Tag Archives: Franconia Conference board

A Clear and Gentle Voice

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.”

Making ice cream in Plains Park

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.”

Visiting old friends at the plastics warehouse

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.”

MDS project in Nebraska with his wife, Joan

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.

 

Retreat Before Moving Forward

by Paula Marolewski, Franconia Conference Board Member and Elder at Perkiomenville Mennonite Church

What characterizes the culture of Franconia Mennonite Conference (FMC) today? How do we respond to the crowded, complex, fast-paced culture of society around us? How do Conference member churches experience being valued and valuing the whole of the larger conference?

The grounds of Fatima House Retreat Center provided a peaceful backdrop for the Board Retreat.

These were some of the many questions the Conference Board discussed on July 28th and 29th as they met together for a retreat at Fatima House in Ottsville, Pennsylvania. All eleven of the board members were present*, representing eleven different congregations – a quarter of all the churches that comprise the conference. Facilitating the meeting was Jeff Wright of Riverside, CA, Executive Consultant for Urban Expression North America.  Jeff had served as a guide for the Conference’s Vision and Financial Plan a decade ago.

During the time together, the Board spent time in spiritual reflection, as three of the board members (Beny Krisbianto, Angela Moyer, and Ken Burkholder) shared devotions on Jesus’ parables and how the parables spoke to various situations and needs within the Conference. The devotional times flowed into discussions about colliding cultures, conflict and hope, and the future of Franconia Conference and Mennonite Church USA.

One of the key conversations centered on three central questions that everyone – individuals, churches, the conference, and the denomination – should answer:

  1. Who is Jesus to us? [Christology]
  2. What does Jesus want us to do? [missiology]
  3. How does Jesus want us to do it? [ecclesiology]

Jeff emphasized that it is critical to approach these questions in this order. For example, we as Franconia Conference need to first determine who Jesus is to us. The answer to that will become the foundation for our shared culture. Only then can we ask what Jesus wants us to do and how to go about it – these are questions of strategy that build on the foundation of culture.

The Board grappled with all these questions and more – and will continue to do so with the goal of advancing the Kingdom of God in our fallen world. That, after all, is the purpose of a retreat: to prepare to move forward.

*The Board is composed of John Goshow, moderator (Blooming Glen), Angela Moyer (Co-Pastor at Ripple), Beny Krisbianto (Pastor at Nations Worship Center), Gwen Groff (Pastor at Bethany), Jim King (Plains), Paula Marolewski (Perkiomenville), Ken Burkholder, interim chair of the Ministerial Committee (Pastor at Deep Run East), Kris Wint (Pastor at Finland), Smita Singh (Whitehall), Merlin Harman (Franconia), and Steve Kriss, Conference Executive Minister (Philadelphia Praise Center).