Won’t You Be Our Neighbor?

A note from Erin Leatherman, AMC Treasurer

In recent months, Everence started a new incentive program called MyNeighbor. This program allows Everence credit card holders to select a neighbor (a non-profit organization) to receive a donation equal to 1.5% of the total amount purchased using their Everence card. Both individual and business cardholders are eligible to participate. We switched our Allegheny Mennonite Conference (AMC) cards to this program, and by selecting AMC as our neighbor, we used our conference purchases to add to the AMC donation. Additionally, several others selected AMC as their neighbor, and in total Everence gifted us around $800 for the 2017 calendar year! We are grateful for those that selected us as a neighbor and for Everence’s gift, and we would be thrilled to have others select us as their neighbor, too. If you are interested in learning more about this program, I invite you to contact your local Everence representative or to visit the MyNeighbor website: https://www.everence.com/banking/credit-and-debit-cards/myneighbor.

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The Plainy from Allegheny

By David Mishler, Conference Minister               Volume 2 – January 2018

#1 – Naming this Newsletter/Blog

This is the second edition of our newsletter/blog.  So far, I have received several suggestions for a better title.  Here is the list and you get to vote on your favorite:
Miscellany from Allegheny
Plumb Miscellany from Allegheny – plumb meaning true or complete (true as in a plumb line from Amos 7 and Isaiah 28 – both dealing with justice)
Prime Miscellany from Allegheny

With the new suggestions also came some important critique:
–Allegheny is nowhere near a plain.
–We don’t want to have confusion since we are not re-claiming our plain roots.

Although these are absolutely great improvements over my original (??), I am hoping for a few more submissions before we vote, so this month it is still “The Plainy from Allegheny”.  Sorry.

#2 – Membership in Allegheny

As promised this issue will focus on a Membership Model for Allegheny Mennonite Conference.  However, the Leadership Council, at its annual retreat (January 19-21), has taken a turn away from our previous discussions about “covenant membership”.  The Leadership Council (LC) believes that simplicity should be the focus of our work at this time in the life of our conference.

As some congregations are beginning to consider partnering with AMC as their conference affiliation choice, the LC is proposing an update to our current bylaws with a clear and simple “qualifications” section followed by a simple “process” for becoming a member congregation.  A “covenant” could be part of this process, but it would be part of a policy, not part of the bylaws.  My hope is that if our delegates agree to this approach to membership, we could have a service of “re-commitment to conference” at our Celebration at Laurelville this August.  Each congregation could bring a “letter of covenant” to express its individuality and address specific place-based ministry efforts, along with affirming what is outlined in our revised bylaws.

We especially need delegates’ feedback going into our March 3, 2018 Faith and Life Gathering (at Stahl Mennonite, Johnstown) concerning the character of this approach to membership.  If each congregation submits a response by February 26, the LC will use that information to help plan for our time together.

Suggested revised bylaws for membership:

Section B.  Qualification for Member Congregations

1.     Congregations that aspire to live in voluntary commitment to Jesus Christ from an Anabaptist perspective, using the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective as a guiding document, qualify to be members of Allegheny Mennonite Conference. Through our covenants with one another we endeavor to:

a. promote Jesus as the center of our faith, community as the center of our life, and reconciliation as the center of our work;
b. give and receive resources for pastors and congregations in matters of faith and life, including doing periodic congregational/pastoral evaluation in consultation with the Conference Minister;
c. facilitate the reign of God by providing resources and channels through efforts in mission, evangelism, church planting, Christian formation, nurture, peacemaking and justice;
d. be supportive and respectful of the discernment processes used by Conference and individual congregations in decision making and understand our theological differences as a source of strength and resilience.

2.     An annual administrative fee is determined by the Leadership Council and is payable within the first sixty days of the Conference fiscal year. All congregations are expected to support conference budgets and financial commitments based on decisions of the delegate body and the ability of each congregation, above and beyond the administrative fee.

3.     A worshipping group may make application to become a congregation in Conference to the Conference Minister/Leadership Council.

a. The delegates will be notified of the congregation’s membership request.
b. The Conference Minister will make an assessment and make a recommendation to the Leadership Council. If the congregation is a member of another Mennonite Church USA conference, guidelines provided by Mennonite Church USA will be followed.
c. Leadership Council may recommend to delegates at a delegate session that the congregation’s request be affirmed.

Some important questions for which we are seeking a response from every congregation:

I. Can we affirm the “simplicity” approach to membership in Allegheny? 
II. Would your congregation support a policy of a “covenant” approach to membership, in practice, using the simplicity of the bylaws as the qualifications and pathway to establishing membership, and then bring your own flavor to our membership covenants through a celebratory worship service?

III. Could your congregation be ready to bring its covenant to our Celebration event at Laurelville in August?

Please respond with your questions, comments, hopes and dreams to this post.  If you are viewing this post in your email account, use your email “reply” or as one way to respond.  Or if you are reading this post on our website, post a comment here.  All online comments are screened before they go live.

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Pittsburgh Mennonite to Celebrate 50 Years

Save the Date! Join Pittsburgh Mennonite Church as we celebrate 50 years on August 10-12, 2018. Visit our website at pittsburghmennonite.org/50th for details!

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Youth are the Church of Today!

– Joy Cotchen, Conference Minister of Children & Youth
for Allegheny Mennonite Conference
Posted in The Mennonite – TMail on January 11, 2018

For over 50 years, Allegheny Mennonite Conference (AMC) has devoted time, energy, staff and resources toward children and youth as one if its highest priorities for conference life. In 1979, the first paid staff person was engaged to oversee children and youth activities, along with co-sponsoring summer camps at Laurelville Mennonite Church Center in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania. I have been privileged to serve in this position for the last 18 years.

Something unique to youth ministry in AMC is the Youth Cabinet, which has been in place for the past 30-plus years. “Cabinet” is made up of high school juniors and seniors, along with young adult representatives and the conference youth minister. This group of young people plans the youth retreats and AMC summer conference activities for their peers. They also lead and staff the events themselves, sometimes leading worship at summer conference gatherings. This is a great way to nurture leadership skills in youth. It is a safe place to test skills for future ministry opportunities and it is also a place to build relationships, becoming a mutually beneficial support network for their spiritual journeys. In 2010, the AMC Leadership Council took action to invite youth representatives to join the Council, believing it important to have youth voices around the table.

As we co-sponsor summer children and youth camps with Laurelville, we are able to hire many youth and young adults from our member congregations. Summer camp staff is a great place to both nurture personal spiritual life and to practice ministry and leadership skills. And, along with Cabinet, I get to walk alongside and mentor these young people, one of my greatest passions! Getting to watch children grow through their years as summer campers into the place of becoming a counselor is both fun and most rewarding. For the past few summers, former staff have also stepped into the role of the day-to-day Camp Director. Summer camp is a key place where we get to nurture children and youth on their faith journeys, supported directly through my role as Minister of Children and Youth.

I am most encouraged that numerous Youth Cabinet and summer camp staffers have become leaders in Mennonite Church USA congregational and conference ministry. I am hopeful that a little piece in their calling came from the opportunities that AMC offered them.

Promoting our conference and denominational events, along with promoting Christian higher education (MC USA college representatives attend many of our SnoKamps each winter), helps give options and opens opportunities for our youth to serve and engage across the church. We also host a very focused fall retreat and an inductive Bible study to provide spaces for digging into the Word.

Some of my most encouraging moments have happened as youth discover what deep, life-changing encounter with Scripture can bring to the table.

Our winter retreat, SnoKamp, is way for youth to continue to learn and build relationships across conference and the church. For many, the relationship piece has become so important to them even as they move in different directions with their lives. There have been more than a few weddings develop out of our conference youth events and working together.

I am certain that keeping children and youth at the center of Allegheny conference priorities has not only raised the profile of our conference in their lives, but has also strengthened their faith and built lasting connections to the broader church.

Children and youth are not just the church of tomorrow, they are the church of today. They have important voices to be heard, even as they are being shaped. I am so blessed to be a part of this ministry. Children and youth need to be at the core of who we are as the church. They will lead us.
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