Don’t be afraid to ask

Noel Santiago, Executive Minister

noel.jpgI love questions.

I confess to being a bit “odd” this way. Shouldn’t I love answers more? One time I waited 11 years for the answer to a question I had! When it came it wasn’t so much that I found the answer, rather, it found me; like when in a little league baseball game the ball happens to “‘hit”’ the bat of the hitter.

Questions can evoke more questions, stimulate insight and revelation, cause deeper thinking and reflection. Questions can also evoke anger and hostility, generate anxiety, and surface insecurities. Questions can cover or communicate what’s really on our minds.

“So what does Franconia Mennonite Conference do anyway?” Conference leaders hear this question frequently, especially at budget time. Many persons may question why their congregations are sending money to the conference, because they don’t know what the conference does. Still, they send it. And so first let me say, “Gracias!” For others, there’s an experience of the value and meaning of the conference’s work with fewer questions about connection. Again, I say, “Gracias!” Let’s consider some factors of familiarity.

Conrad Kanagy, in the recent Mennonite Church Membership Profile, found that most congregational members (the persons people in the “pew”) are more familiar with their congregation than any other entity within Mennonite Church USA. This is understandable and good news. About 35% of members are familiar with the denomination – that is, the larger church “out there” and especially the Mission Network.

Many persons also relate to Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) on a regular basis. It is a commonly held belief that MCC is a part of the Mennonite Church. It is, and it isn’t. It is, in that many Anabaptist groups participate with and in MCC, including Mennonite Church USA. It isn’t, in that it is not an official agency of Mennonite Church USA like organizations such as Mennonite Education Agency, Mennonite Publishing Network, Mennonite Mutual Aid, and Mennonite Mission Network.

Lastly, only 12% of members understand and relate to area conferences and/or districts, the so-called “middle judicatory” of the denomination. That’s what we are at Franconia Mennonite Conference. But Franconia Conference is much more than a middle judicatory. Together, we are the stories you are reading in this Intersections. Together we are a network of 41 congregations and growing; 23 Conference Related Ministries (CRM), as Gay Brunt Miller writes about; 10 (and growing) Partners in Mission from Montgomery County, PA to places further away like Mexico, Haiti, and Indonesia.

We are together those who walk alongside congregations when searching for a pastor, credentialing leaders, or providing interim ministers to help guide congregations through difficult but necessary transitions. Together we are seeking to follow the mission statement the conference’s delegates have affirmed: “Equipping Leaders to Empower Others to Embrace God’s Mission.” Still, for many, this leaves the question: “But what does the conference actually do?” Well, ask your pastor. Ask the person sitting next to you in church. Ask the person leading one of the CRM’s featured in this issue of Intersections. Ask a Conference Board member, Conference staff, or Conference committee member. Ask the editor, the guest editor of this issue is Sheldon Good, of Intersections by responding to one of the articles.

Take the lead and a first small step to find out the response to your questions about Franconia Mennonite Conference. As always, with questions, expect to receive a response that may lead to and perhaps will illicit another question, insight, thought, or possibility.

Editors Note: For more information about Conrad Kanagy’s research check out Herald Press’s Road Signs for the Journey, which Partner in Mission Pastor Leonard Dow of Oxford Circle Mennonite Church in Philadelphia says “offers a guide that prayerfully positions us, both individually and congregationally, for the harvest that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ promises!”