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Life Anew

by Steve Kriss, Executive Minister

Signs of resurrection and new life can be difficult to imagine or perceive.  While the disciples didn’t have the wherewithal to walk closely with Jesus from Maundy Thursday through the horrors of Good Friday, the reality of Easter and the resurrection was even harder to comprehend. It was a story trusted to women first, the disciples were mostly incredulous and avoidant.  Thomas even took an “I’ll believe it when I see it and touch it” kind of stance that wouldn’t be that far away from most of our approaches to faith and life.

I’ve been struck this season of Lent by the texts that have been provoking something new: the dry bones of Ezekiel, Jesus’ healing of the man born blind.   Can dry bones live?   What happens when we go to where we are sent to find ourselves seeing the world anew?

As I’m past my first 100 days in the Conference Executive Minister role, I’m starting to glimpse the possibilities of new life for us and seeing signs along the way of the Spirit’s invitation on how we might live together as people of God’s peace, extending that peace to others both locally and globally.

This week in Intersectings we are highlighting the newness of Mary Nitzsche’s appointment to the role of Associate Executive Minister.  Mary will bring wisdom, groundedness, experience and compassionate care to the role and to our Conference system of about 100 active credentialed leaders as well as retired credentialed persons.   I’m excited about the new thing that Mary’s “yes” will bring to us.   It’s a step along the way toward finding the place that God is calling us as Franconia Conference in this time.

Easter was the culminating event in the life and ministry of Jesus, though he returned to teach and instruct through the Ascension.  Pentecost (June 4 this year) represents the Spirit’s arrival, the gifts of speaking the word of Christ’s peace to everyone.  In these next weeks from Easter to Pentecost, I invite  you to join me in prayer to seek what God might be asking of us individually, congregationally and as a Conference-wide community from South Philly to Vermont and including our credentialed pastors in Metro DC, Mexico, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines. How might the Spirit empower us to speak and embody Christ’s peace anew?  What signs of new life and resurrection do we see along the way?  And how might we be that living sign for others who are seeking, searching, hoping, struggling toward the Way which we know means restoration of sight, freedom from bondage, good news for the poor?

Healing Through Truth Telling and Open Ears

By Barbie Fischer and an anonymous member of Salford Mennonite Church

Abuse takes many forms and is a topic often shied away from. Yet, our communities of faith should be safe and healing places for all of God’s children … and how can they be if abuse is not discussed and actions not taken to prevent it? April is both Child Abuse Prevention month and Sexual Abuse Awareness Month. Both Franconia Conference and Dove’s Nest encourage congregations to step into the space of talking about healthy relationships to prevent abuse, and discuss ways of healing when abuse does happen. While April is one month a year set aside to focus on these topics, these should be discussions all year long.

One of our local congregations recently took on the task of addressing child abuse within their service. Salford Mennonite Church held a service on March 26th dedicated to celebrating the joy and life of children — past and present — within their congregation, while at the same time acknowledging, naming, and lamenting that amid the joy and life, there is injury, trauma, and loss of trust. The scriptural focus for the day was Ezekiel 37:1-14, the story of dry bones coming to life.

Organization of the service and including the voices of survivors was spearheaded by Maria Hosler Byler, Associate Pastor for Youth and Family Faith Formation, and Beth Ranck Yoder, Associate Pastor. The day included singing from the children, times for the congregation to name their joys in the children, the vulnerability of the children among them, and their vision for safety for their children. The day also included words from survivors in the congregation who were invited to submit their stories and offer words of both lament and hope.

The service was a time of healing for those who have survived abuse and is evident through a letter received from one of Salford’s congregants following the service. This church member has allowed us to share their letter here. Through it, one can see that while the topic may be difficult, healing comes from bringing these things into the light, bringing life back to the dry bones.

 

Dear Beloved Church Family at Salford,                                                                            March 28, 2017

Thank you for the meaningful service on Sunday, March 26 in preparation for National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April.  Sunday’s service was clearly dedicated to the protection of children and to the restoration of those who have suffered from abuse.  Each aspect of the service was moving, and I want to thank the leadership team for listening to the guidance of the Spirit as you prepared for the service.  We participated in worship as we lifted our voices in song, listened to the children sing, prayed for the children, said prayers of confession, and heard voices of lament and of hope.  The worship service was inspiring and moving.  

I am grateful to have been asked to reflect on the Dry Bones passage from Ezekiel and share some of my story, anonymously.  The questions which were provided as guidance were helpful for me as I thought about what might be helpful for others to hear from my story.  As I wrote, the Valley of the Dry Bones from my past began to appear in my mind, and I could visualize the stages of healing that had taken place in recent years.  The image of healing after many, many years was helpful for me as I reflected on what would be meaningful to share.

During the week before the service, when I had the chance to read reflections that other survivors of abuse had sent in, I started to feel nervous about hearing their words, and my words, spoken to the congregation. By Saturday, I began to think about volunteering to help with the children during the service instead of sitting in the sanctuary.  While courage was needed for individuals to share their stories, even anonymously, courage was also needed to hear the words spoken.  I am very glad that I made the decision to attend the service.  Salford Mennonite, thank you for giving survivors the opportunity to share their stories with the congregation, and thank you for being willing to hear their stories.

At the beginning of the service, as I sat watching and listening, I felt numb, as though I were observing everything from a distance.  Toward the end of the service, I realized that I was indeed a part of the fellowship. I felt a keen sense of belonging to the body of believers at Salford.  Thank you for being a caring, loving, accepting, and even a risk-taking community of believers.  I believe that through the beloved community of Salford Mennonite Church, steps will continue to be taken to safely care for children, and restoration will continue to take place among the broken.

During the Sundays in Lent, I have been watching the transformation of the broken pottery at the front of the sanctuary.  Philip Hosler Byler carefully crafted the large and broken clay pot.  Each week, two people come forward and attach a broken piece to the base, and I watch in wonder.  Years ago I had told my counselor that I felt as though my journey of healing from abuse was like the journey of a broken vase being glued together—the vase might be functional, but the cracks will always be there, destroying its beauty.  My counselor told me that in some areas of Asia, when a vase is cracked, it is filled with gold, making it both beautiful and valuable.  During this week’s service, I could visualize the completed clay pot once all of the pieces are joined. Thank you, Philip, for crafting a pot that demonstrates how God can restore our lives, piece by piece.

After the children left the sanctuary, we heard the statistics that have been in the news in recent years, that 1 in 4 girls will be abused before adulthood and 1 in 6 boys will be abused before reaching adulthood.  The numbers are startling.  We were able to visualize those numbers by having people in appointed rows stand.  We as a congregation now have a deeper understanding of just how many 1 in 4 is.  Seeing half of the left side of the sanctuary standing was astounding.  Many survivors’ stories remain hidden.

I appreciated the themes of “Lament” and “Hope” through which survivors’ stories were shared.  As the four voices at the back of the sanctuary took turns reading the words of lament, I sensed that actual voices of the survivors were being heard.  (I did not turn around to see who the four people were who read, but I do want to thank them for their roles in the service.) The congregation seemed to really be listening to the words of sadness and grief. Toward the end of the service, when the four voices read the words of hope and anticipation which survivors of abuse had shared, I sensed that God was in our midst, caring, healing, loving, and encouraging. Thank you, Salford family, for being attentive to the journeys of these survivors in our midst.

I am thankful for the guidance through prayer for the children, the prayer of confession, and the spoken responses following the voices of lament and of hope.  I am grateful to you, our pastoral team, for reading together the confession of the church leaders.  I sensed your earnest desire to protect children and to restore those who have been “harmed by the evils of abuse.”  Healing and restoration will continue to take place in our church as we strive to move forward, trusting in God to show us the way.  Thank you for your willingness to lead our congregation in the way of healing.

The sermon I am grateful for, as it took an old Bible story, familiar for many of us, and brought it to life, allowing me to visualize the transformation of the Valley of Dry Bones and to see how God desires for us to move from a place of despair to a place of abundant living.  We as a congregation were given the opportunity to visualize the healing taking place within our church.  My Valley of Dry Bones took place years ago, but I can still see it. In that desolate place I was unable to get off of the couch, unable to go and pick up one item at the grocery store, unable to enjoy my favorite foods, unable to connect with my family in healthy ways. Sleep was my escape, feeling unable to do anything, just as the dry bones in the valley were unable to do anything.  The Valley of Dry Bones is a desolate place of despair, and no one wants to stay there; yet without help from God and from others, it is hard to find a way to leave.

There are so many things to be grateful for with the service. For the child protection policy being distributed in everyone’s church mailboxes prior to the service and for our Child/Youth Safety Team. For those who cared for the children during this important service. For our Pastors Joe, Beth, and Maria who guided our congregation through the Valley of Dry Bones.  Thank you for your leadership as you strive to make Salford a place of healing and of hope.  God does not want for us to stay in the Valley of Dry Bones, for Jesus came so that we might have abundant life, and our God is a God of hope.

Sunday’s service was truly beautiful.  I firmly believe that God is at work at Salford to restore the broken. My prayer is that God will continue to work in our congregation as we are committed to protect children and to restore those who have been abused.  May we serve one another in God’s love, and may we be a light in our community. My hope is that all congregations would be able to experience the healing power of a service of restoration.

God’s peace be with you.
________________________________________________________________________

To hear the sermon from the March 26th service visit http://www.salfordmc.org/recent-sermons.

DVDs of the service can be requested from Salford Mennonite Church.

Also, a list of resources utilized for the service can be found here: http://franconiaconference.org/church-safety/.

Loss of a Loved One

by Aldo Siahaan

As we approach Easter, I am thinking of lost loved ones. Before Christ was risen, he first had to die. Anyone would be sad to lose a loved one, especially when faced with the reality that we will not see our loved ones on this earth again as they leave us to appear before the Creator.

In February, my wife and I took our then-1 month old son to Indonesia with the purpose of introducing him to our family. At first, we just wanted to make this introductory event simple, but one of my sisters, Yanti Rinawati, insisted on making it a big event because it coincided with her birthday. We are very happy because all went well. The event was nice, we were able to introduce our son to the family, and the overall trip went smoothly.

One week after our return to the United States, I received news that that same sister, Yanti Rinawati, was admitted to the hospital in critical condition because of heart failure. We were not able to talk to her even by phone because her condition was so critical. A few days later, Yanti Rinawati left us and the earth forever. My wife and I felt so sad; we cried for many days, remembering Yanti’s kindness.

Indeed, I lost my sister, but I am grateful my family and I were `prepared` more than a week before her departure; we had a warning that her time on earth was coming to an end. I cannot imagine the feeling of Abdulhamid al-Yousef who lost his wife and 9 month old twin babies in the Syrian chemical attack last week. He had no warning. I also cannot imagine the feelings of 8 year old Jonathan Martinez’s parents, as they lost Jonathan in the North Park Elementary School shooting in San Bernandino just a few days ago. We could make a long list of the people we love who have departed from us without warning. The loss of a loved one can be devastating, with or without a warning.

2000 years ago, it was foretold to Mary. She was warned by the Holy Spirit that she would give birth to a son who would be the Savior. Her son, Jesus, healed the sick, released people from the bondage of the devil, brought positive change to the lives of many people through his teachings and the miracles he performed. Then came the day that we do not know if Mary had a warning for. The day she watched her innocent, sinless son treated like a criminal; stripped, spat on, given a crown of thorns, whipped 39 times, forced to carry the cross he would then be crucified to death on. What makes his story different from the others I have mentioned, different from yesterday, today and tomorrow, is that Jesus did die, but Jesus then rose from the grave on the third day. The tomb left empty to prove he was alive.

But Jesus’ story may not be that different from the others, as the word of the Lord says of Jesus that, “he who believes in him will not perish, but will have everlasting life” (John 3:16). As we remember Jesus’s death and resurrection, may we commemorate the loved ones who have left us, remember that one day we too will leave this world, but the good news is for those who believe in Jesus, we will rise up and live eternally with him in heaven.


Aldo Siahaan is pastor of Philadelphia Praise Center, and on staff at Franconia Conference as a LEADership Minister.

Franconia Conference Welcomes New Staff Member

Beginning in July, 2017, Mary Nitzsche will join the Franconia Conference staff as Associate Executive Minister. This role will include the work that was previously classified as Conference Pastor. She will serve as primary staff person for the ministerial committee and assist in pastoral accompaniment with various groups within Conference, such as with Conference chaplains and retired leaders, while also serving as the primary connection with Mennonite Church USA, attending denominational meetings, CLC and working with credentialing processes.

Mary is well known throughout Conference, having served as a credentialed leader in the role of Pastor of Pastoral Care and Spiritual Formation at Blooming Glen Mennonite (PA) for the past nine years. Mary has also served as the Conference Board Ministerial Committee Chair and thus a member of the Conference Board since 2013. She has resigned from these roles to step into her position as Conference staff.

In addition to her work within Franconia Conference, Mary has also served as a Regional Pastor with Ohio Conference for 12 years, she worked as a counselor within the Church Relations office at Goshen College, and early in her career was an elementary school teacher.  Mary holds a Master’s degree in pastoral counseling from Ashland Theological Seminary (OH), a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Goshen College (IN) and an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts from Hesston College (KS).

On March 26, 2017, in an announcement to Conference Staff and Board, Executive Minister Steve Kriss wrote, “Mary’s gifts will help add depth and care to our ministry and leadership team.  I’ve experienced Mary as someone who genuinely exhibits the fruits of the Spirit in her life and trust that she’ll bring that fruitful presence further into our life together.  After consulting and conversing with numerous persons across our Conference community, it seemed as if there was a clear call from us and the Spirit sensing that Mary’s gifts would serve our fellowship and God’s purposes well at this time.  I’ve appreciated Mary’s insights, her capacity to listen and to imagine.   I look forward to Mary’s participating in Franconia Conference leadership in a different way as she begins the staff role this summer.”

Mary states that her guiding verse is Isaiah 30:18a and 20b-21: “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you. . .your Teacher will not hide. . . your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”

In regards to her new role she said, “I am humbled and honored to accept God’s new call to serve as Associate Executive Minister of Franconia Conference. I pray the gifts and the congregational and conference experiences I bring to this role will help me lead with grace, wisdom, and hope. In this time of uncertainty and opportunity in our conference, denomination, nation and world, I hope to join staff in being attentive and responsive to the movement of God’s Spirit already present and working through us.”

Mary is married to Wayne Nitzsche, pastor of Perkasie Mennonite Church. They have two adult daughters: Alison, living with her husband, Michael, in Long Beach, California, and Megan living in New York City. Mary and Wayne are Midwest natives and have both lived and served in a variety of congregational and conference settings.

For fun and relaxation, Mary enjoys walking/hiking, knitting, working Sudoku or jigsaw puzzles, sewing, and baking.

Faith and Life Gatherings for Credentialed Leaders

At our Fall 2015 Assembly, the Conference passed the Faith and Life Church Together Statement, calling for the formation of the Faith and Life Commission with the purpose of providing space for pastors and credentialed leaders within Franconia Conference to study scripture with one another. The meetings being planned are for the purpose of establishing and supporting relationships among pastors and credentialed leaders and building ties of friendship and support. Please register below.

The commission currently includes Rose Bender (Whitehall) as chair, Nathan Good (Swamp), Kris Wint (Finland), Verle Brubaker, Penny Naugle (Plains), Josh Meyer (Franconia), and the staff liaison is Aldo Siaahan.

Gatherings will be held at the following locations:

  • Wednesday, May 10, 9-11 am – Blooming Glen Mennonite Church (map) – Zoom Video Conference available
  • Thursday, May 11, 7-8:30 pm – Swamp Mennonite Church (map) –  Zoom Video Conference available
  • Thursday, May 11, 7-8:30 pm – Nations Worship Center (map) – no Zoom available

These meetings will be following up on the themes in the Church Together Statement on Grace and Truth (read the Statement here) and the text we will be dwelling in together is Matthew 18: 10-22.

REGISTER HERE FOR ONE OF THE GATHERINGS:

We Are Still Willing

By Steve Kriss, Executive Minister

Courtesy of John Sharp

I remember Michael J. Sharp (MJ) as a rambunctious junior high kid from the time we overlapped life at Laurelville Mennonite Church Center and Scottdale in Western Pennsylvania.  I’ve been aware of his work and life thereafter mostly through social media and Mennonite publications.  MJ and I share a lot of geography, relationships and institutions in common.

MJ represents much of the best of us as Mennonites, an image of what a Washington Post article calls “courageous but not reckless.”  He was a millennial, a son of the church.  MJ was shaped by an array of Anabaptist communities which includes time in Franconia Conference when his dad was a pastor at Salford Mennonite Church. Afterward MJ went to Scottdale (PA) and Goshen (IN), then to college at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg (VA) and according to an article in the Albuquerque Journal, had just begun to entertain the idea of settling down into a life at The Plex, a unique apartment complex that housed other similarly-aged and valued Mennonite young adults in that city connected with Albuquerque Mennonite Church (NM).

MJ had worked in Europe for several years as a counselor for conscientious objectors.  Most recently he had worked in the Congo, first as a staff person with Mennonite Central Committee, then for the United Nations as a human rights investigator.   MJ and several colleagues went missing two weeks ago.  His body was found this week in a shallow grave along with his colleague Zaida Catalan — a Swedish investigator — and their Congolese interpreter, Betu Tshintela.

Michael Sharp visited Elizabeth Namavu and children in Mubimbi Camp, home to displaced persons in the Democratic Republic of Congo, during his time in the country. Jana Asenbrennerova/Courtesy of MCC

Washington Post further went on to say, “Sharp, 34, was a ‘standard deviations above the norm’ when it came to integrity and compassion.  ‘He just deeply cared about everyone and saw no difference between people of different nationalities,’ said Rachel Sweet, a Congo-based researcher.”

MJ’s death is a reminder that our work and calling is both relevant and risky in volatile times.   He’s a reminder of the powerful witness of faith lived out in practice with integrity, kindness and dedication, and that some of our millennial generation shaped by life in our families, churches and institutions have heard what we have said about faith, life and peace and intend to live it out.  Even unto death.

MJ’s life glimpses the best of who we are as Anabaptist/Mennonites, in a time that we are sometimes confused about who we are, in front of a watching world, in the Congo, one of the countries with the most Mennonites in the world.  MJ exemplifies Jesus’ words: “greater love has no one than this . . than to lay his life down for his friends.”

To the Sharp family, MJ’s friends and community of colleagues and to Albuquerque Mennonite Church, we share the hope of Christ’s peace at this time when words are inadequate.   With much love, we are still willing to bear witness of the nonviolent way of Christ, until the full intention of God comes on earth.

Carrying Grandmother’s Purse

by Anne M. Yoder

On March 18, 2017, I had the privilege of meeting with a large group from area Mennonite churches at the 6th annual Eastern District and Franconia Conferences’ Women’s Gathering. Every year at this event I think about who will attend, what joys they will have experienced in the last year and what difficulties they may have encountered. I pray for us all that we may meet the Lord in and through each other when we gather. And each year I am again greatly heartened by being among so many sisters in Christ.

Once again the hard work of the planning committee and especially our miracle-working God made a way where there seemed to be no way, and we were able to enjoy a sacred day of fellowship, worship, and learning. We had the biggest group ever, with 80 registrants from 15 different churches. The largest contingent of over 20 women came from Centro de Alabanza de Fildelfia.

The theme for the gathering was “Carrying Grandmother’s Purse”, a metaphor for the views and messages we often carry from our families and culture that may or may not help us to be the women God created us to be (see the meditation here for more on the metaphor). Our speaker was Pastor Tami Good from Swamp Mennonite Church, who led us in looking at several Biblical women who needed to hear new messages about themselves in order to live abundantly. First they had to shed some of the messages they had heard in the past about themselves, setting aside “Grandmother’s Purse,” as it were before they could accept the messages Christ had for them.

We were asked to reflect on three questions throughout the day: Who do they (culture, family, etc.) say that I am? Who do I say that I am? Who does God say that I am? Pastor Tami told about her own journey of letting go of some of Grandmother’s purse as she stepped into God’s calling on her life to be a pastor.

Probably the most moving for all of us was hearing stories from those who shared candidly about their struggles and their hopes for the future, and time spent praying in groups of two or more for each other. In the morning we had blue paper purses that we named as our grandmothers’, and in them we placed slips of paper on which we had written things we had heard about ourselves through our lives that we wanted to release. Part of our prayer time was taking those purses up front to a basket where they joined all the others to be discarded. In exchange for these “old” purses, we were given change purses on a keychain in which we had placed positive messages to remember in the future including scripture verses reminding us of God’s messages to us.

We were blessed by songs of worship led by women from Centro de Alabanza de Fildelfia, expert translation between Spanish and English by several women, wonderful snacks donated by a dozen registrants, a delicious luncheon prepared by Marta Castillo, and by the faith witness of those who attended.

As one participant wrote, when asked what they found most meaningful about the Gathering: “Connecting with sisters of a different culture and learning from their examples – I noticed how many shared, and how they usually began with ‘God is good’ even as they described hardship in their lives.” Similarly, another wrote in answer to the same question: “Joining of all cultures, all sisters, seeing tears, prayer, and sincerity.”

All in all, it was a delightful and very meaningful day. We look forward to gathering together again next year.

Much gratitude goes to all who helped make the day possible, including Pastor Mike Clemmer for his generosity in helping to set up and clean up Towamencin Mennonite Church before and after our use of the facility, and the members of the Eastern District and Franconia Conference Sistering Committee who helped plan this year’s event: Pastor Letty Castro (Centro de Alabanza de Fildelfia), Doris Diener, Pastor Tami Good (Swamp Mennonite Church), Pastor Marta Castillo (Nueva Vida Norristown New Life), and Anne Yoder.

Would you Rather Be a Bear or a Penguin?

By John Stoltzfus, Conference Youth Minister

A junior high youth sponsor needs to be prepared to answer all kinds of questions; however, I wasn’t prepared for “would you rather be a bear or a penguin”, posed by a curious youth halfway through the recent annual conference wide Junior High Late Night Blast at Dock Mennonite Academy.

One of the keys to developing an enduring faith in our youth is intergenerational relationships in the church. Part of the purpose of this annual event is to give our youth just that: a positive and memorable experience relating to other adults and youth in the broader church. Our youth need to know that they are valued and loved for who they are and that their questions and contributions matter in the life of the church.

This intersection of over 180 youth and adults is a visible representation of the breadth and diversity of our Franconia and Eastern District Conference churches from Philadelphia to Harleysville to Allentown and beyond. This event also gives a wonderful opportunity for our youth workers to partner together in ministry.

Caleb Benner and Emily Grimes, both teachers at Dock Mennonite Academy, along with a band of high school students led a time of engaging worship. Juan Marrero, pastor at Christ Centered Church and director of Crossroads Community Center, challenged the youth to be doers of God’s word. He used the illustration of an athlete who looks at film to make adjustments to their game. So, too, we as Christians need to have a mirror put to our lives so that we can be more faithful to the way of Christ.

The rest of the night was full of activities to choose from … soccer, basketball, dodge ball, human Dutch blitz, wallyball, Gaga Pit ball, and much more. Directing over 150 Junior High youth in a group game might be considered a challenge for most people, but Josh Reichart handled it like a professional as he and other staff from Spruce Lake helped to organize the games.

In addition to getting to answer random fun questions, another perk of being a Junior High youth sponsor is the freedom to experiment with crazy games. A popular new game introduced this year was Bubble Soccer. Picture giant plastic bubbles with legs bouncing off each other and rolling around!

Whether you’d rather be a bear or a penguin, if you are in Junior High or have a heart for kids you’re welcome at our annual Junior High Late Night Blast.

Sharing Breakfast and Life

by Emily Ralph Servant, Interim Director of Congregational Resourcing

“I was not really looking forward to the morning event.  I wasn’t even sure it had much to do with my call and work,” confessed Joy Sawatzky, a chaplain at Living Branches.  “What happened was a nice surprise.  I like surprises.”

The “morning event” was a breakfast sponsored by Living Branches and Franconia Conference exploring questions of spirituality across generations.  On February 14, a panel of leaders answered questions about calling, spiritual practices, and hope.

“What happened was heart-felt sharing from three different generations around call and how that was and is lived out, not just in the lives of those on the panel, but in the table conversations afterwards as well,” reflected Sawatzky.

Panelists Krista Showalter Ehst, John Ruth, Paula Stoltzfus, James Krabill, Josh Meyer, and Ray Hurst expressed curiosity about other generations, pondered over advice they would give to their younger selves, suggested practices that are important in the life of the Church, and confessed how their priorities in ministry have been shaped by their life experiences (listen to the podcast).

After the panelists shared, pastors gathered around tables to share their own stories, challenges, and questions.  The take away—a hope for the future of the church and a hope for more of these conversations.

Living Branches began to explore sponsoring conversations on aging after a pastor told them, “Our church is aging, however our energy is focused on family and youth; we would appreciate thinking and talking together about issues of aging. Help us.”   Living Branches believes that as a member of the community and a participating ministry of the Franconia Conference, they have a calling to connect with and resource their community and churches around the issues of aging, says Margaret Zook, Director of Church & Community Relations at Living Branches.  “We believe that joy and purpose in life is enriched through conversations at all stages of our life.”

Credentialed leaders are invited to two breakfasts this April:

  • April 19, 8-10am, at Souderton Mennonite Homes. Chaplains from Living Branches will present the documentary “Being Mortal” and facilitate a conversation around faith and end of life issues.  (RSVP to Margaret_Zook@LivingBranches.org).
  • April 25, 9-11am, at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church. Anne Kaufman Weaver will lead a conversation around her research in resiliency for women in pastoral leadership (RSVP at franconiaconference.org/events).

“Taking time to be together to learn, to network, to eat together, to drink coffee and tea together helps keep our leadership and relationships vibrant and lively,” says Franconia Conference executive minister Steve Kriss.  “While our schedules are busy, this time apart, even for a few hours, is an important respite and a significant time to strengthen both skills and relationships among us as credentialed leaders in our conference community.”

For questions related to upcoming events or to request resourcing for your congregation, contact Emily (email or 267-932-6050, ext. 117).