Our annual conference was held October 25th and 26th at the beautiful Camp Spofford in western New Hampshire. Over 100 attendees included pastors and lay leaders from 48 New England district churches, as well as many guests and missionaries.
The conference was kicked off on Tuesday morning as we worshipped together, led by Rob O'Blenis and his team from BEFree Alton (NH). Our first guest speaker was Jeff Sorvik, EFCA's director of church multiplication. He shared with us as to why we should pursue Togetherness in the church (see his notes). Later in the morning we were challenged by Dr. Alex Mandes as to the major hindrances of church multiplication - missional blindness - ignoring or not seeing the people who are already in our neighborhoods that need to hear and be engaged in the gospel (see his notes).
A new feature in this year's conference was a roundtable discussion during and after our lunch time. Three questions were posed for discussion: (1) "Who is the 'other' in your neighborhood (spring-boarding from Alex's teaching), (2) "If you were to go out into your community and ask, what would people say about your church?" and (3) "What could you do to make the light of the Gospel more evident by the way your church lives together?" Individuals shared their insights and experiences as well as practical ways of reaching out to the people just outside the church doors in their own neighborhoods with the gospel of Christ.
Our afternoon session brought us to our annual business meeting and reports. Three new churches were welcomed and recognized: The Father's House, Stamford, CT - a church plant sent from Grace Evangelical Free church (Stamford) under pastor Kenny Sullivan; Talcottville Congregational Church, Vernon, CT, currently shepherded by interim pastor Wayne Hansen; Christ Community of Hampshire County, Easthampton, MA, led by pastor Chad Patterson. Also introduced were Lowrie and Deb Robertson who are currently and actively engaged in their community, with the hopes of planting a church in Acton, Maine. It was great to hear the encouraging reports about how God is at work in these communities and others within the New England district!
Miles Ahrens, NEDA Board Chairman, led the brief business meeting, held with the express purpose of voting on the 2017 budget and the new officers who are coming onto the board. A favorable outcome for both was received. Sam Huggard, District Superintendent, concluded by thanking Miles for his many years on the board and presented him with some small gifts as tokens of appreciation for Miles' hard work and Godly leadership.
Our Tuesday evening time of worship was led by Seth Nuzum of Valley Bible EFC in Haddam, CT. Kevin Kompelien, EFCA President, reminded us of our shared values that have shaped us and how that affects our unity and mission (see his notes).
The conference's concluding time of worship was held on Wednesday morning, led by Maria Belyea of Mountainview EFC in Voorheesville, NY. Jeff Sorvik continued his teaching by discussing how we should be pursuing togetherness in the church. (see his notes).
The conference provided a great time fellowship and networking amongst pastors and lay leaders from throughout the district. Prayers for one another, words of encouragement, sharing of resources and time to get caught up with one another were all important parts of our brief but meaningful time together.