2018: The Year in Review (And a Sneak Peek of 2019)

It’s a new year in Franconia Conference, a time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going.

Joshua So, pastor of San Francisco Chinese Mennonite Church, second from left, along with his wife, Anita So, with Steve Kriss, Leadership Minister Jeff Wright, and Jerrell Williams.

2018 was a year of rejoicing in new and continuing relationships and of saying good-bye to old ones.  Our conference celebrated 100 years of mission in Norristown, PA, and reignited relationships with the Conferencia de Iglesias Evangélicas Anabautistas Menonitas de México (CIEAMM), which was birthed out of Franconia’s mission work in Mexico in the 1950s.  We welcomed a new congregation, San Francisco Chinese Mennonite Church, and saw Rockhill Mennonite Church leave the conference to merge with Ridgeline Community Church.  Four individuals were ordained this year and three were licensed toward ordination, including Franconia’s first credentialed leader from Generation Z.  We said good-bye to six credentialed leaders: one who transferred to another conference, one who retired, and four who passed away.

In 2018, Franconia Conference Board saw the addition of some new members: Kiron Mateti, Yvonne Platts, & Cory Longacre as Members-at-Large and Angela Moyer as Assistant Moderator in anticipation of moderator John Goshow completing his term in 2019.  The conference staff also grew with the addition of a California-based Leadership Minister, Jeff Wright, and the calling of Chantelle Todman Moore as an Intercultural Leadership Coach.  Over the summer, Franconia was joined by a leadership cultivation intern, Jerrell Williams, who traveled around the conference and blogged about his experiences.  Early in the year, Franconia’s new Leadership Minister team took a retreat at Mariawald Retreat Center near Reading, PA, to redefine and clarify their conference work of walking alongside congregations and leaders in a rapidly changing time.

Leadership for conference youth ministry also shifted this fall as Franconia’s Youth Minister, John Stoltzfus, relocated to Virginia and three youth pastors (Brent Camilleri, Mike Ford, and Danilo Sanchez) agreed to share responsibility for planning youth events, equipping youth pastors, and networking with other youth leaders across the denomination.  The conference is currently evaluating how the conference will equip youth leaders in the future.

Participants in the first US Spanish-only Sister Care Retreat hike in the woods around Spruce Lake.

We enjoyed spending time together in 2018.  The conference’s Faith and Life Commission led four conversations around church practice and leadership, focusing on baptism, church membership, communion, and leadership.  Leaders of color met for conversation and brainstorming at the Renewing Nations & Generations gathering and we held the United States’ first all-Spanish Sister Care Retreat.  Credentialed leaders were equipped during a series of boundaries trainings and leadership teams met to learn about and practice God-centered decision-making.

Franconia Conference and Eastern District continued conversations about merging in 2019.  At a joint Conference Assembly in November, delegates discussed some of the sticky issues that will need to be resolved in order to form something new moving forward.

Franconia closed out the year by purchasing a parsonage to be used by South Philadelphia congregations.  This is just one of many examples of partnerships across congregations, geographies, and differences throughout the year.

In 2019, those partnerships will continue as Franconia anticipates additional congregations seeking membership and looks forward to celebrating the 60th anniversary of CIEAMM.  2019 will also be the year that Franconia and Eastern District conferences make the final decision about merging, beginning with discussing some ideas for a new structure at Spring Assembly on May 4 and coming to a final vote at Assembly in November.

Look forward to more resourcing in 2019, including a gathering for retired pastors in the spring and a Boundaries 201 training on confidentiality and pastoral care in the fall.  Faith and Life will continue with three more gatherings focused on leadership: failure in leadership (featuring J.R. Briggs) on February 6 & 7; women in leadership (featuring Carolyn Custis James) on May 8 & 9; and multicultural leadership on August 7 & 8.

March brings its own slate of training events, including “Building Compassion from Love,” a gathering for women on March 30 at Centro de Alabanza, which will explore how God’s love is the foundation which allows us to build on the joy and sorrow of our life stories, experience healing, and show compassion for ourselves and others.  On March 28, a pastors’ breakfast will discuss “Mission as Risky Love,” wrestling with how we talk about and engage in mission so that our risk-taking is grounded in the story of a God who risked everything for the sake of love.

A few other dates to save!

Mennonite Church USA convention will be held in Kansas City on July 2-6.  Registration doesn’t open until February 6 (housing registration opens February 13), but convention staff are already accepting applications for volunteers.

And all credentialed leaders should save the date for our annual appreciation event.  Pencil in August 24, with many more details to come closer to the time!

A response:

“This year’s ‘Year in Review’ offers a good glimpse of where we were together as a community in 2018.  Upon reflection, it tells the highlights and the transitions.  The things that worked and came to fruition.  But missing, sometimes, is the struggle and the not yet.”  –Steve Kriss, executive minister.  Read more…