by Marta Castillo, LEADership Minister
In a recent article, “On Scattering, Gathering and California Dreamin”, Steve Kriss wrote regarding the inquiries we have received from congregations requesting to join our conference. I was struck by his last statement: “the one thing that I know about Franconia Conference is that the Spirit is relentless in inviting us to be transformed anew … I invite your prayers as we together consider and discern God’s best direction while honoring our past, accepting our limitations, and trusting also the Spirit’s movement … to give us a future with great hope.”
In times of decision-making and Spirit nudging to move forward in a new space, it helps to revisit “the calling and vision” that God has already put into place and that we have already proclaimed. “The conference’s mission is to equip leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission.” In 2012, the conference board discerned that our conference work is focused on three priorities. “We are called to be missional, intercultural, and formational.” Congregations are invited take risks for the sake of the Gospel through creative partnerships and new possibilities for missional engagement. They are invited to network and cultivate intercultural ministry relationships. The people of the conference are recognized as our greatest resource and we are committed to build leadership capacity across geographies and generations. In these priorities, God already laid a strong foundation, preparing us in 2012 for what was coming in 2017. God is like that, always graciously preparing the way ahead of us and preparing us for the way ahead.
Our preparedness to move into a new space, in my opinion, is limited not by money or distance or human resources but may be limited by attitudes and beliefs ingrained in our system. I invite you to consider that we as a conference must overcome a historical tendency “to maintain what is” and to keep what is different from truly changing or impacting our systems and procedures. Ethnic Mennonite culture is often curious and welcoming to an international person from Latin America or Africa or Asia but we struggle to allow for the African American, the more recent immigrant Latin American or Asian American voices to bring about change and revival.
We are limited by a sense of many leaders and congregations in our conference, that they are on the margins of conference life. This sense comes from leaders and members from churches all over the conference. How can we all be on the margin? If a Franconia area church feels like it is on the margin, what about the churches who may join us from far away in California? I believe that we must embrace our participation in the conference and learn to say, “We are Franconia Conference. God is the center that pulls us ever closer together through the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus.”