Leaders of seven Mennonite Church USA conferences gathered this month in Lancaster, PA, as they have done regularly over the last seven years. The meetings have fostered relationships between representatives of the Allegheny, Atlantic Coast, Eastern District, Franconia, Franklin, Lancaster, Virginia and New York conferences. The gatherings have also grown something else: a shared vision to reach the megalopolis that extends from Boston to Richmond with an Anabaptist witness for Christ.
Over the years, strategies have been suggested to work at this vision, but little has emerged in very concrete terms; this time something different happened. Because leaders from each conference had previously committed to keeping everyone informed of new initiatives that might cross the traditional geographic boundaries of conferences, leaders from Franconia requested agenda time to share new church initiatives that were emerging.
When tested with the broader group, Warren Tyson, Executive Conference Minister for Atlantic Coast and Conference Minister for Eastern District, proposed expanding the agenda to invite all conferences to report on church planting initiatives now taking place. Tyson asked the group to place dots on a map of the eastern United States which represented all initiatives less than three years old and to identify additional localities where conversations of “early discernment with clusters of residents or working with on-site leaders” were happening.
“I think it would motivate all of us to see what is already happening in numerous locations across our region,” said Tyson, and he was right. To the amazement of the participants, the dots accumulated as each conference shared its list. When everyone had finished, forty-seven dots, spanning from Maine to Georgia, covered the map. Conference leaders noted that many of these church plants are led by racial/ethnic Mennonites. They also openly acknowledge that these new church initiatives have emerged organically, without strategic planning, studies, or heavy financial investments, but clearly as the movement of God.
Gay Brunt Miller, firstname.lastname@example.org
Director of Collaborative Ministries
Franconia Mennonite Conference