Tag Archives: Angela Moyer

Retreat Before Moving Forward

by Paula Marolewski, Franconia Conference Board Member and Elder at Perkiomenville Mennonite Church

What characterizes the culture of Franconia Mennonite Conference (FMC) today? How do we respond to the crowded, complex, fast-paced culture of society around us? How do Conference member churches experience being valued and valuing the whole of the larger conference?

The grounds of Fatima House Retreat Center provided a peaceful backdrop for the Board Retreat.

These were some of the many questions the Conference Board discussed on July 28th and 29th as they met together for a retreat at Fatima House in Ottsville, Pennsylvania. All eleven of the board members were present*, representing eleven different congregations – a quarter of all the churches that comprise the conference. Facilitating the meeting was Jeff Wright of Riverside, CA, Executive Consultant for Urban Expression North America.  Jeff had served as a guide for the Conference’s Vision and Financial Plan a decade ago.

During the time together, the Board spent time in spiritual reflection, as three of the board members (Beny Krisbianto, Angela Moyer, and Ken Burkholder) shared devotions on Jesus’ parables and how the parables spoke to various situations and needs within the Conference. The devotional times flowed into discussions about colliding cultures, conflict and hope, and the future of Franconia Conference and Mennonite Church USA.

One of the key conversations centered on three central questions that everyone – individuals, churches, the conference, and the denomination – should answer:

  1. Who is Jesus to us? [Christology]
  2. What does Jesus want us to do? [missiology]
  3. How does Jesus want us to do it? [ecclesiology]

Jeff emphasized that it is critical to approach these questions in this order. For example, we as Franconia Conference need to first determine who Jesus is to us. The answer to that will become the foundation for our shared culture. Only then can we ask what Jesus wants us to do and how to go about it – these are questions of strategy that build on the foundation of culture.

The Board grappled with all these questions and more – and will continue to do so with the goal of advancing the Kingdom of God in our fallen world. That, after all, is the purpose of a retreat: to prepare to move forward.

*The Board is composed of John Goshow, moderator (Blooming Glen), Angela Moyer (Co-Pastor at Ripple), Beny Krisbianto (Pastor at Nations Worship Center), Gwen Groff (Pastor at Bethany), Jim King (Plains), Paula Marolewski (Perkiomenville), Ken Burkholder, interim chair of the Ministerial Committee (Pastor at Deep Run East), Kris Wint (Pastor at Finland), Smita Singh (Whitehall), Merlin Harman (Franconia), and Steve Kriss, Conference Executive Minister (Philadelphia Praise Center).

Board Welcomes Smita Singh

By Angela Moyer, co-pastor at Ripple and Conference Board Member

Smita Singh was appointed to the Franconia Conference Board by delegate affirmation at the Fall 2016 Assembly, beginning her first term with the Board in January, 2017. Smita is a member at Whitehall Mennonite Church in the Lehigh Valley since 2000, when she immigrated to the United Stated with her husband Naveen and son Ronak.

Growing up in Nagpur, India, Smita was raised in a Christian home with church and faith as an integral part of her upbringing. She was actively involved with her church youth group, Youth for Christ (YFC), Evangelical Students Union (EU), children’s ministry, National Council of Church’s in India (NCCI) and Maharashtra Village Ministries (MVM). She has led women’s groups and youth groups through BSF International (Bible Study Fellowship), and as a member of Whitehall, Smita has worked in children’s ministry, helped with fundraisers and served on the budget committee and worship planning committee.

She graduated from Nagpur University with a Bachelors in Computer Science. She then received her Master’s Degrees in Business Administration specializing in finance and marketing. Smita has experience as a Google Quality Rating Consultant and also owns an Etsy business, “Rosmina Collections.” Recently, she began working in the Customer Service Department at Nestle.

Janet Byler, Smita Singh, and Ron Bender finished out a long line of blessings and anointing for Pastor Rose Bender at her ordination in 2012.

Initially, Smita was not interested in being on the Board at Franconia Conference, but after prayer, both she and Naveen sensed that this was a call to move out of her comfort zone, especially after having an encouraging conversation with Steve Kriss, then the Director of Leadership Development.  Now, she is looking forward to discovering how she can use her gifts and experience to serve in this role and hopes to fulfill God’s calling.

Her favorite passage of Scripture is Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” She says she connects to God best by having her quiet time praying and seeking His word for discernment.

Smita describes Whitehall Mennonite as an eclectic group of people filled with hospitality, diverse in speech and culture, with a common goal to serve the Lord and care for each other. Something she has learned at Whitehall is that God is faithful and always provides in unexpected ways. Transformation happens one person at a time and many times the transformation takes place years after the seed was planted.

Rose Bender, Pastor at Whitehall Mennonite Church says, “Folks at Whitehall appreciate Smita’s creativity, generosity, and delicious cooking!  Because of her life experience and background, Smita often has a different perspective to add to the conversation – a part of the rich fabric of diversity at Whitehall Mennonite Church. She is a joy to pastor and work alongside in ministry.”

Smita lives in Breinigsville, PA with her husband, and now 14-year-old son.  In her free time, she enjoys making cards, helping her son with his school projects, volunteering at church, and as a volunteer coach for Springhouse Middle School Science Olympiad Team.

 

Conference Welcomes Angela Moyer to the Board

by Lisa Rand

God is at work in Allentown, and pastor Angela Moyer witnesses God’s movement in the lives of her friends and neighbors. Angela is one of five co-pastors at Ripple, where her ministry focuses on serving children and women. Franconia Conference welcomed Angela to the board at the August 2015 board meeting. In her new role as board member, Angela will help communicate the perspectives and needs of Lehigh Valley congregations as they continue to grow. As an urban and bi-vocational pastor with roots in Telford, Angela’s gifts and background are well-suited for this role as a conference board member.

Angela 2Angela also is an occupational therapist for Good Shepherd Rehabilitation. She worked as an occupational therapist after graduating from Elizabethtown College, when she accepted a post at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Through this role, Angela was exposed to city life and city concerns. She recognized the opportunity for the church to help ease the challenges facing families in crisis. During this time Angela felt a draw and pull to youth ministry, and began working with the youth at her home church, Rockhill Mennonite, eventually serving as youth pastor.

Angela also began taking classes at Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s Pennsylvania campus. “Tentatively and very hesitantly, I took a few classes. I just had a few questions.” One semester led to another, and in 2012 she completed her studies. While at seminary Angela met Tom & Carolyn Albright and learned about the ministry happening through Ripple. Sensing that this was a place where her gifts could be used, Angela completed an internship in Allentown where Ripple is located and got to know the community, which she describes as open, welcoming, and multiethnic.

Angela 1In Allentown Angela lives in the intentional community Zumé, in a neighborhood full of people from varied backgrounds and experiences. Asked to describe the work of Ripple she said, “Ripple is Christ-centered and Community-Focused. We are at a place where we are learning the depth of patience and trust in God that’s required when working for transformation, justice and dignity for all people. We are learning to support one another in this walk, in the long, hard work of walking alongside people through hard times expectantly awaiting new life and resurrection.”

Angela is an avid Phillies fan and for relaxation she enjoys trying new restaurants and traveling.

 

 

Every Ordination is Miraculous

By Steve Kriss, Director of Leadership Cultivation & Congregational Resourcing

oil lamp 9-24-15
To order a Dancing Flame Oil Lamp handcrafted by June Keener Wink please call 413-258-4243 or e-mail junewink@gmail.com.

The year 2015 has been a year of ordinations in Franconia Conference.   We’ve been celebrating and marking commitments and calling nearly every six weeks . . . Mike Ford at Blooming Glen, Joe Hackman at Salford, Donna Merow at Ambler, Angela Moyer at Ripple, Kris Wint at Finland, Josh Meyer at Franconia, Samantha Lioi at Whitehall and Ubaldo Rodriguez at New Hope Fellowship in Baltimore for mission work in the Philippines.

Ordination is an ancient process of setting apart leaders for public ministry in the way of Jesus.  Within Franconia Conference, we follow a set of procedures that seek to honor both the individual and the community while respecting the work of the Spirit within both settings.  There is coursework for completion, interviews, paperwork that intends to keep our communities both safe and accountable, mental wellness assessments, varieties of continuing education and varying levels of mentoring.   Some of our pastors breeze through the process at a steady and assured pace in the two year minimum waiting and working period of licensing.   Others take much longer to plumb the depths of call both personally and communally and to wrestle it out.   Personal disclosure, it took me six years of working, waiting and wondering in Allegheny Conference before I could wrap my head around the commitments and calling that ordination entails.

We take this process seriously yet the days of ordination have a more celebratory tone. There are few times in our lives when we make commitments that will shape our life like ordination.  In front of a gathered congregation at the request and affirmation of a particular Christian community, we make commitments to serve, lead, pray, study, turn from evil and live into the role of Christian leadership as long as God sustains.

Many of us wrestle with the meaning of ordination.   I’ve found this human and historic process of calling, recognizing, working and wrestling and receiving becomes quite holy.   Somewhere in the wrestling and symbols, the questions and the mundane of the paperwork, the Spirit unfailingly shows up.

In this flurry of ordinations in the midst of a turbulent time, I am confident that the Spirit is still at work with us, trying to bring life.   Each person who says yes to the invitation of God and the community strengthens the possibilities of future “yes” responses into the next generation.   This round of ordinations represents our first millennial generation ordained ministers, our first Italian American woman, our first ordination for mission work in the Philippines.  We’ve called at some of our most historic congregations and our newest.  The churches are rural, suburban and urban.  We’re recognizing the sons and daughters of historic Franconia Conference families, as well as persons who were drawn to Mennonite congregations by conviction, relationships and call.  We’ve held events in Episcopal and Lutheran facilities and even at a Lancaster Conference church in Baltimore.  (Interesting side note, a Lancaster Conference African congregation recently used the Towamencin meetinghouse for an ordination worship).

It’s definitely a different time.   The ordination process isn’t what it used to be.  There’s no somber ceremony with Bibles or hymnals and a slip of paper as in Mennonite history.   But the holy moments remain, those wonderful spaces where community and Spirit commingle to cultivate surprising invitations toward ordination and wonderfully amazing continued responses of “yes I am willing.”   Every time we ordain, it’s a sign that the church will go on.   And in these days of turbulence and questions both in the church and in the culture around us, every yes somehow feels miraculous.   And I’m grateful to get to witness it as the Good News still breaks upon us. . . this year about every six weeks.

Ministry Intern Merges Science, Art Into Health in Allentown

by Colin Ingram

Both left and right brained, Ripple summer intern Hannah Yoder weaves science and art together as she carves out her ministry path in Allentown bringing hope and health.

Hannah_RIPPLE Intern webHannah joins Ripple Allentown as a Ministry Inquiry Program intern. She is shadowing Ripple’s five pastors throughout the summer. Under the direction of Pastor Angela Moyer her service lasts from May 30 to August 15.   Hannah double majors in nursing and art at Goshen College. When home from college, Hannah goes to Akron (PA) Mennonite Church.   Ripple is a frequent placement site for Goshen College students.

“One of the important parts is living in Allentown,” Hannah said, when asked about fitting into Ripple’s mission. “Living here you’re constantly engaged with the community.”

With room to pursue her interests and talents, responsibilities include working at a medical clinic, creating a grief mural, starting a material resource center, and leading involvement in a city summer art project.

“It’s a lot of piecing together different parts of what Ripple does in the community,” Hannah said.

As a nursing student, Hannah works with the street medicine clinic that meets Wednesdays at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Allentown, where Ripple meets on Sundays for worship.

She may help coordinate an emerging material resource center (MRC) to gather people together and encourage serving others. The materials collected, such as blankets, would go to Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and be distributed around the world.  In terms of art, the mural will include memories of people processing the deaths of loved ones, including those from the Ripple community.

The 10-week summer internship is part of the Ministry Inquiry Program (MIP), connected through Mennonite colleges and universities. A Mennonite Church USA initiative, the program is supported by Franconia Conference, as well as other area conferences. The program is designed for college students to explore ministry, job shadow a pastor, and discover ministry gifts.

“It’s a way to call out students who might have interest in church leadership or have pastoral gifts and give them an opportunity to try out their gifts to see if they’re interested in it,” Pastor Angela said.

In her free time at Goshen, Hannah is involved with Student Senate, environmental club, and Art Club.

Ministerial Committee Update

by Stephen Kriss

The Ministerial committee of Franconia Mennonite Conference board met on May 6th at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School.   The committee approved and recognized the following changes in credentialed minister status.

Penny Naugle from Plains Mennonite Church was licensed toward ordination for her work as a chaplain at Rockhill Mennonite CommunityNathan Good, associate pastor at Swamp Mennonite Church, was licensed toward ordination.

Ministerial Committee Update 5-21-15 web
Angela Moyer was ordained on May 17, 2015.

In addition, the Ministerial committee approved Kris Wint, pastor at Finland congregation, for ordination which will take place at Finland Mennonite Church on June 28th.  Josh Meyer, teaching/preaching pastor at Franconia congregation was also approved for ordination and his ordination ceremony will be on June 28th as well.  The Committee is pleased to announce that the ordination of Angela Moyer took place this past Sunday, May 17th at Ripple in Allentown.

Other changes to credentialed minister status include, Doris Diener, Franconia congregation, who was received by transfer from Southeast Mennonite Conference has been moved to retired.  James Longacre, Bally congregation, was shifted to a retired credential as well.

Gerry Clemmer, former lead pastor at Souderton congregation, John Bender, former interim associate pastor at Franconia congregation, and Mark Derstine, who completed his work as Chaplain at Living Branches, were moved to active without charge.

Steve Kriss is Director of Leadership Cultivation & Congregational Resourcing , as well as a LEADership Minister, in Franconia Mennonite Conference. 

 

Lehigh Valley congregations partner to support youth minister

Danilo Sanchez at Lock-in
Danilo Sanchez accompanies Lehigh Valley junior youth to the lock-in this spring.

by Sheldon C. Good

HARLEYSVILLE, Pa. – Some of the most diverse growth in Anabaptism along the East Coast is occurring in Allentown, Pennsylvania’s fastest growing city and now a city that is majority Hispanic. Even so, none of the city’s broad range of Anabaptist congregations has enough resources or even youth to maintain a youth pastor. That’s why Franconia Conference, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) East Coast, and six Lehigh Valley congregations have come together to hire a half-time youth worker, Danilo Sanchez, to minister across the various Anabaptist communities.

Through this role, Sanchez, who graduated this spring from Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg, Va., is involved regularly with a diverse combination of congregations unlike those served by just about any other Anabaptist minister in the U.S.: Karen Fellowship, Iglesia Menonita Evangelica Restoracion, Christ Fellowship, Vietnamese Gospel Mennonite Church, Whitehall Mennonite Church, and Ripple. Franconia Conference, MCC East Coast, Whitehall, and Ripple share financial support of the position.

Sanchez is primarily responsible for organizing gatherings for Lehigh Valley youth, leading worship at the Whitehall and Ripple congregations, organizing after-school youth activities, and engaging the myriad Lehigh Valley Anabaptist congregations.

“I’m excited to join the vision of creating a context where next-generation intercultural Anabaptist leadership can flourish and strengthening relationships across Anabaptist communities in the Allentown area,” Sanchez said. “While I have experience working with youth in many types of Mennonite churches, this will be a new challenge. I never expected myself to be in urban ministry, but that seems to be where God is calling me, and I’m willing to follow the Spirit’s call in my life.”

Youth have a reputation for being an especially challenging demographic for people in ministry, and Sanchez’s experience in Allentown will likely be no different. The youth of Whitehall and Ripple, though few, come from challenging, high-need situations, including coming to Allentown as refugees and being born into cycles of poverty, according to Whitehall pastor Rose Bender, who is Sanchez’s supervisor. “As a part-time pastor,” she said, “I am already feeling stretched beyond what I can give. So, the idea of adding a youth worker that would connect with Whitehall as well as some of the other congregations is very exciting.”

The partnership of so many groups and congregations makes sense to Bender. She noted that many people from Whitehall and Ripple in particular are neighbors, and some people worship with both groups. The connection with Franconia Conference and MCC East Coast, she said, is yet another example that people “are looking for ways to connect here and make a difference.” Many congregations already partner with Ripple by cooking meals or sending youth groups to work with children in the city.

Angela Moyer, co-pastor of Ripple, wants all different types of people feel like they are welcomed and wanted in the Ripple community, and she hopes Sanchez’s leadership will help Ripple work toward that.

“Danilo has a deep compassion for youth who typically are on the margins in their schools, families, and communities,” she said. “With Danilo, the teenagers at Ripple hopefully will find a place where they belong, are nurtured, and supported in their specific life stage.”

Thanh Pham, a pastor from Vietnamese Gospel, echoed Moyer’s hope that Sanchez will help youth to flourish. Pham said he prays the youth’s parents will “see our community as a place they can trust to send their children to learn more about God.”

A partnership between MCC and local congregations isn’t commonplace, though it does exist elsewhere. Sanchez’s position is one that “resonates deeply” with ongoing MCC work related to youth, urban ministry, collaboration with churches representing diverse ethnic backgrounds, and leadership development, said Kim Dyer, young adult program coordinator of MCC East Coast. “We are excited to be able to respond to an initiative coming from the church in a local context that connects so deeply to MCC’s areas of focus.”

“This new collaboration is a creative way to build on both strengths and possibilities,” said Steve Kriss, director of leadership cultivation for Franconia Conference.  “Danilo has been shaped through numerous points of engagement within Franconia Conference.  This work provides space for something new to emerge alongside the congregations of the Lehigh Valley.   We’re grateful for the opportunity to work together through MCC’s Community Service Worker initiative.”

Sanchez, who is also working half time at MCC as national director for their Summer Service Worker program, said what makes him most excited and hopeful about the new position is that he can serve alongside the next generation of Anabaptist leaders who God is raising up.

“I don’t know what the church will look like, but I trust that the Spirit is leading and at work in the lives of these young people in Allentown,” he said.

Conference focus groups provide feedback for national meetings

by Sheldon C. Good

Ertell WhighamTen leaders from Franconia Conference congregations voiced wide-ranging perspectives during two conference calls held recently to garner feedback on a controversial action taken by Mountain States Mennonite Conference earlier this year. In addition to those on the conference calls, about a dozen other leaders and delegates submitted written responses to Franconia Conference.

Franconia Conference executive minister Ertell Whigham convened the calls on March 15 and 16. His goal was to listen to leaders’ perspectives in preparation for a meeting of the Constituency Leadership Council, or CLC, of Mennonite Church USA held March 20-22 in North Newton, Kan.

In response to a decision by Mountain States to license a pastor in a committed same-sex relationship, the Executive Board of MC USA appointed a task force to frame questions for discussion at the CLC meeting. The conference calls included persons from across the conference invited to provide insight and counsel in preparation for the meeting.  Persons were chosen to represent a diversity of perspectives.  About half of those invited participated.

Whigham, moderator John Goshow, and board member Klaudia Smucker (Bally congregation) represented Franconia Conference at the CLC meeting.  Beny Krisbianto of Nations Worship Center also attended representing the Indonesian Mennonite Fellowship (a national group within Mennonite Church USA).

Whigham invited leaders on the calls to respond to three questions: What is your prayer for the leaders of our denomination and conference? What would be one important question that would represent the thoughts of the constituents within your congregation or community? What is one perspective of hope and one of challenge that you see within our denomination and our conference?

During the call Angela Moyer, co-pastor of RIPPLE in Allentown, Pa., said people in her congregation “have little to no awareness” about the discussions going on at the conference or denominational level.

“People at RIPPLE are concerned about having a place to sleep, food to eat, and friends that care about them,” she said in an interview reflecting on the conference call. “People know that RIPPLE is safe and caring; we treat one another with dignity as people and not statistics.  Other people on the conference call seemed surprised [when I said this] and appreciated this perspective.”

Prayers from those on the calls included that fellow church leaders would: be led by the Holy Spirit, continue to be humble, and allow Christ to be at the center of all decisions; continue to find ways to be faithful in the midst of difference; work toward unity and understanding; be bold and avoid perfectionism; be sensitive to the needs of church members; and maintain spiritual integrity and values while leading.

The leaders wondered what following Jesus in the 21st century looks like and how to respond faithfully to Micah 6:8. They wondered how many people would leave the church because of the Mountain States decision. Some expressed their hope for spaces where church members could be “real and vulnerable.” Hopes of the leaders revolved around how to practice faithful discipleship, right relationship, and the lordship of Christ. Challenges focused on whether unity is possible.

Similar themes emerged during the Kansas CLC meeting.

According to an article by Gordon Houser in TMail, Mennonite Church USA executive director Ervin Stutzman said that over the last few weeks he has received hundreds of emails, which he categorized into three groupings: 1) greater inclusion of LGBT individuals, 2) faithfulness to the traditional stance, and 3) unity. Stutzman called the CLC meetings “a referendum on the Membership Guidelines” that were adopted at Nashville 2001.

Those attending the CLC meetings, including Whigham, Goshow, Krisbianto and Smucker, participated in table-group discussion on a serious of questions related to Mountain States’ decision. The task force appointed by the MC USA Executive Board plans to draft a recommendation for consideration by the Executive Board at its June 26–28 meeting in Chicago.

The focus group invitations included credentialed and delegate representatives from 20 congregations.   Representatives from Bethany, Deep Run East, Doylestown, Finland, Franconia, Plains, Ripple, Salford and West Philadelphia participated in the calls.   Representatives from Boyertown, Blooming Glen, Line Lexington, Nueva Vida Norristown New Life, Philadelphia Praise, Rocky Ridge and Souderton congregations were also invited but unable to attend at the scheduled conference call times.  A few of those invitees who were unable to participate in the calls submitted written responses.

Youth groups move from charity to justice

by Angela Moyer, RIPPLE (Allentown, Pa.) & Ben Wideman, Salford (Harleysville, Pa.)

Salford and Ripple youthBen:  As Salford prepared to experience Mennonite Church USA’s biannual gathering in Phoenix, AZ we understood that this was going to be a different kind of experience.  We knew that there were a whole host of reasons that various churches were in favor of attending and not attending.  One of the dramatic factors of a trip to the Southwest was that several of our sister congregations would be unable to afford the travel expenses.

As we began to get a sense of what we could afford, and how much we could offer in support of other youth groups, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Angela share with a group of youth pastors that she was interested in taking a group from their congregation but needed financial assistance.  It seemed like perfect timing – not just for financial support, but for deepening relationships with a congregation we knew little about.

Angela:  The invitation for RIPPLE youth to join Salford’s youth group on their trip to Phoenix was a hope and a wish come true.  It was evidence that all of our talk about sharing power and resources had some feet.  And as we began to make plans and think about what it would take in order to make this a healthy and positive experience for both groups, I realized that this was going to be more than a simple act of generosity or charity.

I had no idea what it would be like for RIPPLE youth to experience Convention.  I knew that it would be different for them than for youth who grow up in fairly stable, middle class churches and communities but I could not anticipate what their experience would be.  What I did know was that they deserved the opportunity to go just as much as other youth, if not more.  As we began to make plans for how to make this a positive experience, we soon realized that it would be more than a one week event in Phoenix.  Relationships needed to be built prior to a week-long trip together.

Ben:  Angela and I were in agreement from the onset that this had to be a shared experience.  Salford had supported other churches in the past by simply writing a check, but this time our youth and sponsors wanted to have a deeper connection than that.  We knew that this would be challenging; the simple geographic barriers, nuanced cultural contexts, and busy schedules meant that we had to work to get just one or two opportunities on the calendar for the respective youth to connect with each other.

Angela:  Relationships between people with very different backgrounds take time and effort to develop.  After they’re developed, then true relationships need to be maintained at some level.  It’s one thing to receive one or two gifts graciously, but to continue to receive them is hard.  And to believe that the non-financial gifts that you have to offer back is just as valuable as money is hard too.

Then, in typical RIPPLE fashion, the needs grew faster than what I could keep up with.  Shortly after registering two youth and myself for Convention with Salford’s group, another responsible youth began attending and significantly contributing to RIPPLE.  Now what do we do about the youth trip to Convention?  Thankfully, in God’s abundance, Deep Run East Mennonite was willing to contribute finances for this third youth to attend Convention.

Ben:  It seems obvious now, but looking back, I was unaware of the complexity of planning a trip like this.  Families from both churches had life experiences come up that changed their summer plans.  Conference registration and payment is challenging enough for 20 people from one church.  Add in hotel reservations (and roommate assignments), plane tickets, airport transportation, and youth from a whole other church, and this trip became an interesting logistical challenge.

Angela:  But this was just the beginning of being overwhelmed with the gaps to be bridged between the two groups; this is why I think our collaborative effort begins to point towards justice rather than mere generosity.  The partnership between RIPPLE and Salford offered opportunity to those who otherwise would not have been able to engage, for both groups to learn from one another.  The relationship is ongoing; although one phase is over, much is still unfinished.  This collaboration was and continues to be overwhelming on a variety of layers requiring more than what can be anticipated and offered.  And yet this is the space where God’s Spirit seems to be moving and providing.

Ben:  The relationship between Salford and RIPPLE will continue to be a work in progress.  We are two sister congregations, but we are made up of a huge cross-section of families and perspectives.  Oftentimes it is uncomfortable to have to work through what it means to be relating to people beyond the walls of our church building, but we trust that there will be a blessing and growth in this process.  We hope to continue to build this relationship so that our youth will begin to see themselves as a part of something larger than our respective church family.  I hope Salford and RIPPLE (and many other churches too!) will reach a point where relating with people from other contexts is not simply tolerated, but expected and valued.

Celebrating ACLF

Last EMS History Sessionby John Tyson, Salford

A decade ago, Franconia Mennonite Conference leadership noticed a critical problem: seminary-trained leaders were increasingly in short supply. So when Delaware Valley Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), a conference-related ministry, turned over a well-funded college tuition scholarship program to the conference, a solution soon emerged.

Conrad Martin and Donella Clemens of Franconia Conference partnered with Henry Rosenberger and Dave Landis of MEDA to form a committee charged with developing a plan for the use of the newly-received asset. According to Rosenberger, it became quickly apparent that continuing to use the fund for its previous purpose of providing small college tuition scholarships was becoming less meaningful in light of the meteoric rise of college costs.

“At the same time in our Conference history, there seemed to be an increasing number of pastors being called to congregations with little or no Anabaptist training or cultural knowledge of Mennonites,” said Rosenberger. “Concern for the effects this lack of training had in our congregations, I believe, prompted the Board of MEDA to see this fund as a way to enhance the training for persons moving into leadership.”

As a result, the Area Conference Leadership Fund (ACLF) was born. Future leaders from both the Franconia and Eastern District conferences now had a new financial option to help address the costs of seminary and higher education. The committee chose to accept ACLF applications from members in both the Franconia and Eastern District conferences to recognize the involvement of the two conferences in Delaware Valley MEDA.

In 2002, the first scholarships were disbursed and over the past decade, 60 leaders have received financial assistance from the fund. Soon, scholarship recipients began to reflect emerging shifts in the leadership demographics of Franconia Conference: twenty percent of recipients were people of color and one-third of recipients were women. The ACLF allowed Franconia Conference to invest in the future.

As Franconia Conference’s director of communication and leadership cultivation, Stephen Kriss immediately recognized the value of ACLF. “The amazing thing is how many people ACLF assisted who are serving the church both within and beyond Franconia and Eastern District conferences. These gifts were amazing investments in current and future leadership. ACLF enabled us to call forth, train, and equip dozens of leaders effectively, generously, open-handedly,” said Kriss.

Angela Moyer graduation
Angela Moyer graduated from Eastern Mennonite Seminary last year. Photo by Julie Siegfried.

Recipients of ACLF scholarships appreciate the confidence and support of the broader church community.  For Angela Moyer, a member of the pastoral team of Ripple congregation, (Allentown, Pa.), the support of ACLF provided the freedom to explore seminary at a comfortable pace. “I never thought I would go to seminary. I started by just taking two classes at a time—I just had a few questions… I had no interest in pursuing a graduate degree. Little did I know how formative seminary would be in finding my identity as a pastor. Receiving funds from the ACLF was the broader church community nudging me, telling me it was okay to pursue this call even when I didn’t believe it myself.”

As the Lead Pastor of Salford congregation (Harleysville, Pa.), Joe Hackman believes that his leadership abilities have been significantly nurtured by the ACLF scholarship. “The ACLF fund allowed me to feel the support of the wider church community. The financial investment the church made for my education has helped me enter into my current leadership role with a greater sense of preparedness and confidence.”

In the words of Rosenberger, a core aspect of the original ACLF vision is to ensure that emerging “leadership was firmly based in Anabaptist theology and nonresistance.” This vision is coming to fruition in the work of Beny Krisbianto, Lead Pastor of Nations Worship Center (Philadelphia). “ACLF is helping me to finish my Capstone Project at Eastern Mennonite Seminary. My capstone project has taught me how to believe that ‘The Culture of Peace’ is still possible,” says Krisbianto. “Inspired by the struggles, prejudices, and broken relationships in my context of ministry in Philadelphia, peace is not theory, too big or unrealistic, but it is God’s calling and it does still work today.”

Despite occasional contributions, the size of the ACLF scholarship was considerably reduced in 2012 and leaders will no longer have access to substantial ACLF scholarships. This, however, does not mean that there is no longer a need for talented future church leaders. According to the Conrad Martin, Franconia Conference’s director of finance, the need for future church leaders is still there, as is the need to assist them financially so that they can pursue a quality Anabaptist education. Contributions into the ACLF continue to be welcomed.