God is at work in Allentown, and pastor Angela Moyer witnesses God’s movement in the lives of her friends and neighbors. Angela is one of five co-pastors at Ripple, where her ministry focuses on serving children and women. Franconia Conference welcomed Angela to the board at the August 2015 board meeting. In her new role as board member, Angela will help communicate the perspectives and needs of Lehigh Valley congregations as they continue to grow. As an urban and bi-vocational pastor with roots in Telford, Angela’s gifts and background are well-suited for this role as a conference board member.
Angela also is an occupational therapist for Good Shepherd Rehabilitation. She worked as an occupational therapist after graduating from Elizabethtown College, when she accepted a post at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Through this role, Angela was exposed to city life and city concerns. She recognized the opportunity for the church to help ease the challenges facing families in crisis. During this time Angela felt a draw and pull to youth ministry, and began working with the youth at her home church, Rockhill Mennonite, eventually serving as youth pastor.
Angela also began taking classes at Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s Pennsylvania campus. “Tentatively and very hesitantly, I took a few classes. I just had a few questions.” One semester led to another, and in 2012 she completed her studies. While at seminary Angela met Tom & Carolyn Albright and learned about the ministry happening through Ripple. Sensing that this was a place where her gifts could be used, Angela completed an internship in Allentown where Ripple is located and got to know the community, which she describes as open, welcoming, and multiethnic.
In Allentown Angela lives in the intentional community Zumé, in a neighborhood full of people from varied backgrounds and experiences. Asked to describe the work of Ripple she said, “Ripple is Christ-centered and Community-Focused. We are at a place where we are learning the depth of patience and trust in God that’s required when working for transformation, justice and dignity for all people. We are learning to support one another in this walk, in the long, hard work of walking alongside people through hard times expectantly awaiting new life and resurrection.”
Angela is an avid Phillies fan and for relaxation she enjoys trying new restaurants and traveling.
On Sunday, August 30th, RIPPLE-Allentown, Vietnamese Gospel Mennonite Church, and Whitehall Mennonite Church joined together for worship at Cedar Beech Park in Allentown, PA. As these three congregations spent time getting to know one another and praising the Lord, it was a glimpse of heaven with many nations and languages coming together as brothers and sisters.
Some sat at picnic tables under a pavilion or on the ground under the shade of trees, while others were hard at work around the outskirts of the group, grilling hotdogs and preparing for the potluck meal that would follow. Children marched around waving brightly colored streamers as we began the service with songs of praise. A choir shared beautiful music in the Karen language, and the scripture was read in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Burmese. Members from each congregation shared about their walk with God. The sharing ranged from stories of persecution in Vietnam, to a first experience of summer camp at Spruce Lake Retreat.
The service closed with a meaningful time of prayer. Representatives from each church took turns sharing the needs of their congregation. Someone from another congregation then came along side them and prayed for those specific needs.
After the service, there was a time of food, fellowship, and fun. Members from each congregation participated in weaving of rugs as part of Woven Welcome, a community-based art project started in December by artist Jill Odegaard. The woven rugs represent the interconnectedness of all individuals. One person would weave a strand of cloth through one side of the rug, and pass if off to a partner on the other side who would complete the process. This allowed members from different congregations to work together and spend time in conversation. The finished rugs will be added to the Woven Welcome instillation, which will be on display at the Allentown Art Museum until Sunday, October 11, 2015.
As the adults spent time in fellowship together, the children played joyfully in a nearby creek. It was a wonderful afternoon spent enjoying God’s creation and the company of brothers and sisters in Christ.
Danilo Sanchez grew up in Franconia Conference. From his time in Boyertown where he was able to explore the gifts God has given him, to being the youth minister in the Lehigh Valley area for three Franconia churches, the conference has watched him grow into his calling. Danilo was licensed toward ordination last year, and continues to nurture urban youth in the conference. Find out how he came to know and accept God’s call on his life through his call story:
Boyertown Mennonite Church is where my journey began. I remember the first time an adult asked me to be the worship leader for a Sunday service. I felt so honored. Then later I was asked if I would like to preach. I don’t remember how I did, but the congregation was so supportive. I liked serving and being in leadership. I decided I would try teaching the Wednesday night youth bible study and Sunday School some times. Around that same time some youth wanted to start leading worship the first Sundays of the month so I began to help out with that as well. I really enjoyed leading worship; worship made me feel close to God and I enjoyed leading others in encountering God.
Having a church like Boyertown was exactly what I needed. A church that was willing to let a young guy try out some of his gifts.
I went to some youth leadership retreats during high school and really tried to discover what my gifts were. I knew I wanted to serve God in some way, but at the time never really considered being a pastor. I was learning to serve God and willing to take the risk of saying “yes”, but I felt too unworthy to be in such a position of leadership. I think that was the biggest thing that I had to overcome as I sorted out my call to ministry. Like Moses, I wanted to come up with excuses as to why I couldn’t lead.
When I was preparing to go to college, I was at a bit of a cross roads. I wasn’t really sure what direction I wanted to head in life. I remember writing a covenant to God in my journal, “God I want to be your servant. I’m willing to follow you anywhere.” Little did I realize where that would lead me.
I liked the idea of being a psychologist, so I declared my psychology major as I entered Eastern University (St. Davids, PA). I figured I could have a good paying job and then maybe volunteer my time for the church on the side.
I stayed involved at Boyertown during my first semester at Eastern, leading Bible studies and helping with the youth, and after the Winter Youth Lock-in, someone’s comments changed the direction I was going. An adult volunteer commented that many of the youth looked up to me, that I seemed to enjoy being around the youth, and maybe I should be a youth pastor.
I look back now and know that I needed the affirmation of my gifts from the church to discover my call to ministry. The thought had never really occurred to me. Me? A youth pastor? I needed to think more about it.
As a way of testing the waters, I decided to take a youth ministry class. Something just clicked. I felt alive. I felt energized. This made sense. I remember praying, “God, give me passion if this is your will.”
I changed my major to youth ministry and things just took off from there. I started doing internships at different churches — Good Shepherd Community, Souderton, Hereford Mennonite (now Butter Valley Community Church), and Philadelphia Praise Center– to discover and develop my gifts. I learned many things about myself and God during those experiences. There were several times that my gifts and calling were affirmed, whether it was through words of others, relationships, or experiences where I felt God affirming me. It had become clear to me that God was calling me to be a youth pastor.
As I approached graduation from Eastern University, the logical next step for me was seminary. I headed to Eastern Mennonite Seminary (Harrisonburg, VA) and during my three years there, I was the seminary intern youth pastor at Eastside Church. As a church plant, there was no established youth ministry, so for the first time I was able to take all my knowledge and create the youth ministry that I wanted. Needless to say, it was both exciting and terrifying. I had some good success stories, but probably more failures. All in all, the experience was very formative and Eastside was another place for me to cultivate my gifts and call.
Currently, I am living in Allentown, PA and serving as the Lehigh Valley Youth Pastor for Whitehall, Ripple, Vietnamese Gospel, and Christ Fellowship. I would have never imagined that this is where God is calling me to be – urban ministry. I always pictured myself in a suburban setting where I would be nice and comfortable. But after being in Allentown for almost a year, it is clear that this is where God is calling me to be. I have never felt more fully alive. Sure I’m still making mistakes and learning new things, but I’m following God’s call in my life and finding my pastoral identity.
As I reflect on my call, it becomes clear to me what happens from a simple prayer and willingness to say yes to God, no matter where it takes you. There has been some wrestling and some discerning, but God’s call in my life has become clear.
Danilo Sanchez is the youth minister for Whitehall Mennonite Church, Ripple, and Vietnamese Gospel in the Allentown, PA area. For more about Danilo’s work as an urban youth minister check out his blog post for The Gathering Place.
While many in a congregation may take refuge in Sunday morning worship service, or in the council of their pastor, where do pastors go to take refuge?
Tom and Carolyn Albright, two of the pastors at Ripple, have been through many ups and downs since founding Ripple in 2006. What started as a conference related ministry has now grown into a congregation of over 100 people in downtown Allentown. They went from farmhouse suburban living, to a downtown city apartment, and have been pastoring Ripple through much growth and many moves from space to space over the years. For them refuge was found this summer at the two week Oasis program, part of Eastern Mennonite Seminary‘s Summer Institute of Spiritual Formation (SISF), which provides training and optional certification for spiritual directors.
The Albright’s felt the call to move to urban ministry at Oasis and returned this year for a time of refuge and spiritual direction. Read more about Ripple and the Albright’s time at Oasis here.
Both left and right brained, Ripple summer intern Hannah Yoder weaves science and art together as she carves out her ministry path in Allentown bringing hope and health.
Hannah joins Ripple Allentown as a Ministry Inquiry Program intern. She is shadowing Ripple’s five pastors throughout the summer. Under the direction of Pastor Angela Moyer her service lasts from May 30 to August 15. Hannah double majors in nursing and art at Goshen College. When home from college, Hannah goes to Akron (PA) Mennonite Church. Ripple is a frequent placement site for Goshen College students.
“One of the important parts is living in Allentown,” Hannah said, when asked about fitting into Ripple’s mission. “Living here you’re constantly engaged with the community.”
With room to pursue her interests and talents, responsibilities include working at a medical clinic, creating a grief mural, starting a material resource center, and leading involvement in a city summer art project.
“It’s a lot of piecing together different parts of what Ripple does in the community,” Hannah said.
As a nursing student, Hannah works with the street medicine clinic that meets Wednesdays at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Allentown, where Ripple meets on Sundays for worship.
She may help coordinate an emerging material resource center (MRC) to gather people together and encourage serving others. The materials collected, such as blankets, would go to Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and be distributed around the world. In terms of art, the mural will include memories of people processing the deaths of loved ones, including those from the Ripple community.
The 10-week summer internship is part of the Ministry Inquiry Program (MIP), connected through Mennonite colleges and universities. A Mennonite Church USA initiative, the program is supported by Franconia Conference, as well as other area conferences. The program is designed for college students to explore ministry, job shadow a pastor, and discover ministry gifts.
“It’s a way to call out students who might have interest in church leadership or have pastoral gifts and give them an opportunity to try out their gifts to see if they’re interested in it,” Pastor Angela said.
In her free time at Goshen, Hannah is involved with Student Senate, environmental club, and Art Club.
In the early 90s, a popular children’s television game show called “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” was broadcast on PBS. The show was based on a series of computer games designed to help viewers sharpen their geography skills.
In Franconia Conference, you could ask a similar question—“Where in the world is Steve Kriss?”—and in the process, learn many wonderful things about people and congregations of Franconia Conference. You’ll need a map of the east coast of the United States to trace Steve’s travels; geographical stretch, in Steve’s case, is an understatement.
Steve carries LEADership minister responsibilities for 12 congregations, located as far north as Vermont and as far south as Georgia. Currently, four of the congregations are in pastoral search processes, and another is working on a pastoral review. Steve’s goal is to nurture healthy relationships with all the congregations he walks alongside.
Next, watch for the locations of new congregations. Steve is often involved with helping them to launch their ministries and build connections in the conference and denomination.
“It’s a privilege to walk with them. I enjoy the energy and enthusiasm they bring to God’s work,” Steve says. Right now, Steve works with three new congregations emerging in South Philly.
Some of the congregations Steve works with are in the same area, such as the Lehigh Valley trio of Whitehall Mennonite Church, Ripple and Vietnamese Gospel Mennonite Church.
“Networking, creativity, and thinking outside the box are some of Steve’s greatest gifts,” says Rose Bender, pastor of the Whitehall congregation. “He’s always asking, ‘What might God be doing here? ‘How can we dream God’s vision?’ He sees the big picture and helps us make vital connections. Each conference staff person has a niche and expertise to offer us. These are the things our congregation appreciates about our relationship with Steve.”
At the new conference center on the campus of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, Steve serves with the conference board’s ministerial committee as its staff person. This group guides the licensing and ordaining processes for new ministers and cares for credential transfers when ministers move in and out of the conference. The committee also provides continuing education for credentialed leaders. In this role, Steve also provides coordination among the LEADership ministers.
On the road again, Steve preaches usually twice a month around the conference, and handles all manner of inquiries about congregational leadership.
If you watch closely, you might find young adults and new pastors “on location” with Steve. Mentoring is an important part of cultivating leaders for the church. You will find him teaching in a classroom for Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s satellite classrooms in Philadelphia, Norristown, or Souderton. Sometimes his many travels double as field trips.
Look behind the scenes, too. As director of the conference’s communication team, Steve’s travels around the conference inform the planning and writing for Intersectings (the conference e-zine), Intersections (the newsletter), the conference’s website and other communication tools. The goal is to help make connections in the conference, and raise awareness of what is happening conference-wide.
In any given week, Steve may be found in enough places to highlight in a half-hour game show from Blooming Glen, Pennsylvania to Bridgewater Corners, Vermont or Sky Cafe in South Philly. But these travels mean more than that; they’re part of cultivating God’s dream in all of the places the people of Franconia conference live, work and worship.
Sharon K. Williams is a musician, editor and congregational/non-profit consultant. She serves the Lord with the Nueva Vida Norristown New Life congregation as minister of worship.
What comes to mind when you imagine Franconia Conference LEADership ministers and the work they do? You may be surprised to know that the new conference office at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School is probably not the place to find them, although a phone call there will certainly get you connected.
Steve Kriss, Jenifer Eriksen Morales, Aldo Siahaan, John Bender, Noel Santiago, and Ertell Whigham are always on the go. Each one connects with anywhere from three to 12 congregations in Vermont, northern Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley, southeastern Pennsylvania, and Georgia. They give much time and energy to congregations in transition and emerging congregations. An estimated 50 percent of conference congregations are in the midst of transition and/or growth.
Pastoral leadership is a common transition. Some congregations choose to work with an intentional interim pastor who stands in the gap and prepares the congregation to receive a new pastor. The LEAD ministers provide guidance for both search processes, and support elders and lay leaders in managing the congregation’s current and future priorities.
Jenifer Eriksen Morales, minister of transitional ministries, also works with other Mennonite Church USA (MCUSA) conferences on the east coast to train intentional interim pastors, and serves on the MCUSA task force for interim pastoral ministries.
Emerging and growing congregations are another focus. These congregations are high maintenance, but in a very good way. LEAD ministers help to address staffing needs, work with pastors who are new to the Anabaptist faith, and build relationships—in essence, anything that propels the missional vision forward.
The work of the LEAD ministers sometimes crisscrosses when their congregations work together. The Lehigh Valley youth ministry partnership is shared by the Whitehall, Ripple and Vietnamese Gospel congregations and led by Danilo Sanchez. Vietnamese Gospel Church in Allentown and Philadelphia Praise Center are partnering in a joint worship and outreach ministry with the Vietnamese community in south Philly. The LEAD ministers must also nurture their relationships with each other so their collaborations are fluid and fruitful.
Last summer, Aldo Siahaan and Steve Kriss received a “Macedonia call” (Acts 16:9-10). Could they meet with a Mara (Burmese) church during their visit with Georgia Praise Center leaders? This congregation in Atlanta is part of a network of Mara churches in Indianapolis, Indiana, Baltimore, Maryland, and Charlotte, North Carolina. The network is reaching out to Mennonite conferences on the east coast for assistance in establishing pastoral leadership. The exploratory relationship has many possibilities.
“As an immigrant pastor myself, it’s exciting to walk with the Mara Christians, to see them reach their destiny as a people, a church in this country,” says Aldo. “If they choose to join Mennonite Church USA, how will we receive each other and grow in ministry together?”
Each LEAD minister offers her or his unique gifts to their congregations. Noel enjoys helping pastors, elders and lay leaders experience the values and practices of intercessory prayer. Jenifer weaves in a missional focus with unchurched neighbors, adapted from the Kairos in Chaos ministry she’s involved with in Souderton. Aldo enjoys a natural affinity with the Mara church through their similar languages of Indonesian and Malay. Steve and Ertell always bring best practices of intercultural competencies to the mix.
Looking for your congregation’s LEAD minister? She or he may be in a meeting, consulting with pastors or elders in a coffee shop, or in a car on the way to your church.
Sharon K. Williams is a musician, editor and congregational/non-profit consultant. She serves the Lord with the Nueva Vida Norristown New Life congregation as the minister of worship.
by Rachel Sommer for Mennonite Central Committee East Coast and Mennonite Church USA
In a letter to Jerusalem’s exiled leaders, the prophet Jeremiah called on them to work for the welfare of Babylon, the city to which they had been deported. “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city,” he wrote. “Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jer. 29:7).
From October 2-4, nearly 100 Anabaptist leaders gathered in Philadelphia to discuss what responding to Jeremiah’s charge looks like in the 21st century.
Participants came from cities including New York; Hampton, Virginia; Philadelphia; and Washington, D.C., to attend the Urban Anabaptist Ministry Symposium organized by Glen Alexander Guyton, chief operating officer for Mennonite Church USA, and Chantelle Todman Moore, Philadelphia program coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) East Coast.
The symposium invited urban leaders to discuss practical Anabaptist ministry in their cities. “Being a peace church isn’t just about not going to war – it’s about manifesting God’s kingdom in our own communities,” said speaker Addie Banks, executive director at The Groundswell Group in the Bronx, New York.
Banks said the symposium provided opportunities for her to learn from colleagues in new ways. “Each of us has a tool. We all need tools to do our work, and gathering here with one another is like assembling a toolkit.”
During plenary sessions, Banks along with Al Taylor, pastor of Infinity Mennonite Church (Harlem, NY), and Ertell Whigham, associate pastor of Nueva Vida Norristown New Life (Norristown, Pa.) and executive minister of Franconia Mennonite Conference, shared “best practices” from their ministries.
Whigham spoke about the need to develop personal connections in culturally diverse contexts. “To be intercultural in the church of God today means that I will recognize how God has blessed you in your life, and I will recognize the gift that you are to me,” he said. “I will allow the Jesus in you to be the Jesus in me.”
Workshop leaders drew from first-hand experience to facilitate sessions on youth and young adult ministry, education for urban leaders, immigration, developing community partnerships and dismantling oppression.
Additional event sponsors included the African American Mennonite Association, Cookman at Emerging Ministries Corporation, Franconia Mennonite Conference, Goshen (Indiana) College, Kingdom Builders Anabaptist Network of Greater Philadelphia, Mennonite Mission Network and Philadelphia FIGHT.
Symposium organizers hope that participants will continue to connect and collaborate with one another. “I’m excited about the relationships that were forged here,” said Guyton. “This gathering showed that we can all benefit from the expertise of Anabaptist leaders who are carrying out practical ministry in their own contexts.”
Ben Walter, one of the pastors at Ripple, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, said the conference was one of the best he’d ever attended. He appreciated that voices often on the margins were given ample space and emphasis, and found it “helpful and enlightening” to hear the diverse perspectives and experiences represented among attendees.
Todman Moore hopes that urban Anabaptist leaders will convene in other cities in coming years. “We’d love to hear from Anabaptist leaders in other urban areas who are interested in discussing practical ministry in their contexts,” she said. She invites leaders to contact her (215-535-3624, ChantelleTodmanMoore@mcc.org) or Guyton (574-524-5282, GlenG@MennoniteUSA.org) to discuss planning similar initiatives in other cities.
This fall, four young adults from around the globe will use their gifts and time to support various Franconia Conference-related ministries. All four are participants in Mennonite Central Committee’s International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP), a year-long exchange that brings Christian young adults to the United States and Canada. Participants live with host families and volunteer with MCC partner agencies.
Rubina Budha, from Nepal. She will work at the retirement community Living Branches. Her host family for the first part of the year attends Souderton Mennonite Church, and her host family for the second half attends Zion Mennonite.
Ntsena Martha Masilo, from Lesotho. She will be working at Ten Thousand Villages. Her host families attend Plains Mennonite and Zion Mennonite.
MCC encourages church members to reach out to IVEP participants and welcome them into the community, and pray for them, that their time in service with MCC proves fruitful and life-giving, as they work and serve in the name of Christ.
Juanita is nine months pregnant. Her boyfriend, the baby’s father, is in hospice dying of cancer, and she’s about to be evicted from her apartment in downtown Allentown. She arrives at Ripple desperate, yet cheerful. Tomorrow is her birthday, and we celebrate by singing and giving her a whole cake, complete with candles.
Last week when I saw Brian, his hair and beard were white, in keeping with his aging frame. Today he looks years younger with his obviously dyed hair. He tells me he’s living in a new “time warp,” caused by the convergence of aliens and Americans.
Today, my husband, Tom, and I will officiate at a funeral for a homeless man who attended Ripple.
Yes, these are some of the realities of Ripple, where I sense God’s call to pastoring.
What brought us here? God. What keeps us here? God. How did I get here? It has been a long journey, involving wrestling, resisting, remembering, releasing, and surrendering.
My Lutheran upbringing prepared me for service in the church as a choir and youth group member and leader, and later as president of our college fellowship (where I met Tom), Sunday School teacher and Bible study leader. For one year after college, I participated in Lutheran Volunteer Corps, an organization similar to Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS), in Washington, D.C., where I met households of MVSers, who began my introduction to Anabaptist theology.
Early married life with two young children brought us to worship at Whitehall Mennonite Church, where, eventually, Tom was chosen to pastor. We were both rebaptized, as were our children later.
Tom prayerfully began pastoring in his “free time,” alongside his job as a teacher. I wrestled with the time crunch that his two jobs created for our family, and even resented how church took Tom away from our family. Meanwhile, God was nudging me to get involved and begin recognizing my own gifts of pastoring, but I refused. What would our kids do if both of us were sucked into church work?
So many brothers and sisters at Whitehall began calling out pastoral gifts in me that I could no longer deny that God was calling me to a pastoral role. Yet, the resistance continued, as Tom enrolled in Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s Summer Institute for Spiritual Formation. I decided to tag along to keep my eye on him—he was having some medical issues at the time—and ended up enrolling as well. Taking those classes was a fresh start for me, as I paid close attention to my own spiritual formation and internal conversations. I began to seriously consider what being called to pastor meant, and started meeting with a spiritual director. At the same time, we were moving out of Whitehall Mennonite’s realm to start an inner city ministry we first called “Ripple Effects.” Franconia Conference was instrumental in nudging us to take on this “missional experiment,” and Ripple continually reshapes itself, in true experimental fashion.
In the midst of all this, as our children approached college age, I returned to teaching school. Now how could I take on studying to be a pastor, when I, too, was working full time? Wrestling and resistance continued, until I remembered that others wrestled with God. I was in good company!
Releasing our country farmhouse and swapping for an apartment in inner city Allentown was a breaking point for me. I began Gateway classes after our first year in Allentown, and I have one more to complete. Because of Ripple’s ministry focus, I have also taken classes in restorative practices, and will earn a 24-credit certificate in ministry studies from EMS in the spring of 2015.
City life is so different from suburbia, but mission trips to Honduras also prepared us for life in Pennsylvania’s first majority-Latino city. We are part of a forming, informal group of Christians who live and work here in Allentown, and God keeps expanding our circles.
Recently, I wrote a response to some credentialing interview questions. One question, “What biblical principles guide your life and ministry?” caused me to reflect on love, relationships/community building and transformation. All three of these are rooted in Anabaptist theology and guide my daily living. Ripple’s byline is “moving closer to Jesus as our center,” and we do this by loving others Jesus’ way, building relationships, and praying and working for real, lasting transformation—beginning with me! In surrendering to God’s patient, persistent, risky call, my life has opened to new, life-giving possibilities. God is shaping me with a refreshing, transforming, loving perspective for my brothers and sisters in the inner city, as I pursue this adventure of being called to pastor at Ripple.
Juanita is still at risk of eviction. Brian still suffers with mental health issues. The family of Ronald, the homeless man whose funeral we officiated at, is still grieving. We are all moving closer to Jesus as our center, as we love, participate in community, and allow God’s transformation to happen.