By Laurie Oswald Robinson, editor
Will Fitzgerald, pastor of Kalamazoo (Mich.) Mennonite Fellowship, is discovering there is no match for prayer when it comes to connecting across miles.
Every two weeks or so since late June, Fitzgerald has connected with Phil Bontrager, pastor of Grand Marais (Mich.) Mennonite Church, by e-mail to ask for Bontrager’s prayer requests and to encourage and support him.
This effort is part of the launch of a new prayer circle across the Michigan congregations in Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference (IMMC). John Powell, former IMMC regional pastor for Michigan, planted the seed of the idea before he recently retired. His prayer was that the seed would grow into a strong plant of fraternal support among congregations separated by geographic distance.
Fitzgerald said the seed is growing between the Kalamazoo and Grand Marais congregations, separated by 400 miles and a six-hour drive.
“Most of our congregations are situated very far apart geographically, and the circular nature of this effort breaks through some of the isolation that happens because of that,” Fitzgerald said.
“I think this prayer circle model fits with one of the goals of our recently adopted Renewing a Vision for IMMC. Part of that vision includes the building of a stronger network of connections between churches. The launching of our prayer circle is one small piece of this.”
Kalamazoo is also on the receiving end, as Locust Grove Mennonite Church, Sturgis, Mich., is in the process of connecting with Fitzgerald and his church family. The plan is to have all 14 congregations in Michigan give support to a congregation and receive support from another. This will weave a web of 28 threads of prayer across the region.
“Theologically, the Michigan congregations are quite similar, but geographically, they are very diverse,” Powell said. “I pray this initiative will build a stronger cohesion between them. I also hope they gain appreciation for one another as well as for the relationships they share with the rest of the congregations in IMMC.”