WESTERN DISTRICT CONFERENCE
August 4, 2020
A weekly communication for WDC Churches and Pastors
WDC Executive Board, Commission, Committee and Task Force members
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forwarded to congregational leaders and members.
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IN THIS ISSUE:
*Spiritual Discernment, Please!
Spiritual Discernment, Please!
by Kathy Neufeld Dunn, WDC Associate Conference Minister
We thought this virus was going to decrease in the warmer months. It hasn’t. We thought surely it would be under control by the time school starts. It’s not. I wonder what Advent and Christmas celebrations will look like, not to mention faith formation for all ages in the meantime. Then there’s the need for continued work toward racial justice that this virus has brought to the fore.
Of the many lessons we’ve learned recently as followers of Jesus, a crucial one is the need for spiritual discernment. There are no easy answers to the virus-related and racial justice questions. These are complex issues. Different congregations and communities begin at different places and look through unique lenses because of these needs.
I invite us to consider some aspects of spiritual discernment:
Read the Stories of Scripture: At a webinar on Saturday afternoon during WDC Annual Assembly last weekend, our keynote speaker and Old Testament professor Danny Carroll Rodas spoke passionately about the need to begin with scripture when we are discerning justice for immigrants and considering other important issues. How is God’s love shown in the Bible when people are forcibly removed or move away from danger and toward food and shelter? What have God’s people risked for the sake of hospitality and sharing the good news?
Spend Time in Prayer: Over and over in Acts, we read that early followers of Jesus “devoted themselves to prayer.” We can’t work toward discerning God’s will together if we’re not spending time asking God for direction.
Seeking God’s Purpose Together: Be clear what you are trying to discern together. If we focus on the “how-tos”—how to convince people to wear masks or how to safely get kids back into in-person Sunday School–we’re focusing on the implementation and not the “why.” Here’s an example: We can have an argument about whether we will meet in the building or over Zoom or some other way, or we can talk about what we most value about worship and each other. That might inspire a deeper conversation with new options for implementation that we hadn’t even considered at the start of the discernment process.
Philippians 2 summarizes the purpose of spiritual discernment well:
“…complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. 3 Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. 4 Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. 5 You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had.”
In this time of turmoil and challenge, we must seek God’s desires for us, as a people, and not just our own way. True discernment is hard work and it’s holy work.
- Thanks to all who attended WDC’s 2020 online assembly last weekend! At Saturday morning’s business session, delegates heard the conference minister’s state-of-the-conference reflections and a financial update, approved the budget for 2021 and elected leaders for the coming year. Comments and questions addressed topics such as WDC’s application for a CARES Act Payroll Protection Program loan, equipping existing congregations in conjunction with church planting initiatives, and affirmation for Camp Mennoscah’s ongoing mission in these challenging times. The session concluded with a resolution of thanks for all involved in making Assembly possible, and recognition of outgoing moderator Ray Reimer and transition to new moderator Lois Barrett. Saturday afternoon, participants attended webinars on: Missional in the Age of Covid; Growing in Faith Wherever You Are: Boxes, Bundles, or Books Which is Right for You?; Real Live Faith; and Voices Together. And on Sunday, many WDC congregations and members joined in watching the Assembly worship service. If you were not able to attend Assembly events, you may go to “WDC Assembly 2020” on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6aO7e884ZT5d9gHzyrfAucccOFYYd_M5 and watch the videos.
- WDC Questionnaire is for ALL: Everyone is encouraged to fill out a WDC Questionnaire – those who participated in the Annual Assembly and those who didn’t – we’d like to hear from everyone. There are some questions about the role and ministries of WDC that we hope you will answer. Find the link here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScnlSX5ibg9z87BQOQBm-MkddjpjrurDdIz61SW5JWtCIKVZw/viewform.
- Racial Justice from the US to Palestine: The WDC Israel-Palestine Task Force invites you to a virtual conversation on racial justice. Palestinians Alex Awad and Jonathan Kuttab join US citizen Sarah Nahar. They’ll share their own experiences of injustice and hope and discuss the similarities in both contexts. Join us for this free live event on WDC’s Facebook page on September 21, 7 pm Central Time. You’re welcome to donate to WDC at: mennowdc.org.
Camp Mennoscah announcements
- Men and Boys Retreat has been canceled for 2020. Men and boys (with adult supervision) and families are invited to contact Camp Mennoscah at 620-297-3290 about overnight stays or day visits. We’ll see you soon!
- Camp Mennoscah welcomes guests! Camping areas and cabins are open to guests/groups for overnight stays and day visits. Spend time in the river, have a campfire cookout, and enjoy the open spaces of the tallgrass prairie and the Ninnescah River! Contact Camp Mennoscah at 620-297-3290 to make a reservation and to inquire about use of additional facilities. We can’t wait to see you!
- Camp Mennoscah’s main phone number (620-297-3290) will be answered between the hours of 8:30am and 5:00pm on weekdays. Emails will also be answered within the same basic time frame, depending on staff work hours. Outside of these hours, you may be able to reach camp staff, but there are no guarantees. Please leave a message or send an email and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible!
Mennonite church announcements
- Learning opportunities from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary:
Deepen your understanding of Anabaptism through six-week, online short courses from AMBS! Explore Anabaptist history, theology, current practice, commitment to peacemaking, approaches to scripture, and how to transform congregational conflict and communication. These non-credit courses feature optional weekly Zoom conversations with professors along with readings and written discussion forums. No papers and no grades! Sign up for individual courses or for the “short course bundle” at ambs.edu/shortcourses.
Prepare to lead worship and singing drawing on the vast resources of the Voices Together hymnal through two new AMBS online short courses–one for worship planners and leaders and one for song leaders. Both courses will feature guest instructors Katie Graber and Anneli Loepp Thiessen. Sign up at ambs.edu/shortcourses.
Grow your leadership skills and deepen your faith through Journey: A Missional Leadership Development Program. This three-year, part-time program includes mentoring, an introduction to Anabaptist leadership and theology, and skill-building and character formation opportunities. This year, the required Weekend Learning Event will happen in Zoom, making the entire program accessible from home. The application deadline for Journey is August 11. For more information, see https://www.ambs.edu/lifelong-learning/journey-missional-leadership-development
- Service Adventure has open spots for the 2020-2021 term beginning this fall. If you are interested in taking a gap year to serve, live in community, and grow spiritually, contact SusanN@MennoniteMission.netor apply online at MennoniteMission.net/ServiceAdventure.
WDC Sprouts announcement guidelines: Announcements pertain to Western District Conference (WDC) ministries and churches, institutions with which WDC has formal relationships, and Mennonite Church USA agencies and ministries.
Western District Conference
2517 North Main, PO Box 306
North Newton KS 67117
316-283-6300; FAX: 316-283-0620