by Stephen Kriss, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Albright, lead pastor of Ripple, an emerging Anabaptist missional faith community in Center City Allentown was recognized by the Lehigh County Council of Churches with the Ecumenical Service Award for 2012. According to the Council, “the award is not to glorify the individual, but to give witness to the important work of affirming and strengthening Christian unity. The award is given to well-known and little-known individuals, to people deeply involved in the life of the Conference and to those who have offered their gifts elsewhere.”
Ripple is a church-plant that was birthed from Franconia Conference congregation, Whitehall Mennonite Church, just outside of the city. Tom and his wife Carolyn were honored with this award for “hearing God’s call and moving into the city.” He accepted the award on behalf of the emerging community at Ripple, suggesting that this award wasn’t only about him but also about the community of people who gather weekly and who live the Good News every day in their hearts and on the streets of Allentown.
Earlier this year, Ripple called two additional pastors–Ben Walter and Angela Moyer—to serve alongside the Albrights in leading this growing congregation of approximately 100 people. Albright is the first Mennonite pastor recognized by the Council with this award, given since 1981. The award presentation was marked with a dinner on May 15 at Allentown’s Dieruff High School.
As part of WPVI ABC-TV’s celebration of Asian American Heritage month in Philadelphia, Aldo Siahaan, lead pastor of Philadelphia Praise Center, was honored for his commitment to the Indonesian immigrant community since arriving in Philadelphia over a decade ago, part of a wave of approximately 10,000 immigrants from Indonesia who settled in Philadelphia in the last 15 years, the majority of whom were Christians escaping religious persecution in their homeland. Siahaan is the first Mennonite pastor to receive this award.
Siahaan was honored for his work in community service and communication among the immigrant community in South Philadelphia along with approximately ten other leaders from the diverse Asian communities in the city. He is the founding pastor of the now multilingual, multiethnic urban Anabaptist congregation of Philadelphia Praise–approximately 250 people, the largest Mennonite Church USA congregation in the city.
An award celebration was held at the historic Joy Tsing Lau restaurant in Philadelphia’s Chinatown section on May 22. The celebration included cultural celebrations of the Delaware Valley’s Asian communities, from Pakistani dance to Japanese Kobuki-style drama.
For Siahaan, the honor was unexpected. But for members of the congregation at Philadelphia Praise, the honor was appropriate and even missional. According to Adrian Suryajaya, a young adult leader from Philadelphia Praise who attended the event along with Siahaan, “The time has come for Godly leaders to rise and be recognized, to be salt and light. Christians are called to being God’s love, passion and Good News to the community where we are placed.”