Tag Archives: Ripple

New IVEP participants join Conference communities

IVEP Participants 2014
IVEP participants pose for a photo during last week’s orientation. Front: Kim Dyer (MCC East Coast IVEP Coordinator), Solger Kim (Korea), Linlin Wang (China), Crecensia Wasama Mwita (Tanzania), Rubina Budha (Nepal), Sambath Nget (Cambodia).  Back: Luis Torres Diaz (Colombia), Elisante Lulu (Tanzania), Binod Gaire (Nepal), XiaoHua Wen (China), Martha Masilo (Lesotho), Gavi Luna Barguan (Colombia), Musa Manbefor Koreri Wambrauw (Indonesia)

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.

This year, local IVEPers include:

Binod Gaire, from Nepal. He will serve at Quakertown Christian School and his host family attends Rocky Ridge Mennonite Church.

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.

Solger Kim, from Korea. She will serve at Lutheran Children & Family Service in Allentown, and will connect with Whitehall Mennonite Church and Ripple Allentown

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.

Confirming call: wrestling, resisting, remembering, surrendering

by Carolyn Albright, Ripple Allentown

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.

Communion
Carolyn Albright explains the significance of communion to the congregation.

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!

Children wash Carolyn's feet at Whitehall's Maundy Thursday worship.
Children wash Carolyn’s feet at Whitehall’s Maundy Thursday worship.

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.

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.”

Lehigh Valley congregations partner to support youth minister

Danilo Sanchez at Lock-in
Danilo Sanchez accompanies Lehigh Valley junior youth to the lock-in this spring.

by Sheldon C. Good

HARLEYSVILLE, Pa. – Some of the most diverse growth in Anabaptism along the East Coast is occurring in Allentown, Pennsylvania’s fastest growing city and now a city that is majority Hispanic. Even so, none of the city’s broad range of Anabaptist congregations has enough resources or even youth to maintain a youth pastor. That’s why Franconia Conference, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) East Coast, and six Lehigh Valley congregations have come together to hire a half-time youth worker, Danilo Sanchez, to minister across the various Anabaptist communities.

Through this role, Sanchez, who graduated this spring from Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg, Va., is involved regularly with a diverse combination of congregations unlike those served by just about any other Anabaptist minister in the U.S.: Karen Fellowship, Iglesia Menonita Evangelica Restoracion, Christ Fellowship, Vietnamese Gospel Mennonite Church, Whitehall Mennonite Church, and Ripple. Franconia Conference, MCC East Coast, Whitehall, and Ripple share financial support of the position.

Sanchez is primarily responsible for organizing gatherings for Lehigh Valley youth, leading worship at the Whitehall and Ripple congregations, organizing after-school youth activities, and engaging the myriad Lehigh Valley Anabaptist congregations.

“I’m excited to join the vision of creating a context where next-generation intercultural Anabaptist leadership can flourish and strengthening relationships across Anabaptist communities in the Allentown area,” Sanchez said. “While I have experience working with youth in many types of Mennonite churches, this will be a new challenge. I never expected myself to be in urban ministry, but that seems to be where God is calling me, and I’m willing to follow the Spirit’s call in my life.”

Youth have a reputation for being an especially challenging demographic for people in ministry, and Sanchez’s experience in Allentown will likely be no different. The youth of Whitehall and Ripple, though few, come from challenging, high-need situations, including coming to Allentown as refugees and being born into cycles of poverty, according to Whitehall pastor Rose Bender, who is Sanchez’s supervisor. “As a part-time pastor,” she said, “I am already feeling stretched beyond what I can give. So, the idea of adding a youth worker that would connect with Whitehall as well as some of the other congregations is very exciting.”

The partnership of so many groups and congregations makes sense to Bender. She noted that many people from Whitehall and Ripple in particular are neighbors, and some people worship with both groups. The connection with Franconia Conference and MCC East Coast, she said, is yet another example that people “are looking for ways to connect here and make a difference.” Many congregations already partner with Ripple by cooking meals or sending youth groups to work with children in the city.

Angela Moyer, co-pastor of Ripple, wants all different types of people feel like they are welcomed and wanted in the Ripple community, and she hopes Sanchez’s leadership will help Ripple work toward that.

“Danilo has a deep compassion for youth who typically are on the margins in their schools, families, and communities,” she said. “With Danilo, the teenagers at Ripple hopefully will find a place where they belong, are nurtured, and supported in their specific life stage.”

Thanh Pham, a pastor from Vietnamese Gospel, echoed Moyer’s hope that Sanchez will help youth to flourish. Pham said he prays the youth’s parents will “see our community as a place they can trust to send their children to learn more about God.”

A partnership between MCC and local congregations isn’t commonplace, though it does exist elsewhere. Sanchez’s position is one that “resonates deeply” with ongoing MCC work related to youth, urban ministry, collaboration with churches representing diverse ethnic backgrounds, and leadership development, said Kim Dyer, young adult program coordinator of MCC East Coast. “We are excited to be able to respond to an initiative coming from the church in a local context that connects so deeply to MCC’s areas of focus.”

“This new collaboration is a creative way to build on both strengths and possibilities,” said Steve Kriss, director of leadership cultivation for Franconia Conference.  “Danilo has been shaped through numerous points of engagement within Franconia Conference.  This work provides space for something new to emerge alongside the congregations of the Lehigh Valley.   We’re grateful for the opportunity to work together through MCC’s Community Service Worker initiative.”

Sanchez, who is also working half time at MCC as national director for their Summer Service Worker program, said what makes him most excited and hopeful about the new position is that he can serve alongside the next generation of Anabaptist leaders who God is raising up.

“I don’t know what the church will look like, but I trust that the Spirit is leading and at work in the lives of these young people in Allentown,” he said.

New LEADership Ministers join Franconia Conference staff

by Sheldon C. Good

Aldo Siahaan
Aldo Siahaan

Experienced Mennonite pastors John Bender and Aldo Siahaan have joined the Franconia Conference team of LEADership Ministers, bringing experience in church planting, intercultural leadership, and congregational pastoral work.   Each will serve alongside several congregations yet to be decided and will work from home bases in southeastern Pennsylvania’s largest cities while continuing pastoral ministry assignments.

Aldo Siahaan, based in Philadelphia, helped start Philadelphia Praise Center in 2005. The congregation joined Franconia Conference in 2006, and Siahaan became credentialed as lead pastor in 2007.

Siahaan’s other ministry experience includes being a board member of Mennonite Central Committee East Coast, teaching a summer cross-cultural course at Messiah College, and being a member of the Indonesian Pastoral Network.

Siahaan hopes that in his role as a LEADership minister he can both “be a blessing” to others and “learn more about leadership in a broader way.”

John Bender
John Bender

John Bender, based in Allentown, Pa., is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University and Eastern Mennonite Seminary. He and his wife, Marilyn Handrich Bender, started Raleigh (N.C.) Mennonite Church, where they co-pastored for 18 years. For the past nine years, John pastored Pittsburgh Mennonite Church.

In July 2013 the Benders moved to Allentown, Pa., where John is the part-time director of Ripple Community, Inc., a ministry of the RIPPLE congregation. He is also interim associate pastor of the Franconia congregation.

Bender served in a number of leadership capacities with Virginia Mennonite Conference and Allegheny Mennonite Conference and has close to 30 years of pastoral ministry experience.

“I care deeply about pastors and churches and helping them to pursue healthy relationships together, and I hope I can be a resource to pastors and a guide along the way,” Bender said.

Both Bender and Siahaan bring fresh perspectives and proven track records as they join the team of LEADership ministers resourcing congregations in mission and ministry, said Ertell Whigham, Franconia’s executive minister.  “We feel that both John and Aldo bring a variety of gifts and experience that will help us to provide the support congregations need while enabling us to continue the intercultural work that we have stated as one of our conference’s values.”

LEAD is the conference’s platform for oversight, designed to Lead, Equip, And Disciple both lay and credentialed leadership as they guide congregations. A congregation’s LEAD team is comprised of a LEADership minister, the pastor, the chair of the congregation’s governing body (when relevant), and a LEAD advisor from beyond the congregation.  LEADership ministers serve as the primary point of contact between congregations and Franconia Conference.

Conference focus groups provide feedback for national meetings

by Sheldon C. Good

Ertell WhighamTen leaders from Franconia Conference congregations voiced wide-ranging perspectives during two conference calls held recently to garner feedback on a controversial action taken by Mountain States Mennonite Conference earlier this year. In addition to those on the conference calls, about a dozen other leaders and delegates submitted written responses to Franconia Conference.

Franconia Conference executive minister Ertell Whigham convened the calls on March 15 and 16. His goal was to listen to leaders’ perspectives in preparation for a meeting of the Constituency Leadership Council, or CLC, of Mennonite Church USA held March 20-22 in North Newton, Kan.

In response to a decision by Mountain States to license a pastor in a committed same-sex relationship, the Executive Board of MC USA appointed a task force to frame questions for discussion at the CLC meeting. The conference calls included persons from across the conference invited to provide insight and counsel in preparation for the meeting.  Persons were chosen to represent a diversity of perspectives.  About half of those invited participated.

Whigham, moderator John Goshow, and board member Klaudia Smucker (Bally congregation) represented Franconia Conference at the CLC meeting.  Beny Krisbianto of Nations Worship Center also attended representing the Indonesian Mennonite Fellowship (a national group within Mennonite Church USA).

Whigham invited leaders on the calls to respond to three questions: What is your prayer for the leaders of our denomination and conference? What would be one important question that would represent the thoughts of the constituents within your congregation or community? What is one perspective of hope and one of challenge that you see within our denomination and our conference?

During the call Angela Moyer, co-pastor of RIPPLE in Allentown, Pa., said people in her congregation “have little to no awareness” about the discussions going on at the conference or denominational level.

“People at RIPPLE are concerned about having a place to sleep, food to eat, and friends that care about them,” she said in an interview reflecting on the conference call. “People know that RIPPLE is safe and caring; we treat one another with dignity as people and not statistics.  Other people on the conference call seemed surprised [when I said this] and appreciated this perspective.”

Prayers from those on the calls included that fellow church leaders would: be led by the Holy Spirit, continue to be humble, and allow Christ to be at the center of all decisions; continue to find ways to be faithful in the midst of difference; work toward unity and understanding; be bold and avoid perfectionism; be sensitive to the needs of church members; and maintain spiritual integrity and values while leading.

The leaders wondered what following Jesus in the 21st century looks like and how to respond faithfully to Micah 6:8. They wondered how many people would leave the church because of the Mountain States decision. Some expressed their hope for spaces where church members could be “real and vulnerable.” Hopes of the leaders revolved around how to practice faithful discipleship, right relationship, and the lordship of Christ. Challenges focused on whether unity is possible.

Similar themes emerged during the Kansas CLC meeting.

According to an article by Gordon Houser in TMail, Mennonite Church USA executive director Ervin Stutzman said that over the last few weeks he has received hundreds of emails, which he categorized into three groupings: 1) greater inclusion of LGBT individuals, 2) faithfulness to the traditional stance, and 3) unity. Stutzman called the CLC meetings “a referendum on the Membership Guidelines” that were adopted at Nashville 2001.

Those attending the CLC meetings, including Whigham, Goshow, Krisbianto and Smucker, participated in table-group discussion on a serious of questions related to Mountain States’ decision. The task force appointed by the MC USA Executive Board plans to draft a recommendation for consideration by the Executive Board at its June 26–28 meeting in Chicago.

The focus group invitations included credentialed and delegate representatives from 20 congregations.   Representatives from Bethany, Deep Run East, Doylestown, Finland, Franconia, Plains, Ripple, Salford and West Philadelphia participated in the calls.   Representatives from Boyertown, Blooming Glen, Line Lexington, Nueva Vida Norristown New Life, Philadelphia Praise, Rocky Ridge and Souderton congregations were also invited but unable to attend at the scheduled conference call times.  A few of those invitees who were unable to participate in the calls submitted written responses.

Youth groups move from charity to justice

by Angela Moyer, RIPPLE (Allentown, Pa.) & Ben Wideman, Salford (Harleysville, Pa.)

Salford and Ripple youthBen:  As Salford prepared to experience Mennonite Church USA’s biannual gathering in Phoenix, AZ we understood that this was going to be a different kind of experience.  We knew that there were a whole host of reasons that various churches were in favor of attending and not attending.  One of the dramatic factors of a trip to the Southwest was that several of our sister congregations would be unable to afford the travel expenses.

As we began to get a sense of what we could afford, and how much we could offer in support of other youth groups, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Angela share with a group of youth pastors that she was interested in taking a group from their congregation but needed financial assistance.  It seemed like perfect timing – not just for financial support, but for deepening relationships with a congregation we knew little about.

Angela:  The invitation for RIPPLE youth to join Salford’s youth group on their trip to Phoenix was a hope and a wish come true.  It was evidence that all of our talk about sharing power and resources had some feet.  And as we began to make plans and think about what it would take in order to make this a healthy and positive experience for both groups, I realized that this was going to be more than a simple act of generosity or charity.

I had no idea what it would be like for RIPPLE youth to experience Convention.  I knew that it would be different for them than for youth who grow up in fairly stable, middle class churches and communities but I could not anticipate what their experience would be.  What I did know was that they deserved the opportunity to go just as much as other youth, if not more.  As we began to make plans for how to make this a positive experience, we soon realized that it would be more than a one week event in Phoenix.  Relationships needed to be built prior to a week-long trip together.

Ben:  Angela and I were in agreement from the onset that this had to be a shared experience.  Salford had supported other churches in the past by simply writing a check, but this time our youth and sponsors wanted to have a deeper connection than that.  We knew that this would be challenging; the simple geographic barriers, nuanced cultural contexts, and busy schedules meant that we had to work to get just one or two opportunities on the calendar for the respective youth to connect with each other.

Angela:  Relationships between people with very different backgrounds take time and effort to develop.  After they’re developed, then true relationships need to be maintained at some level.  It’s one thing to receive one or two gifts graciously, but to continue to receive them is hard.  And to believe that the non-financial gifts that you have to offer back is just as valuable as money is hard too.

Then, in typical RIPPLE fashion, the needs grew faster than what I could keep up with.  Shortly after registering two youth and myself for Convention with Salford’s group, another responsible youth began attending and significantly contributing to RIPPLE.  Now what do we do about the youth trip to Convention?  Thankfully, in God’s abundance, Deep Run East Mennonite was willing to contribute finances for this third youth to attend Convention.

Ben:  It seems obvious now, but looking back, I was unaware of the complexity of planning a trip like this.  Families from both churches had life experiences come up that changed their summer plans.  Conference registration and payment is challenging enough for 20 people from one church.  Add in hotel reservations (and roommate assignments), plane tickets, airport transportation, and youth from a whole other church, and this trip became an interesting logistical challenge.

Angela:  But this was just the beginning of being overwhelmed with the gaps to be bridged between the two groups; this is why I think our collaborative effort begins to point towards justice rather than mere generosity.  The partnership between RIPPLE and Salford offered opportunity to those who otherwise would not have been able to engage, for both groups to learn from one another.  The relationship is ongoing; although one phase is over, much is still unfinished.  This collaboration was and continues to be overwhelming on a variety of layers requiring more than what can be anticipated and offered.  And yet this is the space where God’s Spirit seems to be moving and providing.

Ben:  The relationship between Salford and RIPPLE will continue to be a work in progress.  We are two sister congregations, but we are made up of a huge cross-section of families and perspectives.  Oftentimes it is uncomfortable to have to work through what it means to be relating to people beyond the walls of our church building, but we trust that there will be a blessing and growth in this process.  We hope to continue to build this relationship so that our youth will begin to see themselves as a part of something larger than our respective church family.  I hope Salford and RIPPLE (and many other churches too!) will reach a point where relating with people from other contexts is not simply tolerated, but expected and valued.

Celebrating ACLF

Last EMS History Sessionby John Tyson, Salford

A decade ago, Franconia Mennonite Conference leadership noticed a critical problem: seminary-trained leaders were increasingly in short supply. So when Delaware Valley Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), a conference-related ministry, turned over a well-funded college tuition scholarship program to the conference, a solution soon emerged.

Conrad Martin and Donella Clemens of Franconia Conference partnered with Henry Rosenberger and Dave Landis of MEDA to form a committee charged with developing a plan for the use of the newly-received asset. According to Rosenberger, it became quickly apparent that continuing to use the fund for its previous purpose of providing small college tuition scholarships was becoming less meaningful in light of the meteoric rise of college costs.

“At the same time in our Conference history, there seemed to be an increasing number of pastors being called to congregations with little or no Anabaptist training or cultural knowledge of Mennonites,” said Rosenberger. “Concern for the effects this lack of training had in our congregations, I believe, prompted the Board of MEDA to see this fund as a way to enhance the training for persons moving into leadership.”

As a result, the Area Conference Leadership Fund (ACLF) was born. Future leaders from both the Franconia and Eastern District conferences now had a new financial option to help address the costs of seminary and higher education. The committee chose to accept ACLF applications from members in both the Franconia and Eastern District conferences to recognize the involvement of the two conferences in Delaware Valley MEDA.

In 2002, the first scholarships were disbursed and over the past decade, 60 leaders have received financial assistance from the fund. Soon, scholarship recipients began to reflect emerging shifts in the leadership demographics of Franconia Conference: twenty percent of recipients were people of color and one-third of recipients were women. The ACLF allowed Franconia Conference to invest in the future.

As Franconia Conference’s director of communication and leadership cultivation, Stephen Kriss immediately recognized the value of ACLF. “The amazing thing is how many people ACLF assisted who are serving the church both within and beyond Franconia and Eastern District conferences. These gifts were amazing investments in current and future leadership. ACLF enabled us to call forth, train, and equip dozens of leaders effectively, generously, open-handedly,” said Kriss.

Angela Moyer graduation
Angela Moyer graduated from Eastern Mennonite Seminary last year. Photo by Julie Siegfried.

Recipients of ACLF scholarships appreciate the confidence and support of the broader church community.  For Angela Moyer, a member of the pastoral team of Ripple congregation, (Allentown, Pa.), the support of ACLF provided the freedom to explore seminary at a comfortable pace. “I never thought I would go to seminary. I started by just taking two classes at a time—I just had a few questions… I had no interest in pursuing a graduate degree. Little did I know how formative seminary would be in finding my identity as a pastor. Receiving funds from the ACLF was the broader church community nudging me, telling me it was okay to pursue this call even when I didn’t believe it myself.”

As the Lead Pastor of Salford congregation (Harleysville, Pa.), Joe Hackman believes that his leadership abilities have been significantly nurtured by the ACLF scholarship. “The ACLF fund allowed me to feel the support of the wider church community. The financial investment the church made for my education has helped me enter into my current leadership role with a greater sense of preparedness and confidence.”

In the words of Rosenberger, a core aspect of the original ACLF vision is to ensure that emerging “leadership was firmly based in Anabaptist theology and nonresistance.” This vision is coming to fruition in the work of Beny Krisbianto, Lead Pastor of Nations Worship Center (Philadelphia). “ACLF is helping me to finish my Capstone Project at Eastern Mennonite Seminary. My capstone project has taught me how to believe that ‘The Culture of Peace’ is still possible,” says Krisbianto. “Inspired by the struggles, prejudices, and broken relationships in my context of ministry in Philadelphia, peace is not theory, too big or unrealistic, but it is God’s calling and it does still work today.”

Despite occasional contributions, the size of the ACLF scholarship was considerably reduced in 2012 and leaders will no longer have access to substantial ACLF scholarships. This, however, does not mean that there is no longer a need for talented future church leaders. According to the Conrad Martin, Franconia Conference’s director of finance, the need for future church leaders is still there, as is the need to assist them financially so that they can pursue a quality Anabaptist education. Contributions into the ACLF continue to be welcomed.

Beauty for Brokenness: Growth toward Wholeness

Womens Gathering 2013
Women from Franconia and Eastern District conferences attach symbols of healing to an oak tree at this year’s Beauty for Brokenness seminar. Photo by Anne Yoder.

by Lynne McMullan Allebach, Arise

On the morning of Saturday, June1st, thirty women came together at Salford Mennonite Church in Harleysville (Pa.) for the first women’s equipping event sponsored by the new Eastern District & Franconia Mennonite Conferences Women’s Committee.

Angela Moyer, co-pastor of Ripple congregation (Allentown, Pa.) and occupational therapist at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation, spoke about melding a clinical model for recovery from trauma with the story of Christ to bring healing for hurts, whether small or truly traumatic. She explained how we can choose to “act in” by doing things destructive to ourselves or “act out” by doing things that are destructive to others, or we can choose to heal by taking positive steps toward forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace.  Sister Mary Julia McKenzie, chaplain at Penn Foundation’s Recovery Center (Sellersville, Pa.), spoke about the work of recovery, especially as it relates to drug and alcohol addictions. She shared a poem about an oak tree as a symbol of resilience in the face of trials, then invited the participants to decorate items to be placed on a drawn oak tree as a part of the closing worship time.

Phyllis Chami shared a devotion she had written about Eve and Mary, two women of God. The devotion came out of her own personal trauma and how God has played a part in her growth toward wholeness. Lynne Allebach also shared the story of the loss of her son and how the care of others aided in overcoming her grief. Participants met in small groups to discuss their own trauma experiences and their need for recovery. The morning ended with a time of worship that included a version of “Beauty for Brokenness” with words written specifically for the gathering.

Franconia and Eastern District Conferences sponsored a seminar last year on training women for relationships of mutual care.  Responses to a survey taken after the training indicated an interest in continued equipping gatherings that address the needs of women. Anne Yoder, West Philadelphia congregation, answered the call for ongoing ministry and assembled a committee to begin brainstorming ideas. The theme of Beauty for Brokenness was chosen as a motif for the June event as a way of examining trauma and seeing how people may grow toward wholeness from places of brokenness.

Beauty for Brokenness was well received and there was support expressed for continuing to meet, probably twice a year.  “There were women from eighteen churches here, most from smaller congregations that do not have established women’s programs,” observed Yoder. “It is a joy to be able to provide a forum for so many who are looking for spiritual and emotional encouragement and for friendships with other women of faith. . . .  I am so grateful to see the Spirit moving among us, empowering us to sister each other through our life journeys.”

To join the planning team or to receive information about future gatherings, please e-mail Anne Yoder at ayoder1@swarthmore.edu.

Carrying the cross on Good Friday

Ripple Good Friday cross
Members of Ripple Allentown carry the cross as part of an ecumenical procession in Allentown on Good Friday. Photo by April Bartholomew / The Morning Call.

by Carolyn Albright, Ripple Allentown

This year on Good Friday, Ripple participated in the West End Ecumenical Worship, which involved a procession of the cross, ending at the host church, where 5 congregations joined for a 3 hour worship service. Each church was responsible for leading worship for a 1/2 hour slot.

We had announced this for many weeks in advance so many Ripple folks showed up on our front porch, which was along the processional route, where we joyfully and willingly joined the procession, which had started at the Episcopal church just a few blocks away. Isaiah, 6, and his sister, Marinette, 8, regular “Ripple Kids,” were the first to speak up to help carry the cross.

As we solemnly walked along, one woman stopped her car, jumped out, and took photos of us with her cell phone. Others slowed down as they drove past, and once, while crossing a street as the light changed, the drivers respectfully let us pass, as they would have a funeral procession (ironic). As Isaiah tired of carrying the heavy cross, he readily asked for help and for someone else to take a turn. For me, this was a symbol of the community building that goes on at Ripple; we all carry one another’s burdens at different times, and he so innocently enacted this truth.

Getting closer to the church, Isaiah also innocently asked (after observing the newspaper photographer snapping hundreds of photos), “Are we in a parade?”

“Sort of,” I responded, explaining that we were remembering the day Jesus died on the cross, showing us his love for us.

“THIS cross?” Isaiah asked.

“Not exactly, but one just like it,” I answered.

Inside the church, with its stained glass windows, formal pews and high altar, the children became respectfully quiet. During Ripple’s part of the worship, Isaiah helped with the prayer, repeating a regular phrase he has learned at Ripple. I said, “God loves the world,” and he joyfully responded, “And Jesus loves me!”

And that’s the simple message Ripple spreads, as we carry the cross–and one another’s burdens–in this urban setting.

See The Morning Call’s photo slide show.