District Conference Wrapup

Worship -

District Conference met July 21-23 at the McPherson Church and McPherson College, guided by Moderator Bob Bates’ theme “Make My Joy Complete,” based on Philippians 2:2-5. Preachers at each of three worship services addressed that theme in unique ways:

  • Friday evening was Moderator Bob, Pastor, Garden City Church of the Brethren
  • Saturday evening was Dawn Ottoni Wilhelm, Brightbill Professor of Preaching and Worship, Bethany Theological Seminary
  • Sunday School Sunday morning, a stimulating exchange on the scriptural text with Dawn Ottoni Wilhelm
  • Sunday morning was Jim McCollough, Pastor, Topeka Church of the Brethren, concluding with the consecration of the new Moderator and Moderator Elect.

New Leadership Called -

A number of new persons were called to serve in the district, the slate headed by Moderator Elect Cheryl Mishler, Pastor of Trinity Church, Sabetha, Kansas. Others called to various positions may be reviewed here. Note at the end of the file there is a list of positions still needing candidates. To download a form on which you may recommend names, click here.

Key Action Items -

The DnA team (Discovery ‘n Action planning process) presented the next stage of their work, including core values and a mission statement, which features the mission of energizing, empowering, and emboldening congregations in the district. After some modifications in delegate body discussion, the plan was unanimously affirmed. Click here for details of the action, and watch for next stage implementation steps in coming months.

Growing out of 2021 District Conference, a proposal was accepted for addressing decisions of special controversy among us in the district. Originally named the special response team, they renamed themselves “Seeking the Mind of Christ Process” team. Their process outlined here will seem a bit complicated to some, but it is a serious attempt to change the culture of the district in how we communicate about issues of difference or misunderstanding. Notably, their recommendations will require more nimble turnaround in communications with our member constituencies about agendas and decisions of the Leadership Team. It will require some administrative adjustments on the part of leadership, but let’s give it a chance to see if we can demonstrate another way of living.

Regrettably but with grace the conference accepted the departure from the district and the denomination of the Osage Congregation, and also clarified the status of the Parsons Congregation who departed several years ago. The final signing of a formal Covenant of Understanding in coming weeks will complete this process.

Insight Sessions -

A Saturday mid-morning session featured the Part Time Pastor/Full Time Church initiative being facilitated through the Church of the Brethren Ministry Office. Western Plains District has submitted a grant proposal to fund a pilot project through this initiative, which if approved, will dovetail very nicely with the DnA planning we have been working on for several years. There has been some delay in announcing the outcome of our proposal since it contains some features that Lilly Endowment had not originally contemplated in their pro forma. See to the right of this Conference wrap-up on the website for a link to more detail on the initiative.

A Saturday evening hearing with the District Executive Minister Search Committee included both conversation and ice cream! The Search Committee continues to work toward the development of a profile on which a position announcement may then be based for circulation. Please pray for discernment as Western Plains moves toward its future with new executive leadership.

Other Features –

Punctuating other spots on the conference schedule were:

  • A special reception in the exhibit area where conference attendees could visit with church related agencies while munching on snack and drink sponsored by Mutual Aid Agency and Prairie View
  • Recognition of 16 Western Plains pastors for their Milestones in Ministry - their years of service as ordained ministers
  • Some spirited silent auction bidding on “sweet support” cakes for the support of various related causes, and a special auction on a king size quilt made by three very committed ladies from the Garden City congregation.
  • Heard reports from denominational partner agencies including Mission and Ministry Board, Eder Financial (formerly BBT), and Bethany Seminary
  • Heard reports from local partner agencies, The Cedars, Prairie View, and Mutual Aid Agency
  • A wonderful ice cream social Friday evening, courtesy of The Cedars, with the added delight of Pat Gong’s indulgent chocolate fudge cake
  • Underwritten by the McPherson College President’s office, a special dinner for pastors and their guests Friday evening, with an after-dinner presentation by Dawn Ottoni Wilhelm, Bethany Seminary
  • With nearly 40 attending, the traditional women’s breakfast on Saturday morning, presentation by Susan Kendall on Women at the Well.
  • In a small departure from the usual Saturday Mission Dinner, former BVS’ers and others met at The Cedars for a 75th anniversary celebration of BVS, sharing stories and memories from BVS’ers who served as early as the 1950’s up to very recent years.
  • Experienced an amusing skit featuring our camp campaign
  • Saw a preview announcement on the Great Bend workshop planned for March 2024
  • Heard reports from all the Ministry teams that serve the district in various roles
  • Tried to understand what starting a ‘30’s era D John Deere tractor has to do with the new district mission statement to Energize, Empower, and Embolden congregations.

Looking ahead –

Sunday morning worship concluded with the consecration of Allan vanAsselt as Moderator of 2024 District Conference and Cheryl Mishler as Moderator Elect. Allan’s theme for Conference next year is They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love, based on Matthew 22:36-40, John 21:17. The date for next year’s conference is still in conversation with our host institutions and will be announced on this website as soon as it is determined.