Tag Archives: Stephen Kriss

God Multiplies the Small Things

by Stephen Kriss

I was struck by the powerful words of the songs that we were singing together on Sunday in this former-thrift-store-turned-worship-space packed to nearly overflowing: we are not afraid… we believe… The words were punctuated with amens, raised hands, “Gloria A Dios.” This is Centro De Alabanza, an outgrowth of Philadelphia Praise Center, now a congregation of its own among the growing Spanish-speaking population in South Philadelphia. We were singing redemption songs that add strength and meaning to immigrant life in this thriving and sometimes dangerous city.

Centro 8On Sunday we celebrated the pastoral licensing of Fernando Loyola and Letty Cortes as ministers in Franconia Conference. Letty was radiant, clothed elegantly with gifts she said were from women in the congregation. Fernando, steady, firm, serious as usual in the task of leading. They lead together as a team, the boomerang of the fruit of Mennonite mission efforts from Franconia Conference to Mexico City in the 90’s.  No one would have expected that support for Kirk Hanger, who left his role at Methacton Mennonite to work at church-planting in Mexico City, would have meant that Centro de Alabanza would emerge to join Franconia Conference.

God multiples the small things and the licensing of Fernando and Letty are proof of that.  Fernando tells the story of his conversion as one that takes a lifetime. Letty is the first woman of color recognized as a pastoral leader in Franconia Conference, over 25 years after the first woman (Marty Kolb-Wycoff) was credentialed for ministry in Vermont.

Centro 1In working with credentialing new leaders and in the slow work that we do in establishing new congregations, I cannot help but see all of the connections that make new things possible.  I notice the small things along the way that when invested in the dream of God, result in unexpected blessing and possibility. It is the widow’s mite given in faith and generosity, the mustard seed that grows into a tree, the leaven that transforms the whole loaf of bread.

We ate together after the two-hour plus worship. There was chicken, rice and beans, Coke along with orange, grape and pineapple soda.  I thought of how similar it felt to the times I’ve visited with Mennonite Churches in Mexico City, yet I was still in my home city in the state where I was born.  I fumbled through conversations in Spanish, but remembered best the words that I learned from Ruth Hunsberger, my Spanish teacher at Johnstown Christian School, who learned Spanish herself while working in Puerto Rico in the 40’s.  My Spanish will thus always sound both a bit Pennsylvania Dutch and a bit Puerto Rican.

Centro 3We bring all of those gifts and parts, all of who we are, all of the possibilities and relationships into the great Matrix of God … and they are used. Nothing is lost, everything is found and even the smallest thing can mean real transformation.  Kirk told the story of meeting Letty while washing dishes in Mexico City. A wholly ordinary conversation that has led eventually to this new community flourishing in South Philadelphia and the naming of the first Latina Mennonite minister in Franconia Conference.  And for those small things, which become eternally significant, and the ability to notice them later and to celebrate together over pollo, frijoles y arroz, I am grateful.

Stephen Kriss is Director of Leadership Cultivation & Congregational Resourcing at Franconia Conference.

 

 

Giving that changes me

by Stephen Kriss

The powerful words of Advent readings from Isaiah tend to get lost in this feel-good season of tinsel and twinkling lights. Familiar music, family gatherings and special worship times mark the holiday with a sense of holy regularity.

Steve KrissBut echoes of the prophet’s words linger in our yearning at this time of year to make things right. There’s a sense that Advent and Christmas shouldn’t pass anyone by. There are more efforts in church and culture to be mindful of those who will struggle this season. Sensitivities are pricked by those who ring bells for the Salvation Army and year-end appeal letters from charitable causes.

When I pastored in the Allegheny Mountains, our congregation had an annual Christmas Sharing Fund. It was an attempt at mutuality within our congregation of diverse income levels. Within and sometimes beyond this season it felt that “no one among us lacked anything.” It was one of my favorite times of the pastoral year. I miss those intimate moments of sharing, knowing that some who contributed to the fund could at times be those who received from it.

I’ve been challenged by my friend Mark Van Steenwyk of the Mennonite Worker, an intentional community in Minneapolis. Settled into a middle-class life­style, I’ve learned to trust the mediating work of organizations to handle my charitable giving, which also provides a tax write-off. This popular path of generosity adds a step between giver and receiver that I think usually honors the relationship, allowing a sense of respect to be maintained.

But Van Steenwyk, out of his own reading of Scripture and walking alongside the poor in community, suggests mediated giving doesn’t readily allow transformative relationships to develop between givers and receivers.

My tax-deductible check takes away the receiver’s sense of indebtedness but does little to cultivate the community and connectivity with the poor, whom Isaiah suggests are chosen to receive the Messiah’s good news.

I remember the intimacy of the Christmas fund, knowing the holy bonds created within the church community from that sharing. Though given anonymously, the gifts directly from the church communicated love and offered those who struggled a sense of being in the struggle together rather than getting a handout.

Those intimate gifts demonstrated care rather than creating a sense of dependency.

I wonder how congregations can do more mutual work like that. It requires us to know and trust each other.

I live in a city where I am asked on a weekly basis to contribute money to someone who is homeless, lost, addicted, struggling. Even after living in large cities for 15 years, I can’t quite look away. I wonder if every encounter might render me the priestly character in the story of the Good Samaritan. I rarely respond anymore. And usually I don’t feel guilty.

But Van Steenwyk’s invitation to step out from behind the comfort of charitable check-writing at this time of the year rings in my ears. Giving is ultimately about God, who gives freely, but also about my redemption and transformation.

This season of tinsel and twinkling commingles with the profound invitation of a Hebrew prophet to give and respond out of the call of the One who sustains all human dignity.

This piece first appeared in Mennonite World Review. Reposted with permission. 

Waiting and working and hoping

Steve Krissby Stephen Kriss, director of leadership cultivation

The Spanish words meaning “to wait” (esperar) and “hope” (esperanza) suggest that there’s a ready connection between the two.   We wait for something that we expect to happen.   We don’t wait for things that we don’t anticipate will actually occur.

There are places designed for waiting (train stations, hospital waiting rooms, airports, the checkout line) and there are places where we unexpectedly end up waiting, where it’s less comfortable or hasn’t been prepared for the necessities of waiting (traffic tie ups, outside buildings).   The places of unprepared waiting tend to create more agitation and desperation.  After living in New York City for a few years, I’ve learned to prepare for unexpected waiting by carrying a book.  Nowadays, with my iPhone, I’m always ready to work (or at least surf the web) while waiting.

Waiting with hope means that we expect something to happen.  In Advent, we wait in anticipation of the arrival of Immanuel, God with us.  I’d say that I anticipate God’s arrival most days, hope for it, spend a lot of my waking hours anticipating the Spirit’s arrival and incarnation in time and space.   Sometimes I’m able to notice steps toward the fulfillment of God’s intention; other times I’m surprised by the sudden inbreaking and transformation.    With the story of the birth of Christ, we have generations of preparation and months of incubation, but on one surprisingly normal and joyous night, “the anointed one” comes into flesh, bone, blood.

While I know that God is with us in all time, in all space, and in all spaces, there is something special that we wait for in Advent, some holy moment that we expect to see, feel, taste, maybe even touch.   While Jesus warned us not to chase those moments, the sheep-tenders and the learned ones were provoked to come and bear witness to the Incarnation, to drop their work for a moment or to focus their skills for awhile toward the manger in Bethlehem, to witness, to be present, to offer gifts in worship.

I find waiting to be pretty annoying.  But hoping can seem even more ridiculous.   Believing that God is going to do something, to enter and transform what seems ordinary can be both difficult and at times unwelcome.

What we know about resiliency, however, is that to lose hope is to lose purpose.   I’m not “a glass half empty” kind of guy, but I notice too often places where Christ’s presence is not quite yet: in the gaps between the privileged and the poor; in the spaces between loneliness and community; in the struggles for healing and wholeness; in the overwhelming sense of busyness that permeates privilege; in the spectrum from tradition to transformation.   I see glimpses and sometimes full incarnations of the path of Immanuel too: in working across culture, language, and human boundaries to share resources with Mennonite partners in Allentown, Philadelphia and Norristown; in work with veterans; in seasonal congregational initiatives to share and worship with neighbors; in our learning to love all of the places and people that God loves.

Early Mennonite settlers in southeastern Pennsylvania often used the catch-phrase “work and hope” as they faced the struggles of persecution, migrating into the unknown, and finding their home in a new world.   In our working (doing), I believe we’re waiting, too.   In our working, we’re hoping and believing (some days more than others) that Christ came two millennia ago into crushing politics, often misguided religiosity, and hard economics, and that the Spirit of Christ might come again, through us, in us, to us, for us as much as for the whole world.   With anticipation, we wait, we work, we hope.

Franconia Conference gathers to celebrate, pray, confer, listen

Garden Chapel Children's Choir
Garden Chapel’s children’s choir led a rousing rendition of “Our God” at Conference Assembly 2013. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

Franconia Conference delegates and leaders gathered November 2 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa. to celebrate God still at work.   With a packed auditorium for a third united assembly with Eastern District Conference, representatives gathered to listen and pray, to celebrate newly credentialed and ordained pastoral leaders, and to work alongside one another after an over 150-year rift created two separate Mennonite entities.  The theme “God still @ work” was an extension of the 2012 theme, “God @ work.”

With singing in Indonesian, Spanish, and English led by Samantha Lioi (Peace and Justice Minister for both conferences) and Bobby Wibowo (Philadelphia Praise Center) and translation into Franconia Conference’s worshipping languages, delegates and representatives from nearly all of the Conference’s congregations from Georgia to Vermont gathered to confer around a board-crafted statement on the Conference’s increasing diversity in ethnicity, experiences, faith practice, and expression.   The gathering was punctuated with points of celebration including testimony from Peaceful Living led by Joe Landis and Louis Cowell from Salford congregation, a youth choir from the revitalizing Garden Chapel in Victory Gardens, NJ, and a moment to mark the upcoming November retirement of Franconia Conference Pastor of Ministerial Leadership Noah Kolb after 45 years of ministry, which was met with rousing applause and a standing ovation.

Noah blessing 2013
Noah Kolb was recognized and blessed for 45 years of ministry. He will retire in November. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

In a shortened one-day event, delegates spent the morning together around tables with Eastern District Conference to continue to deepen relationships across conference lines.  Business sessions were separate, and Franconia’s included a significant amount of time in conversations among table groups, conferring over the board statement and then reporting on those conversations to the whole body.  Delegates and representatives were encouraged to mix across congregational lines to better hear and experience the diversity of conference relationships.

For many, including Tami Good, Souderton (Pa.) congregation’s Pastor of Music & Worship, who was attending Conference Assembly for the first time, the table conversations were holy spaces.  Each person at her table was from a different congregation.   “I saw God at work in the gracious listening, especially in the time when we talked about the conferring statement,” Good reflected. “There were disagreements, but everyone was graciously listening and hearing.  Everyone actually wanted to hear each other.  It was a beautiful time.”

The conferring time, along with an afternoon workshop led by the Franconia Conference board, focused on prayer and visioning for the Conference into the future.   Conference board members Jim Longacre (Bally congregation), Rina Rampogu (Plains congregation), Jim Laverty (Souderton congregation), and Klaudia Smucker (Bally congregation) served as a listening committee for the daylong event.  They reported seven themes of consistent and continued conversation: engagement, diversity, shared convictions, authority, polity, the role of conference, and the reality of changing relationships and engagement.  Board members noted that there is much response work to do to continue the conversation and discernment process.

Bruce Eglinton-Woods, pastor of Salem congregation (Quakertown, Pa.), said, “The challenge is speaking clearly on what we believe and where we are at, which is often a challenge for Mennonite leaders. My hope and prayer is that we can trust God and release the idea of keeping it all together. We need to let God do the holding together.”

Franconia Conference delegates spent time conferring and praying together.  Photo by Bam Tribuwono.
Franconia Conference delegates spent time conferring and praying together. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

According to Rampogu, one of the longest standing Conference board members, “the hardest part about this kind of meeting is that there isn’t enough time. We want to share and to talk together,” she said.  “That is a positive sign.  People want to connect.  My hope and prayer is that we keep our goal in mind, keeping our mission focused on equipping leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission, with Christ in the center and churches focused on missional activity.”

In business sessions, delegates selected a number of positions by 97% affirmation including a 2nd term for conference moderator John Goshow (Blooming Glen congregation) along with board member Beny Krisbianto (Nations Worship Center), as well as ministerial and credentialing committee members Rose Bender (Whitehall congregation), Ken Burkholder (Deep Run East congregation), Mike Clemmer (Towamencin congregation) and Chris Nickels (Spring Mount congregation).   Randy Nyce (Salford congregation) who is completing a term as finance committee chair and board member reported on Conference finances, noting an 11% decrease in financial contributions from congregations.

“I was surprised and pleased that the attendance at Assembly 2013 was so strong; seeing the room filled to capacity was an affirmation of how much the delegates and guests in attendance care for our conference,” Goshow noted.  “Franconia Conference is all of us who are members of our 42 churches and our Conference Related Ministries.  It is my hope and prayer that together we chart a course that will advance God’s Kingdom in exciting and wonderful ways.”

Listen to the podcast.

Conference Assembly 2013 Highlight Video from Franconia Conference on Vimeo.

Conference review report released; board acts on immediate recommendations

letterheadweb.jpg

Stephen Kriss, skriss@franconiaconference.org

Franconia Conference’s Review Steering Committee met with the Franconia Conference Board of Directors on May 4, 2010, to receive the review and recommendations of LaVern Yutzy, consulting associate Mennonite Health Services. Yutzy was commissioned for the review by the Franconia Conference Board in response to questions around decisions related to staffing and proposed vision made earlier this year. He developed the report and recommendations after a process of interviews and consideration of responses from the Conference community. Both the board and the committee received Yutzy’s work as an independent consultant based on the content offered through the listening process. After careful and deliberate conversation, the board moved to receive Yutzy’s report and to follow through with the immediate recommendations as outlined in the review.

The board’s immediate actions include:

  • Receiving the resignations of the moderator and assistant moderator after a reconstituted board is situated this summer.
  • Appointment of a nominating committee comprised of members of the Review Steering Committee who are not currently seated on the board (Donella Clemens of Perkasie congregation, Mike Derstine of Plains congregation, Beny Krisbianto of Nations Worship Center and Joy Sutter of Salford congregation). The nominating committee will receive nominations for additional open board positions—including Conference Moderator, Assistant Moderator and Finance Committee Chairperson.
  • Withdrawal of the plan to lay off all Franconia Conference staff as was outlined in February 2010.
  • Appointment of an interim staff leadership team of Noel Santiago and Ertell Whigham that may serve through July 2011.

The Review Steering Committee will continue in its role through 2010 though Yutzy will not be meeting regularly with the group. The committee will continue to receive feedback and to work to discern a path toward a hopeful future for the Conference community. Yutzy’s report suggests a high-level of engagement across the Conference in response to the review and looks forward to continued engagement with delegates and the broader constituent community. The committee has established the following timeline for the review and implementation of the recommendations.

  • The Review Steering Committee (Donella Clemens, Mike Derstine, Randy Heacock, Beny Krisbianto, Jim Laverty and Joy Sutter) will now receive feedback by email at feedback@franconiaconference.org regarding the content and recommendations of the review through May 28, 2010. This feedback may also include nominations for the roles of finance committee chairperson, moderator, assistant moderator and at large members recommended to serve in a reconstituted Board of Directors of Franconia Mennonite Conference. Nominations for those positions will be received until June 30, 2010.
  • The review will be posted immediately on www.review.franconiaconference.org additional updates and timeline information will also be posted to the Conference website at www.franconiaconference.org
  • A newly constituted board will begin to serve after affirmations of new members by delegates in late summer 2010.

The committee wishes to express appreciation to LaVern Yutzy for patient listening and engagement in the development of the review, report and recommendations, in helping to find a way that Franconia Conference may continue to bear witness of Christ’s way of peace and to extend God’s healing and hope to the world.

Click here to view the Franconia Conference Review and Recommendations prepared by LaVern Yutzy.

Click here to download and view a PDF of the Review Steering Committee’s process for the recommendations.

Review Steering Committee develops process, expresses appreciation, invites prayer

letterheadweb.jpg
Stephen Kriss, skriss@franconiaconference.org

The Franconia Conference Review Steering Committee met April 28, 2010, at the Mennonite Conference Center in Harleysville, Pa., to continue to develop a path for discernment and communication for the upcoming Conference Review report and recommendations. The review, being performed by LaVern Yutzy, consulting associate Mennonite Health Services Alliance, is scheduled to be released in mid-May to delegates and constituents. Review Steering Committee members include Donella Clemens (Perkasie congregation), Mike Derstine (Plains congregation), Randy Heacock (Doylestown congregation), Beny Krisbianto (Nations Worship Center), Jim Laverty (Souderton congregation), Karen Moyer (Rocky Ridge congregation) and Joy Sutter (Salford congregation).

The steering committee wishes to express appreciation for the response and high-level of engagement around the review over the last weeks. While the review and recommendations are being constructed by Yutzy, the committee considered themes and recommendations from the report at this week’s meeting. Yutzy is set to present a draft to the steering committee this weekend with a scheduled release to Franconia Conference’s board of directors at a joint meeting with the board and committee on May 4, 2010.

On Monday, May 3, the steering committee will meet again at Harleysville to continue to develop a path for considering the recommendations that come from Yutzy’s review and further development of a venue for the conference community to consider and offer input into the review’s recommendations and forward process. The review is not intended to answer all questions around recent decisions regarding staffing, but rather to navigate together toward a hopeful future. The review will be available at www.franconiaconference.org upon public release in mid-May.

The steering committee calls the Conference to continue in prayer—both communally and individually—as we prepare to move together, to receive and process the review recommendations. The review and recommendations are intended to provide a path forward for Franconia Conference that together we will continue to proclaim and incarnate Christ’s way of peace, healing and hope.

Review Steering Committee names co-chairs and calls the conference to prayer

letterheadweb.jpgStephen Kriss, skriss@franconiaconference.org

The newly configured Franconia Conference Review Steering Committee met for the first time on April 21, 2010, at the Mennonite Conference Center in Harleysville, Pa., to continue to set a course for the review scheduled for release in mid-May 2010. The review, performed by LaVern Yutzy, consulting associate with Mennonite Health Services Alliance, is intended to offer recommendations and set a direction for the Conference toward a hopeful future. The committee’s next meeting is April 28, 2010, with additional meetings scheduled over the following months to guide processes on decision-making and communication.

In this week’s meeting, the committee named Mike Derstine, pastor of Plains Mennonite Church, Hatfield, Pa., and Joy Sutter, Executive Director, Bux-Mont Oncology Hematology Medical Associates and member of Salford Mennonite Church, as co-chairpersons. The committee reported a positive response to opportunities to provide information by email, postcard and through personal contact with LaVern Yutzy and recommended an extension of consulting hours to fully process and consider the volume of responses. Along with Sutter and Derstine, team members include Donella Clemens (Perkasie congregation), Randy Heacock (Doylestown congregation), Beny Krisbianto (Nations Worship Center, Philadelphia), Jim Laverty (Souderton congregation) and Karen Moyer (Rocky Ridge congregation at Quakertown, Pa.).

With the deadline for responses set for April 24, 2010, the committee and Franconia Conference Board of Directors will meet together on May 4, 2010, to consider the review and the situation going forward. The review is not intended to answer all questions about the recent events regarding staffing decisions, but is focused on finding a path forward together. The report will be crafted by Yutzy upon completion of all interviews and consideration of comments submitted by email and postcard. The committee’s intent is to provide guidance for establishing patterns of communication, discernment and decision-making for the upcoming report and recommendations that will be posted at www.franconiaconference.org in mid-May 2010.

The committee continues to call the conference to prayer—communally in the worship life of congregations as well as individually that together we might continue to proclaim and incarnate Christ’s way of peace, healing and hope.

Collaborative missional learning task force formed for Indian Valley initiatives

by Stephen Kriss

blooming-glen-bapt-4.jpgLeaders from ministries and organizations connected with Eastern District Conference and Franconia Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA met on April 5 at Dock Woods Community at Lansdale, Pa, to initiate a conversation about future partnerships toward collaborative missional learning. The gathering has implications for broader cooperation and included representatives from Living Branches (an affiliation of Franconia Conference-related retirement communities), Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Pennsylvania and Biblical Seminary in Hatfield, Pa. The meeting included board members, business leaders, pastors, conference staff and organizational leaders in conversation together.

The group met to discuss possibilities and to engage in storytelling on the movement on education and equipping within a variety of contexts, considering from the pew to pulpit as well as later year learning. Though an informal conversation, the group named a task force to continue the conversation toward more practical realities and paths for mutual enhancement of mission and vision for extending the reign of God and missional engagement locally in Bucks and Montgomery Counties in Pennsylvania.

Franconia Conference is undergoing a conference-wide review while regional conferences of Mennonite Church USA, including Harleysville-based Eastern District Conference, continue to explore collaborative equipping and learning opportunities from an Anabaptist perspective. Christopher Dock Mennonite High School is also in the midst of a marketing review along with Penn View Christian School in nearby Souderton, Pa. Both Biblical Seminary and Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Pennsylvania are expanding options to serve emerging congregational leaders in the Philadelphia region considering both urban and suburban constituencies. With the recent affiliation of Souderton Mennonite Homes and the Dock Woods facilities under the name Living Branches, there is a new opportunity to explore lifelong living and learning among a community of 1500 residents.

The group named a task force set to include:

  • Phil Bergstresser, board member Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, broker/owner, Bergstresser Real Estate
  • David Dunbar, President, Biblical Seminary
  • Steve Kriss, Director of Leadership Cultivation for Franconia Conference of Mennonite Church USA
  • Rich McDaniel, board member Biblical Seminary, president of College Retail Alliance
  • Conrad Swartzentruber, Principal, Christopher Dock Mennonite High School
  • Mark Wenger, Director of Pastoral Studies, Eastern Mennonite Seminary at Lancaster (Pa)
  • Warren Tyson, Conference Minister, Eastern District Conference of Mennonite Church USA

Franconia Conference Review Steering Committee invites additional members


Stephen Kriss

The Franconia Conference Review Steering Committee received nearly 80 nominations for the available sixth position on the recently formed committee. In consultation on April 8, 2010, at the Mennonite Conference Center in Harleysville, PA, the committee moved to increase its numbers and to adjust its members based on feedback from conference constituency.

Additional committee members include:
• Mike Derstine, pastor, Plains Mennonite Church at Hatfield, PA
• Beny Krisbianto, pastor, Nations Worship Center, Philadelphia
• Joy Sutter, Salford Mennonite Church at Harleysville, PA
Previously named member Gerry Clemmer, lead pastor, at Souderton (PA) Mennonite Church has removed himself from the committee to allow space for additional members to represent broader conference constituency. The committee of seven now includes three Franconia Conference board members and four representatives from the Franconia Conference constituent community.

The committee is set with the task of establishing patterns of communication, discernment and decision-making for the upcoming report on the conference-wide review, currently in process under the leadership of LaVern Yutzy, consulting associate with Mennonite Health Services Alliance. The report is intended to shed light on recent events in Franconia Conference; to provide better understanding of issues that will need further processing and to find a path toward a hopeful future while not intending to answer all questions. The report will be available to delegates and constituency by mid-May. The committee intends to have a full report posted at www.franconiaconference.org

Yutzy expects to complete his final day of open listening sessions on April 21, 2010, at the Conference Center in Harleysville. To schedule a conversation with LaVern, contact Carla or Melissa, at the Conference Center at 267-932-6050 or email office@franconiaconference.org Postcards with questions for perspectives and comments have been sent to all conference delegates and congregations. Postcards should be returned or responses emailed to feedback@franconiaconference.org by April 24, 2010. All responses are confidential.

Franconia Conference names steering committee and review timeline

letterheadweb.jpg
Stephen Kriss

The board of directors of Franconia Conference has named a Conference Review Steering Committee to provide oversight for the assessment being performed by consultant LaVern Yutzy. The committee includes:

  • Donella Clemens, Perkasie (Pa.) Mennonite Church
  • Gerry Clemmer, senior pastor, Souderton (Pa.) Mennonite Church
  • Randy Heacock, pastor, Doylestown (Pa.) Mennonite Church
  • Jim Laverty, pastor of equipping and discipling, Souderton Mennonite Church
  • Karen Moyer, Rocky Ridge Mennonite Church at Quakertown, Pa.

The committee will be expanded to include a sixth person. Suggestions of persons who might be considered as a sixth member are welcome from all constituents. Please send suggested names to feedback@franconiaconference.org by April 6, 2010, for consideration.

The review being conducted by Yutzy, consulting associate with Mennonite Health Services Alliance, is intended to shed light on recent events in Franconia Conference; to provide better understanding of issues that will need further processing and to find a path toward a hopeful future. The process is designed to review the role, structure and staffing of Franconia Conference, clarifying issues around recent events and underlying concerns while not intending to answer all questions.

The review listening process began on March 18 and initially focused on conversations with 14 Conference staff. Yutzy met with 15 persons on March 29 and 30 including delegates, pastors and other interested persons from the Conference. With guidance from the Conference Review Steering Committee, Yutzy will continue the listening process. He will be available on April 8 and a second April date later in the month. Persons who would like to share their perspective are invited to call the Conference Center at 267-932-6050 and speak to Carla or Melissa to arrange a time to meet with LaVern or email office@franconiaconference.org to schedule a face-to-face meeting time on either of those dates.

Yutzy has received a number of e-mails and invites persons to continue to share their perspectives and counsel. Feedback about this communication and any aspect of the review process is welcome. Though LaVern may not be able to respond to every e-mail, counsel and comments are valued and appreciated at feedback@franconiaconference.org.

The Conference will send postcards with response questions to all congregations and delegates encouraging feedback into the process by April 24, 2010.

Recommendations that emerge from this review are likely to require further review and processing with persons and groups involved in order to determine appropriate direction. The Conference Review Steering Committee will develop a potential process for reviewing the recommendations and a path for decision-making regarding those recommendations. The report is expected to be available to the board and delegates in mid-May, 2010.