sap is collected, there’s still a lot of work to make syrup.

People at five different tables described metaphors of windows, light, and wind.  Someone saw the Conference as a stained-glass mosaic window that the light of Christ can shine through.  Another person imagined an open window in which the light of God comes in and healing and hope blow out by the Holy Spirit.  Another saw a prism or crystal, reminding us that when the Conference allows the Light to shine through it, lots of colors burst forth.

OMC is like Legos. When we are together, we can build.  When we step on one, it hurts.

Another person reminded us of the metaphor of the spur used in Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together…”

OMC can be seen as a ball of dough.  Many ingredients come together as the yeast works through it all.  From the dough, a loaf of bread can be formed.  Fittingly, two different people imagined soup.  One saw the Conference as Stone Soup.  A community is hungry, a person comes and says, “I’ll make Stone Soup,” brings a big pot, everyone brings the little bit they have, and everyone is fed.

Six people described water metaphors.  One described OMC at a watershed moment.  The congregations are the streams and tributaries winding their way to the river (the Conference).  Each congregation (tributary) contributes a small part to the whole.  The river can be turbulent at times with obstacles, but keeps on flowing with fast moving places, slow areas, and even stagnant areas.  The congregations are the boats on the river.

The group brainstormed a rich variety of metaphors. The Conference is a flower bulb.  Out of a time of darkness, comes beauty in the presence of light. After planting, God makes it grow.  Or — Ohio Mennonite Conference brings to mind the process of developing old style photographic film.  We aren’t sure how things will turn out.  Or — OMC is like the Ohio Turnpike.  It doesn’t go everywhere, but it speeds things along.  It costs something, too.  Or — OMC is a bridge, spanning a divide.

And finally, my personal favorite: Ohio Mennonite Conference is like blob tag.  Jesus is the initial “it,” and as Jesus reaches people, they join the blob/mass.  We only move with Jesus, and we only bring more people into the blob as we remain with Jesus, reaching and stretching to bring into the blob/mass those who are not yet with us.

Process Consultant Jeanne Zimmerly Jantzi (standing) helped to guide Ohio Conference through a two-year review process, which culminated with a three-year strategic plan and a revised Conference constitution.