WESTERN DISTRICT CONFERENCE
September 6, 2016
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)
IN THIS ISSUE:
*Wise as Serpents, Innocent as Doves: Additional Safe Sanctuary Resources
*Attached is a poster for the Camp Mennoscah Work & Play Camp.
*Also attached are copies of presentations from pastors responding to sexual abuse in congregations
Wise as Serpents, Innocent as Doves: Additional Safe Sanctuary Resources
by Kathy Neufeld Dunn, Associate Conference Minister (Kansas-Based)
The Gospel of Matthew records Jesus saying, as he commissions the Twelve for mission, “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10.16). I can think of no greater innocent than a child or frail elder. They are the most vulnerable in our congregations. As we welcome newcomers and seekers into our midst in our congregations, we must be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” on behalf of those most in need of our protection. One of these newcomers, or even one of our own longtime members, might be a predator. (For counsel on how to minister to sexual predators, please see http://dovesnest.net/sites/default/files/Protection_and_Inclusion.pdf.)
We don’t like to think about it, but for the sake of these “little ones,” we must. FaithTrust Institute estimates that one out of every three girls and one out of every six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. One in seven youth internet users has received unwanted sexually explicit solicitations online. 72% of teens believe online abuse should be discussed, according to the US Justice Department. When it comes to vulnerable elders, statistics are harder to obtain, but some experts estimate as many as 6% of our elderly population have experienced some form of exploitation (often financial or physical) in a trust relationship. We may say, “That doesn’t happen in our church,” but our own media tells a different story. J Ron Byler of MCC notes, “These numbers are true in both faith communities and the general population,” (“We Will Speak Out Against Sexualized Violence,” MCC, June 2, 2016).
In many of our congregations, we have Safe Sanctuary policies, policies that guide how we will protect children and youth in our congregations from sexual predators. Yet, these policies assume that such potential abusers will be on-site in our church buildings. Today they may be onlline, as well, and still dangerous. Joy Thornburg Melton and Michelle L. Foster wrote a book that can help congregations appropriately update our Safe Sanctuaries policies to protect our children and youth in the digital age. Safe Sanctuaries in a Virtual World is available in our WDC Resource Library for check out. It includes chapters on internet and the law, pornography online, social media, and other ministry contexts, like church camp and college campuses, where children go for church-sponsored events. This is a crucial supplement to the Safe Sanctuaries resources already available.
If you or someone you know speaks Spanish as a first language, please note that the original Safe Sanctuaries book is now available in Spanish. Santuarios Seguros is available in the WDC Resource Library for your use.
Another new Safe Sanctuaries resource available in the library addresses the tragedy of elder abuse: Safe Sanctuaries: The Church Responds to Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of Older Adults. As with other Safe Sanctuaries resources, this book includes theology, diagnosing the problem, steps for implementing a safety plan as part of the broader ministry of the church, all for the sake of older, vulnerable adults.
Though it is not easy to learn about and address these difficult topics, when we do, we can become “wise as serpents, and innocent as doves” as we share the gospel in our contexts.
Ideas for teaching and preaching on sexuality: Attached are copies of presentations by Tom Harder and Katherine Goerzen which were shared at the July 29 WDC Pastors’ Afternoon Apart on the theme of responding to sexual abuse in the congregation. Tom and Katherine presented these comments as part of storytelling prior to the keynote speaker’s presentation, as examples of how pastors and congregations can promote teaching and learning on healthy sexuality. (see attachments)
Festival de la Fraternidad Familiar /Family Fellowship Festival will be held on September 24 at Luz del Evangelio in Dallas, TX. This time of fellowship and local outreach is for all WDC congregations, especially those from Texas. There will be games, food, music, and open spaces for those with talents to share. For more information, contact Sandra Martinez, firstname.lastname@example.org, 214-907-6309.
Western District Conference Reference Council will be held at Luz del Evangelio in Dallas Texas on October 22 from 9 am-3 pm, with scripture reflections by theologian Lois Barrett, storytelling and table conversations on the theme “Held Together in Mission: Being Church in the Urban Context”. Lunch will be provided; contributions will be invited to help cover expenses. Interested in carpooling from Kansas? Let us know! Hotel suggestions at: https://mennowdc.org/annual-assembly/#2016fallReference. Please RSVP to WDC by October 10.
Are you interested in continuing to learn about the Palestinian – Israeli context, and how we can support peace and justice there? Books by Palestinian Christian leader Alex Awad and others are currently on display at the Western District Resource Library Stop by the library or request an item at 316-283-6300 or email@example.com
Register now for your fall camp adventure–Work & Play Camp! This all-ages, service-oriented retreat at Camp Mennoscah is scheduled over a weekend to allow folks who are busy on weekdays to take part in the fun. The retreat runs September 16-20 and all ages are invited to come out for whatever time you can squeeze into your schedule. (Those under 18 must be with an adult.) See the brochure and register online at www.campmennoscah.org! Our annual meeting will be on September 18. No cost for this retreat. Donations for meals appreciated.(attached is a poster for the event)
Everyone Invited! Camp Mennoscah’s Annual Meeting is September 18 at 5:30pm in the Dining Hall. There will be a couple of videos from the summer, words from the new executive director, and information about the kitchen/dining hall renovations. The meeting is part of our Work & Play Camp, so make a full day of it! Join us for worship in the morning, lunch, and then enjoy an afternoon of free time before the annual meeting. No cost. Donations accepted for meals and, of course, the kitchen/dining hall renovations. Please register if attending for the full day. Call us at 620-297-3290 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mennonite Church Announcements
Bethel College is currently hosting “Building Bridges” in the Regier Art Gallery in Luyken Fine Arts Center. The works by Iraqi and Palestinian refugee artists are for sale by silent auction, with proceeds going to support the artists. Gallery hours are Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and Sun., 2-4 p.m. “Building Bridges” is an effort by New York City-based Common Humanity and local groups, and is supported by a grant from the Peace and Justice Support Network of Mennonite Church USA. Common Humanity director Mel Lehman speaks at Bethel Weds., Sept. 21, during Life Enrichment, and Fri., Sept. 23, 11 a.m. in convocation in Krehbiel Auditorium – the last day to place bids, and the date of the exhibit’s closing reception. (You can view the paintings online at www.ictcommonhumanity.org/robert-w-regier-gallery-1)
Urgent Need – Come to the MCC Kit Bag Assembly Party on Friday, Sept. 9, 9am-3pm at MCC in North Newton (121 E. 30th), lunch will be provided. Cutting, ironing and sewing stations will be set up to help meet the need. Call 316-283-2720 to RSVP. Please indicate if you can bring a sewing machine or serger that day. Donations of medium weight cotton fabric at least one yard in length and neutral thread are needed. Please no heavy denim or double knit. Bring your friends and come join in the fun!
Calling all visual artists! Mennonite Church USA is looking for freelance visual artists to contribute to a paid upcoming project. Email Alyssa Bennett Smith at email@example.com if you’re interested or know someone who is!
September is a good time to renew your daily practice of prayer! Find recommendations for daily devotional podcasts or emails at AnabaptistFaithFormation.org. The site is sponsored by Central Plains Mennonite Conference, an area conference of Mennonite Church USA.
Partial scholarships for women of color are available for the Women Doing Theology Conference, I’ve got the power: Naming and reclaiming power as a force for good, to be held Nov. 4-6 at the National Conference Center in Leesburg, Virginia. Sponsor: Women in Leadership Project of Mennonite Church USA. The full cost is $425 which includes a private room and all meals and snacks. Apply for a partial scholarship by Sept. 23. See: mennoniteusa.org/wlp-conference.
Paid college internship opportunity with the Mennonite Church USA Communications Team! Beginning in January and culminating in July 2017 at the Mennonite Church USA convention in Orlando, Florida, these paid internships will include positions for writers, editors, photographers, social media managers and graphic designers. Students of color are especially encouraged to apply. If selected students wish to receive credit from their college or university, Mennonite Church USA staff will work with the appropriate faculty representative to determine whether this can be arranged. Contact Janie Beck Kreider for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You are invited to a Steel Wheels benefit concert, Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 7 pm, at Bethel College Memorial Hall. No advance ticket sales. Donations accepted at the door. Suggested amounts: Adults-$20, Students-$10, children 12 and under-your choice. All donations will be to the Shalom Mennonite Church Benevolent Fund for the Kendra and Russ Neufeld family. All services and expenses for this concert have been generously donated or underwritten! Russ is currently undergoing a bone marrow stem cell transplant requiring them both to be in Omaha for more than three months. Online donations: https://www.gofundme.com/runwithruss.
MEDA Convention: “Women Changing the World” Join MEDA for 4 days of inspiration, information and networking in San Antonio, TX during October 27-30, 2016. Plenary sessions feature topics on entrepreneurship and women in business. Go to www.medaconvention.org for full descriptions of the plenary sessions, seminars, tours and on-line registration, or call 1 (800) 665-7026 for more information.