A half-serious lament

Posted on December 2, 2010 by VMMissions Staff

With a bit of sadness this summer, I witnessed the final decisions associated with dissolving Ohio District of Virginia Mennonite Conference. It made sense since the district had essentially become an “empty set” as Conference Minister Owen Burkholder put it. Chestnut Ridge, the last remaining congregation, had transferred amicably to Ohio Conference earlier. Still, since I had no vote I could not even officially dissent to any of the actions, even for sentimental reasons. A nearly 60-year era has passed. What remained seemed like “dividing the spoils.” The Ben and Edith Horst Trust will be divided up and distributed to other districts to continue to benefit some of the other churches and leaders who are not so near our ecclesiastical center (like those in NC, TN, KY). That seems good to me.

As we transfer congregations away, we continue to start new ones. A recent VMC/VMMissions’ church planters’ retreat saw 34 people gather from 10 nations of origin and praying in six languages. None were Pennsylvania Dutch. Churches continue to spring up. The Hmong church in Hickory is going well. A new outreach in Charlotte has begun. The old Hickory Mennonite Church is re-forming to become something new. It has “3:16” in its name now, maybe taking off from the Graham, N.C., ministry called Outlet 10:27. I’m not so keen on these cool names since I think they will become dated much more quickly. But then, I guess they can change it again. Ah, change! Maybe that is what gets harder with age.

A couple months ago I hired a man to build and repair some fences for me on the farm. It keeps the sheep from being killed on the road, saving them for slaughter later. I guess one kind of death is preferable to the other, for those of us who eat lamb. No one bothers to ask the sheep and we carefully hedge in their choices. In my work here at VMMissions, fences are called “parameters” and we think of them as good and necessary here too. Except maybe if you are the ones being fenced in, or fenced out.

For the most part I have learned to work with and even value the various parameters of policies, job descriptions, membership, doctrine, and organizational structure. Sometimes though I wonder if they really make that much sense. Maybe I’ve just learned better how to screen out that which is on the other side of the fence.

So, did we miss something in the decisions pertaining to Chestnut Ridge and Ohio District? Probably not. But maybe we weren’t paying attention to everything. And now I won’t even be as likely to notice. Chestnut Ridge is now on the other side of my fence, and Ohio District has ceased to exist.

Loren Horst

Filed in: From the President


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