Tag Archives: Mary Nitzsche

Board Names Interim Chair of the Ministerial Committee

There is much work that is done within the Conference and each person, committee, taskforce, congregations and Conference Related Ministry plays a role in that work. On April 13, Franconia Conference announced that Mary Nitzsche’s role in the work of the Conference would be changing as she joins Conference Staff, stepping down from the Chair of the Ministerial Committee and her role as a pastor at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church. While Blooming Glen enters a process of discernment to fill the role left by Mary, so too the Conference has been discerning who God might be calling to fill the role of Chair of the Ministerial Committee.

The Chair of the Ministerial Committee also would serve on the Franconia Conference Board and oversee the Credentialing Committee which conducts interviews of credentialing candidates. This is a large role, as the Ministerial Committee is responsible for overall policies related to the calling, credentialing, training, and disciplining of those persons being credentialed by the Conference, along with the granting of ministerial credentials in keeping with A Mennonite Polity for Ministerial Leadership.

Through much discernment the Board invited current Ministerial Committee member Ken Burkholder to serve as interim Chair of the Ministerial Committee. According to the Conference bylaws, this is a role that is to be appointed by the delegate assembly which does not meet until November 4. In order to ensure that the work of the Conference can continue, the Board agreed that Ken would be able to easily step into the role of chair and would be a good fit for the position long term.

Conference Moderator John Goshow stated, “Ken’s six years of experience serving on the Conference’s Ministerial Committee makes him uniquely qualified to fill the role of chair for this important committee.”

Ken’s name will be presented to the delegates at the Fall 2017 Assembly for the role of Ministerial Committee Chair and subsequently a member of the Conference Board.

Ken was originally appointed by the Conference Delegate Assembly to the Ministerial Committee in 2011.  He attended Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS) and received his Masters in Divinity in 2005 after working in the business world for 11½ years. Since his graduation from EMS he has been serving as lead pastor at Deep Run East Mennonite Church. He and his wife Karen (Frankenfield) Burkholder have two children – Alyssa (20) and Justin (17), a recent graduate of Dock Academy.

Executive Minister, Steve Kriss, says, “Ken brings pastoral and professional experience that offers significant wisdom and insight to lead the important work of the ministerial committee.  He will be a valuable board member as well helping to represent the current needs and possibilities of our Conference’s credentialed leaders. I’m grateful for his willingness to accept this position and responsibility in this time of transition to help offer stability and strength to our ongoing work together.”

When asked about his new role as interim chair Ken stated, “It’s an honor and privilege to respond to this call – serving God, and the church, as interim chair.  I look forward to continuing to work with a terrific team of people on the Ministerial Committee, as we, together, give leadership to the credentialing of persons across Franconia Mennonite Conference.”

In his spare time, Ken enjoys being with family, cheering for the Phillies, reading, and running.

Faithful Resilience

By Barbie Fischer, Communication Manager

Franconia Mennonite Conference Delegates voted at the 1987 Assembly to allow congregations to request credentialing for female leaders. That vote led to two women entering the credentialing process. One of those women would not be ordained for another 29 years. The other, Marty Kolb Wykoff, was credentialed in 1988, at which time she was serving at Taftsville Chapel Mennonite Fellowship. Since Marty’s credentialing, Franconia Mennonite Conference has credentialed numerous women. Currently, 30% of Franconia Conference active credentialed leaders are women. In 2015, Franconia Conference credentialed their first woman of color, Leticia Cortes. Still, within Franconia Conference there is only one instance where a woman serves as lead pastor with an associate she oversees. All other credentialed women in the conference who hold pastoral roles are either solo pastors or associates. While women receive the call from God to ministry, they still face many earthly obstacles. With all of this in mind, it led some to question what the credentialing process is like for women and how they remain resilient in ministry when some still object to them being in ministry.

Anne Kaufman Weaver

In the summer of 2016, with the blessing of the Conference Ministerial Committee, then-Director of Leadership Cultivation, Steve Kriss, invited Anne Kaufman Weaver to interview 11 active female credentialed leaders within Franconia Conference. The purpose was to look at women’s pastoral resiliency. This was an extension of research Anne began in Atlantic Coast and Lancaster Conferences. While co-teaching a course at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Anne discovered a book regarding pastoral resiliency that only voiced male pastors. This made her wonder, what resiliency looks like for female pastors and ultimately lead to her research.

On, April 25, 30 people from around Franconia Conference – 14 men and 16 women – met at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church to hear Anne report from her Women’s Pastoral Resiliency research in Franconia Conference. There were six themes that emerged from her research regarding important elements to women’s pastoral resiliency: 1) spiritual formation, 2) self-care, 3) emotional intelligence, 4) cultural intelligence, 5) family and relationships, and 6) leadership. Anne’s questions to the women she interviewed focused on their calling, the credentialing process, areas of self-care, resources, obstacles, and what the conference and seminaries should know.

Throughout the morning , Anne discussed key points in the areas of credentialing, calling, self-care, and obstacles. Credentialed women from the Conference also shared some of their experiences.

Kris Anne Swartley, Minister for the Missional Journey at Doylestown Mennonite Church, shared about her experience in the credentialing process, where licensing was fine for the congregation, but when it came time for ordination, the congregation was reluctant. She spoke of the need to separate her personal process from that of the congregation, the importance of open communication with the congregational leadership, and the chance to share one-on-one and in small groups about her call story.

Mary Nitzsche, Pastor of Pastoral Care and Spiritual Formation at Blooming Glen, shared about her calling experience. She spoke of the way others seemed to recognize a calling in her before she did, even though she would play the “preacher” to all her dolls when she was four years old. She shared about wrestling with the call as it came when she was married with children. How would stepping into her call impact her family?

Speaking about self-care was Sandy Drescher-Lehman, Pastor at Methacton Mennonite Church. She spoke of the support of her husband, and being renewed in nature. Anne’s research shows that exercise and relaxation was key to the women interviewed, along with opportunities to meet with other women in ministry, engage in hobbies, and spend time with family and friends.

Newly credentialed women – and men – at Conference Assembly 2016.

The morning ended with Anne sharing some of the obstacles faced by women in ministry, including patronizing language and stereotypes, being expected to take minutes or help in the kitchen. Even the size of the pulpit, having to stand on a stool to see over it, and the constant thought of appropriate clothing that accommodates a clip-on microphone can be obstacles. A challenge Franconia Conference is specifically seeing is that it takes women longer to move through the credentialing process than their male counterparts. Younger women don’t seem to be named to conference-wide positions as often as younger men. Congregations in Franconia Conference still differ on their interpretation of the Confession of Faith; there is a zeal to uphold the article regarding sexuality, but not the same zeal to uphold the article on credentialing women.

Anne shares her report on women’s pastoral LEADership and resiliency with the Franconia Conference leadership ministry team.

The Franconia Conference Ministerial Committee, Conference Board and staff have read and discussed Anne’s research and are working to implement ways to better support women in ministry. The congregations in Franconia Conference are also taking steps to examine this topic. Last fall, Franconia Mennonite Church held a series of discussions and studies on women in ministry. Franconia Conference continues to work to support all those who are a part of the Body of Christ. In the 30 years since affirming women in ministry, the Conference has come a great distance, yet there is still a long way to go.

Read Women’s Pastoral Resiliency Research by Anne Kauffman Weaver here.

Hear the Podcast of Anne’s presentation at Blooming Glen here.

Life Anew

by Steve Kriss, Executive Minister

Signs of resurrection and new life can be difficult to imagine or perceive.  While the disciples didn’t have the wherewithal to walk closely with Jesus from Maundy Thursday through the horrors of Good Friday, the reality of Easter and the resurrection was even harder to comprehend. It was a story trusted to women first, the disciples were mostly incredulous and avoidant.  Thomas even took an “I’ll believe it when I see it and touch it” kind of stance that wouldn’t be that far away from most of our approaches to faith and life.

I’ve been struck this season of Lent by the texts that have been provoking something new: the dry bones of Ezekiel, Jesus’ healing of the man born blind.   Can dry bones live?   What happens when we go to where we are sent to find ourselves seeing the world anew?

As I’m past my first 100 days in the Conference Executive Minister role, I’m starting to glimpse the possibilities of new life for us and seeing signs along the way of the Spirit’s invitation on how we might live together as people of God’s peace, extending that peace to others both locally and globally.

This week in Intersectings we are highlighting the newness of Mary Nitzsche’s appointment to the role of Associate Executive Minister.  Mary will bring wisdom, groundedness, experience and compassionate care to the role and to our Conference system of about 100 active credentialed leaders as well as retired credentialed persons.   I’m excited about the new thing that Mary’s “yes” will bring to us.   It’s a step along the way toward finding the place that God is calling us as Franconia Conference in this time.

Easter was the culminating event in the life and ministry of Jesus, though he returned to teach and instruct through the Ascension.  Pentecost (June 4 this year) represents the Spirit’s arrival, the gifts of speaking the word of Christ’s peace to everyone.  In these next weeks from Easter to Pentecost, I invite  you to join me in prayer to seek what God might be asking of us individually, congregationally and as a Conference-wide community from South Philly to Vermont and including our credentialed pastors in Metro DC, Mexico, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines. How might the Spirit empower us to speak and embody Christ’s peace anew?  What signs of new life and resurrection do we see along the way?  And how might we be that living sign for others who are seeking, searching, hoping, struggling toward the Way which we know means restoration of sight, freedom from bondage, good news for the poor?

Franconia Conference Welcomes New Staff Member

Beginning in July, 2017, Mary Nitzsche will join the Franconia Conference staff as Associate Executive Minister. This role will include the work that was previously classified as Conference Pastor. She will serve as primary staff person for the ministerial committee and assist in pastoral accompaniment with various groups within Conference, such as with Conference chaplains and retired leaders, while also serving as the primary connection with Mennonite Church USA, attending denominational meetings, CLC and working with credentialing processes.

Mary is well known throughout Conference, having served as a credentialed leader in the role of Pastor of Pastoral Care and Spiritual Formation at Blooming Glen Mennonite (PA) for the past nine years. Mary has also served as the Conference Board Ministerial Committee Chair and thus a member of the Conference Board since 2013. She has resigned from these roles to step into her position as Conference staff.

In addition to her work within Franconia Conference, Mary has also served as a Regional Pastor with Ohio Conference for 12 years, she worked as a counselor within the Church Relations office at Goshen College, and early in her career was an elementary school teacher.  Mary holds a Master’s degree in pastoral counseling from Ashland Theological Seminary (OH), a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Goshen College (IN) and an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts from Hesston College (KS).

On March 26, 2017, in an announcement to Conference Staff and Board, Executive Minister Steve Kriss wrote, “Mary’s gifts will help add depth and care to our ministry and leadership team.  I’ve experienced Mary as someone who genuinely exhibits the fruits of the Spirit in her life and trust that she’ll bring that fruitful presence further into our life together.  After consulting and conversing with numerous persons across our Conference community, it seemed as if there was a clear call from us and the Spirit sensing that Mary’s gifts would serve our fellowship and God’s purposes well at this time.  I’ve appreciated Mary’s insights, her capacity to listen and to imagine.   I look forward to Mary’s participating in Franconia Conference leadership in a different way as she begins the staff role this summer.”

Mary states that her guiding verse is Isaiah 30:18a and 20b-21: “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you. . .your Teacher will not hide. . . your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”

In regards to her new role she said, “I am humbled and honored to accept God’s new call to serve as Associate Executive Minister of Franconia Conference. I pray the gifts and the congregational and conference experiences I bring to this role will help me lead with grace, wisdom, and hope. In this time of uncertainty and opportunity in our conference, denomination, nation and world, I hope to join staff in being attentive and responsive to the movement of God’s Spirit already present and working through us.”

Mary is married to Wayne Nitzsche, pastor of Perkasie Mennonite Church. They have two adult daughters: Alison, living with her husband, Michael, in Long Beach, California, and Megan living in New York City. Mary and Wayne are Midwest natives and have both lived and served in a variety of congregational and conference settings.

For fun and relaxation, Mary enjoys walking/hiking, knitting, working Sudoku or jigsaw puzzles, sewing, and baking.

Living God’s Great Shalom

by Stephen Kriss, Executive Minister

In our commitments for credentialing as pastors within Franconia Conference, we agree to giving and receiving counsel.  This week I am here in Indiana as part of our process of giving and receiving counsel through Mennonite Church USA’s Constituency Leader Council (CLC).

It’s not been an easy time in Mennonite Church USA (MCUSA).   Three conferences have seceded from MCUSA and several have lost significant membership numbers.  Three conferences have moved toward credentialing gay and lesbian persons which puts them at variance with our official confessional/polity positions.   We are not alone in our turmoil as similar processes have been playing out among United Methodists, Presbyterian Church USA and the Episcopalians.   Nonetheless we are here to keep trying to work it out.    At times, it feels like we are at our wits end with each other.

Franconia Conference was a founding body in MCUSA. We remain engaged thus far because we believe that we can do more together than we can on our own.  I recognize, though, that some of us question our relationship with MCUSA because of the tensions felt around our theology and practice thereof.   I understand both the acts of conscience and the levels of frustration that have meant Conferences have seceded and that others have landed at variance.

I believe in the kind of love that Paul wrote about that is patient, kind and enduring.   As a Conference, we have an enduring history. Unfortunately, it hasn’t always been marked with enduring love that has been witness of the reconciling power of Christ’s peace.   Our current exploration of a possible reconciliation process with Eastern District Conference evidences our lack of patience with one another, that now is being addressed over a century later.  Randy Heacock’s story from the last Intersectings reminds us of the sad reality that reconciliation work on an interpersonal level is still a rarity.   So, I’m committed this week to sit at these tables on our behalf, and to find ways to engage constructively and generatively, along with John Goshow, our Conference moderator, and Mary Nitzsche, chair of our Ministerial Committee.

In these few days, for the sake of all of us, I commit to believing and hoping, of seeking the Spirit’s stirring.  Of continuing to live into my ordination vows of giving and receiving counsel.  Whether around tables in Elkhart or at the kitchen table or the communion table, this is our invitation.  It’s an invitation that endures; a recognition that love never fails, a way of living God’s great shalom, even through day long meetings.

Standing with our Immigrant Family in the Body of Christ

by Barbie Fischer

The Friday following the presidential election, leaders from Franconia Conference’s south Philadelphia churches asked for representatives from the conference to be present with them on the following Sunday for worship. Each of these congregations — Centro de Alabanza, Indonesian Light, Nations Worship Center, and Philadelphia Praise Center –have members who have immigrated to the United States.  Some have been here for decades, others only a few months. Regardless of the length of time, there is a new sense of anxiety and fear following the recent elections.  Many brothers and sisters in Christ no longer feel welcome, some fear for their safety, separation from family, and continue “praying so that God gives us the peace and wisdom to get through all of this immigration-2situation.”

As representatives of Franconia Conference, Mary Nitzsche, the Franconia Conference Ministerial Committee Chair,  and Jenifer Eriksen Morales, a Franconia Conference LEADership Minister, attended all four worship services to offer support and prayer. Some of the words they shared include:

We are here today on behalf of the sisters and brothers of Franconia Conference. We are here today to remind you that you are not alone.   We are in this together. Our commitments to your congregation are un-wavered.   We will walk through this time together…We are here with love, to recognize that you might be feeling particularly vulnerable. We do not have all the answers. We do have the words that the Bible repeatedly says, “to not be afraid.” We recognize that those words can seem hollow, without a real sense of support. We are here today to offer that support, to make sure that you know that you are loved.   That the God who promises to not leave us is with us for sure. But that we are also in this time together.  Your pastors and leaders have access to Conference staff for questions, for support.  Other persons in Franconia Conference congregations have already begun to ask how they can support you in prayer and in other more tangible ways. In the meantime, we are committed to being part of the work that God has begun with us. We will seek the peace of the city, and of this land where God has sent us. We want to offer a prayer with you…that God might keep you in perfect peace.

immigration-1Mary stated, “Our south Philly churches warmly welcomed us and offered generous hospitality. Appreciation was expressed in word, facial expression, and hugs for our presence and support. The worship was vibrant and hopeful even as fears for the future were expressed. I was reminded of our need for each other as Christ’s ambassadors of love, peace, and hope.”

“In spite of their feelings they worshiped with gusto and sincerity.  Placing their hope and trust in Jesus, the King of Kings,” said Jenifer. “I was blessed by the opportunity to be a small beacon of hope to my brothers and sisters during this tumultuous and uncertain time.”

Pastor Aldo Siahaan, Philadelphia Praise Center, stated that their presence and words reminded him and his congregation that they are “part of a big family” and it made them feel cared for.

Photo by Bam Tribuwono
Photo by Bam Tribuwono

As this time of uncertainty moves forward, ways to express support can be through prayer, words of encouragement to the leadership of the congregations, visiting their worship times and taking part in activities the communities host. Become informed about immigration laws and offer a voice for our brothers and sisters with legislatures. Support New Sanctuary Movement and maybe even have your meetinghouse become a sanctuary.

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself,” Leviticus 19:33-34a.

 

Thanking God for new offices, my Mac and Skype

by Stephen Kriss, director of leadership cultivation

transpacific interview
Steve, Mary, Aldo, and Verle Skype with Ubaldo for his credentialing interview.

In less than a decade, the Mennonite Conference Center has moved to its third location.   With increasingly dispersed staff, the Center has downsized to serve as a hub and back office for activity out and about.

My first day in the offices at Dock High School this week included crowding around my MacBook Pro with Verle Brubaker (Swamp) Mary Nitzsche (Blooming Glen), and Aldo Siahaan (Philadelphia Praise Center) for our first transpacific ordination interview by Skype.  We were interviewing Ubaldo Rodriguez, originally from Colombia, educated at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, who is now serving with SEND International in Manila, the Philippines.  Ubaldo is there to support and train mission workers from the 2/3rds world, hoping to build connections between Latin America and Asia.

Ubaldo is connected with a one of our partner congregations, New Hope Fellowship in Alexandria, VA, begun by Kirk Hanger after returning from a long term assignment with Franconia Mennonite Missions in Mexico City over a decade ago.   As a community, we keep being shaped and reshaped by our relationships and engagement in the world.  And now some of those connections are more easily sustained through technology like Skype, which we thanked God for in our interview.

Franconia Conference keeps changing and moving.  It’s not just our desks and cabinets, but it’s how we’re following the Spirit, paying attention to the pillar of fire that urges us to follow in the way of Jesus that moves us to be a part of God’s great redemption story in Souderton, Harleysville, Lansdale, Alexandria, Mexico City and Manila.

Introducing Blooming Glen Mennonite Church

The people at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church are PEOPLE ON A JOURNEY WITH JESUS!

Blooming Glen
Blooming Glen congregation gathered at the youth baptism service at Kulp Memorial Park in Perkasie.

The congregation meets weekly at 9:30 am for worship with Sunday school following. Blooming Glen is a 259 year old, 725 member congregation that meets at 713 Blooming Glen Road, Blooming Glen, Pa. The congregation is served by three pastors:  Firman Gingerich, Lead Pastor; Michael Bishop, Pastor of Music and Worship; and Mary Nitzsche, Pastor of Pastoral Care and Spiritual Formation. Kim Moyer serves as Children’s Ministry Director, relating to more than ninety children. Kim shares ministry to the Junior High Youth with Donna Wilkins, Interim Youth Pastor, who also relates to the senior high youth. Four lay persons are currently serving as sponsors and teachers for the young adults.

The congregation is deeply committed to Christian education with strong mentoring, Sunday school, and Summer Bible School programs. Pastor Michael Bishop directs the adult and junior choirs and also plans major musical worship events throughout the year. Hearty congregational singing and instrumental music are part of worship expressions weekly.

The Congregational Leadership Board provides leadership along with five foundation groups:  Elders, Gifts Discernment, Trustees, Stewardship, and Spiritual Formation. The Leadership Board is challenging the congregation to reach out to our local community, encouraging the congregation to listen and learn and extend hospitality.

Members are involved in many ministries in the community and each Sunday school class partners with a mission worker. School kits and health kits are collected for Mennonite Central Committee weekly and on Thanksgiving eve congregants bring food to help people in need. In November, homeless families participating in the Interfaith Hospitality Network are hosted in the newly renovated farmhouse.

Pastor Mary Nitzsche gives leadership to the pastoral care ministry and eight pastoral visitors assist. Sunday school class shepherds and deacons also provide care to class members, seniors and those with special needs.

With these signs from our God: Following God’s leading to Blooming Glen

Mary Nitzsche, Blooming Glen

mary@bgmc.net

mary.jpgAs a child, I loved to play church with my sister. We sang songs of faith, read scripture and I “preached.” It was not in the realm of my thinking or imagination at this early age that one day God would call me to be a pastor. My parents were people of deep faith in Jesus and served many years in either a congregational setting or in a Mennonite institution. Their love for Jesus and the Mennonite church inspired me to consider how I might serve the church.I was a shy child and slowly developed confidence and leadership gifts during my college and young adult years. I graduated from Hesston and Goshen colleges, served a year in voluntary service and gained work experience as an elementary school teacher and support staff at Goshen College before taking several classes at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) to test an emerging call to ministry. When I became pregnant with our first child however, I put seminary on hold.By the time my husband, Wayne, completed his seminary training at AMBS and accepted a call to pastor Wooster (Ohio) Mennonite Church we had two young daughters and I was very content as a stay-at-home mom with a variety of opportunities to further develop my gifts as a lay person in the congregation.When my children were both enrolled in elementary school, I began sensing a call to ministry again, but I resisted, unsure that the timing to return to seminary was in the best interest of my children. The call persisted, and I decided to share it with Wayne and the elder team.One of the elders, Beulah, served as a mentor to help me further test my call and learn to own it as separate from Wayne’s call. She encouraged me to enroll at Ashland Theological Seminary as a next step in the discernment process. I experienced motivation, energy and joy through my seminary studies, accompanied by affirmation of my call. While at Ashland, I studied under professors and with students from other faith traditions which deepened my identity and theology as an Anabaptist/Mennonite.Near the end of my seminary experience, I was prepared to seek a position as a pastoral counselor when Ohio Mennonite Conference approached Wayne and I, to consider the regional pastor position. Though I did not have the proper credentials, training or experience for this role, Mark Weidner, Conference Minister, graciously encouraged me to accept the call later serving as an advocate and mentor. I stepped out in faith, believing that God would provide. For the next twelve years, I thoroughly loved ministering to pastors, lay leaders and congregations while using my counseling skills and developing other ministry skills.Another surprise came in November 2007 when the Franconia Conference consultant, working with the Blooming Glen Pastoral Transition Task Force, called to ask if I was open to a conversation regarding an associate pastor position. Again I wondered if I had the proper experience to serve on the pastoral team of a large congregation. I wondered if there would also be a ministry opportunity for Wayne. After naming my struggles to God and talking with Wayne, I felt led to step out in faith and test this new call.text-3.jpgAfter my interview, I felt cautiously optimistic, but the doubts and questions persisted. My family’s previous transitions were focused on Wayne’s call, not mine. It felt risky to move ahead without Wayne also securing a job. The invitation came for me to be a candidate. Wayne and I needed a sign to be sure of God’s direction. The following day, in a meeting, the devotional was about Abraham’s call to go, leave his security and follow God to a new land.Several mornings later I awoke earlier than normal with Proverbs 3:5-6 on my mind, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.”With these signs from our God, who works in surprising and mysterious ways inviting us to risk, I accepted the pastoral position at Blooming Glen and have confidence that God will continue to provide what is needed.photo by Kreg Ulery