Streams in the desert

Mountain States Conference gathers at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico

Aug 29, 2015 by

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ABIQUIU, N.M. — Amid redstone cliffs and piñon forests, the annual assembly of Mennonite Church USA’s Mountain States Mennonite Conference Aug. 7-9 at Ghost Ranch had twice as many registrants as expected.

The Steel Wheels — from left, Brian Dickel, Trent Wagler, Eric Brubaker and Jay Lapp — perform Aug. 7 at the Mountain States Mennonite Conference annual assembly in New Mexico. — Jaime Lazaro/MSMC

The Steel Wheels — from left, Brian Dickel, Trent Wagler, Eric Brubaker and Jay Lapp — perform Aug. 7 at the Mountain States Mennonite Conference annual assembly in New Mexico. — Jaime Lazaro/MSMC

Planned entirely by younger adults, the assembly numbered 230, including a large contingent of younger singles, couples, parents and children — indicating high interest in the conference’s future direction.

The Steel Wheels, a bluegrass group based in Harrisonburg, Va., opened the assembly with an evening concert. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, worshipers gathered in the worship center, a traditional New Mexican sanctuary with a stunning view of the Pedernal, a flat-topped mountain. On Saturday afternoon an overflow crowd filled the sanctuary for a rousing hymn sing before opportunities for hiking, sunset painting and gathering for a mesa-top bonfire.

The assembly welcomed and recognized Fernando Perez and Rebecca Torres, moderators of the Mexico City-area La Conferencia de Iglesias Evan­gélicas Anabautistas Menonitas de México. CIEAMM and Mountain States Conference are exploring a fraternal relationship.

Participants celebrated the conference leadership and extended well-wishes to Herm Weaver and Jaime Lazaro, who have resigned. Weaver, former conference minister, has not announced plans but will remain in the region. Lazaro, former SEED program director, is beginning a master of divinity program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.

Moderator Karen Cox noted the withdrawal of Greeley (Colo.) Mennonite Church and announced that Beloved Community, a Mennonite congregation in Littleton, Colo, has been approved as a church plant.

On Aug. 18, the conference leadership board announced associate conference minister Annie Lengacher Browning will be acting conference minister effective Sept. 1 for a transitional period of one to two years.

The board will continue searching for a transitional conference minister to work with Browning and the board.

Wading into the future

In her charge to worshipers at the final worship session, Browning said the conference is entering a new season of life.

“I have the sense that we are emerging from a rainstorm and there is a vast land before us with all sorts of puddles appearing,” she said. “Some are clear. Others are muddy. Some are growing, and others seem to be slowly seeping into the earth.”

Browning prayed that everyone in Mountain States Conference would take off their shoes and get dirty.

“While clear puddles that allow us to see the ground below are pristine and beautiful, they are also safe, clean, and we know them pretty well,” she said. “I believe God’s invitation is always for us to get just a bit dirty, to be a bit messy with the unfolding work of the Spirit — to relish in the joy of dirt squishing between our toes and the muddy openness of forming a future together.”

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