Conferring and Expecting the Spirit to Show Up

by Stephen Kriss

This fall is a season of conversation for Franconia Conference.  As the summer winds down and the autumn is upon us, Conference staff are busy with meetings that come before our annual assembly.   The Conference’s two task forces and the Faith and Life Commission that have flowed out of our Church Together Statements continue to be accompanied by staff.  Aldo Siahaan is walking with the Faith and Life Commission while Ertell Whigham is on sabbatical.  Jenifer Erickson-Morales is working with the Addressing Abuse Task Force and John Stotlzfus with the Israel/Palestine Task Force.

In addition, as we prepare for Assembly, we’re coordinating efforts for the upcoming meeting with Mennonite Church USA moderator elect David Boshart on September 10th, open to all members of Franconia and Eastern District congregations and strongly encouraged for all Franconia pastors and delegates.  This meeting will aid in preparing us for items related to assembly and discernment.   This upcoming conversation and others that staff will be engaging with will include more information on our relationship with each other, with Eastern District Conference and Mennonite Church USA.   These all are important conversations, conferring around healthy relationships that both give and receive counsel.

Board and staff are also fielding requests from congregations that may wish to join our Conference and will need consideration at this fall’s Conference Assembly.  Some are new groups, others are migrations from other Mennonite Church USA conferences and some from other denominational affiliations.  This is careful conversation and conferring work for sure.  We’ll know more about the outcomes this fall.

Staff are also beginning to do some work as the board has requested, including analyzing the percentages of the budget used toward our goals of equipping (around 60%).  We’re also taking a look at our staff salaries as the board looks toward the upcoming executive minister transition.   It’s a time of evaluating and calibrating.

IMG_5367We’ve also spent some important time together as pastors and credentialed leaders.  It wasn’t a formal conferring time, but nonetheless a time of gathering together in Princeton for rest and rejuvenation paid for through a grant given to Everence from the Lilly Foundation toward pastoral excellence.  50 of us gathered at the Erdman Center at Princeton Theological Seminary for a day away.  We spent a night out on the town for dinner, heard jazz from the gifted Ruth Naomi Floyd, listened to the input from Calenthia Dowdy, a professor at Eastern University and Jon Heinly, a student at Yale Divinity School.  Randy Nyce (Salford congregation) and Jeff Godshall (Franconia congregation) offered input and guidance toward healthy finances for pastors/credentialed leaders for the long haul.   It was a good 24 hours together.

IMG_5385There is much happening in this space in between.   While we prepare for our gatherings later this fall, we’re conferring and discerning.  These conversations guide our patterns for life together as we seek to strengthen the life and work of congregations, ministries and leaders.   After 300 years, we are still challenged and enlivened by the possibilities around us.  We still gather to talk together, believing the Spirit shows up in our conversations, in our work, in our conferring together.

In other Christian traditions, liturgy is called “the work of the people.”  In our tradition, where community is almost sacrament, these patterns of conferring are the work of us as a people together.   May the Spirit continue to stir as we gather.