The Steps Ahead

by Stephen Kriss, Executive Minister

It’s finally here.  After decades of separation and years of conversation, the work of reconciling our Conferences back into one witnessing and ministering community is upon us.  We’ve spent years listening, worshiping, and dreaming.  But now the implementation is beginning.

The new board is in place as of this month.  John Goshow and Beny Krisbianto finished their terms.  Jim Musselman, Janet Panning and Roger Schmell join other remaining Franconia Conference board members as were affirmed this fall.  Rina Rampogu of Plains congregation reminded us as part of the structure and identity task force that there will be times over the next years where the old and the not yet and the new are all intermingling.  We are indeed in that time.  The first board meeting will be later this month.  Ken Burkholder is now the Franconia Conference moderator and will be the moderator of Eastern District and Franconia Conference beginning on February 1.

On February 1, we will begin to operate as one organization, for now Eastern District and Franconia Mennonite Conference.  We will have a new temporary website in place as well: (not yet active).  Focus groups are meeting this month to continue the further discernment of our new name.   Staff persons may still have Franconia Conference email addresses for awhile in this in between period.  The last issue of Intersections will likely arrive in your congregation sometime yet this month.

We will have one shared budget and one staff.  I’ll continue to serve as the Executive Minister for our new Conference, and Mary Nitzsche will continue as Associate Executive Minister.  Most existing Franconia Conference staff roles will remain the same.  We’ll continue adding staff in the first months of 2020, including a staff person to work with Conference Related Ministries and leadership ministers who will accompany Eastern District congregations.   We will likely begin advertising for new positions this month.   We will be a Conference of 55 congregations and almost 30 Conference related ministries.  We will produce publications in English, Spanish, Indonesian, Haitian Creole, Cantonese and Vietnamese to serve our congregations.

Sometime in 2020, we anticipate our new name will be approved by the Conference board and a new website and branding will become available.  New committees — nominating and intercultural, specifically — will begin to operate at some point this year.   The executive team of the board will also be reconfigured.

Throughout 2020 we will also be working closely with the approximately eight Florida congregations set to join our Conference at our first Assembly in November, 2020.  We will be working to build strong relational ties between us and transitioning credentials for leaders from Southeast Conference.   We continue to have inquiries of additional congregations who are interested in joining.  We will need to work to pace growth sustainably and carefully.

We have important shared work ahead this year as we seek to collaborate with the Spirit to create a flexible and sturdy Conference that will serve our congregations and communities into the next centuries.   There is a sense of excitement in all of this and a sense of much yet to be done.  I hope that the transitions will be as seamless as possible and that when they aren’t, that we can be patient with each other as we are transformed in this process of reconciliation and renewal.

Vaclav Havel wrote that transformation is not simply staring at the stairs ahead of us, but actually taking steps to ascend them.  This is where we are now, one step at a time.

We are trusting again in the ancient and always-new story of God’s love, of the possibilities of Christ’s peace and the ongoing empowerment of the Spirit within each of us and in us as we carry this work of grace together.