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Marked by a celebration of peace, a pole and a neighborhood park: Urban Anabaptists make a commitment to work and hope in Allentown

By Samantha Lioi

Allentown, PA — In one corner of Franklin Park’s blacktop, Heidi Wert and her young friends sat drumming for peace, drawing in others to grab a pair of sticks and beat out a rhythm on white plastic tubs – thumping out their commitment to be agents of well-being in their neighborhoods. Among them was Peter Pettit, director of the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding at Muhlenberg College. Mayor Ed Palowski stood talking with folks setting up for the dedication of the Lehigh Valley’s third Peace Pole, the only one in the City of Allentown. The four-sided pillar, bearing “May peace prevail on earth” in Spanish, English, Arabic and German, was a gift to Pastor Tom Albright for his ordination. With his wife Carolyn, Tom gives leadership to Ripple, an eclectic Anabaptist urban worshiping community “moving toward Jesus as our center.” As they learn more what it means to follow Jesus, Tom says, they also learn, “We need each other.” Tom is credentialed by Franconia Mennonite Conference and the group grew out of ministry with Whitehall Mennonite Church, just outside of the city.

This mutual need, mutual honesty and encouragement were clear in the words and acts surrounding this pole on Saturday, as various people of faith gathered in a common desire for respectful relationships which build trust and shed fear in our city. Josh Chisholm of Congregations United for Neighborhood Action (CUNA) stood at the mic with his daughter on one hip, describing where he sees peace emerging. John, one of Ripple’s faithful deacons who lives across the street from the park, assisted with logistics and the pole’s unveiling. Rev. Maritza Torres Dolich of St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church across the alley from the park said she sees peace in the children playing here day after day, and in her conversations with them. Torres Dolich, originally from Puerto Rico, read the peace pole’s message in Spanish on behalf of Allentown’s large and growing Latino communities. Muc Nguyen of Vietnamese Gospel Church spoke the pole’s blessing in Vietnamese, and his friend Luke Martin, long-time Mennonite missionary in Vietnam, spoke the words in German, representing the Pennsylvania Dutch settlers in the region. Lucy, a first-year student at William Allen High School just a few blocks from the park, read an original poem of peace and sang a song of worship that made children and parents move from playing on the swings and jungle gym behind her to stand listening.

Planting this pole of many tongues calling silently for peace in our city will not stop people from shooting at each other or children from calling out hurtful names across this playground. It will simply remind us who commit ourselves to making peace that we too are planted here among the swing set and the spring onions of the community garden. And unlike this pole, we have breath and voice and power to be in healing relationships. It’s true: we need each other, and we need to remind each other that we are held and empowered by the Source of peace.

Samantha Lioi is an associate pastor at Whitehall Mennonite Church and is part of Zume House in Center City Allentown, an emerging intentional community of faith, witness and hope.


César García to become General Secretary of Mennonite World Conference

(reposted from Mennonite World Conference )
Wednesday, 04 May 2011
First appointee from the global South

Taipei, Taiwan – For the first time, a leader from the global South will become the General Secretary of the Mennonite World Conference (MWC). On May 4, the MWC Executive Committee formally appointed César García of Bogotá , Colombia, as General Secretary-elect, to succeed Larry Miller on January 1, 2012.
“I am excited about the possibility of serving in the leadership of MWC with the purpose of praying, thinking and acting as part of Christ’s global church,” García said, following his acceptance of the call. “God is glorified when the multicultural interdependency of his church is evidenced in our way of doing theology, practicing ecclesiology and bearing Christian witness in the world.”

The appointment was one of the first actions taken at MWC Executive Committee’s annual meeting, held this year in Taipei, Taiwan, May 4 to 11. “The affirmation of Cesar’s candidacy is a historical moment for us,” said MWC President, Danisa Ndlovu. “It is a recognition of our positive integration as a community of faith as we see the global South offering its richness to the global North.”

Also included in the Executive Committee action was the plan to move the location of the MWC head office from Strasbourg, France, to Bogotá . García will join MWC staff in August for a period of transition with Miller.

García, who was chair of the Iglesias Hermanos Menonitas de Colombia (Mennonite Brethren Churches of Colombia) from 2002 to 2008, is currently completing masters studies at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary in Fresno, California.

He also serves as secretary of the MWC Mission Commission and as a member of MWC’s task force on the creation of a new network of service ministries. In addition, he has been active in inter-Anabaptist and ecumenical endeavours in Colombia.

According to García, 39, the Colombian church and his local congregation, Iglesia HM Torre Fuerte (Strong Tower MB Church) in Bogotá , had sent him to California for studies in order to return and serve in Colombia, where he has been a church planter, pastor and professor of Bible and Theology.

When the MWC leadership nominated him as a candidate in January 2010, García submitted the matter to an intense process of discernment with Colombian church leaders and with close church friends in Fresno. The process ended in unanimous and enthusiastic support.

“The fact that many people were involved in different interviews,” said García, “encouraged us to trust God’s leadership and gave us the courage to accept this calling.” He added that his commitment to the Colombian church continues, but in the context of this broader appointment. The location of the office in Colombia will allow him to maintain regular contact with the church there.

García is married to Sandra Bá ez, who is also completing studies in Fresno. They have two teenage daughters, María and Paula.

– Byron Rempel-Burkholder, MWC editor

Photo by Byron Rempel-Burkholder

Overwhelmed by Generosity; Young adults to build relationships in Mexico City

A group of younger adults will fly to Mexico City this July to build relationships and learn about connecting with local community. The trip, led by Rockhill Mennonite Church and Franconia Mennonite Conference, will partner with the Conferencia de Iglesias Evangélicas Anabautistas Menonitas de México (CIEAMM) in offering children and youth programs and community outreach.

“This is an exciting possibility for young leaders to contribute and learn in one of the world’s biggest cities, to help build on generations of leadership, service, and partnership between
American and Mexican Mennonites,” said Steve Kriss, Director of Leadership Cultivation for Franconia Conference. “I love the energy of Mexico City and the creativity of young leaders

Rockhill Mennonite’s youth pastor, Angela Moyer, has taken her youth group on service trips to Mexico City twice and felt like the time had come to expand the relationship between Mexican
and American Mennonites. In the past, American churches have always sent money, she said, “but these churches don’t need our money—they appreciate our time and energy.” Time and energy used not to construct buildings, but to share in the task of ministry.

The growth of technology has meant that these new relationships, separated by thousands of miles, can remain connected in everyday life. “I can text them,” Moyer said. “We’re on Facebook.” As she looked ahead to this summer, Moyer began to imagine how to further nurture these relationships. The idea for this trip as a broader Conference opportunity emerged; a trip that will be mutually beneficial for both American and Mexican Mennonites.

American visitors are blessed by their Mexican brothers’ and sisters’ hospitality, passion, and love. “[The team] will be overwhelmed by generosity,” Moyer said. They will experience
what it means to be involved in local community in tangible ways and catch a glimpse of what Anabaptism looks like in a context that doesn’t include shoe fly pie and funny cake.

At the same time, “We bring them the world,” said Moyer. Because of financial and immigration issues, many Mexicans can’t make the trek to the US. When American Mennonites visit, the CIEAMM’s young people get a chance to connect with the global church beyond Mexico, have an opportunity to learn and practice their English, and discover that the US is more
than Hollywood.

The Americans’ presence is also an encouragement. Moyer noted that Mexican pastors have asked her, “Why are you guys here serving the kids in our community when most of our own
church isn’t here?” Something about the presence of visitors, working alongside local believers, increases the energy in their own church for Bible School.

And for the CIEAMM, Bible School is still a big deal. The thirteen congregations that form the CIEAMM are on the fringes of Mexico City, ministering to broken families. The children who
live in their neighborhoods have nowhere to go when school is out; Bible School provides a safe and loving place and welcoming diversion, just down the street.

“We’ll be creating space for the church to love the community, in whatever way the local pastors feel would be helpful,” Moyer said, adding with a laugh, “That could take on a very different
look.” One time, she remembers, her youth group joined Bible School children on a peace march. Another time, a pastor was invited to a child’s 1st birthday party—so he brought the
entire team along.

No matter what happens, this will not be a typical service trip—it’s not about accomplishing a project, but about supporting and encouraging the work of the Mennonite Churches in Mexico
City. For those who have never been on a trip overseas before, this will be a great way to ease in, said Moyer. And for those who are service trip veterans, this will be a breath of fresh air, a chance to experience the meaning of generosity and locality.

The Mexico City trip, July 20-August 3, still has several slots available. For more information or to sign up, contact Angela Moyer ( The cost is $1000 per person.

Conference announces staff transitions

Marlene Frankenfield, Franconia Conference Youth Minister and Campus Pastor at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School announced her resignation effective July 15. Marlene served in roles both with Dock and Conference for the last 12 years working tirelessly with young leaders. She said, “I plan to do a big exhale and I hope to live into the quote from Frederick Buechner, ‘The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”’

According to Ertell M. Whigham Jr., Conference Executive Minister, “I’m excited about Marlene’s future. She’s moving forward to continue to cultivate her ministry call. She’s contributed much to us as a community in bridging the world of youth, youth ministers, conference and Christopher Dock. I value her insights as well as commitments and look forward to building on her work over the next years.”

Currently, a youth ministry vision task force is working in conjunction with Eastern District Conference to extend and enhance Franconia Conference’s ongoing partnerships and commitments to youth ministry and leadership development. More details will be released as they are available on transition and future direction of youth ministry within the intercultural, missional and formational priorities of Franconia Conference.

Dr. Conrad Swartzentruber, Principal at Dock High School remarked, “Marlene has a deep passion for our youth and Christopher Dock greatly benefited from her presence. Her participatory approach enabled students to develop gifts of leadership and ministry. She met students where they were, always pointing them to Christ. While we will miss Marlene at Dock, we wish her God’s richest blessing as she continues to use her gifts in ministry to others.”

Emily Ralph of Bechtelsville, Pa has been named associate director of communication beginning May 1. Most recently she was part of the pastoral team at Swamp Mennonite Church in Quakertown, serving in a worship minister role and as cofounder of a communication/public relations business, Rethink Creative Services. Emily’s work will focus around web-based communication, conference assembly and development communication. She will be employed two days a week based at the Mennonite Conference Center in Harleysville and will be a full-time student at Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Pennsylvania.

According to Steve Kriss, Director of Communication, “Emily’s gifts and commitments complement our direction in providing more effective and frequent communication in a variety of venues, following up on recent requests from both conference board and constituency. Emily brings a commitment to excellent and professional quality work along with a passionate commitment to follow in the way of Christ. Her work will be an asset as we continue our journey together toward equipping, empowering and embracing God’s mission.”

The Why, What & How of Social Media: Pastors Breakfast

Pastors’ Breakfast March 17, 2010

Discussion: The Why, What & How of Social Media: Engaging Your Community in the Context that is Revolutionizing the Way the World Connects.

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Resource persons, Todd Hiestand and Scott Hackman, co-founders of MyOhai, led a presentation and conversation about how social media has impacted the way people engage in relationships and how to use it well in your ministry, which is so relationally based.  »View Article

Dock High School jarred by racist vandalism

By Sheldon C. Good
Mennonite Weekly Review
(Reposted by permission from Mennonite Weekly Review.)

LANSDALE, Pa. — Officials at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School discovered graffiti on two buildings and a sidewalk early on April 4.

The spray painting included three swastikas on the side of Rosenberger Center, Dock’s newest building; “satan” and three upside-down crosses on Dielman Hall; and various hate words on the sidewalk connecting the two buildings.

The Towamencin Township Police Department is investigating the vandalism.

Principal Conrad Swartzentruber addressed students, faculty and staff during chapel.

“We may feel attacked or even threatened when these things happen,” he said. “Our primary concern is how our community feels after something like this.”

He noted that after talking with police, school officials decided the graffiti did not compromise the safety of the school.

“The graffiti will soon disappear, but we will continue to deal with the feelings that remain,” Swartzentruber said during chapel. “We want this to be a place of respect for all students. That’s one of the highest callings God has given us — to respect and accept one another as people created in God’s image.”

During the second half of lunch, about 100 students and faculty prayed with and for the school community, as well as for those who vandalized the property.

Five students who felt threatened by the graffiti and its effects went home during the day.

Swartzentruber said creating a community where every person is respected and feels equally valued has been a focus for the school all year.

“Here is another opportunity for us to focus on that,” he said. “In creating community, we are not perfect, but we do have respect, and we build safe spaces. When one grieves, we all grieve.”

“Is Your Teen Almost Christian?” Part 2

“Is Your Teen Almost Christian Part 2” – The discussion will continue on the faith of our teens that began last November. Parents and youth workers, teachers and pastors are invited to a night of conversation and practical application led by Nate Stucky (PhD student, Princeton Seminary) on the new book, Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers is Telling the American Church. Hosted by Zion Mennonite Church on Thursday April 14 @ 7:00pm. Check out the face book site “Is Your Teen Almost Christian?

Download High Res PDF

Intersections Spring 2011

Finance Update February 2011

February 1st marked the beginning of a new fiscal year for Franconia Conference. The new year brings additional financial challenges. As congregations continue to tighten their budgets, giving continues to decrease. Congregational giving is forecast to be $64,000 less than what was budgeted last fiscal year, an 11.4% decrease. Decreases in subsidies from properties owned by the conference will also contribute to another $100,000 decrease in revenue for the conference from last year’s budget. This has led to the conference tightening its belt as well; several staff persons who have left over the past year have not been replaced, their roles and tasks being spread over remaining staff.

However, we still believe God is doing great things in our conference and will continue to do so. Conference leadership is looking for a continued partnership between congregations, related ministries, and the conference staff, especially as we expand the LEAD oversight platform throughout the conference.

The budget, passed by the conference board in January, is summarized as follows:

Revenue (from all sources) $851,318
Expenses $815,368
Line of Credit payment $25,000
(repayments over a three-year period for conference center
Net $10,950

For more information see