by Gwen Groff, conference board member
Jim King recently finished his third three-year term as a Franconia Conference board member.
King brought skills from his background in business and from service on other boards. John Goshow, Franconia Conference’s moderator and board chair, describes King’s voice as clear and valuable in stressful times. “Jim did not hesitate to express his opinion,” Goshow said. “He was gentle in the way he expressed his perspective. In challenging times, he has a very steady demeanor. He is optimistic. He brought wisdom, experience and maturity to our board work. When the tension between the board and constituency exploded in 2010, Jim played a large role in finding ways for the board and constituency to move together in more healthy ways.”
According to Goshow, King’s impact on the board has been lasting. “Jim’s footprint is really big. When he joined, the meetings were scheduled to begin at 1 pm; they didn’t really get rolling until 2, and they often lasted until 6. Jim found them to be fairly unstructured, without clear agenda, but lasting half a day. Jim was instrumental in making board meetings more organized.”
King first agreed to serve on the board in order to better understand the conference-congregation relationship. “I had come to Plains congregation from Germantown,” he said. “I knew there were issues between Germantown and Franconia Conference. I had felt critical of the conference because of the breakdown of the relationship between the congregation and the conference, and I believed it was unfair of me to be critical if I didn’t know how the conference functioned in that situation. So I agreed to be on the board.”
King believes that cultivating face-to-face relationships is very important. During his time on the board, he visited a variety of different congregations, worshiping with them, talking with their leaders, and being present in person. “Relationships are an asset,” King said. “It’s important to be available for conversations.”
One of his ongoing concerns is how the conference can stay connected with congregations that are new to the conference and that must relate across great geographical distances. “We struggle to ‘maintain right fellowship’ with those who are just a hundred miles apart. How can we stay connected to people across the country? Distance is hard. How do we build those connections going forward?”
Another issue that King continues to care about is nurturing relationships with the youth. He would like to see more attention to connecting the youth of different congregations. “Some congregations don’t have the resources to hire a youth pastor,” King said. “I’d love to see the conference help organize service projects for youth from various congregations to work together on peace and justice issues. It’s a good way for youth to form connections in the church and build networks that can be useful in future careers. I know I would never be working in a business in recycled plastics if I had not spent two years in voluntary service in New York City.”
King believes that the relationship between the conference and congregations is in a good place. “We have engaged and committed staff and effective Lead ministers,” he said. “I feel this is the best relationship I’ve seen in the past nine years.” He anticipates an adjustment as he steps back from a central role, knowing that he’ll hear about what’s happening through delegate reports and publications, but won’t know the background and context of the issues. “I trust the process,” he said. “But I will miss having a role in shaping the process.”
Now that he has “termed out” of the FMC board, King plans to order a couple more hives to increase his bee colony. He also hopes to do more volunteer work trips with Mennonite Disaster Service and Mennonite Central Committee’s Sharing With Appalachian People. “This is the stuff I enjoy,” he said.