WESTERN DISTRICT CONFERENCE
June 30, 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:
*Retreating…But Not For Good
Retreating… But Not For Good
by Michael Unruh, Camp Mennoscah Executive Director
It has been an overwhelming last few months. In early March, nearly everywhere I have been involved professionally, socially, and educationally began responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has certainly been well-warranted. When prior to that time, I was working from home three days per week and at Camp Mennoscah two days, in March I switched to working almost exclusively from home. Determining what camp life would look like in Spring and Summer (and now beyond) occupied a good portion of our work, as did staring at the computer screen for emails and Zoom calls.
In late May, George Floyd was killed by police officers, highlighting once again the ways Black Americans are treated unjustly in the United States. Like many of you, I was shaken into action in a stronger way than ever before, and I began to be consumed by article after article learning as much as I could about how I could be helpful and what other injustices were being revealed alongside George’s murder. The emotions and energy spent learning, responding, and making decisions has felt draining, though I know it’s a mere fraction of what my siblings of color endure on a day-to-day basis. As a white person, for the most part I can choose to disengage and continue life “as usual” when the going gets tough. A retreat, of sorts, I guess. But where can the energy come from to keep going, to keep making responsible decisions and keep standing up against injustice in all its forms?
Jesus provides a pretty good example of what recharging looks like. Several times throughout the book of Mark, it is written that Jesus retreats. Sometimes he goes by himself, sometimes he brings disciples, and sometimes he calls people he wants to see to join him. Prayer is almost always involved, and it appears that he always goes to out-of-the-way places, like mountains, gardens, or deserted places. By taking a break from the public parts of his ministry, which included speaking out and resisting injustices, Jesus has time to connect with God and rest his body and his spirit. But he never stays there long.
After withdrawing, he goes to the neighboring towns to proclaim the message (Mark 1:38). He calls the twelve (Mark 3:13). He begins to teach the crowds (Mark 6:34). He walks on water and calms the sea (Mark 6:48-51). He casts out a spirit (Mark 9:25). He faces those who eventually arrest him (Mark 14:43-49). After spending some time away and in prayer, Jesus returns ready to continue his work, even when he knows the work will be difficult and ultimately lead to his death.
We can do something like this, too. One of the opportunities I have missed during the last three months is taking time to retreat and pray, both at the same time, and I think that has contributed to the worn-out feeling I have been experiencing. For me, retreating will mean going somewhere outdoors to connect with creation and to pray. Camp Mennoscah offers such a place, and not just for me! For you, retreating may mean something else. I am beginning to learn that these times do not just happen on their own; they have to be intentional and scheduled. Otherwise the computer screen can dominate until the day is over. No matter how you choose to retreat, rest, and refill your spirit, let’s be sure that, like Jesus, we don’t stay there long, and return to the often difficult and painful work of sharing a message of love and justice during these days when living in those realities can feel so distant.
Retirándose … pero no para siempre
Michael Unruh, Director Ejecutivo del Camp (Campamento) Mennoscah
Han sido unos meses abrumadores últimamente. A principios de marzo, en casi todas partes en donde he estado involucrado profesional-, social- y educativamente, comencé a responder a la pandemia de COVID-19, que ciertamente ha sido justificada. Cuando antes de aquel entonces, estaba trabajando de mi casa tres días a la semana y en la oficina del campamento Mennoscah dos días. En marzo, cambié a trabajar casi exclusivamente de mi casa. Determinar cómo sería la vida en el campamento en la primavera y el verano (y ahora más allá) ocupaba una buena parte de nuestro trabajo, al igual que mirar la pantalla de la computadora correspondiendo con correos electrónicos y reuniones por Zoom.
A fines de mayo, agentes de la policía mataron a George Floyd, lo que destaca una vez más las formas en que los estadounidenses se tratan a negros injustamente en los Estados Unidos. Como muchos de ustedes, fui conmovido a la acción de una manera más fuerte que nunca, y comencé a consumirme artículo tras artículo aprendiendo todo lo que pude sobre cómo podría ser útil y qué otras injusticias se revelaban junto con el asesinato de George. Las emociones y la energía gastadas en aprender, responder y tomar decisiones me han sido agotadoras, aunque sé que es solo una fracción de lo que mis hermanos y hermanas de color soportan diariamente. Como persona blanca, mayormente puedo elegir desconectarme y continuar la vida “como siempre” cuando las cosas se ponen difíciles. Un retiro, de algún tipo, supongo. Pero ¿de dónde vendría la energía para seguir adelante, seguir tomando decisiones responsables y resistir la injusticia en todas sus formas?
Jesús proporciona un ejemplo muy bueno de cómo se ve la recarga. Varias veces a lo largo del libro de Marcos, está escrito que Jesús se retira. A veces va solo, a veces invita a unos discípulos, y a veces llama a las personas que él quiere ver para unirse con él. Casi siempre incluye la oración, y parece que siempre va a lugares apartados, como montañas, jardines o lugares desiertos. Al tomar un descanso de las partes públicas de su ministerio, que incluía hablar y resistir las injusticias, Jesús tiene tiempo para conectarse con Dios y descansar su cuerpo y su espíritu. Pero él nunca se queda allí por mucho tiempo.
Después de retirarse, va a las ciudades vecinas para proclamar el mensaje (Marcos 1:38). Él llama a los doce (Marcos 3:13). Él comienza a enseñar a las multitudes (Marcos 6:34). Camina sobre el agua y calma el mar (Marcos 6: 48-51). Él expulsa un espíritu (Marcos 9:25). Se enfrenta a los que finalmente lo arrestan (Marcos 14: 43-49). Después de pasar un tiempo en retiro y en oración, Jesús regresa listo para continuar su trabajo, incluso cuando sabe que el trabajo será difícil y finalmente lo llevará a la muerte.
También podemos hacer algo como esto. Una de las oportunidades que he extrañado durante los últimos tres meses es tomarme un tiempo para retirarme y orar, ambas al mismo tiempo, y creo que eso ha contribuido a la sensación de agotamiento que he estado experimentando. Para mí, retirarse significa ir a algún lugar al aire libre para conectarse con la creación y orar. ¡El campamento Mennoscah ofrece ese lugar, y no solo para mí! Para ti, retirarse puede significar algo diferente. Empiezo a aprender que estos tiempos no suceden por si solos; tienen que ser intencionales y programados. De lo contrario, la pantalla de la computadora puede dominar hasta que termine el día. No importa cómo elija retirarse, descansar y recargar su espíritu, hagámonos seguros de que, como Jesús, no nos quedemos allí por mucho tiempo y que volvamos al trabajo frecuentemente difícil y doloroso de compartir un mensaje de amor y justicia durante estos días en los que vivimos y en esas realidades que frecuentemente parecen ser tan alejados de nuestra realidad.
July 5 – Pray for a spirit of unity and encouragement among WDC congregations in Texas, as they gather for a joint worship service online next Saturday, July 11.
July 12 – Give thanks for generous donors and congregations who contribute faithfully to WDC, and pray for ongoing financial support for WDC in its mission to empower congregations and leaders during this uncertain time.
July 19 – Pray for all WDC congregations, as they discern what it means to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God in their local communities and today’s world.
July 26 – Pray for the Holy Spirit to empower and guide WDC’s online gathering for Annual Assembly next weekend, as we engage the theme “Living in Exile.”
Due to Covid-19 concerns, all meetings of WDC Executive Board, Commissions, Committees and Task Forces are being held via Zoom video conference until further notice.
July 3 – WDC Office closed for 4th of July holiday
July 8 – WDC Gifts Discernment Committee meeting
July 9 – WDC Resource Commission meeting
July 9 – WDC Church Planting Commission meeting
July 11 – WDC Texas Churches Bilingual Worship
July 27 – WDC Israel Palestine Task Force meeting
Aug 1-2 – WDC Virtual Annual Assembly
Aug 21 – WDC Ministerial Leadership Commission meeting
Aug 25 – WDC Stewardship Commission meeting
Aug 27 – WDC Leadership Lunch
Sept 1 – WDC Executive Committee meeting
Sept 7 – WDC Office closed for Labor Day holiday
Sept 10 – WDC Executive Board meeting
Sept 26 – WDC Reference Council
- The WDC Virtual Assembly Delegate Session is for you! If you’ve never had a chance to have your congregation’s views heard at the WDC Annual Assembly because of cost, distance, or other limitations, please register as a delegate this year. Language will not be a barrier. We will have separate “channels” for Spanish speakers and English speakers. Hear our Conference Minister’s insights about how the Spirit is at work in Western District Conference, as well as add your perspective to discussions of who will shape WDC ministries and how we will spend our money together. We look forward to seeing you August 1, 9-11 am Central Time. We encourage you or your congregation to make a generous donation, as you are able, for Assembly expenses. After costs are covered, donations will go toward our WDC Hope Fund for congregations in financial need. More information and online registration at: https://mennowdc.org/2020-wdc-annual-assembly/
- Note to pastors/churches: Remember to submit your current church membership number and the names of your delegates for the WDC Assembly by July 12. Use the online form here: https://mennowdc.org/online-delegate-list-form/.
- Congregational Video Snapshots for WDC Assembly 2020: Have you sent in your congregation’s video snapshot? It could be as simple as just a few digital photos. Please watch Associate Conference Minister Kathy Neufeld Dunn’s “How Do I Make a Video” YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkYTwt3c7SY&list=PL6aO7e884ZT5d9gHzyrfAucccOFYYd_M5&index=3&t=6s) if you still need “how to” ideas. We are looking forward to learning just a little more about each other through these brief videos.
- Kids’ Art Responses to Assembly Scriptures: Remember, we invite kids from any WDC congregation to draw a picture or write a poem in response to our Assembly scriptures Jeremiah 29. 4 and following and 1 Peter 2.11-12. Why would God ask people who’d been forced to move to a strange land to become friends and even family with their enemies? Send your art to: email@example.com.
- On Saturday, July 11 at 6 pm, there will be a bilingual worship service sponsored by the Mennonite Churches of Texas. It will include preaching from John Garland from San Antonio, who has been very involved in immigration work, as well as updates from the congregations around the state. It will be broadcasted on Facebook Live on the Peace Mennonite Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Religious-Organization/Peace-Mennonite-Church-122293367967468/
as well as on Zoom here: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84661820388. All are welcome to join us!
El sábado 11 de julio a las 6:00 habrá un servicio de adoración bilingüe organizado por las Iglesias Menonitas de Texas. Incluirá la predicación de John Garland de San Antonio, quien ha estado muy involucrado en el trabajo de inmigración, así como actualizaciones de las congregaciones de todo el estado. Transmitiremos en Facebook Live en la página de Facebook de Peace Mennonite https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Religious-Organization/Peace-Mennonite-Church-122293367967468/ así como en Zoom aquí: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84661820388. ¡Todos son bienvenidos a unirse a nosotros!
- The July WDC Virtual KLC Leadership Lunch is cancelled. We will resume on August 27. More information to come.
- In this time of uncertainty, challenge and change, adaptive leadership in our congregations and communities is more crucial than ever. The good news is that leadership training at Kansas Leadership Center is now available online! A Leadership Transformation Grant from KLC in 2020 covers full registration cost for a selected number of WDC participants to attend one of KLC’s three primary leadership training programs, which have all shifted to virtual sessions for the rest of 2020. If you are interested in applying for KLC training through the WDC grant, see the attached information and application form, or go to http://mennowdc.org/grants/. KLC also offers free, interactive sessions online, open to anyone as a form of community support during the pandemic. To learn more, see https://kansasleadershipcenter.org/c19live/. Para hispanohablantes: Kansas Leadership Center ofrece programas gratuitos de liderazgo en línea en español. Para más información, ver https://kansasleadershipcenter.org/avanzando-juntos.
- Thank you for your support of WDC! Generous special gifts to WDC’s Hope Fund have provided for financial assistance to a number of congregations impacted by COVID-19, with extra funds available for additional grants in the future. WDC also encourages ongoing contributions from congregations and individuals towards regular operating expenses, to continue WDC’s mission of empowering congregations and resourcing leaders during these challenging times. Contributions may be made online at https://mennowdc.org, or sent to Western District Conference at PO Box 306, North Newton, KS 67117. Thank you for your partnership in WDC’s ministry!
Camp Mennoscah announcements
- The Camp in a Boxes and Tees from Camp Mennoscah are being delivered to pick up locations. If you have not told us how to get your box or tee to you, please contact us at 620-297-3290 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the large number of boxes and tees ordered, we have not yet shipped boxes and tees. We’re working as quickly as we can to get them to you!
- Camp Mennoscah will be reordering tee shirts! Get your order in no later than July 9 by calling 620-297-3290 or emailing email@example.com. Only a high demand will allow us to reorder tee shirts a third/additional time. Now is your chance!
- Camp Mennoscah is open to a limited number of individuals, families, and groups for both days and overnights. Reservations must be made in advance. Contact Camp Mennoscah at 620-297-3290 for further information. We are excited to make this sacred space available to you!
- Family Weekend at Camp Mennoscah! Camp Mennoscah is inviting you to join in a modified Family Weekend on July 18-19. Many of the same activities like crafts and s’mores will be offered but adjusted to fit life during a pandemic. The pool is closed for the summer, but the river is still as splashable as ever. Each family group will be assigned their own bathroom. Register online at campmennoscah.orgor call Camp Mennoscah at 620-297-3290.
Mennonite church announcements
- Time of prayer for racial justice via Zoom – July 1, 7 pm – Join Bethel College Campus Ministries for a structured time of Scripture, lament, prayer and hope. Register at: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJUqduGhqzIuGtc5NZOR9oBVO0yPgBvb2DeO
- Check out the Peace and Justice Support Network, a Mission Network partner that works to provide the tools and encouragement that congregations need to embrace their calling to seek peace. Visit PJSN.org to learn more.
- #BringThePeace Amid widespread civil unrest, Mennonite Church USA has issued a statement on racial injustice. Read it here: http://mennoniteusa.org/news/mc_usa-statement-on-racial-injustice/
- #BringThePeace Mennonite Church USA has launched a Justice Fund to provide a way for individuals and congregations to support fellow congregations that are actively involved in dismantling racism, addressing police brutality, reimagining policing in our society or combating poverty. To learn more: http://mennoniteusa.org/news/mennonite-church-usa-launches-new-justice-fund/
5. #BringThePeace The leadership team of Mennonite Church USA recently led an interactive, online panel discussion, entitled Race, Church and Change, about the impact of racism on the church and meaningful approaches for dismantling it. View it here: http://mennoniteusa.org/leadership-development/webinars/
6. MennoCon21 Considering raising funds to attend MennoCon21? Mennonite Church USA convention planning staff is offering an opportunity to raise funds by selling Menno’s Best coffee. A portion of the proceeds from every bag of coffee goes to youth groups and the peace and justice work our denomination https://convention.mennoniteusa.org/mennos-best-coffee-fundraiser/
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.