Tomorrow I’m leaving for a meeting with Mennonites in Fort Myers, Florida. Noel Santiago and I will represent our conference in a conversation with congregations who are interested in remaining in relationship with Mennonite Church USA after the withdrawal of their conference. They are discerning their future together as a community.
Last month, Southeast Mennonite Conference removed itself from our national body. In recent years, we have had growing ties to some of these communities in Miami, Tampa, and Sarasota. Some of us spend part of our winter in Florida; some of us have pastored there; some of us have relatives in these communities. Florida is an easy flight away from the part of our conference that is rooted in the Northeast corridor.
Several years ago, Angela Moyer (our current conference assistant moderator), Ertell Whigham (then executive minister), and I helped to lead an equipping event with Southeast Conference leaders in Sarasota. We recognized a resonance between our conferences. There’s been a warmth between some of our conference leaders and these Floridian communities since then. In the last weeks, we received a request to come alongside a part of what had been Southeast Conference to provide additional leadership resources and accompaniment.
Last month, we invited Marco Guete to begin serving as a stipended leadership minister to work alongside the communities in Florida for six months. Marco joined our conference staff retreat at Spruce Lake last week. His wisdom, insights, experience, and salsa lessons were a welcome gift to our team while we were together. I expect these deep, lively, and wise contributions to continue in the months ahead.
Where is this going? We don’t know. We anticipate meeting with leaders from about ten congregations in Florida this weekend; these leaders may either decide to form their own group in Florida in order to remain a part of Mennonite Church USA or express a desire to join our conference. It’s a time of fluidity and change in church structures, with the previously unimagined becoming the new normal.
We want to be open-handed in relating to the communities in Florida. I believe strongly that “to those whom much is given, much is required.” We had available financial resources to offer assistance to our sibling communities in Florida from within our budget this year due to unfilled staff roles. When the need in Florida became clear through a phone call with former MCUSA moderator Roy Williams from Tampa, we responded. Our multilingual conference staff will continue to work to accompany the Florida communities as they discern their future. Marco will work in this role for six months. We are in conversation with Mennonite Church USA leadership about how this may evolve.
The Spirit continues to shake up the structures of the church. Meanwhile, we are still willing to bear witness to the way of Christ’s peace. And God continues to bring new possibilities for relationships and renewal that might extend right fellowship to people both near and far. We will continue to work and hope. Seguiremos trabajando y esperando.
Angela Moyer, assistant moderator, Danilo Sanchez, Youth Formation Pastor, and I represented Franconia Mennonite Conference at the biannual Constituency Leadership Council (CLC) February 28-March 2. Others attending from Franconia Conference included Joy Sutter, Moderator Elect of Mennonite Church USA, and Buddy Hannanto, representing the Indonesian Mennonite Association.
The CLC is comprised of representatives from each area conference, churchwide program agency, and constituent group. While not a decision-making body, CLC serves as a forum for discernment, conversation, and networking. This group of 50-60 persons function as denominational elders offering counsel to the Executive Board on issues of faith, life and churchwide statements. Glen Guyton, Executive Director of MC USA, emphasized CLC’s importance, acknowledging that our “concerns are heard and taken seriously.”
An emphasis of CLC is building relationships of trust among executive board representatives, conferences, racial/ethnic groups, and churchwide program agency leaders. Sitting around tables, sharing personal and ministry stories, worshipping and sharing communion, eating meals together, discussing important matters of our common life, and playing group games remind us of the covenant we hold—to be the presence of Christ and share in Christ’s reconciling mission with each other and in our communities and places of ministry.
Angela Moyer commented that, “attending CLC helped me learn to know our new denominational leaders. God has given us a gift in these leaders, who have passion for God and the church, and a vision for our denomination.”
Lively, yet respectful, conversations centered around two key issues: a review of the MC USA membership guidelines and an update of the potential merger of The Mennonite and Mennonite World Review (a decision delayed last fall to process the concerns raised by CLC).
Barth Hague, chair of The Mennonite’s board, gave a brief update to inform CLC of the recent decision to resume the merger process.
The membership guidelines, which were implemented in 2001 and reviewed in 2013 and 2015, are once again an issue for the MC USA delegate body to consider at MennoCon19 in Kansas City this summer. Eight recommendations for the Executive Board’s consideration were discerned around eight table groups utilizing the “Six Thinking Hats” approach to decision-making. This approach provided opportunity to depart from a predictable pattern of debate. Instead, the guidelines were processed from six different perspectives: neutral, optimistic, critical, emotional, innovative, and process oriented. I found this process helpful since everyone at the table was speaking from the same perspective for an allotted time, allowing us to shape a unified recommendation. In Danilo’s words, “Even though there were disagreements around the table, everyone was respected and valued.”
Angela, Danilo, and I were honored to serve as Franconia Conference representatives at CLC. Danilo summarized our shared experience and reflections well, “Throughout our meetings, it was evident that every pastor and leader who attended CLC loves the church and loves Jesus. Through CLC, I gained a trust and confidence in our denominational leadership. I believe their desire is for MC USA to be faithful followers of Jesus and to be an Anabaptist witness to the world.”
by Emily Ralph Servant, Interim Director of Communication
Franconia Conference has begun building an intercultural youth formation team to resource youth leaders and to connect youth across congregations, geographies, and cultures.
In February, the conference called Danilo Sanchez and Brooke Martin as the initial members of this team, implementing the recommendations of a two-year youth ministry study. This study emphasized the need for providing more depth of resources to urban congregations (which make up a third of the conference) as well as to continue the good work of resourcing suburban and rural congregations, expanding these possibilities through the creation of a diverse team.
Danilo Sanchez, of Allentown, PA, will serve as a youth formation pastor for both congregations in the greater Lehigh Valley (PA) region (including New Jersey and New York) and congregations that have significant youth from Spanish-speaking households.
“Danilo is uniquely positioned in his experiences, gifts, and language abilities to serve our conference at this time,” reflects Steve Kriss, Franconia’s executive minister. “Danilo has ministered in urban settings but also grew up in more suburban, rural parts of the conference, and his experience working with young adults as the director of Mennonite Central Committee’s Summer Service Program helped him to build connections with the Anabaptist community across the country.”
Sanchez also serves on the pastoral teams of Ripple and Whitehall congregations and as the Community Life Director for RCI Village. He has a degree in youth ministry from Eastern University and a Master of Divinity from Eastern Mennonite Seminary. In addition to resourcing youth pastors, Sanchez will serve as a liaison for youth ministry within Mennonite Church USA.
“Danilo cares deeply for the church, young leaders, and youth, which is a perfect fit for this new Conference role,” says Pastor Angela Moyer of Ripple congregation, assistant moderator of the conference board. “On our Ripple pastoral team, he is a thoughtful, passionate, and dedicated presence, which I have appreciated.”
Brooke Martin, of Telford, PA, will serve as Community Formation Coordinator, which includes providing administrative support for youth activities like the Jr High Blast, Mission Impossible, and other upcoming initiatives. In addition to her work with the youth formation team, Martin will assist with planning and implementing conference events like equipping seminars, delegate trainings, and networking gatherings, with special attention given to Franconia’s annual Conference Assembly.
Martin is a member of Salford congregation and has extensive experience in administration and event planning as well as a degree in youth ministry from Hesston College. Mary Nitzsche, Franconia’s associate executive minister, anticipates that Martin’s experience and love for planning, organizing, and coordinating events will be a good match for the conference during this time of expansion and community-building. “Brooke is a person with contagious energy, confidence, and motivation to begin her new role as Community Formation Coordinator,” Nitzsche observes.
Before joining the conference staff, Martin served as the interim youth ministry leader at Franconia congregation, where Pastor Josh Meyer benefited greatly from her servant heart. “Her commitment to the Church, her passion for Jesus, her effectiveness in ministry, her graciousness in difficult situations, her ability to meaningfully connect with both students and adults, and her humility of spirit coupled with quiet confidence were all incredible blessings to us,” Meyer reflects. “I’m confident that our conference will benefit from the gifts Brooke brings and look forward to seeing how God continues using her calling for Kingdom good.”
I grew up attending a Church of the Nazarene congregation every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening, well into my teenage years. Our family was at church whenever the doors were open. My parents often sang up front, Dad playing the guitar and Mom banging the tambourine against her leg. They asked me to join, but I was too shy and self-conscious.
I can’t tell you when I became a Christian, or when I was “born again,” because as far as I can remember, I have always looked to Jesus as Lord, savior, teacher, and friend. Despite my semi-forced dedication to the church, becoming a pastor was not on my to-do list; standing up front, talking, and inviting people to kneel at the altar to get saved for the tenth time wasn’t my idea of a fulfilling job.
As I entered my late teens and early twenties, I drifted away from the church. I thought about God often, and prayed occasionally, but my faith wasn’t guiding my decisions.
After spending 3 years in the military, I prepared to start college. I was thinking about becoming a pastor, but I felt like, if that’s what God wanted for my life, I couldn’t be obedient to that call. A nagging feeling of guilt began following me around. So I went to talk to my pastor.
I remember my pastor said, “You will know.”
I didn’t really “know” at the time, so I ran. I guess I assumed God would get the message to me if I needed to hear it.
During my final year of college, like the prodigal son, I returned. I started attending church and met some good Christians friends who helped me stay on track. The youth pastor at my home church asked me to help with the youth. This turned into seven years of teaching, chaperoning, and mentoring.
Over time, particularly after the start of the Iraq War, I began thinking more deeply about Jesus’ teachings on peace, justice, oppression, and solidarity. I didn’t have a label for it, but I was on my way to becoming an Anabaptist.
In 2008, I decided to pursue a Masters of Divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary. I wasn’t interested in pastoring, but wanted to dedicate a few years to serious study of scripture to help in the ministry I was already doing.
During my studies, I learned about the Anabaptists and was told by one of my close friends that I was one. This was news to me, but I embraced the label. I also had the opportunity to be taught by a Mennonite adjunct professor, Steve Kriss.
Steve was the teacher for my final class at Biblical Seminary. As I walked out the door of my last session of that class, marking the end of my seminary education, Steve stopped me to ask a few questions. He told me that there was a church in Allentown that might interest me and wondered if I’d like to meet Tom Albright, the pastor of Ripple. I decided I would check it out.
When I got to Ripple, I saw a church that was dedicated to being a safe, welcoming place of worship for people who have been pushed to the margins of society, those with whom Jesus calls us to solidarity. A few weeks later, Ripple called me to be one of the pastors, and I “knew.”
I initially thought I couldn’t be obedient to God’s call to be a pastor because the pastors I had known seemed to be straight-laced and uptight. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not me. At times I still feel pressured to fit a certain pastoral mold, but for the most part, Ripple has allowed me to pastor from a place of authenticity and vulnerability. I have learned that being a good pastor is simply about being the person God has created me to be. I don’t have to pretend.
On July 16, the Franconia Conference Board appointed Angela Moyer as interim assistant moderator. This position is interim pending affirmation by the Conference delegates at the November 2-3 assembly. With this new role Angela will sit on the Conference Board Executive Committee as vice-chair and be vice-chair of the Conference Board.
Angela grew up in Franconia Conference and served as youth pastor at Rockhill Mennonite Church from 2005 to 2011. During that time, she sensed God calling her deeper into ministry and enrolled at Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS), Lancaster, PA to pursue her Master of Divinity which she acquired in 2012. Angela then went on to serve at Ripple in Allentown where she is currently one of five co-pastors. Throughout her career she has been bi-vocational, working as pastor and also as an occupational therapist. Currently, while serving the Ripple community she also works in Early Intervention at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation.
“Franconia Conference shaped me significantly as a child and youth at Penn View, Christopher Dock, and Rockhill Mennonite Church,” Angela said. “Then the Conference invested in me further when I attended seminary at Eastern Mennonite Seminary and through mentoring when I was a new pastor. I am humbled to be invited to share my gifts through this role. I serve with gratitude for the encouragement and nurture that the Conference has offered to me throughout my life. I am encouraged by the ways in which the Conference continues to bear witness to the upside down kingdom of God as taught to us by Jesus.”
Conference moderator John Goshow noted Angela’s involvement and outstanding service as a member of the Conference board since 2015 and on the executive minister search committee in 2016.
“Angela is deeply rooted in our Conference community with broad relationships in our urban and historic congregations. She knows our story, our ministries and our global partners. She’s a measured and thoughtful next generation leader who will bring wisdom, insight and hope to our work and witness together,” said Executive Minister, Steve Kriss.
Executive committee member, Jim King added, “Angela has a keen awareness and passion for the margins in our faith communities. She holds her core values with the ability to communicate across generational and ethnic lines. I think she will do well in facilitating our group process.”
With her roots in Telford and as an urban and bi-vocational pastor, her gifts and background are well-suited for this new role on the board. For more about Angela, check out the article that welcomed her to the board in 2015.
Desplácese hacia abajo para la traducción al español / Scroll down for Spanish translation
By Gwen Groff, Pastor at Bethany Mennonite Church, and FMC Board Member
We were just one or two days into our Mexico trip when Steve Kriss, Executive Minister of Franconia Conference, said, “I think all they really are asking for from us is for relationship.”
In the end, I believe that was the purpose of our Franconia Conference visit to Mexico: exploring and deepening relationships. Two Franconia Conference board members, Angela Moyer and I, and our Executive Minister, Steve Kriss, traveled to Mexico City, Puebla, Oaxaca, and Toluca and visited various congregations, pastors and leaders of Conferencia de Iglesias Evangélicas Anabautistas Menonitas de México (CIEAMM) for a week.
Franconia Conference had helped to create CIEAMM in 1958, but the formal relationship ended about a decade ago. Our hosts for the week were CIEAMM’s conference moderator, Carlos Martinez Garcia and one of CIEAMM’s pastors, Oscar Jaime Dominguez Martinez. Together we visited congregations that had been planted and supported by Franconia Conference sixty years ago, as well as new ministries that have been emerging.
We first worshiped with Iglesia Maranatha in Puebla. Children and youth were fully involved in leading the service. Over a meal of tostadas they enthusiastically invited Franconia Conference youth to please come and help them with their summer Bible School this July.
The following day we traveled to Casa de Esperanza in Oaxaca, where the congregation meets in the home of Luis R. Matias. We sang and had a short Bible study and a long meal of the local tortilla-based, tlayudas. We met with college students and young adults who are strongly committed to working for justice. We heard about their dream of a place to help meet the needs of Central American refugees passing through their town. The Oaxacan leaders wish for more training in conflict transformation. The musical gifts in this community were abundant, and their warmth and joy were immense. We ended the day with tea with Luis at a cafe where his daughter Paloma was singing and playing guitar. Luis said, “How good is this? My daughter is being paid to sing to me while I eat!”
The following day was a travel day back to Mexico City ending with a taco meal with the congregation at Fraternidad Cristiana Nueva Vida Espartaco.
On Sunday, we worshiped with six of the congregations of CIEAMM. Steve shared a sermon on 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 “In the body of Christ, there are different parts, but not walls.” As usual, our worship concluded with a delicious meal together, and gifted musicians sang, drummed, bowed, plucked and strummed while we fellowshipped. We were overjoyed to see Ofelia Garcia and Victor Pedroza who had recently returned from 8 years of ministry in Chihuahua with colony Mennonites. Ofelia will be coming to Franconia Conference this September to share a weekend Sistering retreat with our Spanish-speaking sisters. During our time here, one seasoned Mennonite agency staff person shared with Steve some concrete advice about partnerships between the United States and Mexican church groups: Always relate as equals; never make the relationship about money; if money is exchanged, let it pass through conferences and congregations, not individuals; if you visit with a group, always include youth in the group.
A visit to Toluca was our last journey. We met with Juan Carlos Maya and Sara Zuniga, leaders at Centro Cristiano. Sara’s mother was one of the first Mennonites Ken Seitz baptized, just before Sara was born. In the evening, we relaxed together, a small group of Anabaptists, sitting around an outdoor table in the plaza, listening to a band, watching the dancers, reminiscing about parents who gave up rumba and salsa dancing when they became Mennonites. At breakfast Sara showed us photo albums of her family that included Mennonites we know as Franconia Conference missionaries.
On Monday, we visited their community center and listened to a passionate power-point presentation (it’s not an oxymoron). These Anabaptists in Toluca teach children to play musical instruments as a part of an orchestra, as a way of understanding the body of Christ. With group music lessons they are building a community. Juan Carlos and Sara showed us plans for their building expansion and introduced us to a neighbor with a brick-making operation. When Juan Carlos walked the dusty streets of Toluca, children ran to him and hugged him and walked arm in arm with him. Angela observed, “He is what Jesus would have been like if Jesus had made it to 60.” His understanding of ministry is a movement from “solidarity first, then Jesus Christ, ultimately Koininia.” He said the opposite of this is “ego first, then hedonism, which ultimately leads to capitalism.”
Elders in these Anabaptist congregations who have been in leadership positions in their churches since they were young are intentionally stepping back in order to make space for new young leaders and to mentor them.
Our visits ended Monday evening with a meeting and meal with leaders from the congregations in Mexico City. They talked about their dreams for their congregations. Women pastors were especially warm in their welcome and enthusiastic about sharing their work and interest in receiving more training in theology and ministry.
What if all we want is relationship? People repeatedly told us, “You have to come back. I can’t visit you, you must come here.” This was Angela’s fourth trip to CIEAMM congregations in Mexico, Steve’s third visit, my first. I learned much from my more fluent Franconia traveling companions. We three were grateful for the generous, meticulous planning of our CIEAMM hosts, Carlos and Oscar. We in Franconia Conference have much to learn much from our Anabaptist sisters and brothers in Mexico.
I was grateful for one theological observation Carlos made in passing. He said, “Christianity is a religion of travel.” A cynical person might suggest that Carlos’ assertion is a bit self-serving. After all, he is a well-traveled Mexican Conference Moderator, journeying through Mexico, visiting churches with a group of Mennonites from the United States, about to embark on a visit to Kenya next week; of course he would believe Christianity is a religion of travel. A cynic might also suspect that my enthusiastic agreement with Carlos is colored by the fact that I’m the Franconia Conference board member from Vermont, grateful for a trip to sunny Mexico in early April when there’s still a foot of snow on the ground at home. Of course we all want to believe Christianity endorses travel!
But I believe without cynicism that Carlos is right. Christianity started with journeys. Jesus walked hundreds of miles, and he and his disciples got in a boat and “crossed over to the other side” of the lake far more often than was strictly necessary. Think of the apostle Paul, Carlos said, who undertook many missionary journeys to spread the good news of Christ. In addition to what we bring when we visit, travel puts us in a new position to receive.
Traveling makes us curious, vulnerable, and open to being wrong. Our bodies get tired. We may get a bit sick. We do not fully understand the language. We listen hard. We may break cultural rules we don’t even know exist. We laugh at our mistakes. All this is a good posture for sharing the story of the self-emptying Christ, for deepening our own faith, and for building relationships.
PHOTO GALLERY (click to see larger images)
Cristianismo: una religión de viajes
Por Gwen Groff, pastor de la Iglesia Menonita Bethany y miembro de la Junta de la FMC. (traducción Luis Rey Matías-Cruz)
Teníamos apenas uno o dos días en nuestro viaje a México cuando Steve Kriss, Ministro Ejecutivo de la Conferencia de Franconia, dijo: “Creo que todo lo que realmente piden ellos/ellas es una relación”.
Al final, creo que ese fue el propósito de nuestra visita de la Conferencia de Franconia en México: explorar y profundizar las relaciones. Dos miembros de la junta de la Conferencia de Franconia, Angela Moyer y yo, y nuestro Ministro ejecutivo, Steve Kriss, viajamos a la ciudad de México, Puebla, Oaxaca y Toluca y visitamos varias congregaciones, pastores y líderes de la Conferencia de Iglesias Evangélicas Anabautistas Menonitas de México (CIEAMM) durante una semana.
La Conferencia de Franconia había ayudado a crear CIEAMM en 1958, pero la relación formal terminó hace una década. Nuestros anfitriones de la semana fueron el moderador de la conferencia de CIEAMM, Carlos Martínez García y uno de los pastores de CIEAMM, Oscar Jaime Domínguez Martínez. Juntos visitamos congregaciones que habían sido plantadas y apoyadas por la Conferencia de Franconia hace sesenta años, así como nuevos ministerios que han estado surgiendo.
Primero alabamos al Señor en la Iglesia Maranatha en Puebla. Los niños y los jóvenes se involucraron completamente en dirigir el servicio. Durante una comida de tostadas, invitaron con entusiasmo a los jóvenes de la Conferencia de Franconia a venir y ayudarlos con su Escuela Bíblica de verano este julio.
Al día siguiente viajamos a Casa de Esperanza en Oaxaca, donde la congregación se reúne en la casa de Luis R. Matias. Cantamos y tuvimos un breve estudio de la Biblia y una larga comida de tlayudas, una tortilla local. Nos reunimos con estudiantes universitarios y adultos jóvenes que están fuertemente comprometidos con trabajar por la justicia. Escuchamos acerca de su sueño de un lugar para ayudar a satisfacer las necesidades de los refugiados centroamericanos que pasan por su pueblo. Los líderes oaxaqueños desean más capacitación en la transformación de conflictos. Los dones musicales en esta comunidad eran abundantes, y su calidez y alegría eran inmensos. Terminamos el día con el té con Luis en un café donde su hija Paloma cantaba y tocaba la guitarra. Luis dijo: “¿No es esto muy bueno9? A mi hija le pagan para que me cante mientras yo como “.
El día siguiente fue un día de viaje de regreso a la Ciudad de México, terminando con una comida de tacos con la congregación Fraternidad Cristiana Nueva Vida Espartaco.
El domingo, rendimos culto seis de las congregaciones de CIEAMM. Steve compartió un sermón en 1 Corintios 12: 12-26 “En el cuerpo de Cristo, hay diferentes partes, pero no paredes”. Como de costumbre, nuestra adoración concluyó con una deliciosa comida en conjunto, y los músicos talentosos cantaron, tocaron, hicieron una reverencia, puntearon y rasguearon mientras nosotros compartíamos. Nos llenó de alegría ver a Ofelia García y Víctor Pedroza que habían regresado recientemente de 8 años de ministerio en Chihuahua con colonos menonitas. Ofelia vendrá a la Conferencia de Franconia este septiembre para compartir un retiro de hermandad de fin de semana con nuestras hermanas hablantes del español. Durante nuestro tiempo aquí, un miembro experimentado de la agencia menonita compartió con Steve algunos consejos concretos sobre las asociaciones entre los Estados Unidos y los grupos eclesiales mexicanos: relacionarse siempre como iguales; nunca hagas la relación en base al dinero; si se intercambia dinero, déjalo pasar por conferencias y congregaciones, no por individuos; si visitas con un grupo, siempre incluye a los jóvenes en el grupo.
Una visita a Toluca fue nuestro último viaje. Nos reunimos con Juan Carlos Maya y Sara Zuniga, líderes del Centro Cristiano. La madre de Sara fue una de las primeros menonitas bautizados por Ken Seitz, justo antes de que Sara naciera. Por la tarde, nos relajamos juntos, éramos un pequeño grupo de anabautistas, sentados alrededor de una mesa al aire libre en la plaza, escuchando a una banda, mirando a los bailarines, recordando a los padres que abandonaron la rumba y la salsa cuando se convirtieron en menonitas. Durante el desayuno, Sara nos mostró álbumes de fotos de su familia que incluían menonitas que conocemos como misioneros de la Conferencia de Franconia. El lunes, visitamos su centro comunitario y escuchamos una apasionada presentación en power-point (no es un oxímoron). Estos anabautistas en Toluca enseñan a los niños a tocar instrumentos musicales como parte de una orquesta, como una forma de entender el cuerpo de Cristo. Con lecciones de música en grupo, están construyendo una comunidad. Juan Carlos y Sara nos mostraron los planes para la expansión de sus edificios y nos presentaron a un vecino con una operación de fabricación de ladrillos. Cuando Juan Carlos caminó por las polvorientas calles de Toluca, los niños corrieron hacia él, lo abrazaron y caminaron cogidos del brazo con él. Ángela dijo acerca de Juan Carlos: ” Él es lo que Jesús hubiera sido, si Jesús hubiera llegado a los 60.” Su comprensión del ministerio (de Juan Carlos) es un movimiento desde la “solidaridad primero, luego a Jesucristo, en última instancia a Koininia”. Dijo que lo opuesto a esto es “ego” primero, luego el hedonismo, que finalmente conduce al capitalismo “.
Los ancianos en estas congregaciones anabautistas que han estado en posiciones de liderazgo en sus iglesias desde que eran pequeños están retrocediendo intencionalmente para dejar espacio para nuevos líderes jóvenes y para ser mentores de ellos.
Nuestras visitas finalizaron el lunes por la noche con una reunión y comida con los líderes de las congregaciones en la Ciudad de México. Estos hablaron sobre sus sueños para sus congregaciones. Las pastoras fueron especialmente cálidas en su acogida y entusiastas de compartir su trabajo y su interés en recibir más capacitación en teología y ministerio.
¿Qué pasa si todo lo que queremos es una relación? La gente repetidamente nos dijo: “Tienes que volver. No puedo visitarte, debes venir aquí “. Este fue el cuarto viaje de Angela a las congregaciones de CIEAMM en México, la tercera visita de Steve, la primera para mi. Aprendí mucho de mis compañeros de viaje más francos de Franconia. Los tres estábamos agradecidos por la planificación generosa y meticulosa de nuestros anfitriones de CIEAMM, Carlos y Oscar. Nosotros en la Conferencia de Franconia tenemos mucho que aprender mucho de nuestras hermanas y hermanos anabautistas en México.
Agradecí una observación teológica de pasada que hizo Carlos: “El cristianismo es una religión de viajes”. Una persona cínica podría sugerir que la afirmación de Carlos era un poco egoísta. Después de todo, es un Moderador de la Conferencia Mexicana muy viajado, viaja a través de México, visitando iglesias con un grupo de menonitas de los Estados Unidos, a punto de emprender una visita a Kenia la próxima semana; por supuesto, él creería que el cristianismo es una religión de viajes. Un cínico también podría sospechar que mi entusiasta acuerdo con Carlos está teñido por el hecho de que soy miembro de la junta directiva de Franconia Conference de Vermont, agradecida por un viaje al soleado México a principios de abril, cuando aún queda un pie de nieve en el suelo en casa. . ¡Por supuesto, todos queremos creer que el cristianismo aprueba el viaje!
Pero creo, sin cinismo, que Carlos tiene razón. El cristianismo comenzó con los viajes. Jesús caminó cientos de millas, y él y sus discípulos subieron a un bote y “cruzaron al otro lado” del lago con mucha más frecuencia de lo necesario, estrictamente hablando. Piensa en el apóstol Pablo, dijo Carlos, quien emprendió muchos viajes misioneros para difundir las buenas nuevas de Cristo. Además de lo que traemos cuando viajamos, viajar nos pone en una nueva situación para recibir.
Viajar nos hace curiosos, vulnerables y abiertos a estar equivocados. Nuestros cuerpos se cansan. Podemos ponernos un poco enfermos. No comprendemos completamente el lenguaje. Escuchamos mucho. Podemos romper las reglas culturales que ni siquiera sabemos que existen. Nos reímos de nuestros errores. Todo esto es una buena postura para compartir la historia del Cristo que se vació a si mismo, para profundizar nuestra propia fe y para construir relaciones. (traducción Luis Rey Matias-Cruz)
by Paula Marolewski, Franconia Conference Board Member and Elder at Perkiomenville Mennonite Church
What characterizes the culture of Franconia Mennonite Conference (FMC) today? How do we respond to the crowded, complex, fast-paced culture of society around us? How do Conference member churches experience being valued and valuing the whole of the larger conference?
These were some of the many questions the Conference Board discussed on July 28th and 29th as they met together for a retreat at Fatima House in Ottsville, Pennsylvania. All eleven of the board members were present*, representing eleven different congregations – a quarter of all the churches that comprise the conference. Facilitating the meeting was Jeff Wright of Riverside, CA, Executive Consultant for Urban Expression North America. Jeff had served as a guide for the Conference’s Vision and Financial Plan a decade ago.
During the time together, the Board spent time in spiritual reflection, as three of the board members (Beny Krisbianto, Angela Moyer, and Ken Burkholder) shared devotions on Jesus’ parables and how the parables spoke to various situations and needs within the Conference. The devotional times flowed into discussions about colliding cultures, conflict and hope, and the future of Franconia Conference and Mennonite Church USA.
One of the key conversations centered on three central questions that everyone – individuals, churches, the conference, and the denomination – should answer:
Who is Jesus to us? [Christology]
What does Jesus want us to do? [missiology]
How does Jesus want us to do it? [ecclesiology]
Jeff emphasized that it is critical to approach these questions in this order. For example, we as Franconia Conference need to first determine who Jesus is to us. The answer to that will become the foundation for our shared culture. Only then can we ask what Jesus wants us to do and how to go about it – these are questions of strategy that build on the foundation of culture.
The Board grappled with all these questions and more – and will continue to do so with the goal of advancing the Kingdom of God in our fallen world. That, after all, is the purpose of a retreat: to prepare to move forward.
*The Board is composed of John Goshow, moderator (Blooming Glen), Angela Moyer (Co-Pastor at Ripple), Beny Krisbianto (Pastor at Nations Worship Center), Gwen Groff (Pastor at Bethany), Jim King (Plains), Paula Marolewski (Perkiomenville), Ken Burkholder, interim chair of the Ministerial Committee (Pastor at Deep Run East), Kris Wint (Pastor at Finland), Smita Singh (Whitehall), Merlin Harman (Franconia), and Steve Kriss, Conference Executive Minister (Philadelphia Praise Center).
By Angela Moyer, co-pastor at Ripple and Conference Board Member
Smita Singh was appointed to the Franconia Conference Board by delegate affirmation at the Fall 2016 Assembly, beginning her first term with the Board in January, 2017. Smita is a member at Whitehall Mennonite Church in the Lehigh Valley since 2000, when she immigrated to the United Stated with her husband Naveen and son Ronak.
Growing up in Nagpur, India, Smita was raised in a Christian home with church and faith as an integral part of her upbringing. She was actively involved with her church youth group, Youth for Christ (YFC), Evangelical Students Union (EU), children’s ministry, National Council of Church’s in India (NCCI) and Maharashtra Village Ministries (MVM). She has led women’s groups and youth groups through BSF International (Bible Study Fellowship), and as a member of Whitehall, Smita has worked in children’s ministry, helped with fundraisers and served on the budget committee and worship planning committee.
She graduated from Nagpur University with a Bachelors in Computer Science. She then received her Master’s Degrees in Business Administration specializing in finance and marketing. Smita has experience as a Google Quality Rating Consultant and also owns an Etsy business, “Rosmina Collections.” Recently, she began working in the Customer Service Department at Nestle.
Initially, Smita was not interested in being on the Board at Franconia Conference, but after prayer, both she and Naveen sensed that this was a call to move out of her comfort zone, especially after having an encouraging conversation with Steve Kriss, then the Director of Leadership Development. Now, she is looking forward to discovering how she can use her gifts and experience to serve in this role and hopes to fulfill God’s calling.
Her favorite passage of Scripture is Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” She says she connects to God best by having her quiet time praying and seeking His word for discernment.
Smita describes Whitehall Mennonite as an eclectic group of people filled with hospitality, diverse in speech and culture, with a common goal to serve the Lord and care for each other. Something she has learned at Whitehall is that God is faithful and always provides in unexpected ways. Transformation happens one person at a time and many times the transformation takes place years after the seed was planted.
Rose Bender, Pastor at Whitehall Mennonite Church says, “Folks at Whitehall appreciate Smita’s creativity, generosity, and delicious cooking! Because of her life experience and background, Smita often has a different perspective to add to the conversation – a part of the rich fabric of diversity at Whitehall Mennonite Church. She is a joy to pastor and work alongside in ministry.”
Smita lives in Breinigsville, PA with her husband, and now 14-year-old son. In her free time, she enjoys making cards, helping her son with his school projects, volunteering at church, and as a volunteer coach for Springhouse Middle School Science Olympiad Team.
God is at work in Allentown, and pastor Angela Moyer witnesses God’s movement in the lives of her friends and neighbors. Angela is one of five co-pastors at Ripple, where her ministry focuses on serving children and women. Franconia Conference welcomed Angela to the board at the August 2015 board meeting. In her new role as board member, Angela will help communicate the perspectives and needs of Lehigh Valley congregations as they continue to grow. As an urban and bi-vocational pastor with roots in Telford, Angela’s gifts and background are well-suited for this role as a conference board member.
Angela also is an occupational therapist for Good Shepherd Rehabilitation. She worked as an occupational therapist after graduating from Elizabethtown College, when she accepted a post at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Through this role, Angela was exposed to city life and city concerns. She recognized the opportunity for the church to help ease the challenges facing families in crisis. During this time Angela felt a draw and pull to youth ministry, and began working with the youth at her home church, Rockhill Mennonite, eventually serving as youth pastor.
Angela also began taking classes at Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s Pennsylvania campus. “Tentatively and very hesitantly, I took a few classes. I just had a few questions.” One semester led to another, and in 2012 she completed her studies. While at seminary Angela met Tom & Carolyn Albright and learned about the ministry happening through Ripple. Sensing that this was a place where her gifts could be used, Angela completed an internship in Allentown where Ripple is located and got to know the community, which she describes as open, welcoming, and multiethnic.
In Allentown Angela lives in the intentional community Zumé, in a neighborhood full of people from varied backgrounds and experiences. Asked to describe the work of Ripple she said, “Ripple is Christ-centered and Community-Focused. We are at a place where we are learning the depth of patience and trust in God that’s required when working for transformation, justice and dignity for all people. We are learning to support one another in this walk, in the long, hard work of walking alongside people through hard times expectantly awaiting new life and resurrection.”
Angela is an avid Phillies fan and for relaxation she enjoys trying new restaurants and traveling.
By Steve Kriss, Director of Leadership Cultivation & Congregational Resourcing
The year 2015 has been a year of ordinations in Franconia Conference. We’ve been celebrating and marking commitments and calling nearly every six weeks . . . Mike Ford at Blooming Glen, Joe Hackman at Salford, Donna Merow at Ambler, Angela Moyer at Ripple, Kris Wint at Finland, Josh Meyer at Franconia, Samantha Lioi at Whitehall and Ubaldo Rodriguez at New Hope Fellowship in Baltimore for mission work in the Philippines.
Ordination is an ancient process of setting apart leaders for public ministry in the way of Jesus. Within Franconia Conference, we follow a set of procedures that seek to honor both the individual and the community while respecting the work of the Spirit within both settings. There is coursework for completion, interviews, paperwork that intends to keep our communities both safe and accountable, mental wellness assessments, varieties of continuing education and varying levels of mentoring. Some of our pastors breeze through the process at a steady and assured pace in the two year minimum waiting and working period of licensing. Others take much longer to plumb the depths of call both personally and communally and to wrestle it out. Personal disclosure, it took me six years of working, waiting and wondering in Allegheny Conference before I could wrap my head around the commitments and calling that ordination entails.
We take this process seriously yet the days of ordination have a more celebratory tone. There are few times in our lives when we make commitments that will shape our life like ordination. In front of a gathered congregation at the request and affirmation of a particular Christian community, we make commitments to serve, lead, pray, study, turn from evil and live into the role of Christian leadership as long as God sustains.
Many of us wrestle with the meaning of ordination. I’ve found this human and historic process of calling, recognizing, working and wrestling and receiving becomes quite holy. Somewhere in the wrestling and symbols, the questions and the mundane of the paperwork, the Spirit unfailingly shows up.
In this flurry of ordinations in the midst of a turbulent time, I am confident that the Spirit is still at work with us, trying to bring life. Each person who says yes to the invitation of God and the community strengthens the possibilities of future “yes” responses into the next generation. This round of ordinations represents our first millennial generation ordained ministers, our first Italian American woman, our first ordination for mission work in the Philippines. We’ve called at some of our most historic congregations and our newest. The churches are rural, suburban and urban. We’re recognizing the sons and daughters of historic Franconia Conference families, as well as persons who were drawn to Mennonite congregations by conviction, relationships and call. We’ve held events in Episcopal and Lutheran facilities and even at a Lancaster Conference church in Baltimore. (Interesting side note, a Lancaster Conference African congregation recently used the Towamencin meetinghouse for an ordination worship).
It’s definitely a different time. The ordination process isn’t what it used to be. There’s no somber ceremony with Bibles or hymnals and a slip of paper as in Mennonite history. But the holy moments remain, those wonderful spaces where community and Spirit commingle to cultivate surprising invitations toward ordination and wonderfully amazing continued responses of “yes I am willing.” Every time we ordain, it’s a sign that the church will go on. And in these days of turbulence and questions both in the church and in the culture around us, every yes somehow feels miraculous. And I’m grateful to get to witness it as the Good News still breaks upon us. . . this year about every six weeks.