August 16, 2024
Houston Mennonite Church is a member congregation of Western District Conference (WDC), one of the 16 area conferences that make up Mennonite Church USA. It was a telling moment at the WDC Annual Assembly when Conference Minister Heidi Regier Kreider asked those in attendance to raise their hand if in the past year their church had been or was currently going through a pastoral transition. Over half the group of about 100 people raised their hands. Heidi encouraged congregations to identify persons in their midst who might be considering pastoral ministry. Who comes to mind at HMC?
There were 54 congregations, three of them church plants, represented at the WDC Annual Assembly held at Tabor Mennonite Church, a rural congregation located 38 miles north of Wichita, Kansas. Approximately 100 plus people were there. I attended as a delegate of HMC and as the Interim Assistant Moderator of WDC. Our delegate sessions were held in the fellowship hall of the church and the worship sessions in the sanctuary. On Saturday evening we started a BBQ picnic and concert in the park across the street, but a rare rain shower chased us back into the church building.
Opening worship was Friday evening. The singing was robust and uplifting. The sermon title was borrowed from Voices Together #546 – There Is a Line of Women. Preacher Nathan Koontz named often overlooked women of the Bible. I appreciate the encouragement for women in ministry in WDC. The three conference ministers are women: Heidi Regier Kreider, Sandra Montes-Martinez, and Kathy Neufeld Dunn and they do a great job of leading WDC. https://mennowdc.org/staff/
At the delegate session:
· We heard a summary report from the WDC Anti-Racism Audit Team. A full report of their audit is available on the WDC website - https://mennowdc.org/working-toward-racial-justice-in-wdc/
· The Stewardship Commission reported the sale of the WDC headquarters building at North Newton for $425K. WDC will continue to lease space at 2500 Place but will not be burdened with the maintenance and management of the facility.
· Conference Minister Heidi Regier Kreider introduced two new staff members: Shari Scheffler, Business Manager, and Mike Lamb, Development Associate.
· The Stewardship Commission proposed a 2024 budget of $625K which passed by a wide margin.
I attended the workshop ““Creating Relationships and Understanding in Gaza” put on by Mennonite Palestine Israel Network (MennoPIN) with Bob Atchison and Tareq Abuhalima. Tareq is the youngest of 13 siblings who have grown up in Gaza. His parents were born there as well. He described life in Gaza under Israeli oppression.
I bought 2 books at the gathering:
· The Pastor Wears a Skirt: Stories of Gender and Identity, by Dorothy Nickel Friesen, a former WDC Conference Minister.
· Proclaiming the Good News: Mennonite Women’s Voices, 1972-2006, Edited by Lois Y. Barrett and Dorothy Nickel Friesen.
I drove from Texas to Kansas to attend the WDC Annual Assembly. I am glad my car air-conditioner worked well. It was a good trip. It was slightly cooler in Kansas.
Lee Lever, Transitional Pastor