In July 1996 a task force was formed by Virginia Mennonite Conference (VMC) to test the feasibility of a resource center for conference churches. Interest was evident, and vision to provide practical resources for future and current congregational leaders grew. Approval was given to begin a resource center, July 1997, at the VMC delegate session and Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS) offered to provide space and partner with VMC in this endeavor.
Kathy Weaver Wenger served the Congregational Resource Center (CRC) as founding director beginning December 1997. Her expertise and work were critical in making the CRC what it is today. A five-year grant to EMS from Lilly Endowment beginning January of 1999 allowed for expansion of space and increased staff and resources. Housed at EMS, the CRC continues to serve the ministries of VMC churches, as well as provide significant resources to seminary students. The services and resources are also available to local churches of other denominations.
At least one person each week comes into the CRC for the first time.About 3/4 of VMC congregations have used the CRC at least once; seminary students and alumni, and many faculty and staff on the EMU campus frequent the CRC as well.
Certain congregations have become more familiar with the CRC and therefore more of their members take advantage of the resources. Familiarity with CRC is increased when congregations host meetings or bring Sunday school teachers, ministry leaders, etc. on site.
People from other denominations, and Mennonites from outside the Shenandoah Valley request materials by viewing the catalog and emailing or calling.
CRC has a budget of about $14,000 per year. Approximately half of that budget pays for staffing and the remainder is used to purchase new resources as well as supplies and expenses.
Use of the CRC is free. A few individuals or congregations have made direct contributions to the CRC. Non-VMC patrons are asked to give a donation to cover postage for materials that are mailed to them.
Hopes and Dreams
There are many ways the CRC could grow and expand. One goal is to continue to make the CRC as user-friendly, efficient and resourceful as possible. Several resource areas in the CRC could be updated and expanded, and staff time could be increased.
What if the CRC was a key location . . .
- For worship and education workshops
- Where you could receive updates of new materials and tips for teachers or worship leaders;
- To assimilate congregational ideas from worship services, banners, ideas, retreat weekends, and fundraisers
Dreams are plenty, but will there continue to be support for the endless possibilities of resources that the CRC can offer? The hope is that the CRC will continue to grow in patrons and materials, and provide meaningful resources to our congregations in VMC and beyond.