Evana Network, a fellowship of evangelical Anabaptist congregations, continues moving forward with a focus on local community engagement. Sixteen congregations have joined to participate in regional networks. Some have no other affiliations and some are committed to continuing in their existing affiliations. At this point, congregations are mostly from the north central and eastern part of the United States, including congregations from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. These congregations represent over 3100 regular attenders, and a total of 109 church leaders and pastors have joined by committing to the personal covenant. In addition, Evana is in conversation with approximately fifty other congregations that are discerning their future involvement.
The first regional network is being formed in northern Indiana. Matt Yoder, Connections Pastor at Clinton Frame Mennonite Church in Goshen, IN, is an early participant. "Being part of Evana has helped us to see ways we can help our churches live out God’s mission in our local communities," Yoder shared, "the ways in which we can partner with other churches to be a part of God's kingdom work is far greater together than what we could do alone."
The regional network process begins with an extensive community mapping process. John Troyer, Executive Director for Evana, said, "The community mapping process helps us clearly look at the pain of our neighbors. We take seriously the broken places that are often ignored and believe the healing presence of Jesus through the local church is the hope of the world." Along with community mapping, congregations are committing together for a time of repentance, prayer and fasting to seek out direction and purpose. As that is clarified, congregations will move together in caring for their neighbors through radical hospitality, strategic compassion, and healing presence.
While the northern Indiana region has already begun its work, the other regions will get started at Evana's first Pastor & Spouse Retreat in early March in Florida. Over 100 pastors and church leaders will gather for prayer, renewal and training. A special emphasis will be healing prayer for pastors as they sort through their own areas of need and brokenness. An additional event on the horizon is ReGen 2016, an Anabaptist youth, adult and family convention at Taylor University, Upland, IN on July 5-9.
Evana's leadership continues to have conversations with denominations, conferences and agencies about ways to partner together. Wes Furlong, Director of Church Development for Evana, will be the keynote speaker in March at Lancaster Mennonite Conference's Celebration of Church Life. Troyer noted, "The question of institutional affiliations is an important one for us. Our focus is the local congregation, and we welcome partnerships with those who share our purpose and vision. We have seen a clarity and movement within the broader Anabaptist world. We simply want to be faithful in responding to the ways God is leading us.” The Evana Network Board will discuss the shape of these connections and other agenda when they meet again on February 28 in Lake Placid, FL.