Listening and learning
by Clyde G. Kratz
Executive Conference Minister
When Jesus was beginning his ministry, John was watching him with two disciples. After John said “Look, here is the Lamb of God,” the two disciples followed Jesus. When Jesus noticed them, he asked, “What are you looking for?” After a brief exchange of cordialities, Jesus says to them, “Come and see.” (John 1:35-39)
As I begin my new role, I am seeking to be inquisitive, curious, looking, and learning about the various missional communities that comprise the larger religious community known as Virginia Mennonite Conference.
At the graduation service of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, Lansdale, Pa., the graduation speaker spoke about his personal experience in photography. He envisioned a career that utilized photography and had developed a portfolio to share with potential employers. On the occasion that he shared his portfolio with a potential employer, he experienced the critical review in such a way that he almost gave up the dream of being a professional photographer.
Instead, he gathered the courage to return to the individual and asked what he could do to improve his photography. The individual indicated that all his pictures of people appeared to be taken from a distance by a telephoto lens. He advocated taking pictures with a 24 millimeter lens which means you have to be up close and personal with the subject. When the photographer changed his practices, he became an accomplished photographer.
As I begin my role as the Executive Conference Minister, I want to learn from Jesus and the photographer that closer is better. In other words, I want my ministry practices to focus on the relational aspect of my work which informs the navigation of key issues, development of ministries, and allocation of resources. In order for me to build and maintain relationships with constituency of Virginia Mennonite Conference, I will seek to meet them in their place of worship and ministry, greet them as friends, and learn about their opportunities and challenges associated with their ministry.
As I plan my practice of ministry for this next year, it is my hope to sit with each congregation’s lead pastor and/or their pastoral team to engage them in conversation about their ministry. It is my goal to spend time with each regional and cluster overseer to gain insight about the missional leadership they are seeking to provide.
While I would like to visit every congregation during a time of worship in the first year, I have set a goal of visiting 25 congregations or approximately one-third of the Virginia Mennonite Conference congregations in the first year and in subsequent two years visit the remaining congregations. It is my deepest desire that the relationships and learning from these relationships will help me to provide leadership to Virginia Mennonite Conference in ways that strengthen our life as the people of God.
I invite you to pray for my ministry as I seek to serve Virginia Mennonite Conference. I invite you to share your observations and ideas about our Conference as you have opportunity. I invite you to partner with the ministries of Virginia Mennonite Conference, not only with your intellectual capital and counsel, but also with your financial resources as we seek to be God’s presence in a world that needs to be recreated! The “how” of the new creation is left to our imagination or lost to our busyness!