Franconia Conference embraces a growing diversityBy Lora Steiner Franconian Conference
TELFORD, Pa. — When lunch was served to delegates of the oldest Mennonite conference in the Western Hemisphere, the buffet table held a variety of foods from many traditions — Vietnamese egg rolls, tofu, peanut sauce, candied yams and fried chicken.
Meanwhile, interpreters translated business agenda and updates into three languages.
At the Franconia Mennonite Meetinghouse, where Franconia Conference began more than 300 years ago, participants sang hymns in Spanish and offered prayers in Indonesian during the Nov. 9-10 gathering.
Representatives from churches and pastors gather each November with conference staff to worship, welcome new pastors and congregations, discern future agendas and learn about the ministries they support together.
For some, the event is also a reminder of how rapidly the face of the region and conference is changing.
The churches of Franconia Conference range from Vermont to Washington, D.C., including congregations initiated by waves of Swiss German immigrants who settled along the Skippack and Perkiomen creeks in the late 1600s to two Indonesian-speaking churches in South Philadelphia filled with recent immigrants who arrived in the United States after riots in Jakarta in the late 1990s.
Gilberto Flores, denominational minister with Mennonite Church USA, spoke on the theme for the event, “Centered in Christ, Embracing God’s Mission.”
Flores encouraged the audience to consider the mission to which God has called the church, a mission that includes all people from all places.
“Mission has to be embraced, not discussed,” he said.
The conference welcomed two new congregations, Nations Worship Center of Philadelphia and Peace Mennonite Church of East Greenville.
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