2020 (deferred) Program & Arrangements Ballot

Womaen’s Caucus interviewed candidates for the 2020 deferred and 2021 ballots which will be voted on by Annual Conference delegates in July. We asked the same questions for each position, plus one unique question based on something we read in the candidate’s profile. See all the candidates we interviewed here.

Program & Arrangements COmmittee

Walt Wiltschek

Annual Conference is both a rock of ages and an agent of new community as we move online in 2021, and as first-timers attend every year. What AC practices, old and new, hold the greatest promise for uniting, strengthening and equipping the church to follow Jesus?

Worship always jumps front and center as the practice that can (or should) bring us together. If worship is truly about Christ, and not us, then we leave behind whatever other baggage we carry at the door and focus on praising and honoring God as we come together. It reminds us of who we are. That also requires some intentionality in building worship that is accessible to all. Beyond worship, the mere act of fellowship and spending time together in larger numbers than we usually do also holds value. We can’t ignore or dismiss each other as easily when we’re all in the same space. That said, the virtual connections this past year has necessitated also hold potential for linking us in some new ways if done well. And hearing the stories of our heritage and what the church is doing denominationally and around the world is also significant, a reminder that we are part of something greater than ourselves. As Walt Whitman wrote, “The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the role of Annual Conference worship within the denomination? How can it best be made meaningful for both fresh Brethren and cradle Brethren?

I’m not a “cradle Brethren,” coming from Methodist and Catholic/Jewish family backgrounds, so I have some sense of what it means to come into the church without that long-time legacy. My first Annual Conference, when I was in high school, was powerful, and it opened my eyes to the church in a new way–probably a significant factor in eventually leading me to a career of serving in the church. I was intrigued by the business, but the soaring tapestry of worship in a larger setting than I had ever experienced stood out. I think that’s the particular power of Annual Conference worship: a reminder, as Ken Morse’s hymn states, that we are “Strangers no more, but members of one family.” That spoke to me as a new Brethren, but I believe the message can resonate for those at various stages of the journey.

 

 

AC worship and event planning frequently rely on personnel from near the conference location (which has been weighted heavily to Grand Rapids and Greenville). How can P&A include voices/cultural practices from areas of the country that will likely will not host an AC?

I think Annual Conference already does try to do some of that, particularly in keynote speakers/leaders and insight sessions, etc. For some of the roles it’s more practical to have people from the region, as they can have readier access to the sites that will be used; for others, it’s as easy as a phone call or text/email to ask others to serve, where feasible. (I’d note that worship planners are often not local, but can come from anywhere in the church.) Of course, there will be a new Annual Conference director coming in, too, so I think it will be important to hear her vision for Conference. And in 2022 we are scheduled to be in Omaha, a new city for us–and first time in Nebraska since 1970. I’d like to see us continue to move around the country to some degree, realizing that finances might dictate a heavier rotation of certain locations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tell us about a context in which you are/were a minority (longer than a weeklong workcamp).

 I suppose it depends what sort of minority you mean: Racially, probably not often, other than when I’ve been traveling. When in China one time a number of people asked to take their photo with me, and I was confused until I realized that nobody else around looked like me–I was taller and whiter than anyone else in the area. I never felt threatened, but it was an odd feeling to be considered a novelty. I’ve had that experience of realizing I was ‘different’ a few other times while traveling, which I expect others encounter much more often. Ethnically, when growing up friends would ask why my father (who was from Chile) had an accent, or I learned about my Jewish heritage and relatives who died in the Holocaust. That was mostly secondhand, though, rather than something I directly experienced. In other settings, it’s been not having a Brethren family “heritage,” or being the only male in a group, or being new to an area and the “outsider.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each candidate was asked the same questions, with one final unique question drawing on their profile.

The mission attributed to Christopher Sauer, “For the glory of God and my neighbor’s good,” is meaningful to you. Tell us about one experience you’ve had at Annual Conference (or dream of having) in which this mission comes alive.

I like a lot about what I’ve read of Sauer, and this particular motto attributed to him speaks succinctly of the horizontal and vertical axes of faith that the church needs to hold in balance. When surrounded by the Spirit, that balance makes our faith three-dimensional. In a sense, I hope that infuses ALL of Annual Conference (and other aspects of church life). The recent emphasis at Conference of finding ways to serve the city in which we’re meeting certainly would be an example, keeping part of our focus beyond our church (or convention center) doors. More inwardly, perhaps I’ve seen it most concretely in times that Brethren can be on opposite sides of an issue on the business floor, but still talk or hug or pray together later. I feel like less of that happens now, but I believe good community can still happen–like a spontaneous sing-along that broke out one year–if we’re attentive to the Spirit in our midst.

 

program & arrangements committee

beth jarrett

Annual Conference is both a rock of ages and an agent of new community as we move online in 2021, and as first-timers attend every year. What AC practices, old and new, hold the greatest promise for uniting, strengthening and equipping the church to follow Jesus?

Oh there are so many things to love and look forward to about Annual Conference each year no matter how or where it takes place. For me, the most powerful practice of Annual Conference is worshipping together each evening. Singing old favorites and learning new songs are always a highlight. I especially appreciate hearing from a variety of persons in our denomination. These times of worship are not only a time of building our faith and renewing our zeal in Jesus Christ, but the Holy Spirit forges a bond between us which is really amazing when I consider how vastly different each of us are!

In addition, I greatly appreciate the table talk during the business sessions… especially now that they have added tables for non-delegates. As the Body of Christ, we do not make decisions in a vacuum…instead, we do the hard but enriching work of opening ourselves to new ideas and ways of thinking and seek to find common ground on tough issues. Together, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we discuss matters of faith. This practice is a benchmark of Christian faith that we see over and over in the New Testament…it wasn’t always easy, but with the help of the Holy Spirit the New Testament Church was able to navigate uncharted territory through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and through listening to the stories of the other.

What is the role of Annual Conference worship within the denomination? How can it best be made meaningful for both fresh Brethren and cradle Brethren?

In the past, Annual Conference was often held during Pentecost with an invitation for the Holy Spirit to reinvigorate the believers present. I believe this important aspect remains true even today. We may not meet on Pentecost Sunday, but our worship together invites the spirit to bring renewal among us through the preaching of the word, prayers together and of course, singing! We celebrate who we are in Christ and re-covenant together to remain faithful to the call God has on us collectively as well as individually. This is especially important following our query process, which can be sometimes difficult and unsettling. And yet, at the end of each day, we focus on Jesus in our worship together and give space to the Holy Spirit to move among us. When we attend Annual Conference worship with this attitude, it is meaningful for all walks of life: cradle Brethren as well as fresh Brethren.

AC worship and event planning frequently rely on personnel from near the conference location (which has been weighted heavily to Grand Rapids and Greensboro). How can P&A include voices/cultural practices from areas of the country that will likely will not host an AC?

Diversity can be tricky…and yet the New Testament church was diverse! When our worship is lacking the voice of the other, it becomes flat, predictable and boring. In order to remain vibrant and vital, we must be intentional about giving those not often included for geographical reasons, cultural reasons or any other reason, a place at the table when it comes to worship and event planning for Annual Conference. From my previous experience planning worship for Annual Conference, I learned how important it is to listen and incorporate those who have a different perspective from the very beginning of the process. Of course, as details begin to be filled in during the process, we must continue to include a wide variety of voices and practices – not only as scripture readers but worship planners who shape how we worship.

I often use the image of a stained glass window when thinking of worship and the body of Christ. What makes a stained glass window beautiful are the different sizes, colors, and shapes of the glass that come together to paint a picture of Jesus. There can be no image of Jesus if all of the glass is the same color, size, texture and shape. I believe the same is true for our worship planning process.

Tell us about a context in which you are/were a minority (longer than a weeklong workcamp).

My family and I served and lived in Sicily, Italy for ten years. Our children attended Italian public schools and we formed many long-lasting relationships with the people in our community. We learned what it was like to depend on others for nearly everything… even when we were supposed to be “helping and serving” others. Of course, the first several years were difficult as we learned the language and would often make some huge language blubbers. We felt the frustration of not being able to express ourselves the way we wanted to… as well as feeling misunderstood and excluded because we had an accent.

However, we were the fortunate ones as we received grace upon grace from our Italian brothers and sisters. We learned what Paul meant when he wrote in Romans:  “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” We learned to value the gift and beauty God has placed in all people. Through the hospitality of the Italians, we experienced what it means to be hosted with grace and love. We also learned how to be vulnerable and how painfully self-sufficient and haughty we Americans can be in almost any context. These are lessons I hope and pray will continue to form me.

Each candidate was asked the same questions, with one final unique question drawing on their profile.

Whether you’re planning worship, picking choir anthems, or developing goals for youth ministry, how do you blend/balance what is comfortable/familiar with what is creative/innovative?

I often go back to an image of a swing that I heard in my seminary days when it comes to balancing the past, present and future in any given ministry context. Nothing is better than swinging from a good old tree swing… up to the highest places as if I would launch into heaven itself… back to the comfort of having my feet on the ground and then leaning way back into the past which gives me a bird’s eye perspective of where I am going. It’s the back and forth that makes swinging exciting. It would be a sad ride if we only went forward, or only went backwards or worse yet…stayed still with our feet on the ground. But it is the entire movement that takes our breath away and sends us on an adventure. For me this image captures the importance of balance…the importance of being rooted in ancient Christian practices and biblical principles, living out our faith in our current context and allowing the Spirit to lead us into new and exciting adventures. I believe it is important to be intentional about including all of these when planning worship, youth ministry, a sermon, or just life together as the body of Christ.

 

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