by Jeff Wright, Leadership Minister
“I desire, then, that in every place [we] should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument…” – 1 Timothy 2.8 (NRSV)
Franconia Conference is amid a lot of transition. New congregations from across the US are aligning with the traditional core of Franconia congregations in Eastern Pennsylvania. A merger with Eastern District is in process. Churches from California and perhaps even Florida are joining the conference or at least exploring relationships. Ties with international partners are expanding. These are wonderful days to be a part of this historic body of believers.
Of course, the challenge is always one of communication across the human barriers of language, culture, and geography. Those from the center of conference life in Eastern Pennsylvania might wonder, “What can I do to encourage this growing movement?” It might sound trite, but I believe our prayers are the most powerful and effective offering we can make on behalf of the new expressions of Church that God is aligning with us in Franconia Conference.
So, how ought we to pray for these new and emerging Franconia Conference congregations?
First, pray in the simple language of the Lord’s prayer that the Kingdom of God will come to Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Sarasota, Tampa, San Francisco, Mexico City, and elsewhere, just like it does in Souderton and Harleysville and Heaven. In every place, God is at work. Knowing that a dedicated band of Jesus-followers are simply praying, “Thy Kingdom Come…” is an amazing encouragement.
Second, as you pray, remember that many of our new Franconia congregations have experienced significant trauma in recent years. For example, the church in California came to Franconia out of a painful process. Furthermore, they live with a constant anxiety regarding immigration status—even though most of our California members hold legal standing in the US. Other new congregations aligning with Franconia have also experienced trauma of various kinds. Praying for healing and increased empathy are gifts of hope for our new congregations.
Third, when you pray, be open to the changes God is putting in front of you. Restoring the 175-year rift between churches in Eastern Pennsylvania will be transformation for Franconia Mennonite Conference. A new name for this God-movement is coming. As a conference of churches, we speak many languages. While, in my experience, Franconia has done an outstanding job in learning to be intercultural and multi-linguistic, we still have room for growth. New congregations from across the country and around the world will change the way we do church in our local congregation—and that is a blessing! May we receive it as such.
Finally, pray for our pastors. A small team of three friends, who encourage me in my work as a Leadership Minister (and pray for me in my role!), join with me in praying each day for a different Franconia Conference pastor that I am privileged to walk with in ministry. We pray for their health and well-being. We pray for their marriages and their families. We pray for them to be resilient and tough. We pray for them to be tender and broken. It is the singular honor of my work to offer regular and sustained intercession for the pastors I serve with in Franconia Conference. Your intercessions on behalf of the pastors and the staff of Franconia Conference are a treasured gift.
Perhaps in our postmodern, busy, overscheduled, hyperactive world, prayer has become a relic of a season past and gone from us. I hope not! May we, as an old/new conference of churches from New England, to Florida, to California, and beyond, be linked together by the simple, powerful proposition of praying for one another.