By Katrina Toews, Assembly Planning Committee co-chair and active in Defiance Church – Glenwood Springs, CO
This year the pandemic squashed all hopes of social and in-person events like Assembly. As a new member of the Planning Committee I am grateful for the group. The associates included Marc Yoder, chair, the Conference Leadership Team (CMT), the incoming and outgoing moderators and the Worship Committee chairs. In hindsight, as a committee we held out as long as we could to try and meet in-person. As we continued our planning process it was clear that a gathering as usual would not be possible. I am grateful for the group’s collective decision-making to move to an all-digital format. While there were seismic changes, the essence of the conference was left intact.
Typical challenges, such as physical distance and financial strain were not roadblocks to the online weekend. The lack of cars on the road contributed to saving our carbon footprint or the equivalent of planting 231 urban trees. We even found that Mennonites outside the conference and supporters alike registered and attended events that an in-person setting would not have allowed. The registrations and views on social media confirmed that we have had about 6,000 people engage with the weekend.
This year’s theme “Being: In the Way of Jesus.” highlighted the third prong in the Mountain Mennonite States Conference (MSMC) mission statement “in the way of Jesus.” Glen Guyton, Executive Director of MC USA shared a powerful sermon. He challenged us to ask ourselves if we are being in the way of Jesus or just getting in the way. He highlighted the need for conference members to ask ourselves if we would be willing to “ride or die” for our brothers and sisters in Christ. He requested we look at the systemic ways people born Mennonite exclude those who have chosen the faith. Guyton answered questions at the end of the Sunday worship allowing participants to show vulnerability around race and equity. Participants shared responses and highlighted active ways local congregations and the greater conference can respond to systemic racism during this pivotal time.
Other highlights of the weekend included a benefit concert by Girl Named Tom for Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp. The event raised $2,475 and has garnered almost 4,000 views on Facebook! The performance included “ads” from Mennonite institutions that support and work with MSMC.
Beyond the sermons and performance, the weekend included a prayer time with Brenda Fox, a worship service with sermon by Brian Hanneken, pastor of East Holbrook Mennonite, a yoga class with myself and a delegate session led by Ken Gingerich, and incoming chair, Ryan Koch.
The weekend also proved financially success by bringing in $3,625 that will go back into funding future Assembly events.
It is my hope that even in an unfamiliar setting like a Zoom conference each of us found time to “be”, connect with others, and celebrate the Kingdom of God.
Katrina, her husband, Beuford Aeschliman and two daughters attend Defiance Church in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. They are the incoming co-chairs of the Assembly Planning Committee. They recently moved from the DC area where they attended Hyattsville Mennonite Church. Beuford is currently an architect in the Roaring Fork Valley and Katrina teaches dance most recently for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. Their daughters are almost 1 and 4.
If you are interested in connecting with Katrina or Beuford, they can be reached at email@example.com. Ideas about Assembly for 2021, comments or suggestions are welcome.