March 7, 2017

A weekly communication for:

WDC Churches and Pastors

WDC Executive Board, Commission, Committee and Task Force members

Any content may be used in bulletins and newsletters and

forwarded to congregational leaders and members.

WDC Sprouts is also available at:  www.mennowdc.org (Publications)


*The Practice of Descent


The Practice of Descent

     by Kathy Neufeld Dunn, Associate Conference Minister (KS-based)

Lent—forty days of prayer and practice.  Lent is a season of the Christian Year when we openly admit our human frailty and sinfulness.  Some of our congregations who rarely practice confession, take time to confess our sins as a people and individually each Sunday until Easter.  As a way to train, some of us may individually choose to give up some pleasant pass-time or take on a new spiritual habit.  Lent is like a six-week basketball or music camp for followers of Jesus. In this “spiritual camp,” we practice new ways to be disciples.  We recommit to pray, encounter scripture, and give out of our gratitude.  While we practice and stretch, asking our beloved Coach to guide us, God helps us grow in love—love for the Divine, our brothers and sisters in Christ, even love for those we call enemies. We become more disciplined in our faith practice.

When have we needed such disciplined faith practice more?  Since the election, many congregation members have been walking on eggshells around each other, some scared, some hopeful, many angry, and most unwilling to talk about these differences honestly.

There is another way to respond.  As I read Philippians 2, I remember Lesslie Newbigin, a British missiologist, who discussed healing relationships.  He wrote about Christians at odds with each other being like people standing at the top of two descending staircases, both ending at the same platform.  On this platform, at the bottom of the staircases, stands a cross, the symbol of the hope we have in Jesus, the one who emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant.  We are called to have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.  We are called to take our own certainty and each descend into the servant’s heart of Jesus as we approach the other.  We are invited to meet each other on the common ground at the bottom, because that’s where Christ is.  Nobody has a privileged position before God. We are all beggars. You’ll never heal from your own hurts, until you surrender the moral high ground, and confess your own brokenness and need for understanding and healing (Suttle, Tim).

Invite someone from your congregation out to coffee.  Gently say you’re curious and want to understand the other person’s perspective.  Do not try to convince the other of your position. Simply listen and learn.

Pastor Tim Suttle tried a “prayer experiment” with his divided congregation the evening after the election.  At the end of the worship service, he invited all participants to the front of the sanctuary to form a circle where he passed out copies of “The Prayer of St Francis.”  Instead of reading it through once, the pastor invited his hurting people to take turns reading the different sections of the prayer until everyone had had a chance to pray.  At first people did what they were asked to do with little engagement.  By the third or fourth time through the prayer, the cry for peace began to seep into their spirits and they began to respond to the deep implications of what they were praying.  The congregation became less divided as they quietly, sincerely, hugged each other and handed out tissues as the ancient prayer flowed around their circle.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon…

This Lent, descend into Christ-like humility and meet your brothers, sisters and Jesus on this common ground of grace and practice peace.

WDC Announcements

  1. Leadership Lunches! Our next Leadership Lunch is scheduled for Thursday, March 16 from 12-1:30pm at the WDC offices. Each month, we are discussing a different Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) competency and how it relates to scripture, Anabaptist theology and practice, and our own areas of ministry. In January, we reflected on “Take the temperature.” In February, we focused on “Raising the heat.” This month, in connection with Lent, we will focus on “Speak to Loss.” All pastors and ministry leaders from both WDC and SCC are welcome even if you haven’t attended a KLC training or one of the previous Leadership Lunches. We hope that these lunches will encourage and empower each of us to exercise more leadership for the common good in our churches and communities. If you have questions, please contact Kathy Neufeld Dunn (kathynd@mennowdc.org), Rachel Siemens (rsiemens@sbcglobal.net) or Phil Schmidt (pschmidt@tabormennnonite.org).
  1. Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Western District Conference will host a reception on Sunday, March 12 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. to honor the ministry of the AMBS-Kansas Center. The reception will be held at the Western District Offices, 2517 N. Main Street, North Newton, Kansas. Words of gratitude and blessing will be offered at 4:00 p.m. The center provided numerous continuing education events for congregational and pastoral leaders over the last three years. (See attached press release.)
  1. Congregational Resourcing Event: Congregational Ministry in the Face of Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence – Saturday, April 29, 8 am – 3:30 pm at First Mennonite Church, Hutchinson, KS is an educational event for all church leaders—church chairs, deacons, Christian educators, youth leaders and pastors. Complete information and registration materials will come next week!
  1. The WDC office and Conference Resource Library will be closed on Friday, March 17.
  1. First Mennonite of Hillsboro, KS, is celebrating 50 years of use and service of our current building. All are welcome to join us on April 30 at 9:30 am for a time of visiting and at 10:35 am for a worship service followed by a carry-in meal.  Pass this invitation on if you know someone with an FMC Hillsboro connection.  Thank you for an RSVP if you plan to attend: secretary@fmchillsboro.com
  1. All women in Western District and South Central Conferences are invited to attend the annual Mennonite Women Spring Supper on March 23 at 6 pm at Bethel College. Supper provided by Bethel College Women’s Association (BCWA).  Stories shared by Leah Mueller, Christine Schweitzer, Barbara Krehbiel Gehring and Mary Herr about “Living Faithfully in our Communities”.  Cost for meal:  $12 payable at the door for BCWA. Make your reservation by March 16 to:  westerndistrictwomen@gmail.com or 316-283-3342 (Marlene V. Faul).  Offering will be received for a Mennonite Central Committee women’s project (make checks payable to MCC).

Camp Mennoscah Announcements

  1. Camp Mennoscah sends a huge THANK YOU to First Mennonite in Halstead and the Hopeful Blues music group from Hope Mennonite Church for their concert to raise funds for Camp Mennoscah! It was a great concert and good to connect with so many people.  A total of $1188 was raised.  Thank you to everyone!
  1. You are important! The kitchen staff at Camp Mennoscah are important to our summer youth camp program and are vital in helping us build relationships with campers–whether through a cookie, a smile, or a rueful comment about vegetables we don’t like.  Many of our camp weeks still need kitchen helpers.  Parents can receive a camper discount up to full camp fees for having fun with other kitchen staff.  No great skills needed, just the ability to follow directions.  Contact us at 620-297-3290 or olivia.bartel@campmennoscah.org.
  1. The Retirees Relaxation Retreat at Camp Mennoscah is April 24-26! You are invited to join us to hear stories of courage, faith, and enrichment.  Amanda Rempel will lead us in music and Stan & Marlene Smucker will lead us in Bible Study.  Coffee breaks and as much nature as you want included!  Contact us at office@campmennoscah.org or 620-297-3290 for a brochure.  You can also register online at www.campmennoscah.org  We’ll see you in April!
  1. Summer is around the bend! Grab your smart phone, laptop, or other mobile device and sign up for Summer Youth Camp at Camp Mennoscah!  Register online at campmennoscah.org or call us at 620-297-3290 for assistance.  It’s an amazing time to find friends and meet God!

Mennonite Church Announcements

  1. Early registration for the Mennonite Church USA Convention 2017 has been extended to March 23! Early Registration includes a T-shirt, I-Ride trolley pass, servant project and a meal card.  Come to Orlando July 4-8 to celebrate “Love is a Verb” with fellowship, worship and activities with Mennonites from around the country.  Learn more at:  http://convention.mennoniteusa.org/registration/.
  1. Churches – “Following Jesus into the future” (article attached), appeared in the March issue of The Mennonite. Author Ervin Stutzman highlights plans for the Future Church Summit to be held at the Mennonite Church USA convention in Orlando this July.  Note that we’re offering a 50 percent rebate on registration for representatives of congregations who’ve not sent a delegate to an assembly for the last three conventions.
  1. Please pray for the Constituency Leaders Council meeting, which takes place in Elkhart, Indiana, March 16-18.
  1. In 2016, the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee began developing a new collection designed to succeed Hymnal: A Worship Book (1992), and supplements Sing the Journey (2005), and Sing the Story (2007). The Committee calls on authors (of worship resources and hymn texts), songwriters (who compose words and music as a unit), and composers (of hymn tunes) to submit original work intended to enhance congregational worship in Anabaptist-Mennonite faith communities. We welcome submissions for consideration in this new collection. We expect the submissions portal at www.MennoniteWorshipAndSongCollection.org to be active throughout 2017. More information at: http://mennoniteworshipandsongcollection.org/.  Contact Resonate@MennoMedia.org with questions.
  1. Mennonite Women USA is celebrating its 100th birthday in 2017. Our theme for the year is Fruit from the Vine, based on John 15.5. We are seeking submissions of stories, prayers, poems, songs and readings to add to our Centennial Celebration resources.  If selected, they will be posted to our website at mwusa.org/centennial.  Email Marlene Bogard with your submissions by April 1: marleneb@mwusa.org
  1. Please be in prayer for the joint Mennonite Health Assembly (MHS) and Mennonite Education Agency Education Leaders Gathering taking place March 9-12 in Jacksonville, FL. Healthcare and education professionals from Anabaptist-related institutions across the country will be gathering to learn, network, and share.  The MHS Board will also be meeting prior to and during the conference.

 Western District Conference

2517 North Main, PO Box 306

North Newton KS  67117

316-283-6300; FAX:  316-283-0620

Email:  wdc@mennowdc.org

Website:  www.mennowdc.org