Tag Archives: Bally Mennonite Church

Jesus is the Center

by Tim Moyer & Diane Bleam, Bally congregation, with Andrés Castillo

Over the last year, Bally (PA) Mennonite Church has been moving toward a “centered-set” rather than “bounded-set” approach to church. After about 6 months of processing on the theory of being centered-set and how it might work, we discovered the book Blue Ocean Faith by Dave Schmelzer. This book offered insights into practical applications of how churches can function as centered-set.  

Pastor Tim Moyer explains centered-set vs. bounded-set to Conference staff at a recent staff meeting held at Bally.

A bounded set can be depicted as a circle with congregational members (us) inside the circle and all other people outside (them).  Congregations spend huge amounts of energy defining and defending the boundaries.  When the boundary needs to be redrawn, people get hurt, angry, and disillusioned.  It creates a split between people.  A bounded set environment is more prone to tension. Since much energy goes into the boundary, accomplishing things can be unnecessarily hard, because some people see defending the boundary as defending their faith.

In a centered-set approach, all energy points towards Christ, who is the center. People are treated as equals and are either moving towards or away from Christ. Everyone is being constantly challenged and supported to draw closer to the center. People feel more comfortable in a supportive environment and tension diminishes.

Centered and bounded sets are not reflective of theological positions, instead, they are mindsets adopted by congregations that guide them in the way that they express their faith.

A diagram demonstrating “centered-set”

Bally congregation has intentionally shifted to a centered-set approach to expressing our faith after significant congregational processing.  For four and a half months we designated our Sunday school hour for congregational input and discussion.  We presented the centered-set concepts, facilitated discussion in small groups, collected ideas from the congregation, and envisioned new ministries.

Since adopting a centered-set model of expressing our faith, we’ve found that spontaneous ministries and changes have surfaced among us. For example, at one of our Council meetings while discussing our facility’s rental fees, we confronted ourselves with the question, “Why do we have lower rates for members than we do for all other people if we are a centered-set church?” We realized that our fees were a boundary and now charge the same for members and all other people who desire to use our facilities.

Another example would be our practice of inviting attendees to share testimonies and short sermons regarding how Christ is working in their lives.  We also launched a monthly Sunday morning breakfast where we started inviting VBS families, our church’s preschool families, and families we encounter from other ministries. The breakfast runs during Sunday School, and people are welcome to attend church; however the main purpose of the breakfasts is to establish relationships.

“Community Outreach” now seems an outdated term at Bally.  “Community Connections” is now the title for that committee which better describes how we interact with the broader community. Not only have we changed our view of the community surrounding our church, but we have also noted changes within our congregation–there seems to be much more energy and enthusiasm for ministries and relationship building.  

In centered-set congregation, the additional energy is used  to encourage all to move toward Christ. Instead of programs and rules, the focus should be on building relationships so that people can walk alongside and support each other in faith. Perhaps the most important part of a centered set, however, is to remember that Jesus is the center.

Representing Jesus in West Virginia / Representando a Jesús en West Virginia

(Desplácese hacia abajo para español)

by Andres Castillo

Micah Kratz and Nicole Gourley prepare a wall for siding at the home near Jenkinjones, WV. (Photo by Adriana Santiago, posted on MCC SWAP Facebook page)

It took three days to dig the ditch that would divert water away from Gary, West Virginia homeowner Lucretia Ford’s house, but it was worth every second. “It wasn’t fun even though we tried to make it fun,” Bally (PA) congregation’s Jim Longacre admits. “In the same way, serving God sometimes isn’t fun and can be hard work, but in the end is very rewarding.”

The reward for the hard work comes in the form of relationships with those the SWAP volunteers come to help. Congregations haven’t been just serving Appalachian people through SWAP (Sharing With Appalachian People), but mutually sharing gifts with them.

An organization of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), SWAP has endeavored to make houses safer, warmer, and drier for the Appalachian community in the United States for over 30 years. In the summer of 2018, groups from Bally and Blooming Glen (PA) congregations both served at SWAP’s West Virginia location. There, they experienced the one-week service program that emphasizes relationships as much as fixing houses.

The homeowner in Gary, WV poses with volunteers from Blooming Glen who are working on her home repairs. (Photo by Mike Ford, posted on MCC SWAP Facebook page)

For a long time, the West Virginia SWAP ministry typically rented and did not own permanent property. Following SWAP’s move from Elkhorn to Kimball, however, Houston United Methodist Church offered them the opportunity to purchase their own facility. After experiencing this ministry firsthand, both Bally and Blooming Glen stepped in to help. “When we learned of the opportunity extended to SWAP to purchase this residence, it struck us that maybe we could assist them with it,” Bally’s youth leader Mike Gehman says. Since then, members of both congregations, especially youth, have raised funds so that SWAP can purchase the house.

Mike Gehman and Zoe Longacre prepare soffet for installation. (Courtesy of MCC SWAP Facebook page)

In addition to housing volunteers, the facility will provide more flexibility for SWAP and send a positive message to the community. “By putting this anchor down, it says that we intend to be here with roots that can’t be uprooted,” SWAP’s location coordinator Lee Martin states. The people of Appalachia are important to SWAP, he adds. Every time SWAP and the community members share meals and stories, they touch each others’ lives. They strive to “blow judgmental thoughts [of Appalachian residents] out of the water,” share about Jesus, and build strong relationships with the members of the community.

During one of Bally’s work days, one of their youth, Zack, went missing for some time. He wasn’t escaping the work but was inside talking to Ford. By the end of the day, she had “basically labeled him her adopted grandson,” says Longacre.

Volunteers from Bally gather around homeowner Lucretia Ford as she tells stories after dinner at the SWAP house. (MCC SWAP Facebook page)

“If you have the opportunity to sit down and talk with a homeowner, that isn’t taking you away from your work. That is your work,” says Martin. “The work acts as a venue to build relationships.” This philosophy is one reason the two congregations were moved to work together to help SWAP purchase their new facility.

MCC’s mission to spread “relief, development, and peace in the name of Christ,” as described by Martin, lives on through ministries like SWAP and those who support them. “As odd as it sounds,” he says, “representing Jesus is our job.”

 


Se necesitaron tres días para cavar la zanja que desvía el agua lejos de la casa de Lucretia Ford que vive en West Virginia, pero valió la pena cada segundo. “Aunque tratamos de divertirnos, no fue divertido.” Jim Longacre de la iglesia Menonita de Bally (PA) admite. “De la misma manera, sirviendo a Dios a veces no es divertido y puede ser mucho trabajo, pero es muy gratificante.”

La recompensa por el trabajo viene en forma de relaciones que los voluntarios de SWAP forman con aquellos que ayudan. Las congregaciones que se ofrecieron a través de SWAP (Compartiendo con la Gente de los Montes Apalaches) no sólo han estado sirviendo a la gente de los montes Apalaches, pero mutuamente compartiendo regalos con ellos.

SWAP, que es una organización del Comité Central Menonita (MCC), ha tratado de hacer las casas más seguras, más cálidas y secas para la  comunidad de los montes Apalaches por más de treinta años. En el verano del año 2018, unos grupos de las congregaciones de Bally y Blooming Glen (PA) sirvieron en la ubicación de SWAP en West Virginia. Allí, ellos completaron el programa de servicio de una semana que enfatiza las relaciones tanto como la reparación de casas.

Por mucho tiempo, el ministerio de SWAP en West Virginia normalmente alquilaron propiedades y no las compraron. Sin embargo, después de que SWAP se mudó de la ciudad de Elkhorn para la ciudad de Kimball, la iglesia Metodista Unida Houston le ofreció una oportunidad para comprar un edificio. Porque las congregaciones de Bally y Blooming Glen vieron este ministerio directamente, ellos decidieron ayudarles a comprarlo. “Cuando oímos de esta oportunidad que le dieron a ellos, nos dimos cuenta de que tal vez podíamos ayudarles con esto,” dijo Mike Gehman, que es líder de la juventud. Desde entonces, los miembros de ambas congregaciones, especialmente los jóvenes, han recaudado fondos para que SWAP pueda comprar la casa.

Además de alojar a los voluntarios, la casa proporcionará más flexibilidad para SWAP y enviará un mensaje positivo a la comunidad. “Al poner esto como un ancla, le decimos a la gente que tenemos la intención de quedarnos aquí,” dice Lee Martin, que es el coordinador de ubicación de SWAP. El también dijo que la gente de los Apalaches son muy importante para SWAP. Dondequiera que van, ellos escuchan historias, comparten comida, tocan las vidas y también tienen sus vidas tocadas por los miembros de la comunidad. Ellos tratan de deshacerse de las nociones preconcebidas de la gente sobre los montes Apalaches, compartir acerca de Jesús, y formar relaciones buenas con los miembros de la comunidad. 

Durante uno de los días de trabajo de Bally, uno de sus jóvenes que se llama Zack desapareció por algún tiempo. No estaba escapando del trabajo, pero estaba dentro hablando con la sra. Ford. Al final del día, ella lo había “básicamente etiquetado como su nieto adoptivo”, dice el sr. Longacre.

“Si tienes la oportunidad de sentarte y hablar con un propietario, eso no te aleja de tu trabajo. Ese es tu trabajo”, dice el sr. Martin. “El trabajo actúa como un lugar para construir relaciones”. Esta filosofía es una de las razones por las que las dos congregaciones fueron trasladadas para trabajar juntas para ayudar a SWAP a comprar sus nuevas instalaciones.

La misión de MCC de difundir “alivio, desarrollo y paz en el nombre de Cristo”, como lo describe el sr. Martin continúa a través de ministerios como el SWAP y quienes los apoyan. “Por extraño que parezca”, él dice, “representar a Jesús es nuestro trabajo”.

Learning and Celebrating Along the Way

by Randy Heacock, Leadership Minister

In my work both as a pastor and for the conference, one of my greatest rewards is the opportunity to learn from and with others working in God’s Kingdom.

This display from Sandy Landes’ ordination represents God‘s power to transform what was once a barren desert into a lush land.

In the first congregation I served as a young minister in the United Methodist Church, the board of ordained ministry was wise enough to pair me with an older minister (younger than my current age) to mentor me.  Charles and I were very different both in our theological perspective and in our view of worship; however, he taught me the importance of accepting affirmation and “to let it sink deeply into your entire being.  Challenges and criticism will come frequently enough and you will need to have a strong bank account of affirmation to keep your balance.”  Fast forward to my current work, I file notes of affirmation and appreciation with a prayer of gratitude as evidence of God’s grace.

More recently, in working with the pastoral search committee at Towamencin, a person called to share concern regarding our process.  As I listened, I gained a fuller understanding both of what happened at our last meeting and how we could find our way forward.  Grateful for the honest feedback, I reached out to some other people for wisdom and discerned an approach for our next meeting.  The meeting was vastly improved with more vigorous engagement.  On the ride home, I thanked God for the varied gifts people contribute to the church. 

I recently met with Tim Moyer, pastor of Bally congregation, for breakfast at his house.  Let me first say that Tim knows how to fix breakfast!  As we talked, his excitement and energy was contagious.  The Bally congregation is working to learn about and practice a centered-set approach.  Tim shared how this focus is uniting the congregation.  They are also rethinking and reshaping who they are as a church.   I give thanks for the fresh wind of God creating new expressions.  I look forward to what God is yet to do at and through Bally. 

At Doylestown, where I serve as pastor, we recently celebrated the ordination of Sandy Landes.  Sandy’s ordination was a tribute to God’s constant pursuit and Sandy’s willingness to say “yes.”  Many people present would have witnessed Sandy’s transformation through the process of refusing, then reluctantly leading, and now leading boldly in a public setting.  Former members, family, neighbors, colleagues, and friends celebrated Sandy’s faithful example of answering God’s call.   The day after Sandy’s ordination, I rejoiced for the many people who nurtured and participated in this work of God. 

The photo above is a display that was present during Sandy’s ordination.  It represents God‘s power to transform what was once a barren desert into a lush land.  As in the little stories I have shared, it visually reminds us of God’s life-giving power.  May we all give thanks for the ways we have witnessed God’s transformational power.  May we continually learn to wait on God. 

 

 

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