All posts by Conference Office

Rutinas para el viaje / Routines for the Journey


El ministro de Liderazgo, Marco Güete, es el director y fundador del programa binacional de capacitación del Instituto Bíblico Anabautista (IBA) y recorrerá el Camino de Santiago para recaudar fondos para el programa. Cada año, cientos de miles de personas viajan al Camino, una gran red de antiguas rutas de peregrinos que se extienden por todo el continente, para caminar solos o en una excursión.

(Reimpreso de Meno Acontecer/la Menonita, abril, 2019)

¡Bienvenido y bienvenida a Meno Acontecer de abril, 2019!

El plan de caminar 15 días consecutivos para colectar fondos para el Instituto Biblico Anabautista-IBA sigue adelante. Como preparación estoy poniendo en práctica 10 rutinas para los 260 kilómetros de caminata, de pueblo en pueblo, comenzando desde el sur de Francia en Saint Jean Pied de Port hasta Burgos, España. Tengo 68 años de edad y me pregunto: ¿será que me estoy reinventando al cuidar mi estado físico y el cuerpo que me ha dado Dios? Creo que sí, es importante reinventarse, soñar nuevos sueños, ponerse nuevas metas y usar la experiencia de mis 68 años para vivir el siguiente año día a día. Me inspira la porción bíblica de Joel 12:28: “Y sucederá que después de esto, derramaré mi Espíritu sobre toda carne; y vuestros hijos y vuestras hijas profetizarán, vuestros ancianos soñarán sueños, vuestros jóvenes verán visiones.”

Te preguntarás ¿y… cuales son las 10 rutinas? Aquí están: Comer sanamente, constantemente en movimiento caminando, conversar con la gente, leer y estar siempre aprendiendo, hacer ejercicios de aérobico (con los pasos de la salsa), escuchar mucho, hablar despacio, lento para el reproche, aceptarme a mi mismo, adaptarme al cambio, orar y meditar en Dios.

Hay un estimado, según las estadísticas de Santiago de Compostela, que de los más de 327,000 caminantes que anualmente hacen este camino, solamente el 17 porciento tiene más de 60 años de edad. Este será el reto tanto para mi acompañante el Pastor Gamaliel Falla y para mi. Gamaliel tiene 72 años de edad. Todo va en marcha, ya compramos los boletos de avión. La fecha es del 11 al 25 de septiembre. ¡Buen camino!

Leadership Minister Marco Güete is the director and founder of the bi-national Anabaptist Biblical Institute training program (IBA) and will be walking the Camino de Santiago to raise funds for the program.  Every year, hundreds of thousands of people travel to the Camino, a large network of ancient pilgrim routes that stretch across the continent, to walk either on their own or on a tour. 

(Reprinted from Menno Happenings/The Mennonite , April 2019)

Welcome all to Menno Happenings from April, 2019!

The plan to walk 15 consecutive days to collect funds for the Anabaptist Bible Institute-ABI continues. As a preparation I am putting into practice 10 routines for the 260 kilometers of walking, from town to town, starting from the south of France in Saint Jean Pied de Port to Burgos, Spain. I am 68 years old and I wonder:  Will it be that I am reinventing myself by taking care of my physical condition and the body that God has given me? I think so; it is important to reinvent yourself, dream new dreams, set new goals and use the experience of my 68 years to live the next year day by day. I am inspired by the biblical portion of Joel 2:28: “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”   You will ask yourself, “And what are the 10 routines?” Here they are: Eating healthy, constantly in movement walking, talking with people, reading and always learning, doing aerobic exercises (with salsa steps), listening a lot, speaking slowly, being slow to reproach, accepting myself , adapting to change, and praying and meditating on God.

There is an estimate, according to statistics from Santiago de Compostela, that of the more than 327,000 walkers who annually make this journey, only 17 percent are over 60 years old. This will be the challenge for my companion Pastor Gamaliel Falla and for me. Gamaliel is 72 years old. Everything is set; we already bought the plane tickets. The dates are September 11 to 25. Good journey!

Summer Interns to Serve and Learn

by Jennifer Svetlik, Salford congregation

Listening for God’s calling. Serving their home communities. Learning from new communities. Cultivating pastoral skills. These are some of the hopes that six interns bring to their time of service and formation with Franconia Conference this summer. They come as part of the MCC Summer Service Program, the Ministry Inquiry Program, as well as the Conference’s own summer placements.

As part of the MCC Summer Service Worker Program, Jessica Nikomang will work at Philadelphia Praise Center. This summer she will direct a Vacation Bible School (VBS) for kids ages 5-12 as well as work with the Indonesian community around the church and her neighborhood, providing translation support and other help. After the summer, she will begin studies at the Community College of Philadelphia as a first-generation college student in pursuit of her dream to be a school counselor.

This will be Rebecca Yugga’s second summer serving at the Crossroads Community Center in partnership with her home congregation, West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship. Rebecca studies Nursing and Spanish Language/Hispanic Studies at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU). She will be planning activities for children and build on leadership skills and strategies she cultivated in the program last year.

Graciella Odelia

Graciella Odelia will serve at Nations Worship Center, which has been her home church since 2013 and where she is an active member of the worship team. Graciella studies Biology and Chemistry at Eastern Mennonite University. She will be organizing the summer VBS program in July and August at Nations Worship Center.

“Seeing kids excited to worship God makes me look forward to what God has in store for the next generation. By participating in the MCC Summer Service program, I hope to discover how God can use me in His church,” Graciella shares.

Andrés Castillo

As the Conference’s summer placement, Andrés Castillo, a member of Nueva Vida Norristown New Life, will serve as a communication intern for the conference. Andrés studies English at West Chester University. More of his writing, photography, and videos will be shared on our website throughout the summer. Andrés is excited to make connections in his communication work between Christ’s teachings and the social issues about which he’s passionate.

Justin Burkholder, who attends Deep Run East, will be working with the conference’s south Philadelphia Indonesian congregations. He will be serving with the peace camp at Indonesian Light Church as well as summer VBS programs at other congregations. Justin is in Intercultural Studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

“I grew up traveling into Philadelphia just for ball games or cheesesteaks and I was disconnected from the lives of people living in the city,” Justin shared. “I am looking forward to building relationships and learning what it looks like to serve the church and community in South Philly.”

As part of the Ministry Inquiry Program, Luke Hertzler, who studies Bible, Religion and Theology at EMU, will be working with Whitehall and Ripple Allentown congregations. Luke will help at Ripple’s Community Building Center and garden and test out gifts on Sundays at both Ripple and Whitehall.

“We hope Luke will bring new ideas and energy. Right now we are forming gift groups at Ripple and I hope Luke can give some direction to this new model,” Danilo Sanchez, co-pastor for Ripple Allentown shared. “Internships are important to Ripple because we care about raising up leaders. Ripple is a different kind of Mennonite church and we like to show young adults that pastoring and church can take a variety of forms.”

Summer interns are an important part of Franconia Conference’s commitment to leadership cultivation. “Each year it is a gift to interact with this next generation of leaders. We learn alongside them and contribute to their formation in the way of Christ’s peace,” Franconia’s executive minister Steve Kriss shared.

We are grateful for and look forward to sharing more about the work that these six young people will offer Franconia Conference this summer!

Learning and Celebrating Along the Way

by Randy Heacock, Leadership Minister

In my work both as a pastor and for the conference, one of my greatest rewards is the opportunity to learn from and with others working in God’s Kingdom.

This display from Sandy Landes’ ordination represents God‘s power to transform what was once a barren desert into a lush land.

In the first congregation I served as a young minister in the United Methodist Church, the board of ordained ministry was wise enough to pair me with an older minister (younger than my current age) to mentor me.  Charles and I were very different both in our theological perspective and in our view of worship; however, he taught me the importance of accepting affirmation and “to let it sink deeply into your entire being.  Challenges and criticism will come frequently enough and you will need to have a strong bank account of affirmation to keep your balance.”  Fast forward to my current work, I file notes of affirmation and appreciation with a prayer of gratitude as evidence of God’s grace.

More recently, in working with the pastoral search committee at Towamencin, a person called to share concern regarding our process.  As I listened, I gained a fuller understanding both of what happened at our last meeting and how we could find our way forward.  Grateful for the honest feedback, I reached out to some other people for wisdom and discerned an approach for our next meeting.  The meeting was vastly improved with more vigorous engagement.  On the ride home, I thanked God for the varied gifts people contribute to the church. 

I recently met with Tim Moyer, pastor of Bally congregation, for breakfast at his house.  Let me first say that Tim knows how to fix breakfast!  As we talked, his excitement and energy was contagious.  The Bally congregation is working to learn about and practice a centered-set approach.  Tim shared how this focus is uniting the congregation.  They are also rethinking and reshaping who they are as a church.   I give thanks for the fresh wind of God creating new expressions.  I look forward to what God is yet to do at and through Bally. 

At Doylestown, where I serve as pastor, we recently celebrated the ordination of Sandy Landes.  Sandy’s ordination was a tribute to God’s constant pursuit and Sandy’s willingness to say “yes.”  Many people present would have witnessed Sandy’s transformation through the process of refusing, then reluctantly leading, and now leading boldly in a public setting.  Former members, family, neighbors, colleagues, and friends celebrated Sandy’s faithful example of answering God’s call.   The day after Sandy’s ordination, I rejoiced for the many people who nurtured and participated in this work of God. 

The photo above is a display that was present during Sandy’s ordination.  It represents God‘s power to transform what was once a barren desert into a lush land.  As in the little stories I have shared, it visually reminds us of God’s life-giving power.  May we all give thanks for the ways we have witnessed God’s transformational power.  May we continually learn to wait on God. 



A Conference Assembly of an Extraordinary Kind

by Sharon K. Williams, Minister of Worship, Nueva Vida Norristown New Life congregation

At the gracious invitation of Eastern District Conference, Franconia Mennonite Conference delegates joined in Eastern District’s Spring Assembly on May 4. The purpose of this unique gathering at Zion Mennonite Church in Souderton was to receive and discern recommendations for the possible formation of a new conference arising from the reconciliation of Eastern District and Franconia Conferences. The new conference would be affiliated with Mennonite Church USA, of which both conferences are members.

What transpired at this assembly likely exceeded everyone’s expectations. The members of the joint Structure and Identity Task Force guided us through their prayerfully conceived recommendations for an annual assembly, conference board structure, delegate representation, member congregations, and Conference-Related Ministries (CRMs). Delegates shared questions and gave thoughtful feedback to the task force members in break-out groups. The positive spirit and “humble confidence” of the task force (as noted by Steve Kriss, Franconia’s Executive Minister) was contagious.

The Structure & Identity Task Force (L to R): Scott Roth (Eastern District Conference), Mike Clemmer (Towamencin), Mark Reiff (Doylestown), Rina Rampogu (Plains), Ron White (Church of the Good Samaritans), Sherri Brokopp Binder (Ripple) and Josh Meyer (Franconia).

The recommendations represent the best practices of both conferences’ cultures. Careful consideration was given to the representational needs of all our congregations according to size, ethnic backgrounds, and locations. The task force also noted areas that need further discernment: procedures for delegate voting, CRM participation, receiving new congregations, and of course, a new name for the new conference.

What should have been a boring trudge through a proposal for reorganization and new structure was an amazing gift in our reconciliation process, enlivened by the Holy Spirit.

Nathan Good shares about what God is doing at Swamp Mennonite Church.

Eastern District’s Spring Assembly style is delightful. Scott Roth (Eastern District executive minister) “strongly encouraged” delegates to “brag” about how God is working with our congregations to share the gospel with our communities. Time for informal conversations was deliberately left open in the assembly schedule. I had several interesting conversations with delegates of different demographics.

Worship team member (L to R): Brent Camilleri (Deep Run East), Emily Ralph Servant (Franconia Conference), Danilo Sanchez (Ripple/Whitehall), and Hendy Stevan (Indonesian Light).

Some people acknowledged the real potential for “the big fish to swallow the little fish.” But my Eastern District friends reminisced about cooperative, fruitful Eastern District and Franconia efforts in lay leadership training, prison ministries, education, and missions dating back to the 1960s. Franconia delegates anticipated that a new, joint conference won’t change the day-to-day life of their congregations. In many situations, reconciliation between neighboring Eastern District and Franconia congregations has already been found. Delegates from our newer congregations are patiently waiting for this work to be accomplished and are glad to be witnesses to the possibilities of this reconciliation. All agreed: why have we waited so long?

Good food, good laughs, good ideas!

During lunch, Aldo Siahaan (Franconia Leadership Minister and pastor of Philadelphia Praise Center) led our “mixed” table in a fun conversation about possible names for the new conference. After identifying a few realities such as our conferences’ expanding geography and offering some trial suggestions, “Mennonites Without Borders” seemed to be the most satisfying idea!

Congregational Profile: Spring Mount Mennonite Church

by Chris Nickels, pastor

A well-known children’s book has become a symbol for Spring Mount Mennonite Church—with a slight edit to the title. After helping a local relief worker collect supplies for the people of Haiti (following the devastating earthquake in 2010), she deemed us, “The Little Church That Could.” I think this name calls to mind both our history, as well as how we seek to participate in what God is doing in our community today. 

Our congregation is located in the Perkiomen Valley—a community known today for recreational activities at Spring Mountain and the Perkiomen Trail, for hosting the Philadelphia Folk Fest, and for having the best cheesesteak (at the Collegeville Italian Bakery and Moccia’s Train Stop, and I am right about this). A century ago, it was a resort town for residents from Philadelphia. Local Mennonites found ways to build relationships with neighbors through Sunday School, summer Bible School, and eventually the founding of our congregation. 

We believe that each member is a minister, and that it’s important to sit around the table with each other. A monthly Table Church service helps us worship in an unconventional way and lets us practice valued aspects of Anabaptist tradition—communal interpretation of scripture, and listening for the guidance of the Spirit. As fellow pastor Melissa Florer-Bixler writes, “In our Mennonite church, the interpretation of the Bible doesn’t belong to the preacher alone. It belongs to us, to God’s people. We ask questions, comment on what we’ve heard, fill in the gaps, tell each other ‘thank you’ for the work done here among us.”[1] Ok, sometimes we argue a little bit, too. Yet the Spirit illuminates. 

Building relationships with neighbors continues and helps us notice where God is at work.

Food insecurity is an issue here, which has led us to participate in supporting the Daily Bread Community Food Pantry and the Perk Valley Power Packs program. More recently, we sensed a deeper way that we could meet needs and also make friends in our neighborhood was by hosting free Community Meals. The meals are very well attended, and we hope that the neighborhood will view our space as their “meeting house” too.  

The last few years have put us in contact with local veterans. Some of us received trauma training specific to military and combat veterans, and the whole congregation has demonstrated compassion to foster healing from the wounds of war. In cooperation with a local veterans’ network, we hope to soon establish a healing circle for veterans at our meetinghouse —a restorative, safe space where veterans can share their stories and civilians can listen and hold space for them. We are learning to see these relationships as a way we live into our calling as a Peace Church. 

Autism Sensory Resources

In order to better serve our community, we desire to make our building more accessible to all. Part of this work will entail raising support for physical upgrades. But it has also meant learning to support our members with autism in worship and church life and to learn from their giftedness.  Our worship space includes a picture schedule (icons that depict the worship order) and a “success station” with sensory items, seat cushions, and information about local service providers.

The Spirit continues to form this “Little Church That Could,” and it is a joy to serve Christ together.

Prayer requests for Spring Mount:
* for the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit to surround our congregation, as a number of our members are currently struggling with illness, hospitalizations, and the loss of loved ones.
* prayer as we seek to build relationships in our community, that as we meet new people these may turn into growing friendships

[1] Melissa Florer-Bixler, Fire By Night: Finding God in the Pages of the Old Testament (Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2019) 35.

Prayers for Peace and Mr. Nobody

by Aldo Siahaan, leadership minister

President Jokowi, in October 2015. Photo by Aldo Siahaan.

I came to the United States in October of 1998.

Earlier that year, there were riots and violence in Indonesia.  Christians and those of Chinese ancestry were the scapegoats. At that time, President Suharto, who led Indonesia for 32 years, had to step down. Suharto was named the most corrupt president in the world, based on the 2004 Global Corruption Report, allegedly embezzling $15-35 billion.

Between 1998 and 2004, Indonesia experienced a change in presidency three times. It was a difficult period, due to power struggles by the political elite and many riots in Indonesian cities.  In the decade following this troubling time, many politicians were caught in corruption.

Then, a new figure appeared and ran for president: Joko Widodo, often called Jokowi. He did not come from a military background.  He came instead from a poor family who lived on the edge of the river in the city of Solo in Central Java. He became an entrepreneur, then the mayor of Solo. After successfully changing Solo on many different levels, people started to recognize his work. He continued on to become the governor of Jakarta. Jokowi then won the presidential election in 2014.

Many of his political opponents underestimated him because of his thin body, lack of a political “face,” and because he didn’t have much money or experience.  They said, “He is nobody!” 

But during his presidency, for the first time, Indonesia has had universal health insurance, a program to help poor children who need school, and stable gasoline prices. Jokowi`s children aren’t involved in politics and don’t take advantage of their father’s power (like children from previous presidents did).  Indonesia is made up of thousands of islands.  Jokowi has led efforts to build infrastructure across the country to help strengthen the economy.

It’s common to hear people say, “Now, I feel the care of a leader” or “He understands what we feel.” Wherever Jokowi goes, he’s like a celebrity because many people want to take a selfie with him.

Even though he is a devoted Muslim, when I see President Jokowi, I see that his actions align with Jesus’ teaching. He cares for the poor, doing justly, is a servant leader, and is not greedy with power and money. For his opponents, President Jokowi is Mr. Nobody but for me and the people who see his work and action, he is Mr. Somebody.

The people in power thought Jesus was Mr. Nobody, too.

In April of 2019, Jokowi won the election in Indonesia again.  It was a relief to many Indonesian Christians, both in Indonesia and here in the States, who believed that his victory will help the country continue to advance and develop. His opponent was backed by a fundamentalist Muslim party that wanted to implement Sharia Law in Indonesia.  This brought back memories of the fear and violence that caused us to flee our homes twenty years ago.

I invite my brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for Indonesia and for our President Jokowi in this critical moment. There are ongoing tensions.  Please pray for peace and for the safety of Christians in Indonesia.

Sharpened in Community (the “Learning” Kind)

by Josh Meyer, Franconia congregation

How do we sharpen who we are?  We do it in relationship with others.  One person encounters another and there is an interchange of ideas, feelings, and values.  Isolated from others, we become dull—our thinking, our feelings, even our faith, becomes blunted.  The remedy is to routinely rub lives with other people: generating heat, sparking new thoughts, sharpening ourselves as people and as pastors.

KrisAnne Swartley (Doylestown), Jessica Miller (Perkasie), Walter Sawatzky (Plains), Franco Salvatori (Rocky Ridge) and Josh Meyer (Franconia).

Such has been the experience of a Learning Community I’m a part of.  Encouraged by Randy Heacock and partially funded by Franconia Conference, our group of four pastors (Jessica Miller from Perkasie congregation, KrisAnne Swartley from Doylestown congregation, Franco Salvatori from Rocky Ridge congregation, and myself) has met together monthly for conversation, prayer, personal/pastoral development, and the kind of sharpening that comes from sharing our lives with one another.  Walter Sawatzky (Plains congregation) serves as our coach and facilitator.

This circle has been deeply meaningful for each of us, despite the fact that we come from very different contexts.  We’re not all the same age.  We don’t all share the same theology.  We don’t all have the same experiences.  We don’t all come from Mennonite backgrounds.  We serve very different kinds of churches. 

However, despite these differences, we have much in common.  As Jessica observes, “We all wonder about the best way to lead the church forward in the 21st century.  We all seem to have an itch to experiment and try new things.  We all share a deep love for the work of the kingdom and sharing God’s love with the world.  We’ve all been frustrated by congregational politics, yet we have stayed in ministry.  We all want God’s best for the people we serve.” 

Finding a place where what unites us is a higher priority than what divides us has been refreshing for my soul and has sharpened me as a person and pastor.

In addition to the common values we share, our circle has discovered a camaraderie rooted in mutual trust.  Franco articulates the importance of this dynamic: “In a political, social, and religious environment where people are functioning out of suspicion and fear, it is nice to have a group who can discuss a wide range of very personal and professional topics with a level of trust that mitigates fear.” 

Pastors often function with varying levels of keeping up their guard, but as Franco points out and the rest of us affirm, our circle quickly became a place where those guards were lowered so that thoughtful, intelligent, informed reflection could take place. 

This is not the first “pastors’ group” I’ve participated in over the years, but it is one of the most meaningful I’ve experienced.  Part of the reason for its success is the intentional and professional coaching offered by Walter.  He often provides research/analysis from leadership and church studies that allow us to interpret our local issues within the context of broader discussions.  Furthermore, he encourages us to look inward toward the underlying passions, motivations, and assumptions that undergird our personalities and leadership. 

KrisAnne reflects on the value Walter adds to our Learning Community by noting how “his non-judgmental listening, his thoughtful questions, and the way he connects different aspects of a situation to reveal what’s going on underneath all gently guide our group toward greater maturity in relationships and in leadership.”

How do we sharpen who we are?  We do it in relationship with others, and one of the most sharpening places for me in the past year and a half has been this Learning Community.  I pray that we all find places of decreased isolation and increased sharpening in the years ahead.