Sunday, August 01, 2021

Reflections from the Journey

In my first article for the Illinois/Wisconsin District newsletter, I shared a blessing from Jan Richardson taken from her book “Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons (© 2015 by Jan Richardson, Wanton Gospelller Press, Orlando, Florida)”. I turn to that book again for a blessing as I conclude my Interim ministry

among you at the end of August. Here’s her blessing/poetry titled “In the Leaving.”

“In the leaving,
in the letting go,
let there be this
to hold onto
at the Last:
the enduring of love,
the persisting of hope,
the remembering of joy,
the offering of gratitude,
the receiving of grace,
the blessings of peace.”

Obviously, this will not be the most significant letting go that you have in your life. After all, I’ve only been with you for 8 months! I also haven’t met many people who are part of this district. However, it is a time of letting go for the district as you continue to make a shift from a long-term District Executive, to an Interim, and now to a new District Executive (Walt Wiltschek) in just a few weeks.

Acknowledging a time of letting go gives us space to breathe, to shift our point of view. Letting go gives us time to open ourselves to the new thing that is coming, the new experiences on the horizon, and noticing with new awareness a sense of God’s presence in all of this. As Jan Richardson says, there is the enduring of love, the persisting of hope, the remembering of joy. I certainly have a deep gratitude for the gifted leaders I’ve worked with in the district. I have gratitude for the good ministry that is being lived out in this district and for the possibilities ahead for you. I have received grace and a blessing of peace.

So perhaps you will take a few moments to ponder where YOU have experienced those elements in your life in the last few months, whether it’s in the context of your relationship with the district or in your everyday life. Surely God’s presence and love has been with us!

Be assured of my continued prayers for the Illinois/Wisconsin District and for Walt as he begins. I am delighted for you and for Walt to be moving forward together in ministry. He and I have already had some transitional conversation. Please know that I will do all I can to make this a smooth transition. God’s blessings to each of you for the journey ahead!

Connie R. Burkholder, Interim District Executive

Interim District Executive’s Schedule

June 27 – July 4 Connie Burkholder will be attending the Council of District Executive meetings and Annual Conference meetings, all online.

Connie will take a week of vacation July 5 – 11. During this time, please contact Andrea Garnett, our Administrative Assistant for the District Office, if you are in need of assistance.

An Introduction from Our New District Executive

“This,” I thought, as I watched senior high youth at Camp Emmaus lead an evening love feast last month, from a meal under the pavilion to foot washing amid tiki torches on a grassy field. “This is what church should look like.”

They shared around picnic tables, sang beautifully, and at times surprised me with their heartfelt and compassionate choices as they invited others to have their feet washed in tin basins next to tree stump seats. It was authentic, it was emotional, and everyone was invited to participate at the level at which they felt comfortable. It was community at its best.

And I believe it’s what more of the church can look like if we focus on following the example of Jesus in all our varied congregations and settings. It might look different from one context to the next, but authentic worship and fellowship and outreach is the heartbeat of being Christ in our communities. We too often become distracted from that call.

So as we begin this journey in ministry together, here are a few of my hopes for the road ahead:

• That we get to know each other genuinely and discover the gifts each individual and congregation brings to our combined work. I want to do listening sessions around the district as soon as it’s feasible.

• That we would be intentional about theological, cultural, and racial diversity in the body of Christ.

• That we think less about planting congregations and more about planting ministries. What will really meet the needs of our communities—both those where we

have a presence now and those where we don’t?

• That we revitalize the district’s youth and young adult program and bring those unique perspectives and passion and energy more fully into our life together.

• That we value and build upon the contributions and resources that our camps, retirement communities, and denominational offices add to our district life.

• That we would be generous in our grace and love, and allow our imaginations to be stretched.

I greatly enjoyed my earlier time in Illinois/Wisconsin, and I am eager to be part of the church family there again in this new role. I look forward to starting this call with you on Sept. 1, working partly remotely for the first few months before setting fully in the district by Thanksgiving. Until more formal channels are set up, you can reach me at or 630-440-6089 as needed.

What do you think the church should or could look like? Let’s dream together.

—Walt Wiltschek

Information about the Interim District Executive Position

Connie lives in McPherson, Kansas, so her ministry will be done by email, phone, and Zoom. Since her ministry is to be ¼ time and she has responsibilities as part of a pastoral team in McPherson, she will generally not be available for Sunday morning commitments. Special circumstances would be negotiated. Her contact information is:


Cell phone: 620-245-4600