by John Tyson
On June 23, the Franconia Conference board gathered at Lakeview Mennonite Church to navigate through reports of current ministries, listen to what has happened over the past months and discuss the future.
Before the meeting began, Lakeview Pastor Blaine Detwiler gave a tour of Lakeview’s scenic location in the hills near the border of Pennsylvania and New York. Pastor Detwiler also shared the rich history of the Lakeview congregation and its current missional vision.
With a clear understanding of the history of our surroundings, the meeting was soon underway. First on the agenda was a discussion of actions around the Vision & Financial Planning recommendations. The actions are meant to enrich overall equipping, credentialing, covenanting, and financing for congregations and individual leaders alike. The hope is to bring forth further partnerships and networks with a missional value, financial transparency, and sustainability.
Executive Minister Noel Santiago shared his observations and revealed new principles that shape his approach to up-and-coming ministry. The first principle, according to Santiago, is that we are moving away from sit-down dialogue to conversations as we walk. Secondly, experiments and experiences should now take precedence over explanations and proposals. Thirdly, if something works in an urban setting, it will work in a suburban setting, but not vice versa. Lastly, said Santiago, we need to generate structures that contain the “substance of Heaven” versus only programs and plans. The principles were agreed upon as relevant to all Franconia Conference ministries.
After lunch, the board re-convened for the Conference Leadership Team ministry updates. Noah Kolb shared how there are many able pastors in Franconia Conference who are ready for ministry. Gay Brunt Miller reported on the partnership with Anabaptist leaders in the United Kingdom and their recent and positive visit with the conference. Since Steve Kriss was leading ViaVerano in Spain, John Tyson (a summer ministry intern from the Souderton congregation) reported on his behalf that the leadership cultivation and communications department is vibrantly moving in the right direction with a large number of Ministry Inquiry Program participants and a communications sector ahead of the local market. Conference financial advisor Conrad Martin shared updates on the financial viability within Franconia Conference. And finally, Noel Santiago shared about emerging partnerships and new congregations working alongside Franconia Conference.
The board discussed the vision of this year’s upcoming conference assembly. Style of worship will be a challenge, especially considering how many languages are spoken within the congregation, but this diversity is also recognized as an amazing gift. The board also talked about recent reconciliation efforts with Swiss Mennonites and Amish communities.