Tag Archives: Perkasie

Congregational Profile: Perkasie Mennonite Church

by Mary Lou Cummings 

“Welcome is one of the signs that a community is alive.  To invite others to live with us is a sign that we aren’t afraid, that we have a treasure of truth, and of peace to share,” says Jean Vanier.

Perkasie Mennonite Church is a tiny but lively congregation that values welcome, whether of LGBTQ folks or others who have felt “outside the box” for many reasons.  We aim to model Jesus (our succinct mission statement)  in our daily lives in loving relationships and in service.  Many, but not all, experience their faith journey through a progressive Christian lens.   No matter where a person is in their faith journey, they are welcome. 

The communion table at Perkasie

PMC has had a long history of inclusion of those with intellectual disabilities, and several of these individuals have provided joy, humor, and spontaneity in our congregation for many years. Barbara Shisler has hosted a monthly Faith and Light chapter for many years, as well; this is a national program which offers fellowship in a spiritual context for community members with intellectual disabilities and their families.

In the past year, Brent Anders and Joe Matthew were invited to present two Second Hour seminars with resources, stories and language  tips to help us all be more understanding and helpful in our relationships with LGBTQ attendees, friends, and neighbors.  We are officially a Welcoming Congregation, and a number of our most recent new attendees sought us out for this open and welcoming  environment.

PMC has trained many young people through the years, and finds joy in seeing these now-grown-up children living lives of faith and service in places around the country and the world.  Today we have fewer children (although the ones we have get lots of love!), so we  are exploring how to offer our wisdom and resources to young people’s programs  run by others.  Bucks Kids First is a program for at-risk kids (many in foster homes) which will be using our building for after-school mentoring four days a week.   We also volunteer with other community programs like Bridge of Hope Bux-Mont, a homeless ministry for single mothers.

Perkasie hosts a Civil Conversation on guns

Hosting  Patchwork Coffeehouse and Soul Talk (a progressive Christian study group) are other ways we reach out to the community.  Favorite volunteer opportunities include FISH, MCC Material Resource Center, MCC, Care and Share, and ministries to the homeless. In recent years we have also hosted “Listen, Live, Local” events, including one evening inviting community conversation on gun control,  and another on bridging the gap between right and left in the  U.S.

The PMC community enjoys singing a capella music from the three Mennonite hymn books, and is looking forward to dipping into the  new one next year.  We value creativity in each other,  which allows for both rich experience and change.  One advantage of being small is the freedom to vary worship spaces and styles.  During the summer, we meet more informally in our fellowship room, often around tables, and various members lead  worship.  “Every member a minister” is a favorite motto, which we take seriously.

Historically, our group was founded by Blooming Glen Mennonite Church  as a mission outreach for young people in Perkasie.  Over the years, gifted pastors offered leadership,  such as Richard Detweiler, James Lapp, Jim Burkholder,  Barbara Shisler, Beth Yoder, Wayne Nietszche, and  Jessica Hedrick Miller, among others.

We appreciate your prayers as we seek to strengthen our relationships with people around us and model the love of Jesus that welcomes all people into God’s beloved community. Pray that we would be in tune to the movement of the Spirit in our community so that we can join in the good work that God is already doing.

Pastors receive coaching in life and wellness

Trina Stutzman

by Lora Steiner, Franconia managing editor

When people think of health coaches, they usually think of Biggest Loser, the television show where participants vie each week to see who can lose the most weight—or someone with a whistle, like that annoying high school gym teacher who made your whole class run timed miles. Trina Stutzman isn’t one of those coaches. Stutzman, of Perkasie, Pa., is a wellness coach with Everence, through an initiative that offers combined support, education, and accountability to help people have more balance in their lives and increase their wellbeing.

Wellness coaching starts with a phone call to Everence, which matches interested participants with wellness coaches. The initial conversation focuses on what the participant hopes to gain from coaching—What’s most important to you? Where do you want to go?—then from there, it’s about establishing small goals and setting up first steps to success. Some people want to check in every week, others every month, but no matter how often, it’s always about working towards the participants’ goals. All coaching is done over the phone, and wellness coaches offer safe, supportive, nonjudgmental, and confidential space for conversation.

Wayne Nitzsche, pastor of Perkasie congregation, decided to take advantage of wellness coaching about two years ago, and stayed with it for a full year. When he first saw it was being offered, Nitzsche didn’t really think it was something he needed, but decided to try it anyway. What he found was a holistic approach to his wellbeing: concern for body and soul, mind and emotions.

For Nitzsche, the process ultimately led to him establishing habits for more balance, practices he still sticks to.

“I’ve come to believe pretty strongly that as we pay attention to our own functioning—be that spiritual or physical or emotional—that we find a deeper, richer life… but the temptation is to always look outside, look to someone else, to make our lives better, instead of looking within,” says Nitzsche.

Nitzsche says the hardest part was setting realistic goals, ones that were both stretching and yet attainable. His coach was good at reminding Nitzsche of his goals and being gracious when he didn’t meet them, celebrating when they were met, and looking deeper when they weren’t.

“To have that encouragement and accountability,” says Nitzsche, “Knowing that you’re going to talk to someone about what you’re doing or not doing—can be pretty helpful.”

Rollin Handrich, who works with Everence in their Goshen, Ind. office, says that sometimes the changes they’ve heard about have been dramatic, other times, incremental. But as he points out, people have often spent a lifetime developing habits that lead to their healthcare problems. The goal of the program, Handrich says, is to get people to rethink some of those habits and set comfortable goals, all the while considering the full picture of their lives: What are your stresses? What is your home life like? “It’s not just eat better, and exercise.”

Stutzman agrees.  “[Wellness coaching] is more than just physical health, but really looking at, ‘Do you want to be well?’ And that looks different for every person.”

She says some people set goals like losing weight, but for others, it’s setting healthy boundaries or stress relief. In a way, Stutzman sees her work as helping people bring into balance the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.  “What does that look like to love yourself as you love other people?”

So far nearly 400 people—about 10 percent of eligible pastors and employees of Mennonite organizations—have participated in at least an initial phone call. It’s a part of the insurance plan offered to pastors and employees of Mennonite organizations whose plans are managed by Everence. Costs are covered by employers, and there is no charge to those who opt in to the program. Pastors and spouses covered by the Corinthian Plan can receive up to $600 for each filling out the online assessment and a follow-up coaching call to discuss their results. More information on wellness coaching is available at www.everence.com/wellness-coaching or by calling 800-348-7468, ext. 2462.

Remembering Becky Felton

from the Peace & Justice Committee of Eastern District and Franconia Conferences

Becky FeltonThe 2012 Peace Mug Award for Franconia and Eastern District Conferences, announced at the  joint fall Conference Assembly, honors Becky Felton, who passed away peacefully on November 2, 2012 after a courageous struggle with cancer.

Becky was a persistent advocate for peace and justice in her congregation, Perkasie Mennonite Church, in her community, and with the Peace & Justice Committee. Wayne Nitzsche, her pastor, described Becky as a congregational peacemaker in many ways.  “Perkasie has a worship ritual of lighting a peace lamp as we recite our pledge to be peacemakers. Becky urged us to consider and pray for peace locally and globally. She invited the congregation to participate in peace retreats and walks and brought needs for peace to our attention,” he reflected.  “But most importantly, Becky modeled the way of Jesus in her relationships in the congregation and beyond.”

Becky organized an intergenerational “Faith in Action” Sunday school class to keep peace and justice issues in front of the congregation.  The bi-monthly class has taken.on issues like The DREAM Act, hunger and homelessness, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Becky suggested topics for the class and sometimes recommended or invited guest speakers. Faith in Action is not only about education, but also invites everyone to act.  “She made us write letters and make phone calls –  to help us speak our own little peace” to situations of oppression and conflict, one friend remembered.

Becky also faced her terminal illness with peace, knowing that she was at peace with God and with others.

Jason Hedrick,  Peace and Justice Committee chairperson, described Becky as “a pillar of the committee and a mentor. She created space for me to learn and grow from the time I first started to serve on the committee and even more so when I took over the role as chair. Her life modeled what it meant to work for peace; to consider those who were marginalized, both within our own community and outside; to take the time to listen to those who had differing view points; and to challenge others to grow, to take action. Mostly, though, she was a friend. What better way is there to work towards peace in the world than to be a friend to someone?”

Those who knew her well describe Becky as a champion of peace and justice,  at peace with God  and  at  peace  with others.   Becky served the Peace & Justice Committee as secretary, as financial secretary, and, for the past ten years, as registrar for our annual Winter Peace Retreat.   But because of her broad understanding of current peace and social justice issues and her character, these roles don’t adequately describe her presence and her leadership, both in her congregation and with us on the Peace & Justice Committee. She was aware, compassionate, proactive.

peace mug presentation
Jason Hedrick & Samantha Lioi from the Peace & Justice Committee present the peace mug to Becky’s husband Jon and children Cody & Torey. Photo by Kreg D. Ulery.

“We appreciated her sense of humor,” noted Samanthi Lioi, the conferences’ minister of peace and justice, “because it’s really easy, especially for peace people, to take ourselves too seriously. Just by who she was, Becky steered us clear of that. And her pragmatic questions and focus on specific action was indispensable as a balance for the idealism and big ideas of some others of us. It was a fruitful balance – vision shaped by attention to planning and details. Thinking of Becky’s efficiency, and her way of getting huge amounts of work done–while being friendly about it!, I’m humbled…and reminded how deeply we need each other as we go about joining God’s birthing of shalom in the world. While we feel deep gratitude as a committee for Becky’s way of nurturing peace among us, I’m not sure we know how much we’re going miss her.”

Peace Mugs, provided by the Peace and Justice Support Network  of Mennonite Church USA, are awarded by our Peace & Justice Committee to honor  those among us who demonstrate a life-long commitment to peace and justice.  Find out more about the Peace & Justice Committee on their website.

Broken bread for a broken system

by Emily Ralph, eralph@franconiaconference.org

communion handsIt’s a misty evening as I sit cuddled under a blanket with my laptop and a snoring dog, watching the presidential debate.  Even as I type, President Obama and Governor Romney are debating the economy.

I feel my temperature rising, and it has nothing to do with the blanket.  I grew up in a family in which “debate” sounds more like calm discussion and a stern voice feels like yelling.  Just watching the debate is feeding my anxiety.

And, if anyone else experiences conflict like I do, the election this coming November could be incredibly divisive for the church.  And how much moreso, when you mix people like me with those who are very comfortable with debate, raised voices, and hearty conversation?  How do we keep our eyes focused on our shared allegiance—to Jesus Christ—in the midst of such diversity and disagreement?

Leaders in Mennonite churches across the nation suggest a simple answer: Election Day Communion.  “Election Day Communion is a way of engaging and resisting the world,” reflected Joe Hackman, pastor at Salford (Harleysville, Pa.) congregation, who will be hosting Election Day Communion this November.  “It’s a small demonstration of being the peace of Christ in a noisy, partisan culture—a sort of countercultural statement about what we believe ultimately holds our politics together.”

“During the day of November 6, 2012, we will make different choices for different reasons, hoping for different results,” the Election Day Communion website says. “But that evening while our nation turns its attention to the outcome of the presidential election, let’s again choose differently. But this time, let’s do it together.”

Tuesday night communion is not a new idea—Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches have held Tuesday communion services for generations.  And Election Day Communion doesn’t just belong to Mennonites.  Doylestown (Pa.) congregation will be hosting an ecumenical service, according to associate pastor KrisAnne Swartley.  “We are inviting other area churches outside the Mennonite denomination to partner with us in planning the service,” she said.  “We want to cross all kinds of cultural dividing lines in this communion service—we know that God’s Kingdom of love also crosses all boundaries.”

Wayne Nitzsche and the elder team at Perkasie (Pa.) congregation plan to keep the service simple.  “Our church mission statement is ‘to model Jesus,’” Nitzsche said.  “As we come together the evening of November 6, we’ll model Jesus in some small way as we remember that Jesus non-violently addressed the political powers and established a new [politic] of love. We love as he loved as we eat and drink with those who voted and those who didn’t.  ALL will be welcomed at the table.”

As I type, I feel my heartbeat slowing.  Governor Romney and President Obama are still battling it out in the background, but the rhetoric no longer feeds my anxiety.  There is hope.  “God continues to demonstrate that another world is possible,” said Chris Nickels, pastor of Spring Mount (Pa.) congregation. “There is a path that leads out of a divisive cultural reality and Christ invites us to come to the table to take a step forward together.”

Where will you spend the evening on Election Day?  Find a list of congregations hosting Election Day Communion services on the official website.

Election Day Communion

Two are better than one

by Mary Lou Cummings, Perkasie, cominghome@verizon.net

Hawk Mountain
Plains and Perkasie junior youth enjoy a hike on Hawk Mountain. Photo by Rob Kerns.

Let’s face it, teenagers like to hang out in groups—and the more kids in the group, the better.

So what is a church to do when its life rhythms produce periods with small teenage populations? Perkasie and Plains congregations are creatively working together to provide lots of new experiences for their junior youth by pooling their programs.

Two years ago Plains had a handful of junior high girls and only a few boys. Perkasie had four boys. One of the boys from Perkasie, however, attended Plains activities and several knew each other at school. Eventually Dale Gahman of Perkasie, mentor for the boys, and Pastor Dawn Ranck, who oversees “the younger half” of the Plains congregation, got together to brainstorm how to work together.

The groups clicked right away. Now the two groups meet together for fun experiences most months, and they bring their friends—with about 15 or more showing up. They have gone hiking to Hawk Mountain and have picked and donated to Manna on Main Street and FISH organizations. They have attended an Iron Pigs baseball game, bowled, and gone on a scavenger hunt looking for disguised adult friends. There are plans for a service day at Ten Thousand Villages in Lancaster followed by a camp-out. All agree that it is a lot more fun to do these things with more people.

The two groups still reserve some months for their own separate activities. Each congregation provides adults who share in the leadership. Ranck initiates a twice-a-year meeting in her home for the leaders to sketch out the year’s activities and then creates flyers of each event for the kids and parents.

“I wanted to provide experiences for these young people that would be lots of fun, but would also stretch them–help them meet new people, and do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do,” says Gahman. “We try to include service projects in the planning. It’s great to see the kids having fun and liking the group.”

“One of the great things,” says Ranck, “is that by alternating the planning, sometimes leaders are able to just ‘show up’ and enjoy the kids. It’s working well and I think it is a good model for others to try.”