Tag Archives: Pentecost

All Together in One Place

by Chris Nickels, Pastor at Spring Mount Mennonite Church

On Sunday June 4, five Franconia Conference congregations (Wellspring, Methacton, Spring Mount, Frederick, and Providence) gathered in Skippack to worship together and have a picnic.  Skippack has some historical significance, being the place where Mennonites first settled in  Montgomery County.  A few centuries later we are still here, seeking to live out a vision of faithful witness to Jesus Christ.

In the beautiful surroundings of Hallman’s Grove, tucked within a residential neighborhood just east of the village, I was reminded of the life and Spirit that surrounds us. One’s senses could pick up the sights and sounds of creation as well as a gentle breeze— especially meaningful on this day of Pentecost that was the focal point of our gathering.

We celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit to the first followers of Jesus (Acts 2), and the gifts of the Spirit present among us today. Worship included speaking and singing in different languages, and a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer included nine languages (Spanish, Indonesian, English, German, Greek, Italian, Kannada, French, Vietnamese). Pastor Sandy Drescher-Lehman of Methacton Mennonite Church presented a children’s story about the birth of the church—complete with birthday cake! —and she and the children led us in a fun birthday song.

We prayed for each other, for our pastors, and also for a local food pantry, all of which reminded me of our common mission in central Montgomery County.  Our pastors took turns giving a short message about how we have been living out God’s mission and how we are being empowered for ministry by the Spirit. The picnic, organized by members of each church, provided plenty of delicious food and space to build relationships with one another.

The event was a team effort among our congregations, and I think we are discovering that we really enjoy working together and are being blessed in our common activities and growing relationships. Despite the small size of our individual congregations, we are noticing that we benefit from diverse membership and from the wisdom of our elder members. We are realizing that our small congregations can be a blessing to our conference and also to our local communities. We have unique gifts to offer, and by the end of our time together I felt energized for how we might continue to share the love and light of Christ together.

Thy Kingdom Come

By Aldo Siaahan

 As a part of an annual event of Kingdom Builders network of Philadelphia, the Pentecost Worship service was held at Philadelphia Praise Center on July 2, 2016. The service started with a fellowship over different traditional meals. There was a Vietnamese noodles and meatball dish, traditional tacos, Indonesian empanadas, sushi and much more. We did not expect to have a big crowd because it was a holiday weekend. Yet, to our surprise so many people came and brought food to the point where we were overflowing.

 We opened the service at 6:30 pm with a prayer, followed by songs in Creole, Spanish, English, and other languages. We listened to a short message by Chantelle Todman Moore, Philadelphia Program Coordinator at Mennonite Central Committee. The service was divided into 3 sections. The first was, “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, then “Thy Kingdom Come”, and lastly “Thy Will Be Done”. During the service, Fred Kauffman, Methacton Mennonite, and Calenthia Dowdy, Professor and Director of Faith Initiatives at Eastern University, led occasional conversations by throwing a question to discuss in small groups about why our ancestors came to the United States. Some reasons given were “escaping persecution”, “economic opportunities”, “education”, and “slavery”.  A big lesson learned was that we are all displaced (desplazados, terlantar, verschoben). We closed the service with a holy communion led by Bernard Sejour, pastor at Eglise Evangelique Solidarite and Harmonie, and Fernando Loyola and Leticia Cortez, co-pastors at Centro de Alabanza.

I am very grateful to be a part of a diverse community in the city of Philadelphia that can give me a little sneak peak of Heaven.

Note: The Kingdom Builders Network is a Mennonite Anabaptist Network around Philadelphia. They have meetings every month on the second Thursday. During the meetings, they read scriptures, discuss the word of God, and pray for each other. They have meetings in different locations although most of the time the meeting is held in Oxford Circle Mennonite Church.

Aldo Siaahan is a LEADership Minister and Pastor at Philadelphia Praise Center.

 

Memorial Day & Pentecost

by Samantha E. Lioi

candles - webEvery three years or so, Pentecost Sunday falls on Memorial Day weekend in the U.S.  I think it’s an irony worth exploring each time, but this year I had nothing to say. Maybe I didn’t have words for the gaping grief that attends every encounter I have with combat veterans who are willing to trust a room of well-meaning and mostly clueless civilians with a piece of their experiences. No words for my anger at the logic that we have to wreck human lives—our children’s and other people’s children’s—to be free.  I want to believe a new miracle of Pentecost proportions is always just around the bend, ready to answer the latest of creation’s groanings. Yet, the more I learn of the vast caverns of trauma carried in the chest and brain of every veteran…well, the more I know we need transforming power from on high. And I believe it’s none other than the Spirit of Christ who is opening Mennonites to confessional friendships and partnership with veterans.

The prayer below is adapted from one I wrote and prayed as a gathering in worship on Pentecost 2012, the last time it coincided with Memorial Day. May we face the soul wounds of people we don’t understand, and so find the Holy Breath speaking new life in all of us, a wideness of mercy that cannot be contained.

God of wind and fire,
You for whom no language is foreign—
Creator of every people—Creator of friendship among enemies—
we are here to give you praise.
Thank you for keeping us breathing, tasting, touching, seeing;
thank you for your good creation,
for the soil which gives us food,
for the people who help us feel safe and loved. 
We have come with hope,
and also with doubt that anything will be different.
On this day when you sent wind and fire,
we want to welcome you, however you might come near, but
in our waiting we can find it hard to expect very much.  Surprise us. 
Send your Spirit anyway,
through our locked doors.  We are here –
and you are God, and we are not.
And also, on this day families are gathered with food, remembering
soldiers who were sent into desert wind,
who saw and made and felt another kind of fire.
Breathe again new life in mothers and fathers and children and spouses,
and send your healing Spirit among the wounded of mind and body and spirit in Iraq,
in Afghanistan, in the United States, in Syria, in Pakistan—and send us
to participate in healing wounds of war—
send us to sit in silence, open to hear
the memories that return and return.
Keep bringing your new creation:
trust where there was fear, sharing where there was taking…
and let your fire,
which brought new words to the lips of the waiting disciples,
burn in us and open our ears
to practice listening to strangers, still curious about what you might do.
Holy One, we know we are not at the center of things.
If it were not for your Spirit, we would dry up like cracked earth. 
Send too the renewing rain of your abundant love for every kind of person,
every withering plant and trembling creature. 
We ask this because of Jesus,
with hope
and doubt
and gratitude that you stick with us.  Amen.


Samantha Lioi is the interim pastor at Taftsville Chapel in Taftsville, VT. 

Even when we doubt, God fulfills promises

by Danilo Sanchez, Whitehall

Danilo Sanchez with his wife, Mary, and daughter Emilia.
Danilo Sanchez with his wife, Mary, and daughter Emilia.

In my experience, waiting and doubting have a direct correlation. As the length of time that we have to wait increases, so does our doubt. Over time, we begin to ask ourselves, “Is God really listening?” “Does God really care?” “Can this really happen?” “How long do I have to wait?”

So many times, we get tired of waiting for God so we begin to doubt and consider taking things into our own hands. The story of Abraham and Sarah comes to mind as an example: Yahweh promised Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars, but too many years had passed and doubt began to set in. In Genesis 16, the “waiting and doubting” couple decides to take control. Sarah convinces Abraham to have a son through the servant Hagar.

I find it a little strange that the Lord doesn’t intervene at this point to remind Abraham of his promise, but lets their actions unfold. Ishmael is born and blessed, and the “waiting and doubting” couple assumes this is the son that was promised. Yahweh continues to tell Abraham that Sarah will give birth to a son in her old age, however. Both Abraham and Sarah laugh at this idea as the possibility of having their own child seems impossible. Nevertheless, Isaac is born to Sarah and the now trusting couple goes on to have many descendants.

What I learn from this story is that even though Abraham and Sarah doubted God’s promise and took their own action, the Lord still blessed them and fulfilled his promise.

In Acts 1 we see a similar story of waiting, doubting, and taking action. Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit to the disciples and instructs them to wait in Jerusalem. The 11 disciples, Jesus’ mother Mary, and other women and followers gather together in a room to pray. After nothing has happened for weeks, the gathered group gets tired of waiting and praying. So Peter, who’s used to taking action, gets the idea that maybe if there were 12 disciples like when Jesus was around, the Holy Spirit would come. The group casts lots and by chance Matthias gets chosen.

The fact that Matthias is never mentioned again in Scripture makes me wonder why this story was included. What I think this story is trying to teach us, though, is that while Peter had good intentions for his actions, his solution to speed up the process of receiving the Spirit had little result. The disciples still had to wait for the Father’s timing to send the Holy Spirit.

So just as in the Genesis story, we learn that despite the actions of the “waiting and doubting,” God still fulfilled his promise.

What if, instead of being quick to take action, Peter had just waited and continued to pray with the disciples? What if in our “waiting and doubting,” God is calling us to more prayer? Perhaps that is a lesson the church needs to learn in our context today.

These stories give me hope that even when we push ahead with our own agenda or ideas, God can still work through us and accomplish his will. I know there have been times after waiting on God’s answer in my life, ministry, and call that I began to doubt and decided take my own action. It was just too hard to wait. But even if I didn’t make the right choice, God was still faithful to me. As I look to the future, I must continue to learn to wait for God. And as we are forced to wait, we must learn to commit ourselves to prayer. For it is in waiting and praying that we discern the voice of God and the activity of the Spirit.

As we go about our lives and ministries, we will have times where we are called to wait, and this waiting can be anywhere from a few days to several years. The longer we have to wait, the easier it will be to doubt and lose hope. When we find ourselves in times of “waiting and doubting,” however, we must not forget that God is still with us on the journey and is faithful to complete his promises.

Our theme for this year’s joint Conference Assembly with Eastern District Conference is “Esperando: Waiting & Hoping.”  Conference Assembly will be held November 14-15 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa.  For more information: assembly.franconiaconference.org.

Three congregations credential new leaders on Pentecost

by Sheldon C. Good

Many Christian congregations commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, and three Franconia Conference congregations in particular acknowledged the Spirit’s movement through the credentialing of leaders for ministry.

On June 8, all occurring in southeastern Pennsylvania, Donna Merow was ordained and Danilo Sanchez and Phil Bergey were licensed for ministry. Their credentialing brings the number of credentialed leaders in the conference to approximately 160 men and women serving in at least seven states and four countries.

Merow was ordained for pastoral ministry at the Ambler congregation, where she has pastored for more than four years. LEAD minister Jenifer Eriksen Morales led Merow’s credentialing. Merow chose to be ordained on Pentecost Sunday after discovering she was confirmed in the United Methodist church on Pentecost 40 years prior.

Donna Merow's ordination
LEADership Minister Jenifer Eriksen Morales and members of the congregation pray at the ordination of Donna Merow (seated center), pastor of Ambler Mennonite Church. Photo by Andrew Huth.

“The 40-year journey from one public confession of faith to another,” Merow said, “has been a significant one for me — including marriage and becoming a mother and grandmother, completing college and graduate work, worshipping in multiple traditions other than the one in which I grew up, and facing the challenges of breast cancer and kidney disease.”

Merow was only 12 when the possibility of religious vocation was first suggested to her. Between now and then, she “worked at a church camp, dropped out of college, cared for blind students, got married, and raised two daughters.” She has also been an active participant in churches from several denominations: Methodist, Baptist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Mennonite.

She described her credentialing ceremony as “an outward acknowledgement of an inward change in identity as I became a pastor in the process of practicing pastoral care.”

Sanchez was licensed for youth ministry among multiple Anabaptist congregations in and around Allentown. LEAD minister Steve Kriss led the credentialing. Sanchez is primarily working with Whitehall and Ripple, both Franconia congregations, by leading music or teaching children, but is also working alongside Karen Fellowship (independent), Iglesia Menonita Evangelica Restoracion (Lancaster Conference), Christ Fellowship (Eastern District Conference), and Vietnamese Gospel (Franconia Conference).

Sanchez said his licensing felt like an important personal and professional step because many people and institutions, including Franconia Conference and Whitehall, “are recognizing my gifts and willing to walk alongside me as a pastor.” Sanchez, grew up in the Boyertown congregation and has interned with both Souderton congregation and Philadelphia Praise Center while a student at Eastern University. He graduated from Eastern Mennonite Seminary last year with a Master of Divinity degree.

Members of Whitehall Mennonite Church pray over Danilo Sanchez
Members of Whitehall Mennonite Church pray over Danilo Sanchez. Photo by Patti Connolly.

“I finally feel like a pastor,” he said. “I am so honored that God has called me to be a leader. I’m thankful for the ways that Whitehall and Ripple will shape me into the leader God has called me to be.”

Bergey was licensed as interim lead pastor of the Blooming Glen congregation, where he has been a member for about 20 years. Ertell Whigham, executive minister of Franconia Conference, led the credentialing. Bergey is former conference executive of Franconia Mennonite Conference.

In the wake of Firman Gingerich’s resignation as Blooming Glen’s lead pastor, the congregation’s board invited Bergey to assume a part-time interim lead pastorate. The congregation is searching for a long-term pastor.

Phil Bergey
Phil Bergey, interim lead pastor of Blooming Glen.

Bergey preached the morning of his licensing, focusing on the story of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 12. He framed the commencement of his pastoral leadership and the pastoral search processes not as the beginning of a journey but the continuation of a journey. That journey, he said, includes the history of the Blooming Glen congregation, the Anabaptist tradition, and the Christian church, going all the way back to Abraham and Sarah.

Bergey said: “Blooming Glen, like other congregations, has been through pastoral transitions before; it is simply part of a congregation’s life together. And pastoral transitions are especially true for a congregation that is approaching 300 years of age.”