Relationships at the Forefront

by Naveen Singh, Whitehall Mennonite Church

samantha lioi ord 2

I vividly remember when we as a congregation met Samantha for the first time. After having enjoyed a nice potluck meal, we spent an evening together in the church fellowship hall. This was a time to get to know her, so we all took turns asking questions (silly and also important ones). This journey started back in 2010, along the way meaningful relationships developed as we fellowshipped, learned, served and struggled together.

samantha lioi ord 1On September 13, 2015 we gathered around Samantha for a significant milestone, to give her charge and to present her to be set apart for ministry in God’s beloved community.

Growing up in India in a very small church, I wasn’t exposed to big words like commissioning or ordaining someone in the church. Besides, when I think about a person being set apart for serving/leading and taking care of God’s flock – the thought is quite overwhelming. It was only after moving to the United States that I started to realize that these were essential processes that are required in a church, but I saw it as a formality that the conference leaders had to come and perform. In recent years I have found this process more meaningful as I have witnessed the commissioning and ordaining of friends that I have come to know personally.

samantha lioi ord 3Being at Samantha’s ordination service was especially humbling – to be able to see so many faithful and committed friends come by her side as a community to encourage, support and bless her. It was visibly evident that community and relationships were at the center as Samantha was being ordained. God has made us for relationship and it always excites me when I see relationships at the forefront of mission. The beauty there is that the body of Christ was reflected in so many ways throughout the ordination service – each person coming and offering words of encouragement and reminders of what to carry with her into the good work that lies ahead, each were uniquely personal and richly diverse. The singing, the message and prayers were all weaved into a beautiful and meaningful time of worshipping God. The children’s time led by Angela Moyer, a pastor at Ripple, was another element that was particularly memorable from my perspective. The beautiful sight of children sitting around Samantha, laying their hands on her as they prayed. Formation takes place at every stage of life; encouraging participation of our children in these essential elements of our faith, is an important step towards keeping them engaged.

Samantha’s interest in stories of people young and old, near and far, especially stories of people who have been unjustly hurt, her interest in understanding the bigger picture of how injustice has entangled many in hopeless situations and her willingness to give them voice and be an advocate for them is a powerful testimony of God’s ongoing healing and restoration work through her. Living more simply and having more time for relationships is something I have learned from her. Samantha became a part of us (the Whitehall Mennonite Church community) in a very short time and I am very hopeful for the future, having experienced the fresh energy which she brings as a part of this new generation of leadership.