Tag Archives: Eastern Mennonite Seminary

We Need Each Other

By Maria Hosler Byler, Associate Pastor for Youth and Family Faith Formation at Salford Mennonite

“The extent to which we are surprised by the results of the election demonstrates the poverty of our relationships. The extent to which we don’t understand the need for immigration reform demonstrates the poverty of our relationships.” As I listened to Dr. Christena Cleveland at Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s School for Leadership Training (SLT), I was struck yet again by a consistent theme: we need each other, in all our differences, to glimpse the power of God and join in the work of God in the world.

One of the things I love about SLT is that it turns people of authority into students for a few days. The ones I’m used to seeing up front at conference and denominational events are sitting and listening, taking notes and asking questions. At SLT, we participants — the majority of us white church leaders with a significant amount of agency in our daily lives  — learned from keynote speakers Dr. Cleveland and Drew Hart about race in society. We were called to take our turn “at the foot of the table,” as Dr. Cleveland said.  That’s how we really live into Jesus’ upside-down kingdom.

Using illustrations from scripture and their lives, the speakers explored the depth of race’s impact on our society. They explored how our racialized society maintains itself and why it’s so hard for white people to see and confront racism — why we need people with a “view from the underside,” in Hart’s words, to recognize it. They called the largely white audience to recognize how we’ve been socialized into racial bias, and that Jesus never called us to shame but to repentance and new life together.  Dr. Cleveland showed us by example how to notice privilege in our own lives.  We were being tutored in how to reach beyond ourselves as a demonstration of respect and also of our need.

But it’s not just that we need each other’s perspective, or that we need to learn from one another to understand Jesus’ message.  No, we each have a role to play in dismantling racism, wherever we are.  When we’re uncomfortable we can benefit by staying at the table and continuing the conversation.  In fact, that’s what we were doing at the conference: listening, learning, checking our assumptions and discerning our next steps. One conference attendee asked Drew Hart, “What can I do about racism in my predominantly white community?” and Hart responded, “You’re right at the center of the action!”  Throughout the conference I heard calls to learn and act right where we are, building relationships with our literal neighbors.  I attended a workshop where we practiced listening to people we disagreed with.  In another workshop we discussed what it means to “seek the peace of the city” where you are (Jer. 29:7) and spent some time brainstorming for our own contexts.

I left SLT with a clear sense of my need for others’ perspectives, and also of my ability to make a difference where I am.  And I came home with new questions: Who might I need to listen to better in order to gain a fuller understanding of Jesus?  Where might my privilege be causing me to miss an important lesson?  And how can I stay true to what I’ve learned about power and justice right here in my daily life?

For more of this year’s School for Leadership Training check out Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s article: “School for Leadership Training addresses pastoral responses to a racialized and divided America”

“Where in the world?”: a glimpse into the work of a conference minister

by Sharon Williams

In the early 90s, a popular children’s television game show called “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” was broadcast on PBS. The show was based on a series of computer games designed to help viewers sharpen their geography skills.

In Franconia Conference, you could ask a similar question—“Where in the world is Steve Kriss?”—and in the process, learn many wonderful things about people and congregations of Franconia Conference. You’ll need a map of the east coast of the United States to trace Steve’s travels; geographical stretch, in Steve’s case, is an understatement.

Steve preaches often with the congregations the he serves alongside as LEADership minister. On February 22,  Steve preached twice in South Philly with Adrian Suryajaya who interpreted into Indonesian, first at Philadelphia Praise Center then at Indonesian Light Church. The congregations are about a half mile apart but reach different communities due to worship style and cultural backgrounds. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.
Steve preaches often with the congregations the he serves alongside as LEADership minister. On February 22, Steve preached twice in South Philly with Adrian Suryajaya who interpreted into Indonesian, first at Philadelphia Praise Center then at Indonesian Light Church. The congregations are about a half mile apart but reach different communities due to worship style and cultural backgrounds. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

Steve carries LEADership minister responsibilities for 12 congregations, located as far north as Vermont and as far south as Georgia. Currently, four of the congregations are in pastoral search processes, and another is working on a pastoral review. Steve’s goal is to nurture healthy relationships with all the congregations he walks alongside.

Next, watch for the locations of new congregations. Steve is often involved with helping them to launch their ministries and build connections in the conference and denomination.

“It’s a privilege to walk with them. I enjoy the energy and enthusiasm they bring to God’s work,” Steve says. Right now, Steve works with three new congregations emerging in South Philly.

Some of the congregations Steve works with are in the same area, such as the Lehigh Valley trio of Whitehall Mennonite Church, Ripple and Vietnamese Gospel Mennonite Church.

“Networking, creativity, and thinking outside the box are some of Steve’s greatest gifts,” says Rose Bender, pastor of the Whitehall congregation. “He’s always asking, ‘What might God be doing here? ‘How can we dream God’s vision?’ He sees the big picture and helps us make vital connections. Each conference staff person has a niche and expertise to offer us. These are the things our congregation appreciates about our relationship with Steve.”

At the new conference center on the campus of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, Steve serves with the conference board’s ministerial committee as its staff person. This group guides the licensing and ordaining processes for new ministers and cares for credential transfers when ministers move in and out of the conference. The committee also provides continuing education for credentialed leaders. In this role, Steve also provides coordination among the LEADership ministers.

On the road again, Steve preaches usually twice a month around the conference, and handles all manner of inquiries about congregational leadership.

If you watch closely, you might find young adults and new pastors “on location” with Steve. Mentoring is an important part of cultivating leaders for the church. You will find him teaching in a classroom for Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s satellite classrooms in Philadelphia, Norristown, or Souderton. Sometimes his many travels double as field trips.

Look behind the scenes, too. As director of the conference’s communication team, Steve’s travels around the conference inform the planning and writing for Intersectings (the conference e-zine), Intersections (the newsletter), the conference’s website and other communication tools. The goal is to help make connections in the conference, and raise awareness of what is happening conference-wide.

In any given week, Steve may be found in enough places to highlight in a half-hour game show from Blooming Glen, Pennsylvania to Bridgewater Corners, Vermont or Sky Cafe in South Philly. But these travels mean more than that; they’re part of cultivating God’s dream in all of the places the people of Franconia conference live, work and worship.

Sharon K. Williams is a musician, editor and congregational/non-profit consultant. She serves the Lord with the Nueva Vida Norristown New Life congregation as minister of worship.

Bringing Scripture to life

Corinthians
Two “members” of Chloe’s house church preside over the bread and juice served at the agape meal held at the end of a chapel service at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Va.

by Reta Halteman Finger, Harrisonburg, Va.

As a little girl growing up at Salford Mennonite Church, I remember my father telling stories directly from the Bible to me and my younger brother Jimmy. After a particularly dramatic or gruesome account, Jimmy would gasp, “Did that really happen?”

“Oh, yes!” the literal-minded Wilmer Halteman would affirm.

In my teens I would help teach the pre-schoolers during Summer Bible School at Salford. One story stands out: the calling of the boy Samuel. “Be very quiet! Samuel is sleeping. Can you hear someone calling his name?”

Though I inherited a love of scripture from my dad, I never imagined for many years that one could make a career out of teaching it. In those growing-up decades, I suppose being born female didn’t help either.

Through my adult years of working with children (including my own) and high school students and editing a small magazine, I pursued my interests in Bible and theology on the side, usually one or two courses at a time. Finally, pondering what to do with the second half of life, I entered a doctoral program in New Testament at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, not far from my home in Chicago.

I wanted to study with Dr. Robert Jewett, a Pauline scholar at Garrett. But Romans was the only course he offered that fall of 1991. I was not pleased! I was more interested in the archeology and social backgrounds of Paul’s letters than what I assumed was the more tedious systematic theology of Romans.

Imagine my shock at our first class when Jewett read and discussed his paper on “Paul, Phoebe, and the Mission to Spain”! I didn’t know Spain was mentioned in the New Testament, and I didn’t have a clue about Phoebe’s immense importance in Paul’s missionary plans.

In class after class, I was stunned by this new perspective on Romans. The previously boring list of 29 names in Romans 16 now became living characters from five different house churches, including 9 women leaders.

“How come I never learned this in Sunday school?” I would lament. Finally I realized that this material had been so recently researched that no layperson was learning it anywhere. But could it be taught in Sunday school? Is there a way to re-create these little house churches so Christians can imagine their way back into the earliest Jesus Movement and thus better understand what Paul said and how to apply it today?

Thus was born the idea that eventually became Paul and the Roman House Churches: A Simulation (Herald Press, 1993). It was set up to be used in Sunday school, as well as in other settings. I taught New Testament 14 years at Messiah College until retiring in 2009. Each fall, my Encountering the Bible class of incoming first-year students role-played the five house churches in Romans 16 for a month. Each student played a different character—Jew or Gentile, liberal or conservative, poor or not-so-poor. We’d end with a Roman meal complete with costumes, candles, communion, and a lentil-ham option to tempt the observant Jews!

I always wanted to write another simulation for 1 Corinthians—a far more juicy, earthy letter. Several years ago, a long-time friend, George McClain, and I decided to work on this together. As we wrote and rewrote, I was teaching 1 Corinthians at Eastern Mennonite Seminary and also in Sunday school at my present congregation, Community Mennonite in Harrisonburg, VA. We simulated just one larger house church, divided into four argumentative factions. Each of us heard Paul very differently depending on what social class and religious background we came from. As we lived into our characters, the time gap between then and now would narrow, and often I would hear participants say at the end of a role-play, “Wow! This sounds just like my church!”

Today we are so pleased that MennoMedia is helping us reach a wider audience through Creating a Scene in Corinth: A Simulation (Herald Press, 2013) and I am returning to my old stomping grounds to teach a class based on our book for Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Pennsylvania campus.  My father’s love of scripture has borne fruit in me as I seek to help the letters of Paul come alive for my students, stepping back into the world of the first century, a world that is still relevant today.

*****

Join Reta’s Corinthians class, which will run bi-weekly on Fridays, September 13 to December 20 at the Mennonite Conference Center in Harleysville, Pa.  For more information, visit Eastern Mennonite Seminary, PA’s website.

Congrats to this year’s seminary grads!

Danilo Sanchez graduated from EMS this yearCongratulations to our Franconia Conference seminary graduates this year. Our conference had five individuals graduate from Eastern Mennonite Seminary: Danilo Sanchez (pictured), Boyertown congregation, graduated with a Master of Divinity; Scott Hackman, Salford congregation, graduated with a Master of Arts in Church Leadership; Emily Ralph, Salford congregation, graduated with a Master of Arts in Religion; Anne Yoder, West Philadelphia congregation, graduated with a certificate in ministry; and Tom Albright, Ripple congregation, graduated with a certificate in ministry.


HARRISONBURG, VA — The following Franconia Conference students were recognized as members of the dean’s list for the spring semester at Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va.

Madeline Clemens, a first-year business administration major from Harleysville, Pa. She is the daughter of Douglas and Rebecca Clemens and attends Blooming Glen.

Hannah Clemmer, a senior psychology major from Harleysville, Pa. She is the daughter of Michael Clemmer and attends Towamencin.

Jonathan Drescher-Lehman, a junior biology major from Green Lane, Pa. He is the son of Jon and Sandy Drescher-Lehman and attends Souderton.

Anna Hershey, a senior biology major from Harleysville, Pa. She is the daughter of James and Brenda Hershey and attends Salford.

Brianna Kauffman, a first-year accounting major from Harleysville, Pa. She is the daughter of Steven and Lisa Kauffman and attends Franconia.

Laura Keppley, a senior biology and music major double-major from Boyertown, Pa. She is the daughter of Carl and Alice Keppley and attends Perkiomenville.

Morgan Kratz, a sophomore social work major from Souderton, Pa. She is the daughter of Douglas and Marice Kratz and attends Plains.

Samuel Moyer, a senior nursing major from Harrisonburg, Va. He is the son of Stephen and Naomi Moyer and attends Bethany.

Megan Nafziger, a sophomore nursing major from Mohnton, Pa. She is the daughter of Don and Rose Nafziger and attends Vincent.

Benjamin Nyce, a senior liberal arts and kinesiology & sport studies double-major from Perkasie, Pa. He is the ons of Timothy and Teresa Nyce and attends Deep Run East.

Matthew Nyce, a sophomore Spanish major from Perkasie, Pa. He is the son of Timothy and Teresa Nyce and attends Deep Run East.

Konrad Swartz, a senior English and writing studies double-major from Spring City, Pa. He is the son of Timothy and Rachel Martin Swartz and attends Salford.

Ryan Swartzendruber, a sophomore mathematics major from Sellersville, Pa. He is the son of Conrad and Sharon Swartzendruber and attends Plains.

Aaron Wile, a first-year psychology major from Telford, Pa. He is the son of Daniel and Kristi Wile and attends Franconia.

To qualify for the dean’s list a student must achieve a semester grade point average of at least 3.750 or above and complete at least 12 semester hours of credit.

Eastern Mennonite University is a Christian liberal arts university of about 1,500 students, located in Virginia’s scenic Shenandoah Valley. EMU is guided by the peace principles of Mennonite Church USA, educating students to serve and lead in a global context through cross-cultural study and an interdisciplinary curriculum. Established in 1917, the university offers over 40 undergraduate majors and six graduate programs offering nine master’s degrees. Eastern Mennonite Seminary is part of the university, as is the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.  See more at: emu.edu/about.

Imagine Church as Healing Space

EMS SLT 2013
Vice President and Seminary Dean Michael A. King addressed the gathering crowd during opening worship at the 2013 School for Leadership Training.

by Joan & Michael King, Salford

We tend to see mental illness as something that happens out there, to stigmatized strangers on the fringe of our churches, when in fact mental illness affects our families, friends, loved ones, congregants, and many of us personally. In short, mental illness is experienced by everyone in church communities – by “us” and our loved ones, not just by “them.”

This was a theme of the 2013 School for Leadership Training (SLT) at Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS), Jan. 21-23, which was titled “Imagine Church as Healing Space.” The event attracted over 270 participants and resource persons who sought to “hear, hold, and hope” amid mental health challenges.

Hosted and planned by EMS, the event felt historic: multiple participants said this was the first time in a public church context they had felt part of the group, not in spite of but because of their depression, anxiety, bipolar diagnosis, schizophrenia, and more. This was the first time they had felt normalized, not stigmatized, with their journey held in love, not primarily met with silence or marginalization. We see that experience, so easy to report but so rarely experienced, as a key gift the 2013 SLT offered.

Hearing from those with mental and those who love them

A second gift was space to tell and hear the pain mental illness causes both its sufferers and those who love them. Earl and Pat Martin offered searingly moving glimpses of their journey through their son Hans Martin’s development of symptoms of schizo-affective disorder.

Earl shared journal entries he had written during the sleepless nights after Hans was first hospitalized. In these contemporary psalms of lament, Earl raged at a pitiless God who treats his creatures like vermin, snapping off their limbs, leaving them soaked in their own blood. Earl railed at this God as the sick one who should get treatment for insanity. He reported that after he stopped writing of his own volition, spent, his pen kept going and offered words from God, who said that God’s own son was in fact in treatment and was the roommate in a neighboring bed whom Earl had feared would hurt Hans.

Not a cheap hope

A third gift was hope. This was not a cheap hope. Many at SLT, from participants through resource persons, told of confronting the anguish caused by suicide. To name just one example, in a laughter-yet-tear-stirring blending of drama and storytelling, Ted Swartz told of his journey through his comedy partner Lee Eshleman’s battle with depression and of how the suicide to which it drove Lee so shattered Ted’s own life and career that years have gone into rebuilding. Yet precisely in this heartrendingly open naming of the torment, Ted offered hope—hope for himself and hope for those still grieving the loss of their own loved ones.

Hope was also movingly offered through stories of persons seeking to live recovery-focused lives even amid the diagnosed illnesses once thought to be themselves virtual death or at least imprisonment-in-miserable-conditions sentences. John Otenasek, himself a “consumer,” as he put it, in recovery, led a panel of men (including Hans Martin) and women who told of enduring addictions, joblessness, homelessness, and more. Yet they also spoke of finding hope—often from peers confronting their own illnesses—enabling them to live meaningful and even joy-tinged lives while navigating ongoing bi-polar episodes or hearing voices.

And hope was offered when Tilda Norberg modeled what can happen when we attend to the “God icons” in our lives and dreams. She risked a live Gestalt pastoral counseling session with a courageous Sherill Hostetter. Drawing on insights from one of Sherill’s recent dreams, Norberg led Sherill in working through how her mother’s undiagnosed and untreated mental illness had affected her as a child and even now as a leader.  She more fully claimed her own empowered voice as a recently ordained minister and congregational consultant.

Recovery, love and acceptance

Fittingly enough, just days after the 2013 SLT concluded, the New York Times published a hope-filled article on Jan. 27, 2013 by Elyn R. Saks, diagnosed with schizophrenia yet a successful law professor at the University of Southern California. As did many at SLT influenced by the recovery movement in mental health, Saks stressed, “An approach that looks for individual strengths, in addition to considering symptoms, could help dispel the pessimism surrounding mental illness. Finding ‘the wellness within the illness,’ as one person with schizophrenia said, should be a therapeutic goal.”

In a conclusion that movingly echoes the convictions SLT participants took with them, Saks reported: “’Every person has a unique gift or unique self to bring to the world,’ said one of our study’s participants. She expressed the reality that those of us who have schizophrenia and other mental illnesses want what everyone wants: in the words of Sigmund Freud, to work and to love.”

Claiming our stories

When we checked with the Martins to make sure our references to their stories were acceptable, Pat said, “One of the SLT statements that stuck with me… pulled us all into the common task of being human: ‘Recovery is about claiming one’s story. The tools are the same for all of us whether struggling with mental illness or an overwhelming job.’” At EMS we’ll continue to ponder how, whatever the details of our stories may be, we help each other claim them.

Joan K. King is senior integration consultant, The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, and owner of Joan K. King Consulting and Counseling LLC. Michael A. King is dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary and a vice president of Eastern Mennonite University.

To “Mennonite” when we’re each other’s enemies

To Mennonite Blog #11

by Michael A. King, dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary (Salford)

Michael King
Photo provided by Eastern Mennonite University

Pondering what it may mean “to Mennonite” reminds me of a friend who leads a state agency serving persons with disabilities. Just returned from Washington, D.C., he reported a grim picture: the likelihood that a divided Congress won’t get its act together to release funds his agency relies on. Any cuts will hurt people with faces I cherish, because my friend has come to lead this agency as an outgrowth of love for his own children with Down Syndrome.

I found our conversation chilling. Has it come to this? Are we so divided we can’t find common ground even to support persons with disabilities?

This is not to minimize complexities; it’s appropriate to ponder the roles of, say, government versus church in caring for “the least of these.” But my friend works tirelessly to raise funds from church folk—yet they provide a fraction of the needed revenue.

So how have we reached a juncture at which even seeing some role for government to play in funding my friend’s agency—why should my taxes support those takers!—may pull me into the vortex of mutual hate which seems the only thing we now know how to build together?

My point isn’t to argue specifics of one more divisive matter. It’s to grieve what seems our loss of ability to work across legitimate differences to discern solutions. And it’s to suspect that an important meaning of “to Mennonite” in such bitter times is for us to learn and maybe model what love amid division can look like.

From our beginnings Mennonites have sought a “third way,” an understanding of Bible, faith, and life that doesn’t quite fit into Protestant or Roman Catholic categories though it can enrich and be enriched by both. Key to third-way understandings has been unusual passion to take Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount literally. This in turn has led Mennonites to believe that Jesus actually meant for us to love even enemies (Matt. 5:44)—here, now, concretely.

Perhaps our most prominent expression of such love has been through conscientious objection to killing enemies in wartime, and this remains a vital Mennonite conviction. Increasingly, however, I wonder if we risk so focusing on enemies out there that we fail to learn how to love the enemies we make of each other.

When we differ over today’s hot issues we seem ever more inclined not to treat persons who hold different views as fellow pilgrims seeking, with us, to hear God’s voice amid our common finitudes and frailties. We seem ever less inclined to trust that God could be threaded through any view other than our own. Rather, we seem ever more ready to believe that if you hold a view other than mine you are my enemy.

Maybe with so much alienation swirling, the one who is not my friend is, precisely, my enemy. But even if we accept such a troubling conclusion, to Mennonite our way through it may then be to ask what it means to love the viewpoint opponents we have made our enemies.

Amid my own limitations of vision, let me not offer a formula for navigating such complicated terrain. Yet let me at least suggest that to Mennonite our way through a time in which we turn even other Christians and Mennonites—not to mention, say, atheists or Muslims or Republicans or Democrats—into enemies is to find ways to repay even what we consider evil with good (Rom. 12:21).

When I was growing up, I saw my parents model what such Mennoniting might look like: no matter how much they might disagree with a person’s beliefs or choices, precisely because they always took seriously that even the enemy was to be loved, they always spied treasure in the other. It might be tarnished; it might need polishing; the light of Christ might barely brighten it. But it was there—and thus was something even in the enemy that could be cherished, learned from, not merely vanquished. I would like to try Mennoniting like that in today’s world and see where it takes me and us.

Our summer blog series will soon be wrapping up.  Have there been any insights that have touched you, made you think, connected with your experience?  How do you “Mennonite”?  Join the conversation on Facebook & Twitter (#fmclife) or by email.

Who am I?  (To Mennonite Blog #1)
Serving Christ with our heads and hands (To Mennonite Blog #2)
Quiet rebellion against the status quo (To Mennonite Blog #3)
Mennoniting my way (To Mennonite Blog #4)
Generations Mennoniting together (To Mennonite Blog #5)
Body, mind, heart … and feet (To Mennonite Blog #6)
We have much more to offer (To Mennonite Blog #7)
Mennonite community … and community that Mennonites (To Mennonite Blog #8)
Observing together what God is saying and doing (To Mennonite Blog #9)
Simple obedience (To Mennonite Blog #10)

Reflections for the future Church

by Scott Hackman, Salford

Post-Christendom class 2012
Bobby Wibowo (Philadelphia Praise Center), Dorcas Lehman, Tracy and Barbara Brown, Scott Hackman (Salford), and instructor Steve Kriss (Franconia Conference director of leadership cultivation) traveled to the UK last month to study Anabaptism in a Post-Christendom context.

The Anabaptist movement has re-emerged in Post-Christendom Europe and it may give American Mennonites insight into our future.

Last month, I participated in a cross-cultural class through Eastern Mennonite Seminary that took us to Bristol, Birmingham, and London, England.  There my classmates and I saw glimpses of hope from the UK Anabaptist movement, where people are asking basic questions about the purpose of church and joining God’s mission of restoration in their context.

Post-Christendom is the transition from the church as the center of power in society to the church on the margins of society. This is often manifested in the embrace of other religions, even as Christianity is declining.  The Muslim faith community is growing rapidly in England; an estimated 50% of people attend a Mosque every week.

We went on walking tours to observe what God was doing in the context of each city and how the church was participating.  On one of these tours, after a late walk in the rain, we found a cab to take us back to our lodging.  The cab driver asked me if I was a Christian from America.  I disclosed my identity with hesitation but he looked at me and said, “Did you see me come out of that Mosque where I was praying? I am Muslim and I want you to know we are not all violent people.”

“I am a Christian from America and I don’t support our wars against your people,” I responded.  In that moment I began to understand our Post-Christendom context, where I could express my identity and have a conversation with my “enemy,” and all because he modeled this transparency with me.

Cross-cultural trip 2012
Class members investigate a peace garden in the center of Birmingham that stands on a site where a church was bombed during World War II. Photo by Scott Hackman.

On a walking tour in Bristol, we passed a church building that has been re-purposed into apartments and yet another that was used as an elderly care facility.  In London, the former church buildings were used for music venues and community centers.  These buildings stand as monuments to an era when the church shared power with the state.  As this authority is shifting, followers of Jesus are seeing “church” less as a place of worship and more as a practicing community on mission in its local context.

Anabaptists in the UK are asking different questions than the Mennonites of my faith community back home.  In one London neighborhood with 90,000 residents, for example, only about .5% of people enter a church each week.  We met with the community’s Christians, who asked, “What does the Gospel look like in this context?”  After years of prayer and hard work developing relationships with their neighbors, they built a playground in the middle of a marginalized community.

These Anabaptists are asking hard questions: What does the Gospel look like in our neighborhood?  What is church when no one understands the basic story of Christianity?  Who is the church for?   In their persistent engagement, I saw a glimpse of the kingdom; I am encouraged to ask these kinds of tough questions in my context, too.

As I return home, I continue to ponder what I heard and saw.  Our neighbors aren’t going to engage in the future church if they can’t bring who they really are to the community of faith.   They yearn to belong to a faith community before they will believe or behave differently.  They’re not going to believe in a loving God if they aren’t loved.  They’re not going to respond to the Gospel if it’s not a liberating move of love in their lives.

Anabaptist followers of Jesus in England have given us a glimpse into our future and it’s one that fills me with grief and hope: grief because of the pain we have caused in the name of Jesus through our colonialism and patriarchy and hope because people are expressing the Gospel message and following Jesus outside of the systems and hierarchy of religion.  They are being and becoming the people of God—church—in a context we have not yet but still may encounter as America moves towards its own version of Post-Christendom.

Scott Hackman is part of the missional team at Doylestown Mennonite Church and a student at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, PA campus.  He has received assistance in his education through the Area Conference Leadership Fund—to learn more about the ACLF or to make a contribution, click here.

A Combined Call

Kirby Kingby Kirby King, Minister of Adult Formation at Souderton Mennonite Church

To speak about call in my life for church work requires that I speak about my call to teach at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School (Dock) as well as my call to become a licensed leader of adult formation at Souderton Mennonite Church. Both calls are so intertwined that I cannot separate them.

As a student at Lancaster Mennonite High School in the early ’80s I began to see myself as a person who could possibly have gifts in presentation and publicly leading or teaching a group. This is largely due to several teachers who gave me an opportunity to explore the “stage” of the classroom with presentations. My youth group at Maple Grove Mennonite Church complimented this by opening up leadership roles for me; specifically leading/teaching Bible study. A call was beginning to form inside me from those around me.

Fast-forward a few years, Laura Stoltzfus challenged me to go to college and become a teacher. I shared this with a small group and found support and encouragement. Again, the words from brothers and sisters of the faith sparked an internal call.

At present I have been teaching at Christopher Dock for 19 years. Even though I have completed my Master of Arts in Education, I have enrolled in Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS) to work toward a second Master’s degree. I feel an internal call to continue my education but this call is also tested and confirmed by my colleagues at Dock, my professors at EMS, and my peers at church.

Over the past two years, my work in my congregation (Souderton Mennonite Church) has blended smoothly with my professional teaching career. I have been assisting and leading in the adult Sunday School classes as a support person, class room teacher, and mass session leader. I also have added what I can to the preaching rotation; some during the summer months and some during a pastor’s sabbatical leave.

Souderton Mennonite Church recently asked me to accept a call to become our first leader of adult formation. This fits well with my internal call to teach and my full time occupation at Dock. I remain open to God’s leading in this new role. Based on my experience with God’s call, some future calls will stir up within me and some future calls will be clarified or brought to light from those around me. My prayer is that I hear and listen to God’s call as this new role develops.

STEP Pastoral Training Expanding

Pictured: Luc Pham and Khon Tran. Photo provided.

The STEP pastoral training program looks to grow in 2012 by forming two new cohorts of students simultaneously in both Philadelphia and Lancaster, Pa. for fall semester.

“Starting two cohorts of STEP students in one year signals another adventure for us,” remarked Mark R. Wenger, STEP program director.  “We are very pleased to see how STEP is addressing the urgent need for basic high-quality pastoral training of those in congregational leadership.”

The STEP pastoral training program emerged in 2004 in response to the need to provide more flexible, non-traditional Anabaptist ministry preparation.  STEP will hold its sixth annual graduation on May 12, 2012 for a cohort of students completing the three-year, part-time program.

The program first expanded from its Lancaster base in 2010 by working together with Anabaptist congregations in Philadelphia.  Those congregations are requesting an additional urban cohort.

Pictured: Fernando Loyola, Daniel Lopez, & Lam Nguyen. Photo provided.

The STEP curriculum is designed for adult learners in part-time study.  Actual ministry practice, coupled with assignments and teaching by experienced pastors, forms the basis for lively learning in community.

Each of the three years of STEP yields ten undergraduate credits at EMU.  Classes meet on Saturdays, once a month.  Students drive to class from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Ohio.

STEP is jointly owned by Eastern Mennonite University and Lancaster Mennonite Conference.  More information.

Global Faith: Local Context Class scheduled for March 2012 at the Mennonite Heritage Center

The Mennonite Heritage Center, 565 Yoder Road, Harleysville, announces a class on “Global Faith: Local Context” scheduled for Thursday evening March 1, 8, 15, and 22, 2012 from 6:30-9:15 pm. The course, sponsored by Eastern Mennonite University Seminary, will be taught by Dr. Derek Cooper, assistant professor of Biblical Studies and Historical Theology at Biblical Seminary, Hatfield, Pa.

The Global Faith class will discuss the four most influential and global non-Christian faiths by focusing on the history, sacred texts, and key events and persons associated with these religions. It also will explore how these religions are not just isolated or in far-away places, but how they are alive and thriving in our local contexts.

Participants can receive a continuing education unit for the course through Eastern Mennonite University.  Pre registration is required and is due by February 24, 2012. The cost of the course, including the continuing education credit, is $65. Those wishing to audit the course may do so for $55.  No refunds are given unless the class is canceled for insufficient enrollment.  The following book: A World Religions Reader by Ian Markham and Christy Lohr (3rd Ed. Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) is required for students taking the class for the 1 CEU credit through EMU and is suggested for those not taking this class for credit.  Due to the book’s expense, participants may want to purchase it used or to share it with another student. For information and to register for the course, contact the Mennonite Heritage Center at: www.mhep.org, email info@mhep.org or call 215-256-3020.