Tag Archives: Towamencin Mennonite Church

Carrying Grandmother’s Purse

by Anne M. Yoder

On March 18, 2017, I had the privilege of meeting with a large group from area Mennonite churches at the 6th annual Eastern District and Franconia Conferences’ Women’s Gathering. Every year at this event I think about who will attend, what joys they will have experienced in the last year and what difficulties they may have encountered. I pray for us all that we may meet the Lord in and through each other when we gather. And each year I am again greatly heartened by being among so many sisters in Christ.

Once again the hard work of the planning committee and especially our miracle-working God made a way where there seemed to be no way, and we were able to enjoy a sacred day of fellowship, worship, and learning. We had the biggest group ever, with 80 registrants from 15 different churches. The largest contingent of over 20 women came from Centro de Alabanza de Fildelfia.

The theme for the gathering was “Carrying Grandmother’s Purse”, a metaphor for the views and messages we often carry from our families and culture that may or may not help us to be the women God created us to be (see the meditation here for more on the metaphor). Our speaker was Pastor Tami Good from Swamp Mennonite Church, who led us in looking at several Biblical women who needed to hear new messages about themselves in order to live abundantly. First they had to shed some of the messages they had heard in the past about themselves, setting aside “Grandmother’s Purse,” as it were before they could accept the messages Christ had for them.

We were asked to reflect on three questions throughout the day: Who do they (culture, family, etc.) say that I am? Who do I say that I am? Who does God say that I am? Pastor Tami told about her own journey of letting go of some of Grandmother’s purse as she stepped into God’s calling on her life to be a pastor.

Probably the most moving for all of us was hearing stories from those who shared candidly about their struggles and their hopes for the future, and time spent praying in groups of two or more for each other. In the morning we had blue paper purses that we named as our grandmothers’, and in them we placed slips of paper on which we had written things we had heard about ourselves through our lives that we wanted to release. Part of our prayer time was taking those purses up front to a basket where they joined all the others to be discarded. In exchange for these “old” purses, we were given change purses on a keychain in which we had placed positive messages to remember in the future including scripture verses reminding us of God’s messages to us.

We were blessed by songs of worship led by women from Centro de Alabanza de Fildelfia, expert translation between Spanish and English by several women, wonderful snacks donated by a dozen registrants, a delicious luncheon prepared by Marta Castillo, and by the faith witness of those who attended.

As one participant wrote, when asked what they found most meaningful about the Gathering: “Connecting with sisters of a different culture and learning from their examples – I noticed how many shared, and how they usually began with ‘God is good’ even as they described hardship in their lives.” Similarly, another wrote in answer to the same question: “Joining of all cultures, all sisters, seeing tears, prayer, and sincerity.”

All in all, it was a delightful and very meaningful day. We look forward to gathering together again next year.

Much gratitude goes to all who helped make the day possible, including Pastor Mike Clemmer for his generosity in helping to set up and clean up Towamencin Mennonite Church before and after our use of the facility, and the members of the Eastern District and Franconia Conference Sistering Committee who helped plan this year’s event: Pastor Letty Castro (Centro de Alabanza de Fildelfia), Doris Diener, Pastor Tami Good (Swamp Mennonite Church), Pastor Marta Castillo (Nueva Vida Norristown New Life), and Anne Yoder.

Value-Based Decision Making

by John Stoltzfus

When our oldest son was 13, he wanted to play in the park football program. Despite some misgivings about the benefits of youth football, my wife and I decided to let him play hoping that he would find a sense of confidence and purpose in a team sport. However, when the schedule came out indicating that some games may happen on Sunday mornings, we knew we had some additional discernment to do. So we engaged our son in conversation about what we would do.

Tim Bentch’s article “Are We Driving Our Children Away from God?” asks some important questions related to the values we as parents are modeling to our children. A frequent refrain among youth pastors is how to do ministry among the “busy schedules” that dominate the calendars of our youth and families.

A recent book, Overplayed: A Parent’s Guide to Sanity in the World of Sports, by David King and Margot Starbuck, asks some of the same questions. They address seven myths about youth sports that are deeply entrenched in our culture. What are the unintended messages we pass on to our children about what we value regarding performance, success, family, community, and justice and equity? What are alternative ways families can positively engage with youth sports culture?

They do not give a one-size-fits-all suggestion. Each family will need to make their own tough calls based on their priorities and values and responses to these questions:

  • What do we want to be doing with our money and our time?
  • What relationships are most important for us to honor?
  • What are three to five values we want to name as being important to us?
Courtesy of Towamencin MYF

As parents and/or youth workers it is important that we help keep the focus of our youth on Christ and being disciples. Identifying family values in advance gives you tools for decision making about athletic and other types of extracurricular commitments. As youth workers and pastors we can help keep these values at the forefront for our youth when we see them making decisions. These values may lead to limited or no engagement in certain extracurricular activities, or as seen in a previous Intersectings article, “The Everyday Missionary,” you may find a way to help make disciples for the Lord through extracurricular activities. Either way engagement should be based off the values your family holds.

Here are some guiding values for us to consider as communities of faith. What would you add?

  1. Sabbath. We need to be grounded in a Christian community committed to the sacred balance between work and rest. A life that incorporates Sabbath rest helps us to be more aware of the Spirit of God, more dependent on the providence of God, and more available for relationships of love. What does Sabbath look like in a world where choices abound and technology surrounds us? Sometimes our church youth programs buy into the “more activities and choices are better” mentality and only compound the problem. Let’s confront one of the diseases of our time: we are distracted from the “better” things often hidden among many “good” things.
  2. Accompaniment. How can we come alongside our youth in their journey of discipleship? Our task is to initiate young persons into mature Christian faith through relationships with adults who join them in living the way of authentic discipleship. As elders we can offer youth friendship, guidance and listening ears as they make the passage through adolescence into spiritual maturity. This is the work of the whole church and not just a youth pastor or a few youth sponsors in the congregation.
  3. Discernment. We need to be guided by prayerful discernment attentive to God’s living Word. We practice and teach the discipline of discernment with our youth so as to be responsive to the movement of God’s grace and mission. How can we be less anxiety and fear driven and more Spirit led in our ministry with youth? Involve youth in the decision making process in congregational life. Be open to how God is speaking to and through them to the larger church.
  4. Multigenerational: Make church multigenerational as much as possible. In some of our attempts to do great youth programming we may be unintentionally disconnecting them from the larger body of Christ. Young people at multigenerational focused churches are more likely to remain connected to the faith and become active church members as adults, because that’s what they already are and always have been. When my wife and I were looking for a church home, we were not looking for a church with a dynamic youth program as much as we were looking for a community of believers modeling an active faith that included the nurture of children and youth.
  5. Authentic action: We seek to engage youth and adults in authentic actions that reflect God’s mercy, justice and peace. Most studies of faith and youth point to parent’s faith as the key factor in their children’s faith. What is the shape of our faith that we are passing on our children? What is the one radical thing we are doing because of our faith? Our youth need to see the connection between life and faith.
  6. Baptism: Let’s reimagine baptism and its role in Christian citizenship and discipleship. What does baptism look like in our current context? To early Christians, baptism meant a decisive step of leaving one’s civilian life behind and accepting the commitment of becoming a “living sacrifice” for God’s service. How can we as adults make more of our baptismal promises and journey? How can we give space for the baptism instructional experience and ritual to be more fully robust and transformational?

My conviction is that God is speaking to our youth in every part of their lives. How can we as adults help them respond with the words of Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”?

Epiphanies: A Call to Worship

By Michael Clemmer

Many of our churches have just finished their celebration of Epiphany – a day that seems to have taken a back seat to our more culturally-relevant Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. Epiphany is literally defined as a “Christian festival held on January 6 in honor of the coming of the three kings to the infant Jesus Christ.” Yet, as I reflected on the story of how the Magi saw something new in the sky and were compelled to leave behind all of their responsibilities and travel to see this new king, I couldn’t help but wonder if epiphanies have the same effect on people today. Is it even possible that we, who live in our practical or intellectual worlds of thought, would even be open to see or understand something in a new way through God’s divine enlightening?

threewisemenPerhaps we spend so much time trying to figure out what God is doing and saying through our epiphanies that we miss the real purpose of them – to draw us to worship. The sight of the star set the Magi into motion. They saw the star and they freed themselves to make the trip to worship the newborn savior king. Maybe we all need some sort of epiphany to point us to the place or posture of worship.

Over the Christmas holiday, my nearly 3-year-old grandson helped enlighten me about my own need to make worship a priority. One night before he fell asleep, he was lying in bed when he burst out in singing “Gloria, Gloria, Gloria,” the refrain of the Christmas song he heard earlier in the week. And then there was silence. A few moments later, he repeated his praises to God –this time adding “In excelsis Deo.” He had heard this chorus for the first time of his life earlier in the week, and now, he couldn’t help but continue to sing it as a way of praising God. It burst forth from his heart and broke the silence. The song was a part of him – and he sang God’s praises freely and joyfully over and over again.   In that moment as I stood in the hallway outside of his room, the light became clear to me.  It was an epiphany. My heart was filled with joy as I whispered – Gloria in excelsis deo, indeed!! Every day that we live should be guided by the Epiphany that opens our eyes to new understandings of the fact that a Savior has been born. And that leads us to worship. Come all, come everyone and worship!

Michael Clemmer is pastor at Towamencin Mennonite Church and a LEADership minister in Franconia Conference.

Mike Clemmer Joins Conference LEADership Ministry Team

By Colin Ingram

Franconia Conference welcomes a gardener—who cultivates flowers, leaders, and diversity—to the LEADership ministry team. Loving to see beautiful things grow, Mike plants flowers on his church’s property and works to nurture leaders as a pastor. He will continue this leadership cultivation as a welcomed LEADership minister with the conference.

MIke Clemmer2 8-20-15 webLEAD is the conference’s oversight direction and platform intended to cultivate healthy and growing Anabaptist congregations by equipping leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission. Oversight occurs through a team invited by congregational leaders to serve and lead them. This team includes the pastor, a Franconia Mennonite Conference LEADership minister, the chair of the congregation’s governing body (when relevant) and others.  LEADership ministers and the LEAD approach equips leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission through support, accountability, and conflict management for pastors as they move forward in God’s vision and mission.

Mike Clemmer begins his responsibilities as a LEADership minister in Franconia Mennonite Conference this August. He has grown up in the conference, beginning life at Souderton Mennonite Church and now serving for the past ten years as pastor at Towamencin Mennonite Church. He is the chair of the conference credentialing committee and serves as a part of the ministerial committee.

Earning a doctorate in missional leadership at Biblical Theological Seminary, Mike has a passion for leadership and helping a congregation realize the insights it already has for making decisions.

“To give some encouragement to other pastors and other leadership teams is something I have always enjoyed,” Mike said.

Mike appreciates the connections that Franconia Mennonite Conference affords easily between churches. Something he has witnessed over his longstanding relationship with the conference and local congregations.

Mike considers connecting with the community important as well, which aligns with the conference’s focus on mission. In addition to his work as pastor at Towamencin Mennonite Church, he is a chaplain for the Towamencin Fire Company, a way to connect with others outside the congregation. Another indication of his passion to welcome the community into the church is the “no-conclusion” Bible study practice he encourages. Instead of a Bible study instructor concluding with the final answers of a passage, he prefers a more open-ended conclusion that allows the passage to continue to work in everyone’s heart throughout the week that allows for “many people [to] takeaway” insights.

Mike personally aligns with the intercultural goal of Franconia Mennonite Conference; after all, Towamencin Mennonite Church has 14 native languages in a congregation of about 160 people, according to Mike. Persons from Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Korea, China, Germany, and several Hispanic countries attend the congregation.

Before pastoring, Mike spent more than 20 years in business at Moyer & Son in Telford.

While serving as a LEADership Minister with the conference, Mike will continue to pastor at Towamencin Mennonite Church. He may also be found enjoying some of his other passions including running, sports, music, and gardening. Mike is married to April and they have three grown children.

Towamencin Youth Inspires and Blesses

Peter Zucca 2 - 7-3-15 - web
Photo courtesy of www.peterpowerhouse.org

“As a church, we have often felt as if we are part of both Peter’s struggles as well as his celebrations. He has such a positive personality that he draws people into his life’s story and in the end, we are always inspired and blessed through each and every victory in his life.  Peter has taught me how to trust God with a smile on my face.” –Mike Clemmer, pastor at Towamencin Mennonite Church.

Read more in the article from Philly.com here.