Dreams for the future of Franconia Conference

by Emily Ralph, associate director of communication

emily workingDreams are powerful things.

When I was a young adult, one of my dreams (believe it or not) was to work on staff for Franconia Conference. I saw conference ministers resourcing and networking leaders and felt drawn to be a part of it.

So when executive minister Ertell Whigham asked me to join the staff in 2011, I was delighted. I had big dreams for our conference, dreams of growing interculturally, of transformative and adaptive leadership, of a renewed commitment to joining in God’s mission in our neighborhoods and around the world. And I wasn’t the only one.

Dreams are powerful things. When we dream, we work to make our dreams a reality. While wishing can make us complacent and discontent, dreaming funnels that discontent into action, motivating us to bring about the change of our dreams. And in my time in Franconia Conference, I have seen so many people working to bring their dreams into reality.

A pastor in Allentown dreamed of building an intentional community in her home that provided community space for her neighborhood… and Zume House was born.

A congregation dreamed about engaging their neighborhood in new and creative ways… and Doylestown started on a missional experiment that led to new relationships, a community garden, and found surprising places in the neighborhood to share the love of Christ.

After traveling to Cambodia and witnessing the victims of sex trafficking, a pastor returned with a dream of fighting that evil on the home front… and Finland joined with other conference congregations in partnering to educate about and eradicate modern-day slavery.

A congregation dreamed of finding a new expression of church based on their personality and strengths… and Spring Mount discovered new life in Table Church and Walking Church.

A group of Indonesian Christians dreamed of extending healing and shalom to their Muslim neighbors after their own experiences of persecution… and Philadelphia Praise Center hosted Ramadan celebrations.

Dreams are powerful things. Because we dream in the image of the creative, resourceful, enthusiastic God who made us. The God who lived that dream on earth, the God who sent the Spirit to fill and empower and surprise us, the God who is living and active and the perfect expression of ultimate love is still dreaming over us and over our world.

When we dream with God, we join God in working to bring that dream to reality. We might find ourselves doing surprising things—like casting out demons or making friends with exotic dancers. We find resources we didn’t know exist—like bread to feed thousands or tables for community meals. We partner with the unlikeliest of people—like tax collectors, fishermen, and people of other faiths.

Four years later as I move on to other expressions of life and ministry, my dreams for our conference haven’t changed. They’ve matured, they’ve grown. But I still dream that Franconia Conference can be a place where differences are celebrated and cherished as a reflection of the God who made us all. I still dream that Franconia Conference can offer sanctuary for tired leaders and at the same time be a place where we raise up new generations to work for God’s dream together. I still dream that Franconia Conference congregations will partner to join God’s mission in our neighborhoods, reflecting the community of mission in God the Father, Son, and Spirit. We need each other.

Dreams are powerful things. And when we dream together, we change the world.

Emily finishes up her role in March as associate director of communication with Franconia Conference, to pursue other dreams. She’ll continue her role working alongside Mennonite World Conference to prepare for the Global Assembly in Harrisburg through this summer.