Phil Schmidt is a pastor at Tabor Mennonite Church in rural Kansas (just north of Newton). As a pastor, he seeks to center the church community on Jesus, proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom, and live into God’s mission here and now. He is married to his best friend, Mary, and they have an extremely cute baby, Ethan James, who is almost four months old. They also have an energetic puppy who loves to study with Phil in his church office.
While I had attended Mennonite Church USA convention several times as a youth and even a youth sponsor, I did not experience convention from the perspective of a church delegate until Phoenix 2013. As a relatively new pastor, I embraced the opportunity to represent my congregation as a delegate in Phoenix.
Convention in Phoenix proved to be a fruitful experience in expected and unexpected ways. I expected many opportunities to connect and network with pastors and congregants from around the denomination; I expected participating in meaningful worship sessions and listening to challenging sermons; and I expected the delegate sessions to be boring…
Most of my expectations were met, but, to my surprise, the delegate sessions were not boring. They were life-giving! We began each session by singing a heartfelt rendition of the denominational vision statement (If you haven’t heard the musical version of the vision statement, you definitely need to! Once you hear it, you probably won’t be able to stop singing it.). During the sessions, we had opportunity to hear reports from various Mennonite Church USA ministries; discuss and discern around our table group; and listen and share with the larger group of delegates. I found the sessions to have a good balance of listening, reflection, and community discernment. But my biggest surprise and favorite part about being a church delegate was not just what happened during the delegate sessions.
On my long trip to Phoenix, I took opportunity to do the delegate pre-work and read through the Purposeful Plan for Mennonite Church USA. As I read through the missional vision and the seven priorities outlined in this document, I found myself proud of our denomination. I was proud not simply because of the words in the Purposeful Plan, but even more so because of the approach that this plan represents.
Our denomination is committed to a missional vision of joining in God’s kingdom ministry right here and right now. Our denomination is committed to centering ourselves on the transformative life and teaching of Jesus. That is what brings us true unity. And on top of that, the Purposeful Plan is a living document, constantly being updated to reflect the current ministries of our denomination. Whether you find yourself as a delegate for Kansas City 2015 or not, I would encourage everyone to read and reflect on the Purposeful Plan.
Being a convention delegate is not boring! Rather, it is a great opportunity to participate in the life of our denomination, represent your local congregation, and read the updated Purposeful Plan. I, for one, am looking forward to “delegating” at many future conventions.