The Red Bandanna Service award is given to an individual or group who has shown initiative and dedication in support of children in need. In addition to his work as pastor at Garden Chapel (Dover, NJ), he also works at a local state university and spends his time mentoring youth in the community. He can be found playing basketball with them, just hanging out, even assisting them in finding treatment for addiction and walking with them through court proceedings. We are blessed to have Pastor Tim and Garden Chapel as a part of our Franconia family! Read more about Pastor Tim and the award he received here: http://www.nj.com/messenger-gazette/index.ssf/2016/09/red_bandanna_service_award_to_be_given_to_the_rev_timothy_hart.html .
A member at Methacton Mennonite Church, Tiana Martinez, was stirred to action by a sermon delivered by a guest speaker, Pastor Juan Marrero from Crossroads Community Center in Philadelphia, a ministry to those in recovery or recently released from prison who need a place to stay. Pastor Juan noted a need for blankets, and Tiana felt the Spirit’s nudge. She set a goal to donate 100 afghans to Crossroads by December 2015 thus launching, “One Stitch at a Time Ministry.” Tiana wondered is others across Franconia Conference would be interested in joining her in this endeavor. She contact her LEADership Minister, Jenifer Eriksen Morales, who helped Tiana connect with other congregations. So far, members of Methacton, Alpha, and Garden Chapel are working together to meet this goal. Participants were able to gather together to crochet and fellowship with each other, building relationships based in ministry between congregations.
The Missional Operations Grant helped to cover the cost of yarn and other necessary supplies to support One Stitch at a Time.
Garden Chapel has a thriving children’s ministry that has grown out of their flourishing summer camp, community garden club, and a music ministry with community children. As more and more children form the community have become involved in the church there is a growing need to connect with their parents who are largely Spanish speakers.
The Missional Operations Grant provided by Franconia Conference to Garden Chapel is to support he congregations partnership with local pastor, Hector Quinones, who has a heart for the immigrant community. In addition, the grant will provide leadership and intercultural training, written materials in Spanish, aid for bi-lingual service and to support a monthly Spanish service.
By Colin Ingram
Courtney Drew thought all she was doing was helping to set-up and decorate the room of her Grandmother’s elementary school class a few days before school started. She was in middle school at the time and was not expecting the onslaught of thank-you notes she received from the students. From that time on, Courtney desired to be a teacher.
As an elementary and special education major at Delaware State University, Courtney has learned a lot about teaching. Through the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) summer service program, she is now applying what she has learned in the classroom to her work as the assistant director for Garden Chapel’s summer camp in Dover, New Jersey. Her program supervisor is Garden Chapel member Amy Zorilla.
“I start my student teaching soon, so I really feel like this is preparing me to become a teacher because I have different age groups and there’s always a conflict—someone who’s not paying attention or maybe doesn’t concentrate as easily,” Courtney said. “It’s up to me to find a way to keep everyone engaged and make them want to be involved.”
According to Courtney, the overall goal of the camp is to reinforce the Christian faith of the children.
As the assistant director, along with director Vison McCrae, she is responsible for the smooth running of the camp. Some of her responsibilities include filling out paperwork, handling and making registration forms and permission slips, operating parent and camper orientations, and camp counseling.
The six-week Garden Chapel Summer Camp runs from June 29 to August 7. About 25 campers ages 5 to 12 gather from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. The camp operates as two three-week sessions. The kids are from the church and surrounding community.
“I learned from Courtney how to discipline the kids better than I could have on my own and show them to do what they are supposed to,” counselor Ashely Smith said.
When she’s not calming kids or settling their disputes as a counselor, she is helping run the camp activities. The kids learn drama lessons at theatre, make crafts in art lessons, watch movies, play basketball, and jump on a moon bounce during free time. Each day campers have a devotion time before attending two separate Bible studies for older and younger kids. Overseeing the activities has helped prepare her as a teacher to lead children.
“Her authority with the kids makes me think of her as a leader,” counselor Michael McCall said. “She knows what to do and what to say.”
Courtney discovered the MCC service program when she was looking for grants to use for Garden Chapel’s camp. In past summers, Courtney was a camp counselor for Peer Place camp programs.
by Jenifer Eriksen Morales
The first Sunday Michelle came to worship with Kairos Community, she reached into her bag and pulled out a beautiful purple hand crocheted shawl. “I hope it’s ok if I wear this,” Michelle said as she draped it over her shoulders. “I use it all the time,” she added. “It helps me feel close to God; like I’m wrapped in God’s warm beautiful love.”
I recognized the prayer shawl. Michelle and her family had a difficult year. In December I invited her to join me in attending Souderton Mennonite Church’s longest night service for those experiencing loss and pain. During that service, Michelle received anointing, prayer, and the shawl from pastors Sandy Drescher-Lehman and Tami Good. As Michelle gathered for worship in our “home church” that evening, I felt incredibly grateful to the women in Souderton Mennonite’s prayer shawl ministry who blessed my friend by gifting their time and hands to lovingly and prayerfully crochet these shawls, a source of art, beauty and comfort. I wondered if the creators had any idea how many lives and hearts they warm.
I never learned to sew. My grandmothers tried to teach me to knit and crochet. Those lessons didn’t go well. But even someone with clumsy hands can admire the quilts, wall hangings, embroidery and wide assortment of cloth items produced by Mennonite women and a few men. Quilting and sewing is a colorful piece of our rich heritage. Although not a part of my personal experience, I feel a sense of loss when, in my work with congregations, I hear that quilting and sewing circles are declining in number. I understand the core of these gatherings to have been a time of fellowship, community building, prayer and ministry. Items made were donated to those in need, given as gifts by the congregation or sold at auction to raise money for mission and ministry. Yet, recently I have come to realize the Spirit is knitting something new but perhaps not all that different into being.
I was thrilled to receive an e-mail from Tiana Martinez, a member of Methacton Mennonite Church. Tiana was stirred to action by a sermon delivered by guest speaker, Pastor Juan Marrero from Crossroads Community Center in Philadelphia. Crossroads provides safe and educational space for children and youth, but also has a food assistance program and a thriving prison ministry, which has given birth to a new congregation, Christ Centered Church, attended by many ex-offenders and their families. Pastor Juan noted a need for blankets, and Tiana felt the Spirit’s nudge. She set a goal to donate 100 afghans to Crossroads by December 2015, thus launching “One Stitch at a Time Ministry.” Tiana wondered if others across Franconia Conference would be interested in joining her in this endeavor. So far, members of Methacton, Alpha, and Garden Chapel are working together to meet this goal. Plans are being made for participants to gather together to crochet and fellowship with each other, building relationships based in ministry between congregations.
Tiana’s email opened my eyes. I realized there are a number of people across Franconia Conference who knit and crochet. Some congregations have an established and growing knit/crochet ministry, where people gather together to crochet blankets, prayer shawls, hats and scarves. The soft, warm, brilliantly colored items are donated to those in need or given as gifts from the congregation to newborns, people in the hospital or as lap blankets for the elderly. In fact, Souderton Mennonite gifted me with a prayer shawl for my ordination. Often, the teams of people who create these gifts spend time praying together in advance for those who will receive them. Though the products are different, it seems to me, the crochet/knit ministries and sewing circles share the same core values of ministry, prayer, and fellowship.
A funny thing happened when I told some people in a congregation about Tiana’s ministry. A woman piped up, “I don’t knit or crochet, but I can quilt and knot, would that be helpful?” Of course!
This cold winter and especially as March comes in like a lion, I am inspired by those across Franconia Conference who are quietly wrapping people in God’s warm, comforting, beautiful love, “one stitch at a time.”
If you’re interested in getting involved, Tiana Martinez invites individuals and congregations to help share God’s love “One Stitch at a Time” by crocheting or knitting afghans or donating any color 4-ply yarn. For more information please contact Tiana: email@example.com.
Jenifer Eriksen Morales is the minister of transitional ministries and LEADership minister with Franconia Mennonite Conference.
Franconia Conference delegates and leaders gathered November 2 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa. to celebrate God still at work. With a packed auditorium for a third united assembly with Eastern District Conference, representatives gathered to listen and pray, to celebrate newly credentialed and ordained pastoral leaders, and to work alongside one another after an over 150-year rift created two separate Mennonite entities. The theme “God still @ work” was an extension of the 2012 theme, “God @ work.”
With singing in Indonesian, Spanish, and English led by Samantha Lioi (Peace and Justice Minister for both conferences) and Bobby Wibowo (Philadelphia Praise Center) and translation into Franconia Conference’s worshipping languages, delegates and representatives from nearly all of the Conference’s congregations from Georgia to Vermont gathered to confer around a board-crafted statement on the Conference’s increasing diversity in ethnicity, experiences, faith practice, and expression. The gathering was punctuated with points of celebration including testimony from Peaceful Living led by Joe Landis and Louis Cowell from Salford congregation, a youth choir from the revitalizing Garden Chapel in Victory Gardens, NJ, and a moment to mark the upcoming November retirement of Franconia Conference Pastor of Ministerial Leadership Noah Kolb after 45 years of ministry, which was met with rousing applause and a standing ovation.
In a shortened one-day event, delegates spent the morning together around tables with Eastern District Conference to continue to deepen relationships across conference lines. Business sessions were separate, and Franconia’s included a significant amount of time in conversations among table groups, conferring over the board statement and then reporting on those conversations to the whole body. Delegates and representatives were encouraged to mix across congregational lines to better hear and experience the diversity of conference relationships.
For many, including Tami Good, Souderton (Pa.) congregation’s Pastor of Music & Worship, who was attending Conference Assembly for the first time, the table conversations were holy spaces. Each person at her table was from a different congregation. “I saw God at work in the gracious listening, especially in the time when we talked about the conferring statement,” Good reflected. “There were disagreements, but everyone was graciously listening and hearing. Everyone actually wanted to hear each other. It was a beautiful time.”
The conferring time, along with an afternoon workshop led by the Franconia Conference board, focused on prayer and visioning for the Conference into the future. Conference board members Jim Longacre (Bally congregation), Rina Rampogu (Plains congregation), Jim Laverty (Souderton congregation), and Klaudia Smucker (Bally congregation) served as a listening committee for the daylong event. They reported seven themes of consistent and continued conversation: engagement, diversity, shared convictions, authority, polity, the role of conference, and the reality of changing relationships and engagement. Board members noted that there is much response work to do to continue the conversation and discernment process.
Bruce Eglinton-Woods, pastor of Salem congregation (Quakertown, Pa.), said, “The challenge is speaking clearly on what we believe and where we are at, which is often a challenge for Mennonite leaders. My hope and prayer is that we can trust God and release the idea of keeping it all together. We need to let God do the holding together.”
According to Rampogu, one of the longest standing Conference board members, “the hardest part about this kind of meeting is that there isn’t enough time. We want to share and to talk together,” she said. “That is a positive sign. People want to connect. My hope and prayer is that we keep our goal in mind, keeping our mission focused on equipping leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission, with Christ in the center and churches focused on missional activity.”
In business sessions, delegates selected a number of positions by 97% affirmation including a 2nd term for conference moderator John Goshow (Blooming Glen congregation) along with board member Beny Krisbianto (Nations Worship Center), as well as ministerial and credentialing committee members Rose Bender (Whitehall congregation), Ken Burkholder (Deep Run East congregation), Mike Clemmer (Towamencin congregation) and Chris Nickels (Spring Mount congregation). Randy Nyce (Salford congregation) who is completing a term as finance committee chair and board member reported on Conference finances, noting an 11% decrease in financial contributions from congregations.
“I was surprised and pleased that the attendance at Assembly 2013 was so strong; seeing the room filled to capacity was an affirmation of how much the delegates and guests in attendance care for our conference,” Goshow noted. “Franconia Conference is all of us who are members of our 42 churches and our Conference Related Ministries. It is my hope and prayer that together we chart a course that will advance God’s Kingdom in exciting and wonderful ways.”
The Ministerial Committee met on September 4:
- We took action to grant a specific license to Tim Hart to serve as pastor of revitalization for Garden Chapel.
- We approved ordination for Emily Ralph from the Salford congregation who has been called to an associate pastor position at Sunnyside in Lancaster.
- We granted a license toward ordination to Tami Good who is serving as minister of worship and music at Souderton.
- Arnold Derstine and Mike Ford have resigned from the pastoral team at Franconia.
- Blooming Glen has hired Mike Ford as youth pastor.
- Frederick and Lakeview are seeking interim pastoral leadership.
- Perkiomenville is seeking an associate pastor and Alpha and Taftsville congregations are looking for pastoral leadership.
We are “The Garden Chapel” from Victory Gardens, New Jersey. We are a small, diverse, loving, and growing congregation located in Morris County, New Jersey. The borough of Victory Gardens was founded in 1941 by the federal government to house workers from a nearby munitions factory. It was named after the vegetable gardens people planted during World War II in response to food shortages. It is the smallest municipality in size (91 acres) and population (1,520) in Morris County, but the most densely populated.
During the Vietnam War young men were being drafted into the military services. Since serving in the military is completely contradictory to our beliefs, the Mennonite Church negotiated an “Alternative Service” arrangement with the government. This allowed conscientious objectors to serve our country in a manner consistent with our understanding of the Lord’s commands. Instead of going to war, these men served at Greystone State Psychiatric Hospital assisting patients in various capacities. Initially, the men formed a house church, but they saw that the community of Victory Gardens was not served by a single church. With the assistance of the Franconia Conference, they planted our church in 1971. To this day it remains the only church in the community. How truly wonderful it is that God would plant a peace church in a community founded for war!
We have been blessed with our new Pastor Tim Hart since last March. Tim grew up in the community and has attended our church since childhood. He is keenly aware of our strengths and our needs and has a dynamic vision for the future.
Our mission statement is “Loving God, Loving Our Neighbors, & Loving Each Other.” We try to live this out by our outreach to the community. We have an annual “Community Day” picnic were we reach out with food, fun, and fellowship with our neighbors. This year we distributed 105 book bags filled with school supplies to needy children. During the holidays we prepare and deliver meals to shut-ins and seniors. When we visit and fellowship with them we are reminded to “… remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)
We are praying that God will enable us to develop a Hispanic Ministry and also help us to restore our summer youth program which in the past has shown God’s love to many young people. Please pray for us as we are praying for all of you.
by Emily Ralph, firstname.lastname@example.org
Three days after Hurricane Sandy swept through south-eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, members of Franconia Conference are still cleaning up from massive flooding, downed trees and power lines, and extensive power outages.
Communication has been challenging and reports are trickling in–entire communities are still without power, dealing with road closures, and running short on supplies as gas stations and grocery stores are also without electricity.
Some of the reports we have heard:
- Power is still out at Deep Run East (Perkasie, Pa.), Doylestown (Pa.), Swamp (Quakertown, Pa.), Methacton (Norristown, Pa.) and Garden Chapel (Dover, NJ) facilities.
- Most of the Garden Chapel congregation is without power, although there have been no reports of damage to homes or the church building.
- Methacton had and continues to have flooding in their basement/fellowship hall. Without electricity, they are unable to pump the water out.
- Many members of congregations along the Rte. 113 corridor around Souderton, Pa., are without power, as are the Conference Center offices and the Souderton Center, which is owned by Franconia Conference. Penn View Christian School—the site of next weekend’s Conference Assembly—is also without electricity. These power outages extend as far north as Allentown and as far east as the Delaware River.
- Despite reports of wider damage in Philadelphia, Franconia congregations in the city survived the hurricane mostly unscathed.
In the midst of such wide-spread destruction, conference congregations are finding opportunities to minister to one another and their communities:
- A young mother at Doylestown congregation made meals and delivered them to members of her congregation who were without power.
- Salford (Harleysville, Pa.) congregation, once their own electricity was restored, opened their facilities to anyone in the community who needed heat, bathrooms, clean water, or a place to plug in their electronic devices. They also expanded their weekly Community Meal to include those who needed a hot dinner.
- Individuals throughout the region have opened their homes to friends and neighbors without power, delivered supplies to those who are stuck at home because of blocked roads, and brought their chainsaws to aid in the cleanup.
- Members of Ripple Allentown (Pa.) who were without power met at their pastors’ home for a meal and to “warm up a bit,” reported Carolyn Albright. “It was a holy, blessed time together.”
Noah Kolb, Pastor of Ministerial Leadership for Franconia Conference, received two emails from conference congregations encouraging members to share their resources with others in their congregation and neighborhoods. “Often we try to get beyond these things to get to the work of church,” Kolb reflected, “but this IS church. This is really the stuff of church.”
Because of the challenges of communication, conference staff has not been able to contact all conference congregations to learn of current conditions, needs, and relief efforts. If you have any information, please report it to your LEADership Minister or any member of conference staff—don’t assume that the staff already know about it.
If your congregation and neighborhood has made it through relatively unscathed, please check in with other congregations in your region to see how you can help; also consider how your congregation’s facility or aid can help the greater community.
If you are aware of relief efforts or needs, please report these to conference staff so that they can connect needs with resources. The conference email and phones are up and running.
On Monday, as the hurricane was approaching, Michael King, a member of Salford and the dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary (Harrisonburg, Va.), sent out an email to seminary students and staff. “I don’t know precisely how we theologize at a time like this,” King wrote. “Jesus teaches that the rain falls on the just and the unjust and that tragedies are not signs that we’re out of God’s favor. The Bible is also rich with images of God’s care, of God as the mother who shelters us under tender wings. My loved ones, your loved ones, and all of us are in my heart and prayers amid the yearnings for God’s shelter.”