Category Archives: Intersections

Our paper and digital newsletter with photos and highlights from the previous month’s stories.

Intersections (Summer 2012)

Intersections (Summer 2012)
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Stories mentioned in this issue:

Intersections November/December 2011

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Franconia Conference Snapshots

Intersections: September/October 2011

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Franconia Conference Snapshots (summaries of this issue’s articles):

Intersections: July/August 2011

Introducing: Franconia Conference Snapshots, a summary of Intersections!

Intersections Summer 2011

Keeping my heart wide open

Klaudia Smucker, Bally

“I am not planning on preaching,” I told one of my seminary professors. “I’m more interested in pastoral care and counseling.”

“Ask your minister anyway, and see if he can fit you into the preaching schedule,” he said.Klaudia's Installation

James Waltner, my minister at College Mennonite at the time, said “Of course we can fit you into the preaching schedule.” I remember sitting up front before giving my first sermon, and having the feeling of wanting to run off the platform.

I began my student internship, not planning on being a pastor. But as the year went on, my seminary practicum, “Minister in the Church,” held many surprises. I preached, I led worship, I did pastoral care and counseling, and I loved every minute of it. I remember thinking, “This is the job I always wanted to do. I just didn’t know it.” My spiritual director noticed how enthusiastic and focused I was when I talked about my church work. She encouraged me to continue to seek God, and wait for answers. I prayed that if ministry was the right direction, it would be affirmed by others.

As I finished my practicum, I was sad to be ending something I enjoyed so much, and happy that I discovered something I loved. I decided to continue to work part time at my nursing job, and work my way through seminary, hoping that answers would eventually come. In my last week at the church, Nancy Kauffmann, on the CMC team, took me out to lunch and asked me if I had ever considered pastoral ministry. I said, “Yes. This practicum has opened whole new possibilities for me. I’m just not sure about the timing of it all.” She said, “I can’t promise you anything until we talk to the church board, but James and I believe you have gifts for ministry. We’d like to recommend hiring you to help us fill in some gaps.”

Klaudia's InstallationThat was the beginning of my ministry journey, although as I look back, I can see that God’s hand was on me, leading, guiding, and bringing others my way to encourage me in that direction. When I preached a sermon as a 16-year-old on youth Sunday in the early 70’s, a woman came up to me afterwards with tears in her eyes, and said, “If you were a man, you could be a preacher some day.” I remember hearing a woman speak with passion and inspiration and thought, “I want to do that for others.” After I gave a presentation in a committee meeting once, a woman said, “God has something in mind for you.”

Not all of the 12 years that I have been in ministry have been easy. Sometimes it has been hard, sad and all-consuming. I have laughed, cried, and lamented along with people as I’ve walked with them through marriage, births of children, difficult issues, personal illness and loss. All of those things inform my preaching, and remind me that life is uncertain. My faith has been strengthened as I’ve watched people trust and follow faithfully in the midst of extreme difficulty. I have felt God’s hand on me along the way, sometimes through wise and trusted mentors, sometimes after time in prayer, and sometimes in the voice of a stranger at the right place, at the right time. As I continue to walk forward in what God has called me to, my prayer is to keep my heart wide open as I continue to listen for whatever is next on the journey.

Marked by a celebration of peace, a pole, and a neighborhood park: Urban Anabaptists make a commitment to work and hope in Allentown

Samantha Lioi, Whitehall

In one corner of Franklin Park’s blacktop, Heidi Wert and her young friends sat drumming for peace, drawing in others to grab a pair of sticks and beat out a rhythm on white plastic tubs—thumping out their commitment to be agents of well-being in their neighborhoods.Peace Pole Among them was Peter Pettit, director of the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding at Muhlenberg College. Mayor Ed Palowski stood talking with folks setting up for the dedication of the Lehigh Valley’s third Peace Pole, the only one in the City of Allentown. The four-sided pillar, bearing “May peace prevail on earth” in Spanish, English, Arabic and German, was a gift to Pastor Tom Albright for his ordination. With his wife Carolyn, Tom gives leadership to Ripple, an eclectic Anabaptist urban worshiping community “moving toward Jesus as our center.” As they learn more what it means to follow Jesus, Tom says, they also learn, “We need each other.” Tom is credentialed by Franconia Mennonite Conference and the group grew out of ministry with Whitehall Mennonite Church, just outside of the city.

This mutual need, mutual honesty and encouragement were clear in the words and acts surrounding this pole on Saturday, as various people of faith gathered in a common desire for respectful relationships which build trust and shed fear in our city. Josh Chisholm of Congregations United for Neighborhood Action (CUNA) stood at the mic with his daughter on one hip, describing where he sees peace emerging. John, one of Ripple’s faithful deacons who lives across the street from the park, assisted with logistics and the pole’s unveiling. Rev. Maritza Torres Dolich of St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church across the alley from the park said she sees peace in the children playing here day after day, and in her conversations with them. Torres Dolich, originally from Puerto Rico, read the peace pole’s message in Spanish on behalf of Allentown’s large and growing Latino communities. Muc Nguyen of Vietnamese Gospel Church spoke the pole’s blessing in Vietnamese, and his friend Luke Martin, long-time Mennonite missionary in Vietnam, spoke the words in German, representing the Pennsylvania Dutch settlers in the region. Lucy, a first-year student at William Allen High School just a few blocks from the park, read an original poem of peace and sang a song of Peace Poleworship that made children and parents move from playing on the swings and jungle gym behind her to stand listening.

Planting this pole of many tongues calling silently for peace in our city will not stop people from shooting at each other or children from calling out hurtful names across this playground. It will simply remind us who commit ourselves to making peace that we too are planted here among the swing set and the spring onions of the community garden. And unlike this pole, we have breath and voice and power to be in healing relationships. It’s true: we need each other, and we need to remind each other that we are held and empowered by the Source of peace.

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Samantha Lioi is an associate pastor at Whitehall Mennonite Church and is part of Zume House in Center City Allentown, an emerging intentional community of faith, witness and hope.

Called into blessing: Liberty Ministries executive remembers his own journey

Bob Thompson with Gay Brunt Miller

In the fall of 1998, Ann Angelichio, a 16-year Liberty Ministries prison volunteer, called the church where I served as an elder. She was seeking volunteers to preach in a new Thursday night chapel service at Montgomery County Correctional Facility (MCCF). Our pastor asked the elders if any of us would be interested in doing this ministry. When I heard the request, I remember thinking, “No way would I want to go into prison to preach.” I only wanted to teach in our “safe” Sunday school.

But I could not get the idea out of my mind. Every time I thought about it, I would dismiss the idea.

A week later, I decided to call Ann to “at least find out more” about prison ministry. Ann’s enthusiasm about prison ministry was contagious. By the end of our conversation I told her I would go to the volunteer orientation class to “at least find out more about it.”

The orientation session was educational and answered more questions than I could have ever imagined. The expectations were high, the commitment level was serious. The fear factor was daunting.

Part of the class was to complete a background check form. A few weeks later I received a call from Ann. “Bob, you were approved to go into Montgomery County Correctional Facility as a volunteer—what Thursday night could you start?” I remember a very long pause after her question. She suggested that I go in with another volunteer first. The next day I got a call from an experienced volunteer telling me when to meet him at the prison.

My heart raced as we were escorted Liberty Ministriesthrough the long hallways and seven iron doors to reach the chapel deep inside the prison. None of the inmates were there yet. I was relieved. As groups of inmates were released from their cells, the room was soon full. The choir assembled at the front of the chapel and started the service with singing and rejoicing. I was amazed that the a cappella choir sounded so good. Even though I recognized none of the tunes, some of the lyrics were familiar. My heart calmed by the time Larry finished preaching. A guard announced it was time to wrap up. Larry gave a benediction, and we were escorted back to the prison lobby.

Outside the prison Larry asked what I thought about the service and prison ministry. I could only say that it was “great” and “I wanted to do it.” There was no more “at least” thinking. The next week I started preaching at 8 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month and have been involved in increasing ways ever since.

After several years I had the opportunity to teach a Bible study to the residents of Liberty House. Teaching men who were transitioning from a life of incarceration to one of freedom in Christ and freedom in the world convinced me of the importance of a ministry like Liberty. Men who have been in prison need a safe place to live and time to make changes in the way they want to live after becoming followers of Jesus Christ. Liberty Ministries provides that environment.

This realization led me to join the board of directors and eventually become board chair. My 37 years of professional experience in the business world has been indispensable in leading the ministry in new directions.

In the fall of 2010 I became the Executive Director. It is an honor, privilege and challenge to be in this a position. Many changes are taking place in the ministry that will help us be more responsive to the needs and expectations of our community. By implementing the best practices available in all areas of our ministry, we are seeking to be the finest faith based residential program for ex-offenders in Pennsylvania.

I am convinced that serving God wherever He calls us, and whatever He calls us to do, is one of the greatest blessings a Christ-follower can experience.