Eastern District & Franconia Conference has become Mosaic Mennonite Conference, a change that was announced during a conference-wide virtual worship service on Pentecost Sunday.
“As the reconciled Eastern District & Franconia Conference, we are excited about the future that God is calling us into,” conference moderator Ken Burkholder (Deep Run East congregation, Perkasie, PA) said in the announcement video on May 31. “We believe it is appropriate to mark this transition in our collective history with a new name.”
This new name, Mosaic Mennonite Conference, was affirmed by the conference board in February 2020 after a year-long process that included two rounds of focus groups over four months. The Naming Task Force received suggestions of nearly fifty names; “Mosaic” was a clear favorite in the focus group testing, popular across the conference’s cultures and geographies, and translates well into the conference’s other five worshiping languages: 匯聚愛門諾區會 (Chinese), Konfwanz Menonit Mozayik (Haitian Creole), Mosaic Konferensi Mennonite (Indonesian), Conferencia Menonita Mosaico (Spanish), and Giáo hội Mennonite Đa chủng tộc (Vietnamese).
This creation of something new out of many parts was central to the choice of the new name. “We’re different people—we’re allowed to experience Jesus in different ways,” reflected Danilo Sanchez, Conference Youth Formation Pastor. “Each piece in this new mosaic that we’re forming has the ability to shine and be bright and to feel like they have value and worth.”
The name “Mosaic” also captures the “celebration of lots of things coming together in explosive and creative ways,” observed conference board member Yvonne Platts (Nueva Vida Norristown [PA] New Life congregation). “I go back to an African proverb that we’ve been using lately that ‘I am because we are.’”
Mosaic Mennonite Conference was formed by the reconciliation of Eastern District Conference and Franconia Conference in 2019 and the transfer of congregations in California and Florida from Pacific Southwest and Southeast Conferences in 2017 and 2020. The new conference is now one of the largest and most diverse in Mennonite Church USA.
Pentecost was chosen as the day for stepping into a new name and a new identity because it’s about transformation, Executive Minister Steve Kriss said in his Pentecost message. “The times when names of people are changed in the biblical story represent a turn. We are turning in the midst of a crisis,” he said, referring to the COVID-19 quarantine, the economic downturn, and the waves of #BlackLives Matter protests around the country. “We did not plan this time. This is God’s time for us to gain a new name. To receive power. To recognize our gifts.”
Part of the transformation the new conference was experiencing, Kriss acknowledged, was to move away from an identity of “The Quiet in the Land.” To be true to the conference’s missional, intercultural, and formational commitments, Mosaic Mennonites will be a people who speak boldly and express the justice of God. “It’s a vulnerable time,” he said. But “the Spirit has given each of us unique gifts that are held together ‘for the common good’ [1 Corinthians 12:7, NIV]. We recognize that it is time, also, to raise our voice.”
The fire of the Spirit is “not only upon us, not only around us, but deeply inside of us, individually and together,” Kriss reflected. “May our new name, on these most strange days of Pentecost, shape new possibilities: for us, for our neighbors, and for the whole world.”