Tag Archives: Mary Nitzsche

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.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