by Margaret Zook, Living Branches, with Emily Ralph Servant
The Conference Related Ministries (CRMs) Task Force has been charged with proposing a plan for new and improved ways of relating to organizations associated with both Eastern District and Franconia Conferences after the two conferences form a new Conference next year.
Both conferences recognize the wealth of services provided by CRMs and the growth and potential of these ministries. Now, moving toward reconciliation between these two historic Conferences, there is a recognition that now is time to talk about the future. CRM leadership were invited to participate in three listening sessions, in which they talked with the task force committee and recommended revisions to what had been proposed by the Structure and Identity Task Force.
These gatherings provided space to discuss questions like: How has the relationship with the Conferences helped in nurturing established organizations and empowering new ministries in the past? How can the relationship between Conference Related Ministries and the broader Conference be mutually beneficial? What are ways to enhance communication, support leaders in the CRMs, and improve relationships between CRMs and the Conference structure?
What may prove to be most important moving forward is communication. There are some CRMs who have been ministering for 100 years and others that are just birthing; renewed communication between CRMs, the Conference, congregations, and the community is desired and needed for the future. Support can better happen if lines of communication are open and encouraged.
The final proposal, which will be shared in Assembly Scattered gatherings in October, will include a new CRM committee with board representation. This will allow CRM leadership new avenues for building connections within the conference structure and among conference congregations as well as creating a new space for CRMs to speak into our conference’s life together.
Each CRM has a unique ministry, each has a community, each has responded to a need and has founders or a board of directors who believe in its mission, and each has developed a unique set of skills, professions, and responses. Many CRMs offer resourcing, workshops, and services to the wider church community on topics such as aging, memory loss, music, mental health issues, welcoming those with disabilities, and parenting. Others provide opportunities to serve our communities at home and internationally, spreading the Good News through medicine, dental care, humanitarian aid, peace and justice advocacy, evangelism, microloans, and disaster recovery. Still others offer space for children (and adults) to meet God in classrooms, around campfires, and in stories from the past.
For the new Conference, this is a valued resource. These organizations and leaders represent a rich variety of missions to share with the broader community, which provide unique opportunities for our Conference to engage in new and creative ways. We as Anabaptists have been charged to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.” Our CRMs have brought these words to life. May it continue to be so.