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Photo: Hendy Stevan, right, Angelia Susanto and Danilo Sanchez lead worship. Photo by Andrew Huth.
Eastern District Conference and Franconia Mennonite Conference again gathered jointly for a fall assembly, Nov. 2-3 at Souderton (Pennsylvania) Mennonite Church. Under the theme “We are one in the Spirit, through the bond of peace,” over 300 people gathered for a historic reconciliation worship between the two conferences, which both originated in the Mennonite settlement of the Philadelphia area but separated in 1847 over differences in practice.
The worship service was planned as part of a second phase of process leading toward the possible reconciliation of the conferences in 2020. The multilingual worship highlighted the conferences’ linguistic diversity, as participants sang together in Indonesian, Spanish and English.
“Leading a multicultural team gave me a small glimpse of heaven,” says worship leader Tami Good of Swamp Mennonite Church in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. “Hearing people lift their voices in their native tongue reminded me of the beauty of God’s creation and the complexity of his colorful design.”
A reconciliatory action led by Jim Musselman, moderator of Eastern District Conference, and John Goshow, moderator of Franconia Conference, offered words of apology and forgiveness symbolically, that the two conferences might “look well upon each other.”
Saturday (Nov. 3) morning sessions included joint meetings led by the shared structure and identity task force, which represents both conferences. These meetings focused conversation around tables on eight areas where the conferences operate differently.
Saturday morning’s worship remembered recently deceased credentialed leaders and recognized the seven newly credentialed leaders. These seven received a bottle of anointing oil, were prayed for and anointed, then turned to anoint others.
“I especially loved the table full of symbols from each congregation,” says Franconia Conference assistant moderator Angela Moyer. “We are a part of something larger than ourselves. It is good to listen to what God is doing among us and through us.”
Saturday afternoon sessions included more conversation in smaller, Digging Deeper groups on the areas discussed in the morning sessions, led by the structure team members. The teams received extensive feedback, which will be used to form a proposal for a reconciled conference structure at a joint spring assembly, to be held May 4, 2019.
The day ended with each conference meeting in a separate business session. Franconia Conference’s meeting included recognizing new and re-emerging Partners in Ministry, with a greeting from Carlos Martinez Garcia of Mexico City, who is moderator of the Counsel of Evangelical/Anabaptist/Mennonite Churches of Mexico. This association, begun by mission workers from Franconia Conference, will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year. The conference also recognized a new partner, Slate Hill Mennonite Church of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, which sent representatives for the first time.
San Francisco Chinese Mennonite Church joined the conference after a year of relating and exploring the meaning of membership with a Pennsylvania-based conference while being from California. Pastor Joshua So and Anita, his wife, represented the congregation at the assembly. San Francisco Chinese joins three other communities from Southern California, which joined last year. They will be served by Jeff Wright as the California-based leadership minister.
Kiron Mateti of Plains Mennonite Church in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, was affirmed for his first term on the conference board beginning next year. Cory Longacre of Souderton Mennonite Church also was affirmed for a term, though he had been filling in for an unexpired term of another board position. Angela Moyer of RIPPLE—Allentown (Pennsylvania) was affirmed as conference assistant moderator.
Eastern District held their annual business meeting Saturday afternoon. Beyond the typical discussion items, including the budget, participants spent time giving feedback about the assembly. “The overall attitude was one of positive enjoyment,” said Scott Roth, acting conference minister. “It was apparent that the delegates present appreciated the movement forward toward a new conference formed out of the collaborative work of the two conferences.”
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