by Barbie Fischer, communication manager and administration coordinator
The Franconia Conference board welcomed Gwen Groff as a new board member at their May 11 meeting. Gwen has served as pastor of Bethany Mennonite Church in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont since 1999.
During that time, she has been very active in the conference, in spite of the distance. She has served as a Franconia Conference delegate or congregational delegate at Mennonite Church USA (MCUSA) conventions and has attended most Franconia Conference assemblies. Gwen’s encouragement also prompted Franconia Conference to start recording pastors and leaders events, so that those who could not attend would still be able to access that resource.
Gwen grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and completed her undergraduate work at Eastern Mennonite College and Franklin & Marshall College. She later received a master’s degree in Theology and Pastoral Counseling from Lancaster Theological Seminary. While in seminary, Gwen interned with and then served part-time at Community Mennonite Church in Lancaster.
Prior to pastoral ministry, Gwen held several roles with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), including working in peace education in the Akron, Pennsylvania office, and at the London Mennonite Center in the United Kingdom. She also served as MCC’s director of women’s concerns.
While in London, Gwen met her husband, Robert Buchan. They have two children, Lilly, 18, and Andrew, 16.
Gwen said what she loves about Vermont is the landscape “summers, springs, and falls, in that order.”
She also loves the people in her congregation, and how they do things with integrity and a lot of intention. Says Gwen, “You don’t accidentally wind up in a Mennonite Church in Vermont. The church had to planted.” (Bethany is one of only two MCUSA churches in Vermont.) What seems to draw Vermonters to Bethany and the Mennonite tradition is the peace witness, the opportunity to sing together, and the community, as the congregation is active in one another’s lives throughout the week.
Gwen brings many strengths to her role as a board member with Franconia Conference: a willingness to listen, to learn from others, and an enthusiasm for the work of the conference. She is most excited about the mission, “Equipping leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission.”
Stephen Kriss, LEADership minister for Bethany, says, “Gwen is an experienced pastor and trusted leader. She’ll bring deep wisdom and love for the church with a Vermonter perspective yet as someone who has grown up in Pennsylvania Mennonite contexts and with a connection with Anabaptism in the UK. Her insights, questions along with her poetic and prophetic voice will help us to keep navigating while listening for God’s in-breaking.”
In her spare time Gwen enjoys walking in the woods, singing in various acapella groups, playing piano, patch work quilting, and “the fascinating role of parenting teenagers.” What energizes her is making connections, storytelling and seeing how pieces connect “to my story and to God’s story.”