Ministers' Meetings or Conferences
Ministers' meetings as distinct from the official annual or semiannual conferences were widely held in the Mennonite Church, usually semiannually. In their earliest occurrence, as for instance in Ontario, they were meetings of all the ordained men in a local area or even one bishop district. In each of the three districts in Ontario, Waterloo, York, and "Twenty" (Vineland), semiannual ministerial meetings (called Kleine Zusammenkunft) were held from the beginning, at least as early as 1830 and probably earlier, and continued to mid-20th century. They may even have preceded the annual conference (called Grosse Zusammenkunft). Earlier they preceded the traditional spring baptismal and communion services, and no doubt gave attention to matters relating to these services, including discipline. Later the ministerial meetings were largely inspirational and educational meetings for the consideration of matters relating to the improvement of ministerial service, including however also expository studies and theological and practical topics.
In the Franconia Conference it was a longstanding tradition that the bishop called a meeting of the ministers and deacons of his bishop district to fix communion and baptismal dates and to consider matters of discipline or "housekeeping" which might need attention. This meeting was called the Kleiner Rath in contrast to the annual conference, which was called Grosser Rath. These meetings were essentially different from the later ministers' meetings for inspiration and instruction.
In the Indiana-Michigan Conference four ministerial meetings were held in addition to the annual conference, two in northern Indiana meeting semiannually (one east of Goshen, and one west), and two annual meetings, one for Michigan, and one for the entire ministerial body, usually meeting in December. The last meeting was of later origin, starting in 1945. The northern Indiana meetings were much older, dating from about 1890, but the one for Michigan began only in 1919.
All of these meetings were similar in character, being on an inspirational and practical nature to help the ministers in their work, but not transacting any business.
In Ohio the ministerial meetings were of more recent origin. The northeastern Ohio meetings dated to about 1913, the Wayne
County meetings to about 1945; the western Ohio meetings began in 1955. In other states and conference districts ministers' meetings were of more recent origin. Sometimes they were called Ministers Fellowship (Illinois) or Ministers Retreat (Allegheny). The date of origin of the ministers' meetings in other conference districts was as follows: Virginia 1912, Lancaster 1933, Missouri-Kansas 1936, Pacific Coast 1936, Franconia 1938, Allegheny 1938, Illinois 1943, Alberta-Saskatchewan 1945 (combining with Christian Workers' Meeting), North Central 1946, Allegheny Retreat 1954. --
The practice of holding a ministers' conference as distinct from the annual official general or district conference in the General Conference Mennonite Church goes back to 1886, when the Eastern District conference sessions authorized the holding of such a gathering "to discuss subjects and topics relative to the labor and success of the ministers of our church." Such a ministers' conference was announced in the Mennonite to be held on 14 June 1886 at the West Swamp Church in Pennsylvania. Bad weather on this date made a postponement to 2 August necessary. However, the six ministers who appeared on June 14 devoted some attention, under the chairmanship of A. M. Fretz, to "The Duty of the Pastor at the Sick Bed." At the 2 August session the ministers discussed the choice of sermon texts, the preparation of sermons, avoiding duplication in funeral sermons, and the minister's duty to youth. N. B. Grubb presided at this session.
From the Eastern District the idea of ministers' meetings apparently spread rapidly to other sections, for by the fall of 1891 the Christlicher Bundesbote carried announcements and reports of such conferences held in the Middle District and also the Western District conferences. The idea was also promoted in the organizational session of the Northern District Conference at Mountain Lake, Minnesota, in that same year. In the ministers' conference held at Newton, Kansas, on 21 September 1891, chaired by Christian Krehbiel, some of the topics discussed were the Mennnonite attitude toward life and health insurance, the dismissal of ministers, the slandering of ministers, and the question of admitting to church membership such who do not agree with the church on the practice of feetwashing, abstinence from tobacco, and prohibition of alcoholic drinks.
The practice of holding ministers' conferences spread to and continued in all districts of the General Conference but the frequency of meeting and the program patterns varied from district to district. In the Eastern District Conference the ministers' conference became the "Quarterly Conference" which included also congregational officers and other church leaders. -- EW
See also Ministers' Retreats
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 699. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Bender, Harold S. and Erland Waltner. "Ministers' Meetings or Conferences." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 18 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M561375.html.
APA style: Bender, Harold S. and Erland Waltner. (1957). Ministers' Meetings or Conferences. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M561375.html.