Photo by Stan Harder
By Tim Detweiler
Conference Minister for Ministerial Leadership
It is an honor to have served as one of your conference ministers these past 19 years. When I was younger, I thought retirement was a long way off. When my father retired at 62, I thought he was “really up there in years.” Now I am the one the younger generation sees as being “up there.” At age 67 it is now my time to retire from my work as Conference Minister for Ministerial Leadership for Central Plains Mennonite Conference. I am looking forward to what God has in store for Carol and I as we enter this next phase of life called “retirement.”
Serving in this conference from it’s beginning has been an enriching experience. I began work with Central Plains in June 2000 as a half-time regional conference minister serving the churches in SE Iowa including Cedar Falls and Moline, Ill. In June 2019 I began my current role as the Conference Minister for Ministerial Leadership for the whole conference.
Conference ministry work was a huge learning curve for me, work that I came to love and find much appreciation for. Early on I had to trust that God was in this work, calling women and men to pastoral ministry. I learned patience and to trust God with the call process. I worked with some 50 pastoral searches over these 19 years, some lasting 3 months and one lasting 3 years. It is not easy for congregations to wait on God’s timing. I learned the importance of slowing down the process (but not too much) and to challenge search committees to stay with the process and find pastors who would be a good fit, rather than just filling a pastoral position. Pastor searches require much prayer, patience and trust in God’s timing.
There is a significant trend toward calling younger pastors in our conference. Currently, 40% of our pastors are age 50 and younger, 29% are in their 50’s and 31% are 60 and older. I think this is a healthy balance. Our younger pastors give me hope for the church. As congregations call younger pastors, they must be committed to walk with, support, encourage and nurture young pastors as they grow into and develop their pastoral identity.
Our pastors also need a pastor to walk with them. I always looked forward to my annual visits with our pastors and chaplains. The time spent with them was important. These visits were a time to focus on self-care, leadership development, a time to talk about leadership issues and anything else the pastor needed to talk about. I always came away from these visits feeling blessed and grateful for the pastors and chaplains serving in our conference.
I enjoyed being the staff person for the Pastoral Leadership Committee. It was rewarding to work with the credentialing process as we listened to the call and faith stories of pastors and chaplains. I enjoyed working with the Annual Leaders Retreat and developing and working with the support network of volunteers for pastor searches, pastor/congregation evaluations, Conflict Management Support Team and the Ministerial Misconduct Investigative Team.
Serving in this role also meant having to deal with hard issues. My biggest learning curve was in managing my own anxiety and finding patience and trust in God’s wisdom and guidance for all the work I was called to do.
I am often asked how many miles I travel each year for conference work. I added up the miles from this past year and was surprised when the calculator read 26,368. At least 20,000 of those were driving miles. We use ZOOM video conference calling for meetings when possible, but much of this work requires getting in the car and driving.
I have always been blessed to work with and learn from a great ministry staff. Yes, I have been blessed by my work with CPMC. Now as I leave this position, my love and prayers for Central Plains will be ongoing. I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may continue to have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge so that you may be filled to the measure of all of the fullness of God. Blessings to you all.
Tim Detweiler will be retiring from his role of Conference Minister for Ministerial Leadership on April 30, 2019. Tim has agreed to continue on a half-time basis through June 30. We will celebrate Tim’s retirement as a conference at our Annual Meeting in June. Susan Janzen will replace Tim and will begin on August 1, 2019.
By Julie Birkey
Crowded Closet Marketing Director
In 1978, a small group of visionary Mennonite women started a thrift shop in Iowa City, Iowa, offering lightly-used clothing and household items. With the support of sixteen area Mennonite churches and hundreds of local volunteers, Crowded Closet has experienced steady growth over the last 40 years, moving three times to accommodate growth.
Last month, Crowded Closet Thrift Shop relocated to a new, larger facility at 851 Hwy 6, Iowa City, its fourth location. The board, staff, volunteers and supporting area churches gathered to celebrate the new shop home with an open house and special dedication ceremony Sunday, March 24th. Doors opened to the public the following day with a grand opening celebration including a ribbon cutting, live music and prizes welcoming shoppers to the expanded retail space.
The new facility, part of a former Kmart location, enhances and improves accessibility for customers and donors. The retail floor is about fifty percent larger at 22,000 square feet with wider aisles and wheelchair accessibility, and a new covered drive-thru lane makes donating easy.
Crowded Closet Thrift Shop is a community non-profit thrift shop, including a gift shop with fair trade items. A group of ten full and part-time staff and over 300 regular volunteers serve to offer a wide variety of household and other items, including books, toys, clothing for all ages, vintage, international, and one of a kind items. Together with countless donors and shoppers, Crowded Closet makes a generous impact on the community and world having achieved 8 million dollars in giving to support local and global relief through Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). This includes more than $50,000 in resources shared annually through partnership with local helping agencies such as CommUnity, an organization based in Iowa City that provides immediate support for individuals facing emotional, food, or financial crisis. Crowded Closet is part of the MCC Thrift Shop network.
by Karla Stoltzfus Detweiler, pastor
First Mennonite Church, Iowa City, Iowa
Since 2013, seven churches in eastern Iowa have joined together on Good Friday evening for a Service of Darkness commemorating Jesus’ death on a cross. The pastors of Kalona, East Union, Wellman, West Union, Torre Fuerte, First, and Lower Deer Creek Mennonite Churches have provided leadership for planning the event. Held at Iowa Mennonite School’s Celebration Hall, the service has drawn hundreds of people from the participating churches and the community.
The service features testimonies of high school students from the 7 churches. Each student reflects on one of Christ’s seven last words spoken from the cross, and connects Christ’s words with their own life journey. Over the years, these testimonies have been heartfelt and profound!
Musicians from the seven participating congregations lead the congregation in song, and an offering is collected for a need identified by the churches.
You’re invited to Iowa Mennonite School in Kalona, Iowa, June 20-23, 2019, to worship, learn and fellowship together as sisters and brothers in Central Plains Mennonite Conference! Our theme for this gathering will be “A Covenant People: Living in the Holy Spirit.”
Worship: With our worship focus on the Holy Spirit, it seems right to welcome Dr. Cheryl Bridges Johns, Professor of Spiritual Renewal and Christian Formation at Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Cleveland, TN. Dr. Bridges Johns has represented the Pentecostal movement in ongoing Mennonite Church USA and Church of God (Cleveland) dialogues. Dr. Bridges Johns will share three sermons about the Holy Spirit with us.
Dr. Bridges Johns comes highly recommended, having given lectures across the country and around the world. She is the author of Finding Eternal Treasures and Pentecostal Formation: A Pedagogy Among the Oppressed. We look forward to worshipping with Dr. Cheryl Bridges Johns this year! Annual Meeting worship services are free and open to the public.
Workshops: Our workshops this year feature wide-ranging topics such as race in the central plains, using Matthew 18 for hard conversations, sustainable agriculture and cottage industry, preserving the Cheyenne language, singing hymns as Christian formation, talking about disabilities, and many more. Come to Annual Meeting and be enriched!
Delegate Sessions: In delegate sessions our congregations will be equipped to live out our Covenant of Spiritual Practices by focusing on the spiritual practice of reconciliation. We will also receive the Omaha Chin Christian Church into our fellowship, and celebrate the installation of new conference ministry staff.
Youth Delegates: Each congregation is invited to bring one youth delegate to be a voting member of the delegate body (and additional youth, if desired). In addition to having a voice around the tables in our delegate hall, youth will also have fun learning to know one another and our rich conference community.
Children: Childcare at Annual Meeting is always lots of fun!. Childcare will be offered at Iowa Mennonite School for children through grade 8 in the 2018-19 school year.
Special Events: This year, there’s lots to celebrate and even more fun to be had.
Thursday evening: Enjoy a pie and ice cream social sponsored by Everence.
Friday evening: Celebrate with Tim Detweiler as he retires after 19 years as
Conference Minister in CPMC.
Saturday afternoon: Installation of new conference ministry staff.
Saturday evening: Eat outdoors at a local farm and enjoy pizza fresh from a
wood-fired oven, live music, and fellowship at Geyer’s Oven Pizza. It
promises to be a great time!
Click here for more information or to Register
Michael Jinteh was ordained on March 31, 2019 at Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Michael is a chaplain in the Twin Cities area.
by Amanda Bleichty
Conference Minister for Christian Formation
Communications Director for CPMC
The smell of lasagna is in the air as guests begin to filter in from the cold. They are warmly greeted by pastor Tim Springer, then make their way through the food line where they are served by smiling members of Milford Mennonite Church before finding a place to sit among the scattered round tables in the fellowship hall. Young volunteers are on hand to deliver beverages. The guests are here for “The Gathering Table,” a bi-weekly Thursday night meal hosted by Milford Mennonite Church for members of the surrounding community.
Started in February 2018, originally the meal was planned for lower-income people in the community, but it has become a place especially for widows and widowers and others who are looking for an excuse to get out of the house for a delicious home-cooked meal and company.
While the food is a draw, both organizers and guests contend that the best part of the evening is the fellowship and the relationships that are built around the tables. The Gathering Table has an average attendance of 125 people, and is always a mix of new and old faces. Very often, regulars invite a friend or two to join them, and many say they look forward to these community meals all week!
Sisters Kris Yeackley and Anika Upton have been in charge of The Gathering Table meals for the past year, calling on volunteers in the church for help with cooking, setting up and serving. In the coming year, they hope to become more ecumenical, involving other congregations in the community in the planning, cooking, hosting, and serving.
Organizers like Kris and Anika and Pastor Tim are clear that the purpose of The Gathering Table is to provide hospitality; a time and place and hot meal for the community to gather around, rather than evangelism. If people want to come to church on Sunday because of the hospitality they experience at The Gathering Table, that is a welcome bonus, but not the purpose.
The success of The Gathering Table has been energizing to the Milford Mennonite Community and Kris and Anika say that this endeavor has become “more than we ever imagined this would be.” They assure others who want to start projects like this one that you don’t have to “know” anything in advance. They jumped in and started cooking and God has taken care of the rest.
Before long, guests start pushing back empty plates, lasagna and salad and dessert long finished, but still, conversation buzzes throughout the fellowship hall. The Gathering Table, once just a wild idea, has indeed become a gathering place for many in the Milford community.