by Stephen Kriss
This past Sunday, Mia, an elementary-school-aged girl from Indonesian Light Church, told me that she thinks she might want to be a pastor. Her mom remarked that this is a relatively new development within the last few months. Though she tagged on that sometimes she wants to be a doctor too. Both tough jobs, I responded. And both things that help people, her mom said. Her mom wondered where the pastoral desire might have originated. There is no doubt in my mind that having Emily Ralph Servant as the congregation’s interim pastor for the past six months has something to do with it. This young girl has experienced that women, too, might be pastors and her life is forever changed. I look forward to the day 30 years or so from now when this young woman might be my pastor, shaped by the city, loved by a congregation, and formed as one who is loved by God.
As Franconia Conference, our focus of energy is around cultivating healthy leaders of all ages, communities and connections. As staff, board and committees, we regularly work at this in a variety of ways. We do this in day-to-day correspondence, strategic planning and holy conversations. Sometimes it’s seemingly well-planned, other times it’s the Spirit’s serendipity. I’m learning to trust that the Spirit is working out something usually beyond what we can see and often more than we can imagine, as Paul tells the early church (Ephesians 3.10).
Two research initiatives have also begun this summer that involve our Conference pastors. As part of a project that examines the resiliency of women pastors in several Mennonite Conferences, Anne Kaufman Weaver from Lancaster County is interviewing 11 credentialed women currently serving within congregations. Currently 30% of our active credentialed pastors are women. Josh Meyer, one of the pastors at Franconia congregation, is beginning a longer examination on what sustains millennial Mennonite pastors (those born after 1980’ish). In his initial round of research, we’ve discovered that Franconia Conference has among the highest percentages of credentialed millennial pastors in Mennonite Church USA.
The Spirit is truly upon us, calling men and women, stirring the young, and giving dreams to those of us who have been on the journey longer. May we be able to live into these possibilities that are for sure beyond even our greatest hopes and imagination. Thanks be to God that the Spirit is undoubtedly still with us and calling among us in the space in between.