Wednesday, November 21, 2007

'Gathering' of Western Plains District is centerpiece of revival effort.

For a third straight year, Brethren in Western Plains District met together to celebrate the transformation occurring in the district and to gain new tools and support for the work ahead. Called "The Gathering," the annual retreat at a conference center in Salina, Kan., is the centerpiece of a larger renewal and revitalization effort for many of the district's 38 congregations.

About 300 people attended this year's event on Oct. 26-28, engaging in worship, plenary sessions, workshops, and fellowship. Events for children and youth were held concurrently.

Eight congregations entered into a "covenant process" with the district in 2005, eight more in 2006, and another five this year. The congregations each appoint a transformation steering team to work at discernment and to set goals, and each receives coaching from the district. The Gathering offers a chance for the congregations to come together, learn, and share about their journeys.

For some congregations, the change has been incremental. For others, it has been fairly dramatic--such as the Independence congregation in southeastern Kansas, which has freed its pastor to spend most of his time leading disaster relief efforts for the area that was struck by severe flooding earlier this year. The Independence youth group now has about 50 participants.

Other congregations also have seen growth or have become significantly involved in community ministries. A new DVD created by Chris Stover-Brown, shown at the Gathering, featured four of those stories.

Highlights of the weekend included messages from Bethany Theological Seminary staff member and author Fred Bernhard, and 2007 Annual Conference moderator Belita Mitchell; a session on worship led by Kim Bontrager of First Mennonite Brethren Church of Wichita, Kan.; and a concert by Seth Hendricks, who coordinated music at the 2006 National Youth Conference.

A fuller report on Western Plains' transformation emphasis will appear in the January issue of Messenger magazine.

Walt Wiltschek is editor of the Church of the Brethren's Messenger magazine.

Source: 11/21/2007 Newsline Extra

No comments: