By Dick Barrett
On Oct. 20, 22, 27 and 29 Ohio Conference held four regional fall gatherings for delegates to Annual Conference Assembly. Delegates learned about a proposed new mission statement for the Conference, heard more about the upcoming Annual Conference Assembly, and shared with one another about their congregations’ experiences dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to the pandemic, all four gatherings were held virtually via Zoom. We had a total of 101 attendees representing 30 congregations. Conference Moderator Lynn Miller served as host for the four meetings. Regional Pastors Ralph Reinford and Tony Doehrmann read the opening scripture, offered prayer and led the congregational sharing time.
Proposed mission statement
Conference Minister Dick Barrett shared a proposed new Conference mission statement that the Leadership and Pastoral Teams have been working on over the past several months. We have now received feedback from our pastors and delegates. The new mission statement reflects both God’s Greatest Commandments (Mark 12:29-31) and Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), as well as Conference’s Gathered and Sent initiative where we believe God has led us over the past several years and where he is leading us into the future. The proposed new mission statement reads as follows:
The Mission of Ohio Conference is to gather, equip and send our congregations by the power of the Holy Spirit to live out God’s Greatest Commandments and Jesus’ Great Commission.
The possible tagline for Conference would be Gather, Equip and Send, and for our congregations and members, Love God, Love Others, Make Disciples. For those who might not have been able to attend one of the regional meetings, we welcome your feedback about this proposed mission statement. Please contact the conference minister, one of the regional pastors or anyone from the Leadership Team if you have concerns or affirmations regarding the statement. (For contact information for the Leadership Team members, see https://ohiomennoniteconference.org/about-us/leadership-organization/leadership-team.)
Looking forward to ACA
Ohio Conference will hold a spring Missional Conference during the evenings of March 4 and 5 and Annual Conference Assembly (ACA) on Saturday, March 6. In preparation for these events, a member of the Missional Resource Team led each of the gatherings in a Dwelling in the Word time focusing on John 1:46 and 1 Peter 3:15-16a. There were times for small group discussion in breakout rooms and a time for larger group responses.
The intent of this scripture and discussion time was to start us thinking about what living missionally looks like for rural churches, as well as some of the unique challenges of missional living in a rural context. The speaker for the missional gathering and ACA will be Brad Roth, pastor at West Zion Mennonite Church in Moundridge, Kansas. In 2017 Herald Press released his book, God’s Country: Faith, Hope and the Future of the Rural Church.
The regional pastors led the congregational sharing time with one person from each congregation answering the following two questions:
- What has been the greatest challenge for your congregation during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic?
- Where have you seen God at work in your congregation during the pandemic?
Many of the congregations shared about the same challenges. Here were some common themes:
- the need to adapt to not meeting in person
- learning new technology
- having to make decisions whether to meet and/or how to meet
- the diversity that exists in many of our congregations on safety vs. risk
Many delegates shared about how the political climate and divisiveness that exists in our nation has influenced our church members and attendees.
- creativity in connecting with the people from their congregation in both old and new ways
- people from outside their congregation participating in their virtual services
- increased financial generosity
- new missional engagement with their community (i.e. weekly meals)
Some congregations reported the hiring of new pastoral staff.
Many people expressed both appreciation and concern for their pastors and other church leaders — appreciation for how they have adapted and ministered during this time, and concern for their health and stamina the longer the pandemic goes on.
We want to thank all the pastors and delegates for taking the time to participate in Ohio Conference’s fall regional meetings.
Editor’s note: Recordings of three of the fall regional meetings are available for viewing. To get links to the recordings, please visit the Ohio Conference website: http://bit.ly/OCFall2020Recordings.