Updates: Conference Assembly, Conference Ministries, and more
by Clyde G. Kratz
Executive Conference Minister
Greetings from Virginia Mennonite Conference!
We have been an experiencing a crisis of community through physical and social distancing. As a people of faith we value relationships, public worship, and engaging in ministry in the community. But in order to reduce the potential impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable in our congregations, community, and nation, we must continue to practice physical and social distancing and wearing masks. At the same time, our pastoral and congregational leaders have rapidly innovated, utilizing the benefits of technology to stay connected with members of their congregation and the community. I am grateful for the care and insight that has been demonstrated by congregational leaders in our Conference and leaders of Conference Endorsed Ministries. I want to take this opportunity to provide a number of updates from the Conference.
Virginia Mennonite Conference Updates
Virginia Mennonite Conference Assembly
The Vision Team that is planning the summer delegate assembly has made a decision to plan a virtual VMC Assembly on Saturday, July 18, 2020. At this time, it remains extremely unclear whether public gathering of more than 100 people will be allowed to meet in July in the Commonwealth of Virginia. A decision was made to do something rather than cancel the event entirely. Conferences in Mennonite Church USA continue to make decisions regarding their plans for delegate assemblies this summer and what they look like.
This year’s theme is “Living As Those Made Alive In Christ” based on Colossians 3:12-17. Ron Byler, Executive Director of Mennonite Central Committee, will be our key note speaker with a focus on MCC’s 100 years of mission endeavors. The time format will be two sessions: 8:30-10:00 a.m. and 10:30-12:00. It is my hope to have all supporting documentation for the Conference Assembly to delegates by June 16, and seek feedback on any actions that are necessary for our continued operation as a Conference. I want to assure you that we are seeking to limit individual presentations to 10-15 minute presentations. We desire to produce a professional grade presentation with music, keynote addresses, and reports utilizing Zoom, Facebook Live, YouTube, or other platforms that can help us achieve this goal. Save the date!
Charitable Giving and Mutual Aid
The local congregation remains the primary expression of the body of Christ as it seeks to live and engage in mission in our communities. It is very important that congregational giving remain the first priority of our constituency to sustain the local congregation, pastoral and office staff, and congregational financial obligations. As members of Virginia Mennonite Conference make decisions about sharing their financial resources, please make your congregation your highest priority with your charitable giving and additional disposal revenue. Donate by check or online on a regularly basis to sustain the vibrancy of your congregation’s ministries.
The Finance Committee of Virginia Mennonite Conference created a COVID-19 Benevolence Fund for congregations to make an application for financial assistance. The financial assistance available is for a congregation to meet their financial obligations to their pastor in terms of salary and benefits, congregational rent payment or mortgage, and congregational utilities. Two congregations have requested and received financial assistance from this fund already. Funds remain available for other requests. Please contact your District Minister or Executive Conference Minister, Clyde G. Kratz to make a request for mutual aid during this time.
The Spring edition of Pathways was produced electronically and is available on our website. Jon Trotter, Communications Manager for Virginia Mennonite Conference, is currently planning two more electronic issues of Pathways. He has invited each Conference Endorsed Ministry to provide an article that highlights the challenges and opportunities their ministry has experienced during this pandemic. Each ministry is also given the opportunity to highlight their financial need and invite charitable contributions to their ministry. It is our hope to have this electronic publication available online later in May. Another Pathways issue is being planned for the month of June. Jon will invite each congregation to provide an article on the ways in which they have adapted to the pandemic and are engaged in ministry. It remains my desire to provide information to our constituency about the way ministry has been reshaped by the pandemic, but also to witness to the reality that ministry continues to emerge in new and exciting ways.
Conference Council and Faith and Life Commission
There are two key leadership entities within our Conference. Conference Council, the governing board of our Conference, provides leadership for the vision and policy of our network of congregations. Each district is represented by the chair of the district as well as representatives from our three commissions: Congregational Life Commission, Faith and Life Commission, and VMMissions. Elroy Miller, Moderator, provides leadership to Conference Council. Elroy’s term as Moderator ends August 31, 2020. The Gifts Committee has secured a nominee for the Moderator position, which will be presented to Conference Council at their meeting on May 16, 2020. The Gifts Committee is still seeking a treasurer. If you have any suggestions, please contact Clyde G. Kratz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Faith and Life Commission (FLC), led by interim chair Joe Longacher, met on April 17, 2020. The FLC consists of each district’s Oversight Leader and potentially three members at large. One of the activities of the FLC is to learn from Oversight Leaders the ministry challenges and opportunities that exist in our congregations. During the pandemic experience, District Ministers met weekly in a Zoom meeting to provide updates of congregational challenges and needs. More recently, the District Minister meetings have been shifted to bi-weekly. One of the common themes that has been reported by District Ministers is the rapid response by pastors to the pandemic as they innovated to organize meaningful worship experiences online and are providing pastoral care in safe and sensitive ways. A significant concern of the District Ministers is that leadership innovation requires emotional and intellectual energy, which can contribute to pastoral fatigue and exhaustion. There remains affirmation by District Ministers to encourage congregational leaders to care for their pastoral staff and to develop ways to sustain the resiliency of pastoral leaders during this time.
Conference Ministries and Conference Endorsed Ministries
The Conference Ministries and Conference Endorsed Ministries are a vital part of faith-based ministries in our communities. These vibrant and effective ministries were often initiated by church leaders to meet a specific need within our communities. Today, many of these ministries are leaders in their respective fields of expertise. These ministries are a significant arm of the Church as they represent the Christian community’s witness of compassionate aid in specific ways. I am grateful for the many ministries that have been endorsed by Virginia Mennonite Conference. I invite you to continue to financially support these ministries as you are able. Many of these organizations have an online giving feature that allows you to make a donation online immediately.
Eastern Mennonite School
Eastern Mennonite Seminary
Eastern Mennonite University
Family Life Resource Center
Mennonite Disaster Service Shenandoah Valley
Mennonite Women of Virginia
Mennowood Retirement Community
Pleasant View, Inc.
Roberta Webb Child Care Center
Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community
Williamsburg Christian Retreat Center
Mennonite Church USA
Mennonite Mission Network
Mennonite Central Committee
Mennonite World Conference
I also recognize that Virginia Mennonite Conference also needs your financial support to carry out our ministry. Donate online.
Updates and Resources
Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community has provided an update.
I am providing a number of resources that have come to my attention this last week that are attachments.
Ten Ways the Church Will be Changed by COVID
Mennonite Mission Network appoints new executive director
Anabaptist churches in the U.S. have submitted over 200 applications to the new COVID-19 Congregational Relief Fund since its launch on April 13, 2020.
As the Executive Conference Minister, I remain grateful to the pastors and leaders of ministries associated with Virginia Mennonite Conference. I value the insights, contributions, and innovations that are being made during this time of crisis as we explore new horizons. I remain committed to my Christian disciplines in the midst of these challenges and opportunities. Recognizing the hope that I live into each day by choice, I affirm:
• Romans 8:31-38 – It captures an important component of my assurance that nothing can separate us from the love of God;
• The words of Jesus found in Matthew 28:20 – Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age; and
• The description in Acts 2:42 – They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, breaking bread, praying, shared with those in need, and gave witness to God’s presence.
Blessings to you as you continue to navigate our pandemic experience in faith, hope and charity.
Clyde G. Kratz
Executive Conference Minister