Held Together in Mission was the theme of WDC’s 2016 Annual Assembly, July 29-30 at Bethel College in North Newton, KS.  Delegates and members from around WDC celebrated God’s work in the diverse contexts of WDC, learned more about how God is calling us to be followers of Jesus in mission, and built relationships with others from across the conference

In Friday evening worship Marty Troyer, pastor of Houston Mennonite Church and author of the new book The Gospel Next Door, preached on the topic In Houston as It Is in Heaven, inspiring us to live into God’s reign of peace, which is already present in each community and congregation of WDC.  Tom and Lois Harder led worship music, and Brenda Glanzer Lilliston dramatically told the theme scripture, Matthew 28:16-20.  Recognition and installation took place for new WDC staff members Jennie Wintermote, Resource Library Director, and Byron Pellecer and Kathy Neufeld Dunn, Associate Conference Ministers.  An offering was received for pastor financial assistance matching grants in collaboration with Everence.  Friday worship concluded with a service of communion.

During worship services on both Friday and Saturday, a variety of people shared “stories of God at work.”  Sandra Montes Martinez, interim pastor at Iglesia Menonita Monte Horeb (Dallas, TX) told about how her congregation is partnering with their sister church, Southern Hills Mennonite Church (Topeka, KS) to sponsor Iglesia Cristiana Menonita Camino Nuevo, a church plant started last year in Dallas.   Other Dallas congregations, Iglesia Luz del Evangelio and Iglesia Menonita Comunidad de Esperanza, are also supporting the church plant.  Pastors from two other congregations described how they have put WDC “Loaves and Fishes” grants to work in community outreach.  Rosie Jantz told how Tabor Mennonite Church sponsored community families to come to their church retreat, and provides Wednesday night meals and activities for children from the community.  Ruth Harder shared about Rainbow Mennonite Church’s initiative to support local community residents who were forced to relocate when their housing complex was closed due to unsafe living conditions.  Delegates were also invited to share in conversation around their tables how they see God at work in their own congregations and communities, and in our conference.

In the “work of the church” session, delegates approved the WDC budget for 2017, elected new Executive Board, Gifts Discernment Committee, and commission members, and affirmed a recommendation to amend WDC bylaws to update wording regarding WDC’s institutional relationships. Two congregations were released from membership in WDC:  Whitestone Mennonite Church (Hesston, KS) ended associate membership with WDC and continues full membership in South Central Conference.  Inman Mennonite Church transferred membership from WDC to SCC.   In her report, Conference Minister Heidi Regier Kreider used the image of “sprouts” to see how God brings growth and fruitfulness in the church.  She was joined by other staff and commission chairpersons to give updates on the work of WDC.  Terry Shue, Director of Leadership Development for Mennonite Church USA, brought greetings, and Valerie Klaassen shared pictures and a report from Camp Mennoscah.  To read full minutes of the delegate business session, see the WDC website at mennowdc.org/annual-assembly/#2016annualAssembly.

Saturday afternoon offered workshops on a variety of themes: Learning to stay grounded with a sense of “place,” seeing the gospel next door, creative contemplative prayer, a report from a Come and See learning tour to Israel/Palestine, justice for undocumented people, making church communities safe for children and youth, comparing Mennonite and Jewish history,  stewardship of our stories, and rural life and mission.  The workshop time also included the opportunity to visit the WDC Resource Library, Kauffman Museum, or take a walk on the Sand Creek Trail.

The Ministerial Leadership Commission also sponsored two events for pastors in conjunction with Assembly: A resourcing event Friday afternoon on the theme Holy and Whole: Faithful Response to Sexual Abuse in the Congregation, led by guest presenter Melissa Hofstetter; and a pastor/family appreciation dinner Friday evening.

Assembly concluded Saturday evening with a music festival featuring a variety of jazz, bluegrass, folk, and classical music groups at several indoor venues as well as an outdoor stage on the Bethel College Green.  Assembly attenders and folks from the wider community enjoyed the festive and relaxed atmosphere, and the delicious treats being sold by the Hoffnungsau, Inman and Buhler Mennonite youth group!

Thanks to all who participated in Assembly 2016.  See you next year, August 4-6, in Dallas.