by Marcia Yoder-Schrock
“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope.”
— Thess. 1:2-3
As of January 31, Marcia Yoder-Schrock and Firman Gingerich have ended their six-month terms as Interim Co-Executive Conference Ministers of Central Plains Mennonite Conference. Here are some of their reflections on their time in Central Plains leadership.
Serving in an administrative role for the last six months gives me a different perspective, yet confirms my sense of who we are—47 Mennonite congregations scattered across the prairies who live in covenant with each other to be Central Plains Mennonite Conference.
It is within our diverse country and city congregations that our faith in Jesus the Christ is being anchored and is growing. It is in these local congregations that people meet regularly for worship—singing, confessing, praying, and preaching. It is here that we study the scriptures together and share hospitality. It is in these congregations that we learn a new way of life-- following after Jesus and being empowered by the Spirit. It is in local congregations that we enjoy fellowship and make every effort to work through our differences. It is in these congregations where our witness of faith in Jesus the Christ is on the cutting edge, where God’s mission intersects with our lives—at home, in our neighborhoods, workplaces and world.
As the Apostle Paul gives thanks for the young congregation in Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 1: 2-3, so too, I am grateful for the congregations of Central Plains Mennonite Conference. The life and witness of each congregation is enhanced, intensified and increased when we join together to hear testimony, support, and even “provoke (spur) one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). In these conference connections and fellowship the Spirit is present, energizing us for God’s mission wherever the Spirit prompts. This is work we can do together that would not be possible separately. Here is some of what I’ve seen.
We always thank God because...we remember your work that comes from faith...”
When congregations are seeking pastoral leadership, the Conference Minister forMinisterial Leadership, Susan Janzen, assists with pastoral searches. When a congregation calls a pastor the Pastoral Leadership Committee interviews and credentials them; chaplains also receive their credentials from conference. Susan offers advice for pastoral evaluations, sabbaticals and support for pastors and congregations working together. She also gives counsel in case of an ethical lapse.
As congregational leaders and teachers provide spiritual nurture for children, youth and adults, they can look to Amanda Bleichty, Conference Minister for Christian Formation. She offers guidance finding spiritual resources in person or online. On February 12 congregations and families with elementary-aged children are invited to a reading party webinar with picture books selected from the Shalom Reader’s Library.
Great reviews of meaningful books for reading or study were recommended by adults and children from various Central Plains congregations in the November 2019 Scattered Seeds.
“We always thank God because...we remember your effort that comes from love....”
Every one to two years, congregational members from Central Plains are invited to participate in a service and learning trip to Ecuador, working together with the Ecuadorian Mennonite congregations, Columbian Mennonite Church and Mennonite Mission Network in a shared mission of aiding refugees and peacemaking groups. The trip this year, from March 4-14, celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Ecuador Partnership.
Entire congregations, small groups and pastors are encouraged to get together locally February 11, 18, and 25 for a webinar led by Dick Boyd called, “Musings of a Recovering Racist.” Outreach and Service Committee offers this relevant topic for our conference in light of demographic changes in our society, overt racism showing its face across our country, and the conference’s commitment to working cross-culturally.
Whether the Spirit is prompting us toward God’s mission in international places such as SE Asia, to build bridges between congregations or to practice peace in our homes and communities, it is a beautiful thing when congregations support God’s mission with generous giving. Year end giving in 2019 was definitely a “Hallelujah” moment.
We always thank God because. . . we remember your perseverance that comes from hope in our Lord Jesus Christ...”
Conference work takes steady persistence of faithful committee chairs and members to organize and lead purposeful meetings. Since June 2019 it requires another level of perseverance for the search committee discerning the call of an Executive Conference Minister.
What a joy to hear how church planters are persevering in teaching emerging congregations what it means to be faithful followers of Christ in an Anabaptist Mennonite perspective. Or in a leader beginning a restorative Bible study group for un-churched people who are open to what the Bible holds.
Even as the church is changing, a new generation of leaders will cast a vision for the future of Central Plains Mennonite Conference. Thanks be to God! There will be both opportunities and challenges for faithful practices-praying, working together and growing based on “hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”