Gay Brunt Miller, Spring Mount
In February of 2008, urban minister Jim Kilpin gave Blaine Detwiler (conference Moderator and pastor of Lakeview Mennonite Church), Steve Kriss (conference Director of Communication and Leadership Cultivation) and myself a tour in of East London. He shared how his family had moved to this neighborhood a decade earlier to plant a church (connected with Urban Expression, part of the Anabaptist Network, U.K.). As they became familiar with the neighborhood, they began to look for where God was already at work, wanting to be part of what God was already doing. In other words, to be missional.
I asked Jim, “How do you recognize where God is already at work?” He thought about my question and then replied, “I think it is where you find people of peace.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen offers a similar observation in his book, Life of the Beloved, “There is no clearer way to discern the presence of God’s Spirit than to identify the moments of unification, healing, restoration, and reconciliation. Wherever the Spirit works, divisions vanish and inner as well as outer unity manifests itself.” Through God’s Spirit and collective discernment, we join hands with like-minded believers where we find and give encouragement, we equip leaders to empower others and we look for opportunities to join in what God is already doing – where there is unification, healing, restoration and reconciliation.
Recently, delegates of Franconia Conference have shaped our work together through these actions:
- Developing relationships with Partners in Mission as an expression of the missional character of Franconia Conference (2002)
- Establishing the Conference’s mission: “Equipping Leaders to Empower Others to Embrace God’s Mission” (2004)
- Affirming the Conference’s Vision/Core Processes: Identity Formation from a Biblical/Anabaptist perspective, Leadership Transformation from cradle to grave, and Healthy Relational Patterns—passionately living out our callings; and Strategic Values as to be missional, intercultural, and formational (2005)
- And clarifying that Franconia Conference’s five-year Vision and Financial Plan should result in more healthy and growing leaders, congregations, new believers and connections to the world. (2007)
Together, we are cultivating a community of “people of peace” in this framework of action and discernment. Matthew 7:16 says, “You will know them by their fruits.” What fruits from these decisions are evidenced in this issue of Intersections?
Healthy and Growing Connections to the World
As you read you will discover stories about three of our Partners in Mission–the Anabaptist Network in the United Kingdom, Oxford Circle Mennonite Church and Peace Fellowship Church. Nearly half of our conference’s member congregations connect with one of these three partners.
Equipping Leaders and Identity Formation
Elaine Moyer’s reflections on her leadership at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School remind us of the important identity formation work and legacy of leaders who have been equipped and are equipping others through their ministry. Dock’s role in these areas precedes Franconia Conference’s mission statement and is an important piece of our collective work.
Bob Helverson’s ordination is another specific example of a young leader, called, equipped and empowered for ministry.
Strategic Values In Action
“Creating Ripples in the Lehigh Valley” tells the story of the Whitehall congregation’s missional experiment, led by Tom and Carolyn Albright. The growing ministry of Ripple is Anabaptist in character with an untraditional expression of worship, learning from other “emerging” groups, including the Anabaptist Network, U.K.
Healthy and Growing Congregations
The story of Philadelphia Praise Center’s expansion into Spanish worship is a beautiful expression of a healthy and growing congregation. The congregation meets an important need for South Philadelphia, living into the Revelation 7:9 vision of “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation” standing before the Lamb of God.
So what does Franconia Conference do? Together we are living into the vision and mission that we have set. We’re embracing God’s mission, continuing to be and become people where the fruit of God’s peace is manifested.