Tag Archives: Bally Mennonite Church

Love is a Verb and So Much More

by Wayne Nitzsche, Interim LEADership Minister and Pastor of Perkasie Mennonite Church

When taking elementary Greek as a seminary student, suddenly it dawned on me that my knowledge of the English language was woefully inadequate. I might not have been able to tell you that a verb “is a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence, and forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence, such as hearbecomehappen,” as Google says. But I’d have been able to say that is an action word!

So when I learned the theme for Mennonite Church USA for 2017, launched on Valentine’s Day, was: “Love is a Verb” I knew about verbs. I’m just glad they didn’t go with: “Love is a predicate noun.”

As followers of Christ we believe that God is love and that we are called to participate in God’s love. Not by the cheap “I’ll love you if you love me” ways of our culture, but in the gritty work of loving God, ourselves and our neighbors.

This theme of Love is a Verb will be the theme at our denominational assembly in Orlando in early July. As we lead up to that, Perkasie Mennonite (PMC), and perhaps other Franconia Conference congregations have recently engaged this theme. Here at PMC we developed a six week worship series focusing on: love is… a verb, … obeying Christ, … mutual, …. fear-less, ….of God, and …. life-giving. The series has been a study of the book of First John.

“This word of life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us…so that our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:2-3)

For the writer, the love of God is expressed in the revealed “word of life” (Jesus Christ) so that we might have fellowship (koinonia) with God and with each other. That love we’ve received is then expressed in love for each other in the local fellowship. Yet, scholars believe this struggling church was fractured because of theological diversity and a refusal to love in word and deed. In a series employing sharp contrasts comes the command to do the hard work of love.

Our love has been put to the test in very specific ways as we have walked with congregation members in life and death. I witnessed people expressing their love by sharing meals, sending cards, sitting in silence, in unceasing prayer and in many other acts of love. I know this happens on a daily basis, not only at PMC but in all the churches spread out over our conference.

We have members demonstrate active love – love as a verb – by urging us to speak into the political process with a voice of concern for peace and justice. We had hard discussions in our Sunday morning second hour around the issue of racism, and talked about what steps we might take to become allies.

As an Interim LEADership Minister with Franconia Conference, I’ve been relating to Alpha, Bally and Taftsville congregations. It’s been a joy to hear stories of love in action. Bally created a large banner with the words from the Welcoming Your Neighbors posters: “No matter where you are from, we are glad you are our neighbor” written in Arabic, Spanish and English. During a committee meeting, a stranger entered and expressed his appreciation for the sign. He is a recent immigrant from the Middle East and had been feeling very vulnerable.

Love in action is expressed at Taftsville in their recent addition of solar panels on the roof of their meeting place.  They are now generating electricity that goes back onto the grid, as they continue to implement steps to care for God’s creation. I could go on with other illustrations just in these three congregations.

Let’s continue to challenge ourselves and our congregations to make Christ’s love known in our local communities. May we also celebrate and testify to the ways it is already happening in small ways in the wonderful diversity that is Franconia Mennonite Conference.

“We know love by this that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” (1 John 3:16)

Celebrating the Creative Spirit

Desiring to enhance a sense of community and offer our hospitality, Bally Mennonite Church planned and hosted a free event, Celebrating the Creative Spirit, on May 5 & 6, 2017. The event featured 40 artists and artisans from the Bally area including professionals such as potter Roy Yoder, photographer Gordon Groff, weaver Tonya Jones, and artist/author Julie Longacre as they displayed a variety of paintings, pastels, pottery, photographs, weaving, wood work, quilts, fly-tying, needlework, fabric art, and the artwork of children. It was a Friday evening and five hours on Saturday full of visual arts, music and food.

Beginning as an idea in the Outreach Committee, the five members helped bring their idea to life.  The congregation was invited to a meeting to assess the interest; only two people showed up, but they were very enthusiastic.  As the idea was discussed, enthusiasm grew, as did the creative ideas.  What began as a simple idea for a simple art show turned into an event chock-full of musical performances and a variety of subjective art including landscapes, portraits, handcrafts, and much more.

The event was a resounding success, to which we credit:  1) Having a church structure and a church council that encourages committees to “do their own thing” as long as council feels that it fits in with the church vision and values. 2) A few people willing to risk stepping out of their own comfort zones, and encourage others to use their own creativity.  3) The donation of committed individuals to cover direct expenses, and the church providing space, a few supplies, cleaning services, and the electricity.  4) Martha Kratz drafting her friends to help her create Cafe Fleur in the fellowship hall, and Tim Longacre creating a wonderful entrance, using his gift of set design. 5) Most importantly, the blessing of the Holy Spirit, which has been present to empower, encourage, and guide the planning.  We’re counting on the Holy Spirit to continue that work and help us establish and set an example of a Christian community family.

Some people were hesitant to come to a Mennonite church; they didn’t know what to expect.  We were not surprised to hear one person say, as some have also said at our pancake breakfasts, “There is a good spirit here.”  Many offered to donate money before they left.  Some said this was the most fun they had in a year.  The children loved doing crafts.  People who had not seen one another in a long time renewed acquaintances, and in one instance, healing began in a difficult relationship. One artist from Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Bally invited a guest to her home to teach her how to do one of her art projects.  We are convinced that God was at work in the synergy that was created and will continue to use this experience to help us make more new friends.

Those who led the event had no idea how much work it was going to be or what the costs might be; they stepped out in faith that God would provide, even though there were only three months to plan it.   Some assumed that this would be a one-time event.  However, so many guests asked if we were going to do this again next year that we might do it again and extend it into Sunday morning.  Some of the stretching of our skills was not easy, but it will be easier if we decide to do it again.  We are hoping that some of our new friends will help too, because working together is so much fun.

We are grateful for the members of Bally Mennonite Church who submitted work, and the local artists,and family and friends whose hobbies and creative interests reflect their God-given talents. Without the creativity and network of Julie Longacre and the network and outreach of Gene Galligan, we would not have had as many local artist who shared their art and performed music.  We are thankful for those who assisted in supplying and serving free refreshments and lunch and the many additional people who contributed to the success of the event, including The Church of the Good Shepherd in Boyertown for the use of the art racks to display the paintings.

May we continue to recognize the Creative Spirit within us and may the Holy Spirit continue to work and help us establish and set an example of a Christian community family.

Diane Bleam, Event Coordinator
Julie Longacre, Art Coordinator

Welcome Signs an Invitation to Dialogue

by Dwayne Henne, Chair of Outreach, Bally Mennonite Church

Members of Bally Mennonite Church had a growing interest in how area churches might be able to support refugees coming to the United States as they continued to see on the daily news the suffering of people in Syria and Sudan. As they began to explore this topic, it evolved into concerns about divisions in the United States over racism and immigration. The church then decided to order a huge sign, the design initiated by Immanuel Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg VA, to be displayed along Route 100. The sign states in Spanish, English and Arabic: “No matter where you are from, we are glad that you are our neighbor.”

The “Welcome Your Neighbors” signs were the brain child of Matthew Butcher, pastor at Immanuel Mennonite Church. He reached out to an artist in his congregation, Melissa Howard, to create the sign with the phrase in English, Spanish and Arabic after a growing concern regarding the rhetoric in the United States during the 2015 presidential primaries. Numerous individuals and congregations from across the United States and Canada have begun printing the now tri-color signs, with the graphic available for download on the Welcome Your Neighbors website. The signs and the people who have posted them have had such a positive impact that they have gained media coverage by outlets such as NPR and the Huffington Post. Butcher was quoted in The Mennonite as saying, “I think it’s a symbol for people of how they want to live, and I think it’s been a point of comfort for people seeing it.”

Earlier this year, two days after the White House Executive orders about immigration and refugee resettlement, the large Welcome Your Neighbors sign ordered by Bally Mennonite Church arrived, and with the ironic timing, was installed.

Over the past month, people have contacted the church expressing appreciation for the sign; one person said that her daughter participated in the airport demonstrations.  Another is a pastor of a Boyertown area church; yet another, a Muslim man who came into the church one day, identified himself as having moved to the United States from Palestine. The Welcome Your Neighbors Facebook page has testimonies of folks receiving flowers on their doorsteps with a card in Arabic and English, expressing gratitude for the signs.

While Bally is grateful for the appreciation of the sign, the congregation would also be welcoming to concerns about it, for division in our community needs conversations whereby the parties listen to one another and seek to understand the other person’s perspective. The Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself (no matter where your neighbor is from, and no matter what their opinions may be). May these signs not only express welcome but an invitation to dialogue.

The Gathering: Multi-congregational, Intercultural Worship Service

by Colin Ingram

Six Franconia Conference congregations banded together to organize an intercultural worship service called “The Gathering”. Several hundred people from different ethnic backgrounds, speaking different languages, gathered for this worship service at Souderton Mennonite Church on Sunday, July 19. In attendance were other Franconia Conference Church members, the members of Indonesian Light Church, along with the host families and around 30 participants from the Global Education Conference, a week-long Mennonite World Conference global educators’ meeting that was held the week before at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School.

Gathering photo 1-webPeople gathered to worship, hear Scripture, listen to a sermon, and fellowship over food.

The service included Indonesian, Spanish, and English languages with the call to worship and sermon both being translated. The scripture reading was done in Hindi, French, and English. The event was a chance to “learn other cultures,” according to Carlos Aguirre, from Centro de Alabanza. He was impressed by the other Christians in attendance.

“I will take away the joy that I have in my heart, to know that there’s other people helping the body of Christ to grow,” Aguirre said.

The Gathering was organized by Bally Mennonite Church, Centro de Alabanza de Filadelfia, Nations Worship Center, Philadelphia Praise Center, Salford Mennonite Church, and Souderton Mennonite Church. It was sponsored by the Franconia Mennonite Conference.

Gathering photo 2-webThe sermon was given by Dr. Paulus Wadjaja, professor and program director at Universitas Kristen Duta Wacana in Indonesia and member of the Mennonite World Conference Commission.

“I think we all left the service sensing God’s presence, realizing how God speaks in multiple ways through multiple people and recognizing that even if we’re not hearing our own language we can still lift our hands and be able to worship together knowing we’re worshipping the same God,” pastor Jim Laverty, Souderton Mennonite Church, said.

Worship songs, including English hymns led by Rob Yoder, Salford Mennonite, and Spanish contemporary songs lead by the Centro de Alabanza worship team, were among the worship sets. Nations Worship Center closed out the service by leading the congregation in “How Great Thou Art.” The first verse was sung in Indonesian. The tune was familiar enough for English-speakers to sing along in English, or they could join in by reading the Indonesian words from two large screens. The team then led the second verse in English.

Gathering photo 3-webHerald Bazuki, Nations Worship, said, “It was very good [to gather in a multicultural environment] because we came from a very small Indonesian community, so mostly we speak our own language and now we can hear other languages as well. But everybody speaks the same ‘Christ’.”

Juanita Nyce, Salford, said, “I have an 11-year-old son and I think that sometimes the church doesn’t look like the world actually is, and I want him to stay in the church. Today I think this is a vision of what’s possible.”

Following the worship service, all were invited to partake in a fellowship meal that included some Indonesian and Hispanic foods. People fellowshipped with one another while enjoying music played by members of Philadelphia Praise Center, Centro de Alabanza, and Indonesian Light.

A multi-congregational event like this is a possibility for next year and following years, according to Laverty, who helped plan The Gathering.

Franconia Mennonite Conference is looking forward to continuing to support churches in multi-congregational worship services throughout the year.

Barbie Fischer, Franconia Mennonite Conference, said, “This time together has made me even more excited for our conference assembly worship service this fall.”

The conference assembly worship service is a time for Franconia Mennonite and Eastern District Conference members to join together in worshiping the Lord. This year’s conference assembly worship is scheduled for 7:00 pm, Friday, November 13th at Penn View Christian School.

For photos from The Gathering visit the Franconia Mennonite Conference Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/FranconiaMC