A sk the Spirit to gather us together
L ament our past wounds
A sk and offer forgiveness
S eek healing together
A sk the Spirit to come
N ame growing edges
E nvision new faithfulness
W elcome new hope and new life
ALAS ANEW. This was the theme of this year’s annual Allegheny Mennonite Conference Summer Celebration at Laurelville. We heard and read stories of pain and stories of optimism from member congregations and shared our reactions on post-it notes next to the stories. We sang songs of lament and songs of hope, and we heard sermons that reminded us that lament can lead to hope, even if hope sometimes looks more like chaos. Pittsburgh Mennonite Church led us in worship over the course of the weekend, including an activity in which we worked together to create a beautiful tree mosaic made up of individual broken pieces of pottery.
During the business portion of the weekend, delegates were encouraged about the future of the conference, hearing a report from the AMC Affiliation Task Force that they have hope for AMC as an independent and successful, if still small, conference. The gathered adopted a working draft for publication of a new Polity and Purpose Document, describing AMC as a family of siblings.
From the polity statement: “Conference for the congregations in Allegheny is something like a family of siblings. We love each other and are concerned about each other. We want to help each other, but we do not feel a need to control each other. We share a common faith heritage and commitment, as well as a desire for common mission. Being together helps us strengthen those commitments, continue discovering God in significant ways, and define what it means for our walk as Jesus’ disciples and Anabaptist Mennonites today.”
Attendees also heard good news about AMC’s budget, most notedly the receipt of significant new individual offerings and less need to dip into reserves. Perhaps the best news of the weekend was an announcement from Bob Yoder, co-moderator of Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference, that they were gifting AMC enough resources to send three representatives to the next national Constituency Leadership Council. AMC had previously been forced to cut that line item from the budget, effectively silencing our voice within the larger Mennonite denomination.
We recognized pastoral transitions throughout AMC, enthusiastically welcoming new pastors at Stahl Mennonite Church, Springs Mennonite Church (interims), and University Mennonite Church (beginning September 1). We also shared in the joy of Stahl congregation as they ordained AMC Youth Minister Joy Cotchen earlier this year, and shared in heartfelt prayers of sending to the Christian Peacemaker Team leaving for Israel-Palestine and to Springs’ outgoing pastoral team.
Much fun was also had this weekend. Joy Cotchen and her youth leaders led activities for children of a wide age range and beautiful songs and crafts emerged. The Young Adults led an exciting and enjoyable painting activity for young and old alike during one of the Saturday afternoon seminars. We experienced good natured competition for participation numbers during roll call, and shared yummy snacks at the snack table and cool and delicious ice cream sundaes sponsored by Everence. New friends were made and new connections were developed as we browsed the displays of organizations such as Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) and ate traditional purple M&M cookies from Bluffton College, and met representatives from organizations such as the Anabaptist Disabilities Network (ADNet). We also welcomed Michael Danner from Mennonite Church USA (MC USA), who talked about the next steps from the Future Church Summit, a study guide titled the Journey Forward. Congregations should note that responses to the Journey Forward are due back to MC USA by December 31, 2018.
A good time was had by all and much business was accomplished at the 2018 Summer Celebration. Delegates and guests look forward to the next AMC gathering, which will be held November 3 at University Mennonite Church in State College, PA.
Contributed by Meryt McGindley