September 29, 2015

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)


*From the Conference Minister’s Heart

*Prayer Requests

*Coming Events

*Parish Paper

From the Conference Minister’s Heart

     by Heidi Regier Kreider, Conference Minister

This reflection is second in a series focusing on the leadership competencies featured in training offered at the Kansas Leadership Center.  WDC is partnering with South Central Conference to offer this training to pastors and other congregational leaders through a Leadership Transformation Grant from KLC.  Today’s column is on “Diagnosing the Situation.”

Mark 10:17-31 tells of a rich man who ran up and knelt in front of Jesus, addressing him, “Good Teacher.” Jesus could have proudly accepted this title of moral authority as a compliment, but instead he challenged the man: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”

When the man asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, Jesus listed the scriptural commandments, to which the man replied, “Teacher, I have kept all these since youth.”   Again, Jesus could have simply congratulated the rich man, and sent him on his way with a guarantee of eternal life.  Instead, Jesus challenged the man once more: “You lack one thing: Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.”  Shocked by Jesus’ response, the man went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

In this gospel story, Jesus diagnosed the situation differently than the rich man expected him to.   Instead of settling for predictable interpretations of “goodness,” Jesus reframed the issue by asking questions and exploring tough interpretations, challenging the rich man to reexamine his assumptions about God, goodness, and the “good life.” Jesus refused to give an easy answer to the rich man’s question, or a quick solution to his quest for eternal life. Instead, Jesus invited the man to embrace the difficult process of transformation.

Jesus then turned to his disciples, checking how they might respond to this exploration of various interpretations of how to access salvation: “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God,” he declares. His disciples are perplexed. Jesus tries again, this time adding a provocative visual description: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God!”   The astounded disciples protest, “Then who can be saved?”   They, too, still struggle to move beyond the assumption that salvation is an acquisition that can be earned by human effort.

Jesus reminds them that salvation is God’s work – not merely the accomplishment of human beings.  “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God,” he says – “for God all things are possible.”

As I have traveled across Western District Conference during my first weeks as Conference Minister, I have observed congregations and pastors facing situations that may at times seem impossible to overcome:  Poverty, hunger or gun violence in their neighborhoods; aging church facilities (or lack of a facility); teens and young adults cynical about the church; changes in technology and social media; physical and mental health issues; conflicts between church members; differences over sexuality and Biblical interpretation; political, global concerns…and more.

And, I also observe congregations diagnosing situations in creative ways that allow for new possibilities.   I am grateful for leaders who ask questions, explore tough interpretations, test multiple points of view, distinguish between technical solutions and adaptive work, seek to understand what is required in the process of change, and identify who needs to do the work.

In the process, hungry people are fed, justice is experienced, comfort and courage are offered, new buildings are designed and built, people gather for worship, youth come to faith and are baptized, forgiveness is shared, resources are provided for those in crisis…and much more.  With God all things are possible!

Prayer Requests

October 4 –  Pray for Jennifer Wintermote, as she is licensed today for interim pastoral ministry at New Creation Fellowship Church, Newton, KS.

October 11 – Pray for leaders and students in WDC congregations who participate in Instituto Biblico Anabautista, as it equips Hispanic leaders in the Mennonite Church.

October 18 – Pray for Richard Gehring, Byron Pellecer and Heidi Regier Kreider as they travel this week to represent WDC at meetings of the Mennonite Church USA Constituency Leaders Council, October 19-21 in Archbold, OH.

October 25 – Pray for God’s wisdom, joy and safety for all who travel and gather for WDC Assembly next weekend on the Bethel College campus.

Coming Events

October 30 (1:00-4:30 pm) – Pastor’s Afternoon Apart, Faith Mennonite Church

October 30-31 – WDC Annual Assembly, Bethel College, North Newton, KS

Parish Paper

The October issue of Parish Paper, entitled “New Models for New Churches:  What Works?” can now be viewed at:  https://mennowdc.org/conference-life/parish-paper/.

WDC Announcements

  1. The WDC Annual Assembly is only a month away!  Need-based scholarships are available for up to 1/2 of the cost of registration and meals, not to exceed $50 per individual.  Scholarships will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis as long as funds are available.  Contact the WDC office at 316-283-6300.
  1. Pastors’ Afternoon Apart will be held on October 30, from 1:00-4:30 pm at Faith Mennonite Church.  See details at https://mennowdc.org/pastors-afternoon-apart-october-30-2015/.  Remember to register by October 16!
  1. Who cares what you wear!  Camp Mennoscah has two weeks of Scrapbooking Retreats–one right after the other.  Put on your scrappy happy shoes and join us for Oct. 30-Nov. 1 or Nov. 6-8.  Here’s a chance to spend the day in your pajamas, your coffee (or other beverage) in a covered mug by your side, and your memories in front of you.  Register online at www.campmennoscah.org or call us at 620-297-3290.
  1. Whatever the weather, we’re taking out the dam.  Watchers and doers alike are invited to come to Camp Mennoscah for the annual removal of the dam.  There is some weather for which we would cancel–blizzard, lightning, tornado, for example–but otherwise we will barrel forward.  We do this to clean out the muck and mud behind the dam.  Call 620-297-3290 with questions.
  1. Thank you to our amazing Work & Players!  67 people attended Camp Mennoscah Association’s annual meeting on September 20, and approx. 40 of you stuck around for Work & Play Camp.  We can’t thank you enough for the many projects that you completed and the amazing energy and enthusiasm that you brought with you.  You are the bestest!
  1. COME AND SEE TOUR TO ISRAEL/PALESTINE:  At the Kansas City convention, a resolution was approved encouraging Mennonites to acquaint themselves as fully as possible with the issues surrounding the longstanding conflict between Israel and Palestine.  To work toward that end, fifteen persons from South Central and Western District Conferences are invited to consider joining a tour to Israel/Palestine from April 2-13, 2016.  First some background:

Mennonites have been involved in witness and ministry in Israel/Palestine for more than 65 years. We have tried to faithfully be and proclaim the good news of peace in that troubled region where Jesus once walked and preached. The profound history of pain and trauma and the ongoing violence and injustice there is an undercurrent for violence in the entire Middle East region and across the globe.

Our churches and our agencies are directly and indirectly involved in the events of this region: whether through our service and witness efforts there, through difficult questions we face about investments, when we seek as peacemakers to confront root causes of war, or when engaging the theology of Christian Zionism in our congregations.

In 2011, building on earlier initiatives, the Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA, wrote a response to Kairos Palestine, an urgent appeal from a broad range of Palestinian Christian leaders. The Executive Board committed itself in that response to promote and expand opportunities for our leaders and members to visit Palestinian Christians to get to know them, pray with them, and come and see their reality. In our desire to be peacebuilders, the Executive Board is also committed to learning from the Jewish story of suffering and injustice.

To facilitate this goal, MC USA Executive Board staff has established a “Come and See Fund” to help off-set costs for learning tours to Israel/Palestine with ongoing generous contributions from Mennonite Mission Network, MCC U.S. and Everence. Our goal is to help facilitate one hundred Mennonite leaders and pastors to participate in Israel/Palestine learning tours in the five year period from 2013 to 2018. For a list of past participants and reports from them see:   http://www.mennoniteusa.org/what-we-do/holistic-witness/come-and-see-initiative/

We are now at the point of exploring the possibility of Western District Conference and South Central Conference partnering with the Mennonite sponsors to participate in an Israel/Palestine learning tour in Spring 2016.  Here are some specifics:

  • Participants will learn about the realities of occupation from Palestinian Christians and others, hear Jewish perspectives, meet various Mennonite workers and partners, and visit historic Biblical sights.  The trip will include time in Bethlehem, Hebron, Nazareth/Galilee and Jerusalem. A sample itinerary from the most recent tour is available.
  • MCC Jerusalem staff will assist with planning and provide on-the-ground logistical support.
  • The tour would include ten days on the ground and two travel days:  April 2 (arrival) & April 13 (departure).
  • The intent is to include 15 participants in the group, looking for a mix of pastors, conference board and staff, emerging leaders and other opinion shapers.  The group should include a good gender and racial/ethnic mix, divided between the two area conferences.
  • Depending on airfare, we are able to keep costs for the trip to roughly $3000 ($1500 travel, $1500 on-the-ground costs).  The “Come and See Fund” will provide scholarships of $1000 per participant.
  • Participants will make a $500 deposit and book their own flight through Golden Rule Travel, and the sponsors will pay the remaining $1000 of on-the-ground expenses.
  • Participants are asked to do a modest amount of preparatory reading and to make two public presentations in congregational, conference and community settings when they return.

We anticipate that firm commitments will need to be made by November 1.  We now invite expressions from interested persons, who will be placed on a list from which the two conferences will make the selection of 15 persons, using the criteria stated above.  Send inquiries or expressions of interest to WDC Conference Minister Heidi Regier Kreider at heidirk@mennowdc.org

  1. On Wednesday, November 4, at 7 pm, the Peace Group at the First Mennonite Church of Christian, 719 South Christian, Moundridge, will sponsor a presentation by Sister Mary Ellen Loch and Sister Dorothy LeBlanc, of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Wichita.  They will be sharing with us and helping to educate us about human trafficking  —  What does it look like?  How do we recognize it?  What can we do about it?  These topics and a few more will be addressed.   All are welcome to attend.

Mennonite Church Announcements

  1. There is still time to register to participate in the webinar “Where is the Good News for Rural Folk?”, hosted by AMBS-Kansas Center on September 30 at 1 pm. Our classroom is located at 2517 in North Newton, KS. Cost is $10 per participant. If you would like to register, please contact Katherine Goerzen at kccoordinator@ambs.edu
  1. The annual Instituto Bíblico Anabautista-IBA BENEFIT dinner will take place Friday, October 16 at 6:30 pm in the First Mennonite Church of Newton fellowship hall. A smothered pork burrito dinner will be prepared and served by Chef Carlos Lujano. A short program will follow featuring a hymn by IBA student Javier Rodriquez, a dance performed by the children of Iglesia Mennonita Casa Betania, and video presentation by Ervin Stutzman. Dinner is by donation. This is a great opportunity for a Sunday School, Small Group or individuals to come and hear how this program is equipping Hispanic leaders in Mennonite Church USA. IBA is a program of Mennonite Education Agency’s Hispanic Pastoral and Leadership Education Program. For any inquires contact Violeta Ajquejay at:  VioletaA@MennoniteEducation.org or call 316-281-4342
  1. Searching for a college? Visit EMU for free and check out our thriving campus located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley!Attend the Oct. 15-17 visit planned especially for Mennonite students. Join Mennonites from across the country who are flying and driving in to learn more about EMU. Attend all or part of the events as your schedule suits. EMU will help with the travel costs. Questions? Contact David Yoder, david.yoder@emu.edu; see details at emu.edu/flytrip

 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