All posts by Franconia Conference Webmaster

MCC grieves worker killed in Afghanistan

Cheryl Zehr Walker
August 8, 2010

AKRON, Pa. – A Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) worker in Afghanistan, Glen D. Lapp of Lancaster, Pa., was killed this week in a shooting incident in Afghanistan’s northeastern Badakhshan province.

Lapp was traveling with a medical team of four Afghans, six Americans, one Briton and one German. All, including Lapp, worked with MCC partner organization International Assistance Mission, a charity providing eye care and medical help in Afghanistan. Local police found 10 bodies on Friday next to abandoned vehicles. One Afghan team member traveled home via another route and is safe. Another Afghan survived the attack and is being questioned by the police.

On Sunday morning, Lapp’s family received confirmation of his death from the U.S. Embassy. After delays due to poor weather in the area of the attack, the bodies had been taken to the capital city of Kabul for official identification.

In media reports, IAM said this “eye camp” medical team had been testing and treating people with eye diseases in Nuristan province for about two weeks at the invitation of communities there. IAM lost touch with the team Thursday evening when members did not call in as agreed. Three vehicles fitting the description of the team’s vehicles were discovered a day later in Kuran Wa Munjan district of Badakhshan province, which borders Nuristan province.

Local police said robbery might have been the motive. The Taliban has said it is behind the attack.

IAM, which has worked in the country since 1966, regularly dispatched “eye camp” medical teams in Afghanistan and Lapp, 40, had also been part of previous teams. While Lapp was trained as a nurse, his work in Afghanistan was not as a medic. In his two years there, Lapp was executive assistant at IAM and manager of IAM’s provincial ophthalmic care program.

Afghanistan has suffered war, turmoil, poverty and instability for decades. It is one of the least-developed countries in the world, and the lives of ordinary Afghans continue to be threatened by an array of issues.

MCC’s work in Afghanistan includes education, peacebuilding and advocacy, food security and disaster relief.

Lapp was the son of Marvin and Mary Lapp, and a member of Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, a Mennonite Church USA congregation. In previous service with MCC he helped with response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He also worked as a nurse in Lancaster, New York City and Supai, Ariz. He was a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Eastern Mennonite University.

No information is available at this time regarding a memorial service.

Lapp was to complete his MCC term in October, and recently wrote about it in a report, “Where I was [Afghanistan], the main thing that expats can do is to be a presence in the country. Treating people with respect and with love and trying to be a little bit of Christ in this part of the world.”

Ron Flaming, MCC director of international programs, said that the people of MCC mourn with the Lapp family, the families of all who died in the incident, and the people of IAM. “IAM is a long-time and trusted partner of MCC work in Afghanistan,” Flaming said.

IAM executive director Dirk Frans spoke of the organization’s focus on security in media reports Saturday. “External experts say IAM’s security systems are among the best in the country… Secular consultants have been critical about our stated dependency on God for our security, wrongly assuming we left it all to prayer. When they checked our systems and way of working they have had next to no additional suggestions.”

In his report to MCC, Lapp concluded, “MCC is very much involved in Peacebuilding in Afghanistan and my hope is that MCC can continue along that vein and continue to help this country work towards peace on many different social, ethnic, and economic levels.”

Click to view original article posting.

Franconia Conference moderators announce resignations

Stephen Kriss,

Blaine Detwiler, Franconia Mennonite Conference board chair and moderator, and Randy Heacock, Franconia Conference assistant board chair and assistant moderator, have issued their resignations in accordance with the Conference Review Report near term/immediate recommendations as approved by the Board earlier this spring. Both Detwiler (Lakeview congregation) and Heacock (Doylestown congregation) agreed to submit resignations upon affirmation of new board chairs/moderators which happened earlier this week with the affirmation of John Goshow as moderator/board chair and Miriam Book as assistant board chair/assistant moderator. Goshow and Book assume their responsibilities on August 1, 2010. Detwiler and Heacock’s resignations are effective July 31, 2010.

On behalf of Franconia Conference, Rina Rampogu (Plains congregation) continuing conference board and executive board member adds “Blaine’s visionary leadership style with both a meek and lively spirit along with Randy’s insight and wisdom helped us to think and move Franconia Conference into God’s kingdom in a new way. We pray that God will continue to bless them personally, their work and ministry with their congregations and beyond that their faith and love for the Lord will strengthen even in this transition time.”

To view letter from Blaine Detwiler, click here. 

To view letter from Randy Heacock, click here.

Franconia Conference announces staff updates

Stephen Kriss

Several Franconia Conference staff have shifted job responsibilities this summer. Jessica Walter terminated her position with Franconia Conference in May this year as she began a position with Care & Share Shoppes in Souderton, Pa, as bookstore manager. Jessica worked with the Conference for nearly four years in communication and leadership development. Her work has been assumed by other conference staff. Gay Brunt Miller is working with leadership resource coordination while communication tasks are divided between Carla Ferrier, Steve Kriss and Melissa Landis, however the future of Intersections is still in discussion as costs for print publications continue to rise with increased movement of information via the worldwide web.

Sandy Landes has requested a leave of absence from her work as prayer coordinator this summer. She will re-evaluate her work and role this fall. Sandy will still pass along prayer requests to congregational coordinators by email in the summer months.

LEADership minister Jenifer Eriksen Morales is on maternity leave due to the birth of a daughter earlier this summer. Jenifer intends to resume work in September. Other conference staff are providing short-term oversight and guidance during the summer months for congregations where Jenifer serves as LEADership minister.

Pastoral Training Program ‘Steps’ into Philly

Eastern Mennonite Seminary at Lancaster’s STEP program (Study and Training for Effective Pastoral Ministry) will offer its first cohort session in Philadelphia in September 2010. This cohort is a move by the seminary to offer pastoral training to urban and racially and ethnically diverse pastors.

“This is a big deal for us,” said EMS at Lancaster director Mark R. Wenger. “EMU is responding to dynamic church growth, community outreach and ministry in Philadelphia.”

Every year since STEP began in 2004 church leaders from Philadelphia have participated in the program. But it required driving every month to Lancaster for sessions.

“Offering STEP in Philadelphia fits with my vision for taking high quality pastoral training as close to the local congregation as possible,” Dr. Wenger said.

Karen Jantzi, adjunct instructor at Temple University and member of Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, served on the advisory committee for the STEP Philadelphia cohort. She will also teach in the program.

“I believe that everyone needs to have an introduction to basic theology and biblical studies,” Dr. Jantzi said. “I’m excited about this program because it indicates that the Pennsylvania conferences and the denomination understand the importance of nurturing leadership within the city.”

The advisory committee, made up of pastors and leaders in Philadelphia, helped Wenger and EMS determine the feasibility of starting a cohort in the city. They also helped shape the program to make it relevant to the urban context.

Wenger is expecting 8-15 persons for this year’s cohort in Philadelphia. Participants will be Anglo, African-American, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Latino. While most will be from urban settings, at least one pastor from a rural congregation will join them.

“The sociological study by Conrad Kanagy titled ‘Roadsigns for the Journey’ spoke about racial/ethnic congregations being the growing edge of the denomination. This is what I’m observing in Philadelphia,” said Wenger. “Working in an urban setting will have some challenges,” he continued. “One is that many of these churches don’t have the resources that more
rural congregations have to help educate their pastors.”

To help with affordability, Wenger is raising money to provide $1,000 scholarships for each participant.

The STEP program (Study and Training for Effective Pastoral ministry), a partnership between Lancaster Mennonite Conference and Eastern Mennonite University, provides training for people who are licensed for pastoral ministry or who have been encouraged to consider pastoral work, but may not have had college, Bible school or seminary.

For more information on the STEP program, contact Mark Wenger at 717-397-5190 or by email at

With new board members affirmed, agenda set for August Franconia Conference meeting

Stephen Kriss,

After receiving over 145 responses, seven new Franconia Conference board members
have been affirmed for service and leadership, effective August 1, 2010. All new board
members received over a 90% affirmation in both emailed and written ballots. The new
board members will be introduced on August 12, 2010 at 7 p.m., at an all-conference
meeting at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School in Lansdale, Pa.

Board members and their affirmed positions include:

  • John Goshow, moderator and conference board chair, Blooming Glen
  • Miriam Book, assistant moderator and conference board vice chair, Salford
  • Randy Nyce, conference board finance committee chair, Salford congregation
  • Marta Beidler Castillo, member-at-large, Nueva Vida Norristown New Life
  • Joe Hackman, member-at-large, Salford congregation
  • Beny Krisbianto, member-at-large, Nations Worship Center
  • James Longacre, member-at-large, Bally congregation

Review Steering Committee member, Mike Derstine (Plains congregation) remarked
that the affirmations indicate strong support for the new board members in the midst
of a difficult time for the Conference community. The new board members and
moderators were suggested in response to the Conference Review conducted by
LaVern Yutzy of Mennonite Health Services Alliance earlier this spring and were
intended to help with further alignment of the conference’s work and trajectory toward a
hopeful future.
The all-conference meeting is intended to offer a time of blessing and introducing the
new board members, prayerful reflection and conversation on the conference’s recent
history and future as well as a brief update on the conference’s finances. All delegates
as well as interested persons from the Conference community are encouraged to

CLICK HERE to download agenda PDF

Intersections Spring 2010

Connecting our past to our future: Growing faith and community alongside food

Sheldon C. Good, Salford

jill-1.jpgIn 1999, Kenny Chesney sang about why “she thinks my tractor’s sexy.” During the past decade, we’ve expanded Chesney’s claim – because now, farming is sexy.

Country music aside, Facebook, the Obama family, and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution all contribute to the recent popularity of farming. For many people, life doesn’t involve dirty fingernails, overalls, and an almanac. But for an increasing number, farming is cool again (though some have always thought so). Whether or not one actually digs in the dirt, something about rediscovering the spiritual value of God’s abundant earth stimulates heart, mind, body, and soul.

Years ago, people worked the fields from dusk till dawn. Now the closest many get to dirt is by playing Farmville on Facebook (long ago, we played SimFarm). But Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign is bringing healthy, local food back, with plans to eradicate childhood obesity. She recently described her “mission as first lady” as creating ways for families to make “manageable changes that fit with their schedules, their budgets, and their needs and tastes.”

Like Obama, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution TV series on ABC documents how a grassroots campaign to curb obesity starts with getting families excited about local farming. Though a classroom of first-graders can’t tell the difference between a tomato and a potato, they can all identify French fries. But days later, after a dose of the food revolution, the six-year olds can all identify an eggplant when they see one.

Part of the reason why our children can’t identify produce is because, over time, farming has become industrialized. As author Bill McKibben says, efficiency and growth have taken over our food system. “Our affluence isolates us ever more,” McKibben says in his book Deep Economy. “What ties are left to cut? We change religions, spouses, towns, professions with ease.” But at Living Hope Farm in Harleysville, Pa., my family is busy putting some of these ties back together.

I was recently led in an exercise to reclaim my personal heritage. I often think about my ancestral lineage in linear terms (birthdates, jobs, etc.) – data I basically memorized as an adolescent for my seemingly irrelevant school projects. However, I don’t usually consider how strands of my ancestral history are woven together, or how they intersect with other people’s strands. So as our country focuses on jobs, jobs, jobs – I too began reflecting on jobs, on the vocational history of my family.

From what I can gather, nearly all of my ancestors were farmers. Up until my grandparents, both sides of my family – whether living in Pennsylvania or Virginia – farmed small plots of land, which supplied them with much of their food and income. But then both of my grandfathers, Emory Good and Marvin Clemmer, traded in their tractors for automobiles and hit the road as businessmen. In 1947, Emory started a plumbing company. And after spending years selling produce and meat in Philadelphia, Marvin switched mid-course to join a direct-selling company. My extended family became successful entrepreneurs at the expense of being grounded in our backyards; we have benefited greatly.
So the generational story goes for many families living among the farmlands of Southeastern Pennsylvania and the Shenandoah Valley. As the “Greatest Generation” (my grandparents) left farming, “Baby Boomers” (my parents) were raised with new vocational possibilities, and Millenials (me) haven’t looked back. Over the years, many of us have enjoyed the benefits of grocery stores, agribusiness, and Sunday afternoon shopping.

Until now.

Farming activists come in all varieties: an ignoramus addict of Facebook’s Farmville game; a twinkle-eyed Obama supporter; a dedicated vegetarian; or something in between. No matter where one lives, this nation is noticeably rediscovering its farming roots. Because after 500 years of rushed technological innovation, people are noticing that we’re standing on what author Bill McKibben calls “the shard ridge between the human past and the posthuman future.” Living Hope Farm is here to help reverse this trend, by growing faith, food, and community.

farm-2.jpgOver the past few months at the farm, a greenhouse and hoop house have both been installed. Jill Landes, the lead farmer, is currently working alongside her full-time interns, planting for an 80-member CSA. In addition, they are also growing for two families in the Bridge of Hope Program and making connections with the Germantown area of Philadelphia. Several regular volunteers have even graciously contributed countless hours to this mission.

Though it certainly exists on Indian Creek Road in Harleysville, Living Hope Farm is more than an earthly phenomenon. The farm is an opportunity for people to put faith into action. Farming can be spiritual. It’s a chance to rediscover values of corporate faith, local food, and loving community. And for many of us, it’s an opportunity to realize what it means to be living testimonies to our ancestral heritage of farming and entrepreneurship.

Ultimately, the best farming (including at Living Hope Farm) shifts our economy – and our relationships – away from hyper-individuality and towards each other. McKibben says this way of living requires us to “reorient your personal compass” and “live with a stronger sense of community in mind.”

There’s interest in growing food, faith, and community, so let’s get involved. May we all consider what it means to reconnect with our food, our families, and our farms.

photos provided by Living Hope Farrn

Climbing on: A farewell of gratitude and hope

Jessica Walter, Ambler

As I prepared to write this, my last editorial for Intersections, I decided I needed to look back at some of the writing I have done for Franconia Conference in my almost four years of work and ministry here.

I began the writing portion of my work with an article in the now retired MennoLife. I wrote about how my faith and calling journey had been like rock climbing. My journey was one of questions and confusion and while I would cry out for help on what my next move, or hold, should be I often wouldn’t listen to God’s answer. Taking the leap of faith to grab ahold of the opportunity to work at Franconia was a move toward listening for me, one I have been greatful for.

Since that first article and those first few months of work I have gained many valuable experiences and knowledge. Franconia Conference not only hired me to work with communication and leadership cultivation it also invested in my leadership. I could not have asked for a better place to explore my leadership gifts, develop useful skills and contribute to the equipping of other leaders both young and old. I have felt truly valued and respected despite my age.

And as I spent time here my journey, my rock climb, became less confusing and some questions were answered. I am leaving my post at Franconia Conference with a better sense of who God is calling me to be, answered questions or not.

It is fitting that this issue largely features stories of ministries that have begun to take root throughout the conference because though I am leaving my role at Franconia my roots in the larger conference community run deep.

So deep that I am about to begin work in two ministries connected to Franconia Conference. In June I will become both the manager of Care and Share Thrift Shoppes’ soon to be opened bookstore and an Outreach Minstry Enthusiast/Pastor of Ambler Mennontie Church.

Like the beginning harvest at Living Hope Farm I have been harvested from the soil here at Franconia Conference to be re-planted in the larger community.

Like Rose Bender, God has used many hands to help mold, shape and guide me over the last four years of my life. Interactions with pastoral leadership throughout the conference, visits to many congregations, representing conference and young adults to the larger Mennonite Church, and aid in exploring seminary education have all shaped the creativity, hospitality, and hope that informs my leadership.

Like Lorie Hershey couldn’t have imagined she would be an ordained minister ten years ago I couldn’t have imagined that I would become both a store manager and pastoral leader. And yet the opportunities I have gained from my term at conference have prepared me for these new roles.

During my time at Franconia Conference two passages in the New Testament have shaped my faith and calling journey. Matthew 22: 37-40 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

And Matthew 13: 31-32 Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.

I leave Franconia Conference with the hope that we all will continue to invest in the leadership of young adults, to remember that its the small steps toward change and growth in our congregations that stick, to love God with all of ourselves and to let that love radiate out into love of ourselves and others and to plant the Kingdom of Heaven one mustard seed at a time.

Casting out all fear: In God’s hands

Rose Bender, Whitehall

I was seven and afraid of hell. On the last night of a Billy Graham sponsored revival, in the gym of the public high school, I went forward to receive Christ. There I stood—a little person among all the big people. When they asked us to pray, I obediently closed my eyes and repeated the words. I felt a hand on my shoulder, and snuck a peek to see who was there. Although there were many around me, there was no one with me. Even at my young age, I knew that it was God himself who had placed his hand on my shoulder, alleviating my fears. Years later, reflecting on that event, I recognized its significance. With my limited understanding, I had chosen to follow God. But more importantly, my gracious and loving God had chosen me.

Since that day, I have often felt God’s hand on my shoulder—welcoming, encouraging, prodding, protecting, and guiding. God has many hands. I recall my mother telling me, “Rose, God has something special for you to do.” I remember a teacher questioning my college plans, asking me why I hadn’t considered going into full-time pastoral ministry. When I took a job at a school in Trenton, NJ, and settled in Langhorne, PA, my pastor encouraged me to ‘test out’ my calling by participating as a lay minister at the church. A co-worker invited me to attend an open house at a local seminary. And when I began attending Bethel Seminary of the East in 2000, God confirmed my call through many other hands.

After seminary, I was still timid about pastoring. I felt God directing me toward the Service Adventure program. I became a unit leader in Johnstown, PA, the only site with eight supporting churches. In my two years there, I received many opportunities to exercise my gifts through preaching and teaching. I served as lay pastor at First Mennonite of Johnstown, the unit’s ‘home church.’ There I was able to see Jesus in new ways. God’s hand touched me through the prayers of Joanne, a woman paralyzed since childhood. God’s hands washed mine through Sandy, a woman who was mentally and socially challenged. God spoke to me daily as I lived in community with young adults who saw the world differently than I did. God has many hands. As I matured in my faith, I experienced Jesus taking my hand in His, allowing me to participate in the work of ministry with him.

When the call came to serve as interim pastor at Stahl Mennonite Church in Johnstown, I was ready. And I knew, though the calling and responsibility seemed overwhelming—the work was in God’s hand. I could look back over my journey and see how faithfully the God-Who-Goes-Before had led me. During my first months in that pastorate, I had an accident where I severely burned both my hands. I learned anew the importance of community. I learned for the first time, the humility that comes from being dependent upon the hands of others. In times of doubt, the hand of Jesus comforted me; in times of need, God’s hand provided for me; in times of joy, the hand of the Spirit invited me to dance.

When my time at Stahl was nearing its end, I became aware of Whitehall Mennonite Church, north of Allentown, PA. Their unique story and diversity intrigued me. I was impressed by the practicality and authenticity of their faith. But choosing to take a part-time pastorate seemed risky. Again, God’s hand was upon me and led me forward. I am excited to partner with the congregation at Whitehall—to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the Lehigh Valley.

I am forty-one, and still afraid of lots of things. But I am called and chosen by a God whose perfect love casts out all fear. God’s hand is upon me; my hand is in His; I am one of God’s many hands.

photos provided by Rose Bender

Participating in the movement of God’s spirit:Invited into the ‘dance of cooperation’

Ken Beidler, West Philadelphia

lori-ordination.jpgOn Sunday, March 14 amid joyful music and dancing, West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship (WPMF) celebrated the ordination of Lorie Hershey. The afternoon service welcomed participants from the many diverse communities that have shaped Hershey’s call to ministry, culminating in a litany of blessings and a liturgical dance that had everyone out of their seats and dancing in the sanctuary.

Focusing on Paul’s words in Galations 5:25 “since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”, Leonard Dow, pastor of Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, invited Hershey and WPMF to the “dance of cooperation” in which pastor and congregation participate in the movement of God’s Spirit.
Tracing the theme of dancing through the Scriptures from the prophetess Miriam to King David and into the early church, Pastor Dow, exhorted the congregation to trust that God will help us learn the right steps to move into faithful service in the world.

Three years ago, WPMF, an urban Anabaptist congregation extended the call to Hershey to be their pastor. Hershey, a 2005 graduate of Eastern Mennonite Seminary M.Div, moved to Philadelphia with her husband, Brent and two children, Dillon and Eden.

Sylvia Horst, chair of the WPMF Human Resources Committee shared the affirmations of numerous leaders and others in the congregation. Addressing Lorie on behalf of the congregation, Horst said, “Lorie, you have indeed shown strong and clear gifts in working with WPMF. As a leader you are steady and reliable, exemplifying integrity and a Christ-like spirit. You coordinate well, with appropriate attention to detail. At the same time, you are able to let go of plans when necessary to allow the Holy Spirit to work. You listen with insight for what God might be saying to us.”

Invited guests representing the varied congregations and church institutions that have helped to shape Hershey’s call to ministry offered blessings as she enters a new chapter of ministry. After each blessing, a bright colored strand of cloth was woven into a tapestry which was given to Hershey. During the reception that followed the service, attenders were invited to write a personal message and include it in the tapestry.
Franconia Conference Representatives, Noah Kolb, Pastor of Ministerial Leadership and Marlene Frankenfield, Conference Youth Minister, offered prayers and words of challenge to Hershey as she stepped into ordained ministry.

Julie Prey-Harbaugh, the worship leader, led the congregation in responding with the words, “Together as one body, we pledge to you our support that you might freely exercise the ministries of leadership committed to you. Our material gifts, our prayers, our counsel, and our encouragement support you. We pray that you may be given a deep love for those whom you serve and that Christ might be expressed through you in word and deed.”

John Pritchard, pastor of Calvary United Methodist, which owns the building in which WPMF worships and Rabbi Lauren Herrmann of Kol Tzedek Synagogue, read Psalm 150 in English and Hebrew.

A deep sense of gratitude to God permeated the service of ordination, heard in the joyful music, strong drumming and WPMF’s intergenerational choir’s singing of the African-American spiritual, “Guide my feet.” From the opening song, which celebrated God’s presence “Here in this Place”, the congregation, which is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary of ministry in Philadelphia, was led in a celebration of how God calls and raises up leaders to build up the church and extend God’s Kingdom.

In her response to the service, Hershey utilized the metaphor of the dance to describe her calling to WPMF. She said, “Ten years ago I couldn’t have imagined that I would be standing here being ordained. If I were to use one word for my journey to this point today it would be “movement”. Movement towards God, with God and movement in myself: towards wholeness in my understanding of God and myself. This congregation has been dancing for 25 years now. While some of the dance steps may have changed over the years, the DJ has remained the same.”

photos provided by WPMF