Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Western Plains District Conference centers on joy.

Western Plains District Conference convened Aug. 1-3 at McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren and McPherson College with the theme, "That Your Joy May Be Complete." The conference logo was designed by Jan Gilbert Hurst of JanDesign and the worship center featured a painting by artist Connie Rhodes.

Friday included visiting displays as well as workshop, Bible study, and prayer group opportunities. The display area was a feast of heritage items coordinated by Noel Ditmars, and included books, photos, clothing, machinery, tools, covered and farm wagons, timelines of many of the earliest and current congregations in Western Plains, hands-on sewing, quilting, pumping water, grinding grain, and games as well as agency displays.

Youth participated in workshop and worship times, heritage activities, games and swimming, and also planned for leading the Saturday evening worship. Children’s heritage activities included riding in the wagons, pumping water, playing old-time games, threshing, winnowing, grinding wheat, and making whole wheat pancakes. The Cedars, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in McPherson, hosted an ice cream social that included a time of "Holy Hilarity" presented by conference attendees.

District moderator Sonja Griffith led the conference in business sessions. Conference attendance nearly matched last year in spite of a large number of regular attendees participating in the 300th Anniversary celebration in Schwarzenau, Germany. A 2009 operating budget of $131,154 was approved. A statement of vision for the future of the district, "Rooted together in Love to be Christ’s transforming hope and power!" was adopted. Keith Funk was chosen as moderator-elect to serve with moderator Leslie Frye in 2009.

Milestones for ordained ministry were acknowledged by the Ministry Commission: 65 years-John Ditmars; 60 years-David Albright; 55 years-Kent Naylor; 40 years-Kenneth Holderread and Herb Smith; 30 years-Steven Tuttle; 25 years-Connie Burkholder; 20 years-Leah Harness; 15 years-Gail Erisman Valeta; and 10 years-James Hubble, Shawn Flory Replogle, and Vickie Samland. Offerings raised $6,789 for the district budget.

The conference was blessed by participation from beyond the district. Workshops were led by Kim Ebersole of the Church of the Brethren’s Caring Ministries, Dennis Kingery of the Church of the Brethren Credit Union, and Congregational Life Team member Duane Grady. Bob Gross represented On Earth Peace. Elizabeth Keller from Bethany Seminary and Nancy Knepper from the General Board were present. Don Mitchell from Atlantic Northeast District assisted with music. Former academic dean at Bethany Seminary, Stephen Breck Reid, spoke at the minister and spouse dinner. Worship times were inspirational with preaching by moderator Griffith and Dennis Webb, pastor of Naperville (Ill.) Church of the Brethren.

The overall spirit of the conference was enriching and inspiring. It added strong encouragement to district life.

--Elsie Holderread is co-executive minister for Western Plains District, along with her husband, Ken Holderread.

Source: 10/29/2008 Newsline Extra

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