by Naomi Tice
The weekend of August 4-6, 10 out of the 12 congregational members of Allegheny Mennonite Conference (AMC) gathered at Laurelville for a time of working, worshipping, and having fun together. This weekend marked the 141st meeting of AMC.
Worship services for the weekend were led by youth and young adults. This year’s theme was “On the Way with Jesus… Joining in God’s Work!” based on Luke 9:57 – Luke 10:42. Each worship service featured a storyteller and a main speaker. Storytellers for the weekend included Dennis Fisher (Philippi) on Friday night, Eric Haglund (Springs) on Saturday night, and a group from Scottdale on Sunday morning. Main speakers for the weekend included Ben Wideman (University) on Friday night, Tom Tennefoss (Grace) on Saturday night, and Leah Rittenhouse (Johnstown Service Adventure Leader) on Sunday morning.
During Saturday morning’s time of “worshipful work,” Interim Conference Minister Dave Mishler reported that of the congregations that responded to the survey sent out earlier in the year about how AMC should proceed into the future, the overwhelming number 1 choice was to have AMC stay together. The second choice was to join another conference such as Central District Conference (CDC), while the least favored choice was for AMC to dissolve and help individual congregations find new conferences to be part of. Martinsburg, Kauffman, and Maple Grove are transferring out of AMC, but despite the loss of these congregations, there is a growing sense of enthusiasm in AMC. AMC’s new vision is for place-based ministry, serving the local community.
Joy Cotchen, AMC Minister of Children and Youth, reported that summer camp continues to be a blessing. Outgoing Youth Cabinet members Olivia Tennefoss (Grace) and Hannah Bodes (Springs) shared about their experiences participating in Youth Cabinet and serving as youth reps in Leadership Council.
Doug Luginbill, Conference Minister of CDC, introduced himself and CDC delegation members who were in attendance. CDC currently includes forty congregations in ten states who wish to help each other, but do not want to control each other. A delegation from AMC attended CDC’s summer gathering back in June. Both conferences are working at getting to know each other better.
Terry Shue, the Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) denominational minister to AMC, shared that the average age of MC USA church members is increasing, congregations are getting smaller, and pastors are acquiring more debt. The inevitability of life is change, and MC USA is trying to help churches and conferences navigate as they deal with these changes. MC USA currently includes 700 congregations, 18 conferences and 5 agencies.
Erin Leatherman (Morgantown), AMC’s Treasurer, presented the budget. Although congregational giving has decreased, individual giving has increased. Thanks to this increase in individual giving and the income from the sale of New Life’s building, we can meet our budget for 2017. However, unless there is further increase in giving, we will not be able to meet our budget for 2018. Delegates passed a motion to remove designated fund restrictions and allow their use for current operations.
Kimberly McClain, a representative from International Guest House (IGH) reported that in IGH’s 50 years of operation, they have hosted 56,000 guests, 35% of whom are international visitors. IGH creates life-giving opportunities for volunteers. It is thanks to the hard work of volunteers that the lower level of IGH was recently able to be renovated.
Saturday afternoon was filled with workshops and free time activities.
Saturday evening’s “Poetry and Prose” talent show was once again emceed by Julianna Tennefoss (Grace) and Naomi Tice (Springs). Many people shared their skills, and Dave Mishler and Marv Friesen (AMC Moderator, University) took the opportunity to creatively remind everyone of AMC’s newly-adopted vision.
The weekend’s events concluded on Sunday with morning worship, and good-byes were said before, during, and after lunch.