Salem Mennonite Church, Freeman, South Dakota
Central Plains Mennonite Conference celebrated several transitions as we met for Annual Meeting this year. On Friday afternoon, delegates and guests gathered for the installation of new ministry staff, Amanda Bleichty and Susan Janzen. Then on Friday evening the assembly celebrated and gave thanks for the ministries of Tim Detweiler and David Boshart.
At the installation service on Friday afternoon, incoming Conference Moderator Shawn Nolt humorously referenced his background in computer engineering when he invited CPMC to think about what installation means. In addition to other considerations and often lengthy installation processes, he suggested that when choosing new software, one needs to think about what you want the system to do. In the same way, the conference churches need to be thinking again as we work with new staff, "What do we want the new people to do?" Unlike a computer, the church is an organic body, and there are at least two callings to new staff: one from God and one from the community. Each of the new staff have their own internal sense of these two callings. So when these callings mesh together into decisions we all affirm, it is a wondrous thing.
Amanda Bleichty, former pastor of Washington Mennonite Church, was installed as the Conference Minister for Christian Formation. Amanda began her position in January and she and her husband are expecting their first child in July. As she reflected on these changes during her installation response, she expressed a note of excitement for the future. "While changes can bring anxiety and fear, I am excited for all of these life transitions. I'm excited for the possibilities as a new ministry team begins working together. I'm excited about building a family here amid the larger family of brothers and sisters in Central Plains." Amanda has taken over the role that Shana Peachey Boshart vacated in July of 2018.
Susan Janzen, the former pastor of Cedar Falls Mennonite Church, was installed as the Conference Minister for Ministerial Leadership. Susan will begin her position in August, taking over for Tim Detweiler as he retires. Susan reflected that it has been 21 years since she began in pastoral leadership and that lately, she has been living with a growing sense that it is time for her to begin mentoring another generation of ministering people.
At the farewell celebration for Tim Detweiler and David Boshart later Friday evening, Tim also expressed the idea that "it is time." For him, it is time to lay down responsibilities and awareness of the whole conference and to attend to his wife, children and grandchildren, and maybe a woodworking project or two. he said, "It has been an honor to serve Central Plains Mennonite Conference and there will be many parts of this work that I will miss, but I am also looking forward to the next chapter in my life called retirement."
David Boshart will also leave Central Plains at the end of July to pursue other opportunities, and said of this transition, "Every year at Annual meeting, I fall in love with the people of God who make up Central Plains. It was a powerful experience to pass the symbols of our conference (the basin and towel, the pitcher, and the peace pipe) to such warm, capable, and competent servant leaders who will guide Central Plains to a new level of witness and faithfulness.
At both of these transitional celebrations, symbols and gifts were exchanged, laughter was heard, and tears were shed. One powerful gift was a set of plaques expressing gratitude to Shana, Tim and David from the Hispanic churches in our conference. After giving the plaques, Ramiro Hernandez led in circles of prayer and blessing for these three leaders who have led Central Plains so wisely for so many years. These prayers echoed and affirmed Amanda's call to prayer, "I ask that as these changes happen, you keep all of our ministry team in your prayers, and that you give us grace and encouragement as we continue the good work of this conference."