Centered in Christ was the theme for the 140th gathering of Allegheny Mennonite Conference that was held at Laurelville Mennonite Church Center during the weekend of August 5-7, 2016.
Three structured worship sessions featuring Ephesians 2:11-22 were planned and led by University Mennonite Church. Cindy Lapp, Hyattsville’s pastor shared about the pain Hyattsville experienced during their 10 years under “discipline” by AMC, with the hope that this would begin to break down the walls that divide us, leading to true reconciliation. She said other churches may need to tell their own stories of pain. Joe Furry, Pastor at Martinsburg Mennonite, shared his personal journey from Methodism to Anabaptism. He said that being centered in Christ means that we recognize what Christ did for us. Because of what Christ has done, we are changed and we can imagine a peace-filled unity with the other. It’s not because we agree on the details; but, rather because of what Christ has done. That service was closed by Joe standing on one side of the cross and Cindy Lapp standing on the other side of the cross and the congregation completing the circle while Joe led in prayer. Joy Cotchen, Conference Minister of Children and Youth, told of the abundance of exciting spiritual growth experiences she’s witnessed. We frequently experience fear which creates a dividing wall between us and others because we think it is all about me. The church is enriched by diversity. We can be centered in Christ when we commit ourselves to follow Jesus.
Each service featured a storyteller who shared their faith experience. Eli Studebaker shared what he has experienced as a Ministry Inquiry Program student at Hyattsville Mennonite Church. John Bender, former pastor at Pittsburgh Mennonite, was unable to be with us due to health concerns; so, congregant and family friend, Karen Howard told of her spiritual journey with the family. Wes Horst shared a message from John. Scottdale Mennonite congregants joined us for Sunday’s worship. Maple Grove Pastor Alan Kauffman related his experiences with the Ministry Inquiry Program.
Sunday’s worship included a communion service, passing the Pitcher and Basin to incoming Moderator, Marv Friesen, and installation of David Mishler as AMC Interim Conference Minister. Karen Brandes, University Mennonite was the pianist and Naomi Tice, Springs Mennonite was chorister for each of the worship services.
Worshipful work sessions featured reports from leaders within AMC as well as the broader church, Mennonite Church USA. Saturday morning’s message was brought by Cathy Spory, Kaufman Mennonite Church, AMC Moderator.In Ephesians, people are diverse and relationships are fractured. In Acts 11 Peter is being asked to imagine a new “crayon box”. “We can only imagine what we will look like in the future,” she said. Cathy led participants in an exercise to reimagine atypical uses of a pancake turner and encouraged the embracing and celebration of the harmony created by diversity within Allegheny Conference.
Joy Cotchen, AMC Conf. Minister of Children and Youth, reported youth activities for this year included service projects, Bible studies, Fallowers Retreat, SnowKamp, Jr. High Winter Retreat, and summer camp with seven different Bible teachers. Several of the Youth Cabinet members shared of the great experiences they had this year.
Dale Miller, TriState Relief Sale treasurer reported that at the present time, the gross income is $95,000, the largest gross income on record. A unique quilt whose patches depict each congregation in Conference was auctioned off Saturday evening, garnering a price of $1,325 to also be donated to MCC with a caveat that it would be displayed at future AMC gatherings.
Many changes in leadership were noted. David Mishler was installed as Interim Conference Minister. David’s hope is to give witness to the way of Jesus: through our diversity, we’re all on our way, and we’ll all be tested. Marv Friesen, University MC, assumes the role of AMC Moderator on August 7 and Enos Tice, Springs MC, becomes Moderator-elect. New members of Leadership Council were introduced: Enos Tice, Erin Letherman, Jane Rittenhouse, and Hannah Bodes. Wes Berger, new pastor of Morgantown Church of the Brethren, was welcomed. A letter from Shalom, a church plant in Pittsburgh, announced the congregation’s dissolution. Ron Spory, pastor of New Life Mennonite Church, announced his church will be closing shortly due to a decline in membership caused by persons relocating due to severe economic issues in the community. Bob Brown, Stahl Mennonite’s pastor, and Merle Christner, Pinto’s pastor are both moving on to new church assignments outside of Allegheny Conference. Matt Pritchard, Pastor of Shalom, is moving away. Ser Darj, Bhutanese-Nepali Church’s pastor will no longer be financially supported by Conference. Attendees were invited forward to lay hands on and pray especially for these folks and their transitions.
Although the World’s Attic is now a separate entity from Conference in terms of tax exemption, volunteers from AMC are still welcome and encouraged to continue their involvement in the ministry supporting Mennonite Central Committee. The International Guest House in Washington D.C. is managed by Hyattsville and is also welcoming volunteers from across the Conference to serve in volunteer capacities.
Ervin Stuzman, Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA, introduced Terry Shue, our new Conference Minister Rep. for MC USA. Terry stated these are challenging times that represent great opportunities.
Delegates attended various seminars. The Mission Network is working together with AMC church representatives in Costa Rica, Burkina Faso and Ghana. Hyattsville MC is working with local missions partnering with a DC mission unit. The young adults hosted an interactive, intergenerational discussion time.
Everence provided a Saturday evening ice cream sundae social. This was followed by the talent show which featured a dozen different acts and was emceed by the young adults.
by Carolyn Tice