Coram Deo: Living in the Presence of God
It was a great blessing to see so many of you at our annual Ministry Conference last weekend at Barclay College. Our conference theme, “Coram Deo: Living in the Presence of God,” was not only thoroughly explored and clearly explained, but it was also tangibly experienced in many wonderful ways during our time together in Haviland.
Here are just a few of the many highlights of the 148th annual gathering of Evangelical Friends from across Mid America …
· Our hosts at Barclay College went out of their way to make us feel at home in Haviland. This was a common theme in our conference evaluations: “Barclay provided a wonderful facility to host yearly meeting … very welcoming and accommodating … what an absolutely stunning facility in the Ross-Ellis Center … food service is excellent … wonderful site for morning walks/run.”
· Our guest speaker, Jason Porterfield, did a beautiful job of leading us into a deeper understanding and practice of the presence of God during each of our evening sessions. As one participant commented, “This was one of my favorite Ministry Conferences of the past 10 years!”
· We had the privilege of recognizing the faithful service of all of our current pastors at the Friday evening general session, and we expressed our special appreciation for those who have recently completed long-term ministry among us, including Ellis & Judy Sedlacek (30 years at Timber Creek), Cliff & LaVonna Loesch (25 years at University and over 30 years in EFC-MAYM), and Frank & Janet Penna (many years of ministry at several churches, as well as 7 years in the Ministry Center office). We also had the honor of recognizing and affirming Jon Harkness, pastor from Northbranch, as a recorded minister of the gospel at our Saturday evening general session.
· We were able to come to a place of overwhelming unity on the approval of several items of business during our Representative Session on Saturday afternoon, including a clear statement of affirmation regarding our corporate understanding of the appropriate practice of the physical elements in baptism and communion. A minute was unanimously approved which reads, in part, “Mid-America Friends continue to believe that communion and baptism are inward works of the Holy Spirit that can never be supplanted by the outward signs but can be supported by them when practiced by Friends, both individually and collectively, as an act of Christ-centered, Spirit-led worship.”
· We were also able to receive a very strong vote of confidence regarding our proposed leadership reconfiguration. As of August 1, I am now serving as 3/4 time Lead Superintendent, and Thayne Thompson is now serving as 3/4 time Executive Superintendent. For the most part, I will be in the Ministry Center office Tue-Thu, and Thayne will be in the office Mon-Wed. Janet Penna completed her tenure as our full-time Administrative Assistant on August 15, and is now serving as our part-time Bookkeeper. Our Director of Support Ministries, Jenna Easley, moved from part-time to full-time on August 15, and is now serving as our new office manager as well. As of August 19, our new office hours at the Ministry Center in Wichita are Monday-Friday, 9am-1pm.
· We were able to announce a new series of area leadership retreats that will be offered at four different locations in Mid America during the coming year. Each of these retreats will be facilitated by Dr. Tony Wheeler, Director of Wheeler Ministries, and will focus on the personal life of the leader. The first event will be held at Barclay College on Saturday, September 21, and will target our church leaders in the Central Kansas and Western areas. The second gathering will be held on the campus of OSU-Tulsa on Saturday, November 2, and will target our Tri-State and Central Oklahoma areas leaders. A third gathering will be held this winter near Houston for our Texas area leaders, and a fourth gathering will be held next spring near Manhattan for our North Central and Northeast areas.
· Our closing Community Worship Celebration on Sunday morning, July 28, was a joyful, Spirit-filled gathering that was attended by around 200 people in Haviland, and hundreds more who joined us via live stream from at least 18 sites across Mid America. If you would like to watch or re-watch the service, a YouTube recording is available on our yearly meeting website.
As we continue to move forward together as an extended family of Friends here in Mid-America, we do so with a renewed passion and devotion to fulfilling our shared mission and vision as a body of believers. By God’s grace, we will continue to chase after the good and beautiful dream that was entrusted to us in July of 2014, we will continue to spare no expense in equipping the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world in Jesus’ name, and we will do our very best to live every moment of every day in in the presence of God, under the authority of God, and to the honor and glory of God.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering” (Romans 12:1, MSG).