On Dec. 31 I completed my time as one of the pastors of Oak Grove Mennonite Church in West Liberty (four years as associate pastor and 12 years as lead pastor). There was much sadness and grief on my part in the ending. On Jan. 2 I began full-time as conference minister for the Ohio Conference. There is much excitement and anticipation in the beginning.
The first couple of weeks have been Spirit filled. The two regional pastors, Ralph Reinford and Cliff Brubaker, and I met for half a day to envision what our roles will look like moving into the new year. Cliff just returned from medical leave after open heart surgery, and Ralph has begun serving Conference half time, down from full time.
On Sunday, Jan. 6, I had the privilege to speak and worship at Crown Hill Mennonite Church with five churches (Crown Hill, Wooster, Orrville, Salem-Wooster, and Martins), a collaboration that the churches have been participating in at different times through different activities over the past couple of years. It was a wonderful time of sharing, worship and fellowship with a great meal following.
On Jan. 8 I had the opportunity to sit in on my first Credentialing Ministry Team meeting as they interviewed one pastor who is transferring into Conference to serve at one of our congregations and two who were approved for licensing toward ordination. What amazed me was the diversity of the individuals, both in their callings to ministry and their life experiences, as well as their anticipation and excitement for serving God in the context of Ohio Conference of Mennonite Church USA. It was impossible to sit in on those interviews and not be excited about our future together.
It seems like I have started at the Conference’s busiest time of the year. We are gearing up for Annual Conference Assembly on March 8-9 at Salem Mennonite Church in Kidron. This year we will be celebrating Ohio Conference’s 50th anniversary. Prior to the annual assembly, on Thursday evening, March 7, and Friday morning, March 8, we will once again be hosting a missional seminar. The title of this year’s seminar is “From Jerusalem to Antioch: Legacy Churches Anchoring Missional Communities.” The two guest speakers are Sally Schreiner Youngquist, a community leader from Reba Place Fellowship in Evanston, Illinois, and Rev. Steve North, who is a community ministry leader in the inner city of Toledo. I want to encourage both church leaders, as well as members and attendees, especially those who are community and missionally minded, to attend.
Finally, I am excited about getting around to the many different churches throughout the Conference, worshiping and meeting with the pastors, leaders and congregants. I am accepting invitations for the beginning of February and beyond. Please feel free to email me or call me with possible dates.
May God continue to bless us as a Conference as we journey forward, discerning together what it means to be Anabaptist/Mennonite churches in our current cultural contexts where we have been placed. May Jesus continue to be the center of who we are and all that we do.
If you would like to invite Conference Minister Dick Barrett to visit your congregation, you may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call him at 937-935-2549.