by Marlene Bogard, Minister of Christian Formation

Greetings Friends of Western District Conference,

It is a bittersweet time for me, as I say farewell to this fantastic conference that has nurtured me, taught me and supported me for the last 25 years.  I have truly loved my job and the various assignments throughout the years.  I will take a little bit of all of you out to Oregon, with fond memories and a mighty dose of Kansas sunshine.  I thank God for the 30+ staff I have worked with and I am especially grateful for the current staff of Nancy Funk, Phyllis Regier, Clarence Rempel and Howard Garver.  Their commitment to being leaders in WDC is strong and inspiring, and I have been honored to serve with them.

I will also hold you as an area-conference in my heart and in my prayers in these coming months, as you face WDC staff transitions, on-going conversations that will effect the future and perhaps the sustainability of our conference and denomination, and share a general anxiety and ambiguity on Anabaptist Mennonite identity, theology and polity.

As part of my exit interview with Clarence Rempel, I offered some counsel for the well-being of WDC for the future, and I want to share that with you as well. As members and leaders of WDC, you are truly the identity-shapers of our area conference.

  1. Energize others and engage the stakeholders. Now more than ever, we need energetic, and compassionate voices that carefully pay attention and care for all the diversity of WDC.  I pray that many of you will step up to the plate, and support WDC with your offering of time, talents and monetary gifts. Please remember that “together, WE are WDC.”
  1. Teach and model careful discernment. Discernment is tricky and it is a gracious and timely process.  Discernment does not always end in agreement, but it does mean that intentionally, all have put forth energy into listening to each other and to the Holy Spirit.  All of our gatherings as a conference can model this process. At times we have stumbled through and at other times, sailed with grace.
  1. Inspire a collective purpose.  The WDC staff can carry part of this load, but not all of it.  In what ways will you, in your current role, become a positive voice and help dream new dreams and help shape the WDC identity?
  1. Engage in spiritual renewal.  The forthcoming focus on a year of Anabaptist Faith Formation can provide impetus for this, just as our Year of the Bible encouraged us to connect with the Scriptures in new and creative ways.  The Resource Library is well-stocked with resources on Anabaptist faith, Christian spirituality, creative prayer, devotional life.  As we draw near to God, we may find new ways of being the church together, of being salt and light in our communities across WDC. How about a Spiritual Renewal Task Force?  Of if that sounds a bit old-timey, how about calling it Heart and Soul?
  1. Invite and pay attention to unusual voices. Youth and young adults are not the future of the church, they are very much a part of it, and thank God many are still expressing hope and love for our congregations.  The Anabaptist Faith Formation Launch team includes FIVE young adults under the age of 30, all of whom are active participants in congregations.  These committed Christians will help shape a major resourcing event in WDC to be held on June 12-13 on the campus of Bethel College.
  1. Use the WDC Resource Library. It is an amazing collection of over 10,000 items curated by me, an Anabaptist Mennonite Christian.  About 75% of our resources are less than 20 years old.  I have added 350-400 NEW items every year.  Other area-conferences can only dream of such a rich resource. It is indeed a diamond on the prairie, but accessible to everyone in the Conference by a phone call, email or walk-in.

With love, joy and hope, Marlene Bogard