New Conference Minister’s to-do list:

leverage tensions, build relationships

by Laurie Oswald Robinson for Western District Conference

In an early August interview, Kreider said she knows she is called to help guide WDC’s discernment on those issues in October. However, she believes it will be healthier to acknowledge and learn from tension than to try to alleviate the tension altogether.

“I think our most important goal is to leverage conflict to grow to be a more authentic community,” said Kreider, who began her new job Aug. 17.

“We aren’t necessarily going to resolve differences. But we can learn to live with less fear and anxiety in the midst of ambiguity. … We can learn better how to listen and relate to one another and seek God’s presence together. I want to help provide leadership in the midst of that.”

Leadership at the congregational level is something Kreider knows well. Her two pastorates total 24 years. She served for nine years in a small congregation, Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Gainesville, FL. From 2000 until the end of July, she served as lead pastor at a much larger congregation, Bethel College Mennonite Church in North Newton, KS. Kreider received her master of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, where she also studied church music.

“The shift from being the pastor of a congregation to being a pastor to pastors requires lifting the vision to another level,” said Kreider, who lives in North Newton with her husband, David, with whom she raised two young adult sons, Ben and Mark.

“But I welcome the challenge. I had been sensing a readiness for a new experience when some shoulder tapping began. I had both an inner and an outer sense of call.”

One of her first priorities in this vocational shift is establishing relationships with pastors as soon as possible, “though this will be a continuing process,” Kreider said.

Other priorities include supporting creative initiatives around faith formation, building on WDC’s “Anabaptist Faith Formation Launch” in June. “We need to think about the context and culture in which we are shaping disciples – which includes dealing with the opportunities and cautions that come with our use of technology and social media,” she said.

Kreider’s growing up years were spent overseas as a child of mission workers Sara and the late Fremont Regier. That formation primes her to help empower the expression of diverse voices and gifts in a multiethnic conference that includes Anglos, Hispanics and a Chin congregation.

In many contexts and situations, she has observed over a lifetime that “God is faithful to provide in the many situations that seem beyond my ability to manage as I grapple with my weaknesses,” she said. “In times of uncertainty, God does provide for the church. I believe we can trust God to lead us into an unknown future and to provide the people and the resources that we need.”

The items on her list are yet unrealized, Kreider said. And yet, she believes that with God’s provision and WDC’s positive spirit, they can be moved out of the “dream” category into reality.

“People’s responses of affirmation for me have represented a really deep love and care for WDC, and that makes me excited to see what is ahead for our conference,” she said.