Tag Archives: James Krabill

Sharing Breakfast and Life

by Emily Ralph Servant, Interim Director of Congregational Resourcing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credentialed leaders are invited to two breakfasts this April:

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

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

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

We’re All Out of Chicken!

By Joshua Jefferson, Youth Pastor at Souderton Mennonite Church

We were all drawn together on that cold, windy Monday evening, February 13, by the promise of fresh enchiladas and tostadas made by the members of Centro de Alabanza, along with some warm conversation with James Krabill of Mennonite Mission Network, to share stories about the church in mission.  The topic of the evening was “Celebration of Shalom: Stories of the Church in Mission”, and so, after we finished a few tasty treats, James spent time sharing about his readiness as a missionary for plans to be interrupted by God’s unexpected appointments.

The son of parents who met on a church-planting mission trip,  James grew up in a congregation in mission.  North Goshen (IN) Mennonite Church was a Goshen College student-planted church in what was called an “immigrant community”, serving largely unchurched factory workers who had migrated from Kentucky and Tennessee.  This early foundation prepared James for a lifetime of mission-oriented teaching, service and administration, including 20 years as a Bible teacher in Ivory Coast.  He is currently Senior Executive for Global Ministries at Mennonite Mission Network.

James KrabillThroughout the the evening, James shared Biblical principles about how the Cross brings reconciliation on a cosmic yet personal scale.  He then reminded us that the ministry of reconciliation is God’s highest priority in the cosmos.  At this point I leaned in, realizing how often this simple calling gets strangled by the tyranny of the urgent.

“Peace,” he continued, “is not the distinction of one tradition, but the very model and message of the church!”  He finished by telling us of a friend who was once at an airport, trying to find a quick dinner before his flight.  He stumbled up to the counter of a Popeye’s, and ordered a meal. “We’re all out of chicken,” the cashier replied.  “But chicken is who you are!” the man responded.  For Popeye’s, to be out of chicken is to be out of business.  For the Church, to be out of reconciliation, is to be out of mission.

James told us about the history of his home congregation — Prairie Street Mennonite Church.  Founded in 1871 as a presence in the city of Elkhart, Indiana, the congregation originally housed the Elkhart Institute (which later became Goshen College) and the Mennonite Publishing House in the late 1800s.

“People who have been connected with that congregation their whole lives think of this as the ‘golden days’,” James confessed. “They live in the past, rather than saying ‘What is God doing right now?  How can we be God’s people today in this time and place?’ The neighborhood has completely changed; our context has completely changed.  In 2017, we do not live anymore in 1871. We have people with doctoral degrees and some people who can’t read and write.  We have some fairly wealthy people, and virtually, some homeless people!  We have some English speakers, we have a growing number of Spanish speakers. We have cradle Mennonites, and other people who are just becoming acquainted. So how do we figure out how to be the church in 2017?”

Listen to James’ story of how an unfortunate misunderstanding has led Prairie Street to become a place of hope for their community:
 

Download the podcast


At this point, we changed tables to meet someone new and to share about our experiments and obstacles encountered in mission.  I had the privilege of sitting with Lynne Allebach, the lay pastor from Arise Community Outreach, and Fernando Loyola, pastor of Centro de Alabanza.  We reminisced about our own unexpected appointments, and commented on the unique shape of the ministry of reconciliation in our different settings.  At the end of the evening, James offered a few final remarks, namely that Christianity comprises about one third of our planet, and that Islam comprises about one fourth of our planet.  This is paramount to the ministry of reconciliation.  We must recognize the task before us now, for the life of the world!

(Hear the entire “Celebration of Shalom” podcast in our audio gallery.)

 

Weeding and Walking a Celebration of Shalom

by Emily Ralph Servant, Interim LEADership Minister & Director of Congregational Resourcing

Is pulling weeds “mission?”

I certainly thought so as a teenager, when I spent several summer evenings sitting on the grass, helping my neighbor weed her flower beds and talking about God as she struggled to find her way back to faith.  We were quite a picture, the awkward teen and the twenty-something-year-old masseuse.

Those years were exciting for my family — church planters on Philadelphia’s main line — as children from our neighborhood poured into our basement every week to hear stories about Jesus, play games, and receive our love.  While we were committed to acts of compassion and mutual aid in the name of Jesus, we were also dedicated to verbal evangelism and church planting as the most visible manifestation of God’s mission.

I cherish those memories, even as time and exposure to different faith expressions have given me more varied experience of what mission could look like: in the last few years alone, missional initiatives in Franconia Conference have included  peace camps and community gardens, picnics at the park and Biker Sunday, Sanctuary Churches for immigrants and survivors of sexual abuse, prayer walks, Bible studies at the pool, creation care initiatives, summer camps, disaster relief, refugee resettlement, supporting survivors of sex trafficking, prayer evangelism, working with families in need, a community center, prison ministry, making quilts, veterans ministrypeace poles, an internet café, bicycle ministry, drive-thru coffee and donuts, and church planting.

All of these expressions of mission point to the Good News: through Jesus, we are invited to share in God’s life; out of the overflowing of God’s life and love in us, we work for wholeness in the world around us.  That is the meaning of the word shalom: wholeness and health, demonstrated in reconciled relationships with God, others, ourselves, and the earth.

“That is why words like peace, justice, righteousness, and salvation are often used interchangeably in the New Testament,” says James Krabill in Fully Engaged: Missional Church in an Anabaptist Voice. “They are all different aspects of what Jesus came to bring, to be, and to do.”  The Church cannot separate witness and work, peace and evangelism.  “The faithful church preaches what Jesus practiced and practices what he preached.  And in so doing, [the Church] announces the whole gospel of Jesus to the broken world he so loved and for which he died.”

James KrabillSo what does it look like to be an Anabaptist church in mission?  According to Krabill, it means “doing what God does, loving the world—all of it—as much as God does, caring deeply for its welfare and working to set right what has gone wrong.”  Krabill (senior mission advocate for Mennonite Mission Network) will join Mennonites in eastern Pennsylvania this February for a conversation on mission and shalom.  “Celebration of Shalom: Stories of the Church in Mission” will feature stories and insights about mission from Fully Engaged as well as interactive storytelling from congregations in Franconia Conference and beyond, celebrating the diversity of God’s Spirit in sharing the Good News through both word and deed.

As a teenager, I never would have imagined the day two years ago that I participated in an early-morning prayer walk to pray for peace and healing after a murder in my neighborhood.  And as a teenager, I might not have recognized the walk as an act of mission.  Yet both my experiences—weeding and walking—were witnesses that, in Jesus, God will make all things right.  That is Good News indeed.

“Celebration of Shalom: Stories of the Church in Mission” will be held on Monday, February 13, 7pm, at Fischer Auditorium, Dock Woods Community, Lansdale, PA.  The event is free and open to all; donations for snacks will support local mission initiatives. For more information, contact Emily (eralphservant@franconiaconference.org).

Worshiping our way into God’s future

James KrabillJames Krabill from Mennonite Mission Network stopped by our Pastors and CRM Leaders Breakfast on September 26 to guide our leaders in imagining an intercultural future, beginning with the way we worship.  You can pick up a copy of his book at the Conference Center and listen to the podcast below–he used these handouts.

 

Download the podcast

Conversation about worshiping into God's future

James Krabill breakfast