Tag Archives: Margaret Zook

Looking to the Future of Conference Related Ministries

by Margaret Zook, Living Branches, with Emily Ralph Servant

The Conference Related Ministries (CRMs) Task Force has been charged with proposing a plan for new and improved ways of relating to organizations associated with both Eastern District and Franconia Conferences after the two conferences form a new Conference next year.

Both conferences recognize the wealth of services provided by CRMs and the growth and potential of these ministries.    Now, moving toward reconciliation between these two historic Conferences, there is a recognition that now is time to talk about the future.   CRM leadership were invited to participate in three listening sessions, in which they talked with the task force committee and recommended revisions to what had been proposed by the Structure and Identity Task Force.

Anne Kaufman-Weaver leads a conversation on cultural humility at this summer’s Conference Related Ministries resourcing event. Photo by Emily Ralph Servant.

These gatherings provided space to discuss questions like: How has the relationship with the Conferences helped in nurturing established organizations and empowering new ministries in the past?  How can the relationship between Conference Related Ministries and the broader Conference be mutually beneficial?  What are ways to enhance communication, support leaders in the CRMs, and improve relationships between CRMs and the Conference structure?    

What may prove to be most important moving forward is communication.   There are some CRMs who have been ministering for 100 years and others that are just birthing; renewed communication between CRMs, the Conference, congregations, and the community is desired and needed for the future.   Support can better happen if lines of communication are open and encouraged.

The final proposal, which will be shared in Assembly Scattered gatherings in October, will include a new CRM committee with board representation.  This will allow CRM leadership new avenues for building connections within the conference structure and among conference congregations as well as creating a new space for CRMs to speak into our conference’s life together.

Representatives of diverse Conference Related Ministries share stories of where they see the Spirit working in the many cultures of their ministry contexts. Photo by Emily Ralph Servant.

Each CRM has a unique ministry, each has a community, each has responded to a need and has founders or a board of directors who believe in its mission, and each has developed a unique set of skills, professions, and responses.  Many CRMs offer resourcing, workshops, and services to the wider church community on topics such as aging, memory loss, music, mental health issues, welcoming those with disabilities, and parenting.  Others provide opportunities to serve our communities at home and internationally, spreading the Good News through medicine, dental care, humanitarian aid, peace and justice advocacy, evangelism, microloans, and disaster recovery.  Still others offer space for children (and adults) to meet God in classrooms, around campfires, and in stories from the past.

For the new Conference, this is a valued resource.   These organizations and leaders represent a rich variety of missions to share with the broader community, which provide unique opportunities for our Conference to engage in new and creative ways.    We as Anabaptists have been charged to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.”   Our CRMs have brought these words to life.  May it continue to be so.   

 

Sharing Breakfast and Life

by Emily Ralph Servant, Interim Director of Congregational Resourcing

“I was not really looking forward to the morning event.  I wasn’t even sure it had much to do with my call and work,” confessed Joy Sawatzky, a chaplain at Living Branches.  “What happened was a nice surprise.  I like surprises.”

The “morning event” was a breakfast sponsored by Living Branches and Franconia Conference exploring questions of spirituality across generations.  On February 14, a panel of leaders answered questions about calling, spiritual practices, and hope.

“What happened was heart-felt sharing from three different generations around call and how that was and is lived out, not just in the lives of those on the panel, but in the table conversations afterwards as well,” reflected Sawatzky.

Panelists Krista Showalter Ehst, John Ruth, Paula Stoltzfus, James Krabill, Josh Meyer, and Ray Hurst expressed curiosity about other generations, pondered over advice they would give to their younger selves, suggested practices that are important in the life of the Church, and confessed how their priorities in ministry have been shaped by their life experiences (listen to the podcast).

After the panelists shared, pastors gathered around tables to share their own stories, challenges, and questions.  The take away—a hope for the future of the church and a hope for more of these conversations.

Living Branches began to explore sponsoring conversations on aging after a pastor told them, “Our church is aging, however our energy is focused on family and youth; we would appreciate thinking and talking together about issues of aging. Help us.”   Living Branches believes that as a member of the community and a participating ministry of the Franconia Conference, they have a calling to connect with and resource their community and churches around the issues of aging, says Margaret Zook, Director of Church & Community Relations at Living Branches.  “We believe that joy and purpose in life is enriched through conversations at all stages of our life.”

Credentialed leaders are invited to two breakfasts this April:

  • April 19, 8-10am, at Souderton Mennonite Homes. Chaplains from Living Branches will present the documentary “Being Mortal” and facilitate a conversation around faith and end of life issues.  (RSVP to Margaret_Zook@LivingBranches.org).
  • April 25, 9-11am, at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church. Anne Kaufman Weaver will lead a conversation around her research in resiliency for women in pastoral leadership (RSVP at franconiaconference.org/events).

“Taking time to be together to learn, to network, to eat together, to drink coffee and tea together helps keep our leadership and relationships vibrant and lively,” says Franconia Conference executive minister Steve Kriss.  “While our schedules are busy, this time apart, even for a few hours, is an important respite and a significant time to strengthen both skills and relationships among us as credentialed leaders in our conference community.”

For questions related to upcoming events or to request resourcing for your congregation, contact Emily (email or 267-932-6050, ext. 117).