Tag Archives: Ben Sutter

Franconia Conference empowers young adult leaders through summer ministry initiatives

Benjamin Sutter, Franconia Conference Communication Intern, benjamins5@goshen.edu

Franconia Conference’s vision is to equip leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission. This summer ten young adults, pastors and congregations embodied the Franconia Conference vision of equipping leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission as part of the conference’s ongoing leadership cultivation initiatives. This summer partnerships extended with partners in mission, Philadelphia congregations, Mennonite Central Committee, Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College—all for the sake of carrying the good news through a new generation and context.

Photo by Aldo Siahaan
Adrian Suryajaya rediscovered patience as he worked with children this summer. Photo by Aldo Siahaan

Adrian Suryajaya served through Mennonite Central Committee’s summer service worker program. He worked with his home congregation Philadelphia Praise Center and plans to attend Eastern University as a first year student this fall.

“I enjoyed working with the children and my pastor (Aldo Siahaan) during the summer,” said Suryajaya. “I rediscovered the value of patience, flexibility, and humility . . . to seek God’s counsel when I’m in tough situations.”

Suryajaya organized various church events including a free music concert, a block party, and a summer peace program for children.

The hardest thing I had to do during the summer was to come up with the Peace Program planning,” Suryajaya said. “Once the blueprint was set, it was easy to do the program.”

For now, Suryajaya will continue his education at Eastern and work towards becoming a physician. “The things that I’ve learned during my internship definitely will help me get through the process of becoming a medical doctor,” he said. “For instance, I have to be patient about how long it will take to get my degree and I know that God will always be on my side in any situation.”

Brendon Derstine

Brendon Derstine wanted a taste of every part of ministry while working with his home congregation, Franconia Mennonite Church, in Telford, Pa, this summer.

I have been joining in a variety of ministries including worship leading, preaching twice this summer, teaching Sunday Schools, . . . visitation, going to church meetings, delegating at Pittsburgh, and helping out in other ministries as well,” said Derstine, who will be a senior at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), Harrisonburg, Va. this fall. “My focus has been intentionally broad so that I could get a big picture of the life of the congregation.”

Over the summer, Derstine connected with the role model of Moses as a leader.

I liken the pastoral vocation to the character of Moses leading the Israelites throughout the desert wilderness in the Exodus story,” he said. “Like Moses, pastors lead us throughout our lives—we call on them in times of need and harp on them when things don’t go our way. They walk with congregants in the best of times and the worst of times and they are expected to be everything to everyone.”

Moses understood that even though he was a leader, he was human, Derstine said. “High standards are good, but we must remember that pastors are only human, too,” he added. “They lead us toward the Promised Land, but ultimately, they don’t go make that decision for us to follow God—we make it. They remain on the east side of the Jordan.”

For Derstine, serving in his home congregation has been a blessing. “One of the greatest rewards of my time here at Franconia has been reconnecting with my home congregation after being away at school for 3 years. Ministry is a lot about relationships and connecting people to the ways God is already working in their lives.”

Ministry is a constant up and down, according to Derstine, “An ever-changing mix of emotions. It can be messy, but let’s face it, life is messy. And yet in its messiness, God is ever present.”

Derstine will finish his studies to be a sixth to twelfth grade teacher next spring. “I don’t see education and church ministry as that different from each other,” he said. “Whether I teach in a school, or follow God’s call in another direction, I believe that this internship has allowed me to practice teaching and caring for people in a variety of ways—two important components in both church ministry and education.”

Erica Grasse speaks at Blooming Glen congregation on a Sunday morning. Photo by Kreg Ulery

Erica Grasse, a junior at Goshen College, Goshen, Ind., also worked with her home congregation, Blooming Glen (Pa.) Mennonite Church, this summer.

Grasse echoed Derstine’s joys of rediscovering relationships, saying that what she enjoyed most about working at Blooming Glen was returning to her home congregation and reestablishing relationships and coming to appreciate her roots.

I have been getting opportunities to teach and work with the youth,” she said. “To sit in on various leadership meetings, to see perspectives of layperson ministry; and to look at strengthening the young adult program to better match the needs and resources of the church and community.”

While she enjoyed her summer, she said she recognized the needs of pastors to enjoy themselves as they work. “Pastors are out to have a good time, too,” she said. “The work of ministry is a tiring and daunting task, but sharing humor and food are two ways to keep sane.”

At Blooming Glen, Grasse says she comes away from the program with less certainty about a future occupation. “This internship has confused me even more,” she said. “As someone who is studying biology, environmental science, policy and economics, I have been challenged to see the pursuit of ministry work as a complementary component to my vocational interests. Yet, I have come to realize that my future may consist of things I cannot currently imagine myself doing.”

Grace Parker and Monica Solis interned at New Hope Fellowship in Alexandria, Va. Photo by Grace Parker

Seven other interns also spent their summer working through Franconia Conference contexts:

  • Monica Solis, a student at Northern Virginia Community College, served at New Hope Fellowship in Alexandria, Va. with Grace Parker, a junior at Goshen College.
  • Patrick Ressler, from Goshen, served at Germantown Mennonite Church, Philadelphia, through a partnership for supervision from Franconia Conference.
  • Jamie Hiner, senior, and Bianca Lani Prunes, sophomore, from EMU served with the Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association in Philadelphia.
  • Ben Sutter, a junior from Goshen, served with Steve Kriss on the communication team of Franconia Conference.
  • Joanne Gallardo, EMU Associate Campus Pastor, spent her summer doing a residency at Deep Run Mennonite Church East in Perkasie, Pa.

Young leaders build relationships with Mexico City churches

Benjamin Sutter, Franconia Conference Communications Intern, benjamins5@goshen.edu

Rockhill Mennonite (Telford, Pa) youth pastor, Angela Moyer, had taken groups of high school youth to Mexico City to do mission work before, but this time was different. This time, Moyer wanted to bring young adults and focus on building relationships. This past July, she traveled with a Franconia Conference-sponsored team to do just that.

(from left to right) Benjamin Sutter, Rachel Spory, Janine Bergey, Oliver, Deanne Delp, Hezrael, and Angela Moyer.

Moyer was joined by Janine Bergey, also from Rockhill, Deanne Delp, from Laurel Street Mennonite in Lancaster, Pa., Rachel Spory, from First Mennonite in Johnstown, Pa., and Benjamin Sutter from Kern Road Mennonite in South Bend, Ind. Although most of the team spent their time at Iglesia Anabauptisa Menonita Fraternidad Christiana Prensa, Moyer and Spory also traveled to Iglesia Anabauptisa Menonita Fraternidad Christiana Espartaco for five days of the trip to assist with a shortened Bible School week there.

“Espartaco was a joyful and kind church,” said Moyer. They even moved the site of their Bible School to a location closer to a community with more children, she said.

While in Prensa, the group connected with Alicia Alvarez Uzcango and Ariel Avila Muñoz, a couple who serve on the Prensa leadership team. Alvarez and Avila, who also organized Bible School, emphasized lives of Christian service, along with the importance of Scripture.

“We understand that we need to have a balance of both the theology and living it out,” said Muñoz, through a translator.

“Service is something that has characterized this church,” Alvarez added through translation. “In spite of not having a lot of money resources, [in the past, the church was] able to hand out food, clothes, and help to refugees. … We’re in the process of helping others [in the church] to understand, to make it part of their lives.”

Hosting a week of Bible School during the summer is one way the church is reaching out to the surrounding neighborhood; only five of the forty kids who participated in Bible School attend the church regularly.

“Bible School is not just for the kids, it’s for the families of the kids,” said Alvarez.

Kids from the bible school color paper cakes to attach to paper aprons and chef hats.

One man who attends the church, Manwell, brought his sobrinos (nephews and nieces) to Bible School for the first time. He told Avila that they sang the Bible School songs at home all evening.

“I told him, ‘God is using you, because you are bringing your sobrinos [to church],’” Avila said. “’What would your life have been like if you would’ve known Jesus as a child? This is your responsibility, so that they won’t go through the same things.’ And he got it!”

Overall, the relationships left an impact on the Franconia Conference group.

“Each time I visit the churches in Mexico City, I’m overwhelmed by their generosity, hospitality, and love for the people in their communities,” Moyer said. “I’m encouraged by their passion for the Anabaptist and Mennonite witness in their communities and world.”

“[Prensa is] a small congregation with much potential for growth, impact and outreach in their community,” added Bergey.

The team, as well as leadership in both churches, is hopeful about future relationships between Franconia Conference and CIEAMM.

“Each conference has gifts that God has given to the people there,” said Delp.

“I’m encouraged that each conference, as a whole, is interested in a continuing relationship with the other,” Bergey added. “There is much to be learned from each other in areas of vision, mission, hospitality, outreach, and more. I’m eager to see what dreams may come from the interactions between the CIEAMM and Franconia Conference.”

Mi familia es tu familia,” said Avila. “We are all a part of the Body of Christ.”

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Church Lives

By Ben Sutter, benjamins5@goshen.edu

What is Church? This summer, as a ministry inquiry intern with Franconia Conference, I have seen Church live in so many ways. I’ve interacted and reacted to people, thoughts, and spiritual movements around me. I’ve asked questions. I have seen the incredible similarities and vast differences between what people call ‘Church.’

Can a conference be Church? What about a denomination? Can one person start Church? Can Church be one person? What is Church anyway? Am I a part of Church? How do I even start to define it?

The first encounter I had with Church this summer was at a Fund for Theological Education Conference in New Orleans. I spent five days with other undergraduate and graduate students talking about the role of Church in our lives and how it will continue to shape our futures.

During a tour of the city, we visited First Grace Methodist Church, a post-Katrina congregation born in the merging of a historically black congregation with a historically white congregation. One of our guides suggested that Church is like gumbo. She described this gumbo-Church as a bunch of stuff all thrown together that makes something wonderful—butyou don’t really want to know what’s in it.

Church can feel like that sometimes.

Pittsburgh convention this July offered another view of Church, this time within the denominational structure of Mennonite Church USA. People joined together from across the country to define where the denomination now finds itself. There were discussions, conversation rooms, and delegate sessions full of people sharing their stories. Many of these stories included pain. People and institutions can habitually and unintentionally harm those around them.

Does Church hurt people?

After convention, I traveled to Baltimore to visit Nueva Esperanza Baltimore, a Spanish-speaking church plant. The neighborhood of the church plant was desolate; it didn’t take much effort to spot a drug deal, a fist fight, or a prostitute—all in the middle of the day. Ubaldo Rodriguez, Nueva Esperanza’s pastor, hopes to build something from that desolation. But when does it become more than a pastor trying to build a congregation?

When does it become Church?

I also traveled with a group to Mexico City to build relationships with Church. The Bible School we helped with was an outreach that impacted the neighborhood. Alicia Alvarez and Ariel Avila, our hosts, had hearts for God and an incredible work ethic. But Fraternidad Christiana Prensa, their congregation, is in the midst of conflict. The long-time families of the church find themselves on opposing sides of many different issues and unable to agree.

Does Church argue?

Last Sunday evening I was driving home with my roommate, Ardi. When I told him I was writing a blog post about Church, he chimed in.

“Many people think that church is the building, that it’s just what they do on Sunday morning,” he said. “Each one of us is Church. Church happens every day, all the time, whenever we connect with God. We become sanctuaries for God, the Church.”

Cutting through all my questions, an unanticipated comment provides an answer. What is Church? These moments are Church. Church is something beautiful, something beautiful that lives.

We are Church.

Conference pastors focus on intergenerational leadership

By Benjamin Sutter, benjamins5@goshen.edu

Harleysville, PA—Sheldon Good and Steve Kriss know what it means to work as an intergenerational leadership team—Good worked as an intern with Franconia Conference for four years under Kriss, director of communication and leadership cultivation. The two men brought their own story of leading from separate generations to this month’s pastors’ breakfast.

More than forty conference pastors and church leaders gathered Thursday morning at the Mennonite Conference Center to discuss intergenerational leadership. Kriss and Good, now assistant editor of the Mennonite Weekly Review, outlined some differences between the leadership styles of Generation X (age 30-45) and Millennial (age 18-29) leaders.

“[Millennials] don’t just use gadgets and Google, we fuse our lives into them,” said Good. He described Millennials as a generation marked by Google, while Kriss reflected on how the PBS show Sesame Street encouraged Generation Xers to embrace diversity.

Kriss remarked at the increasing demographic diversity of leaders in the conference. He noted the presence of women, Asians, and those in their 30s, commenting that it was not difficult to find a panel of congregational leaders who already work with intergenerational leadership teams.

Good and Kriss praised the diversity, but hope that shared intergenerational leadership will continue to develop in more churches. Kriss noted that the conference is credentialing Gen X leaders much later in life than previous generations; both men cautioned that this sets up potential for leadership clash between generations.

“Millennials want to lead now,” said Good. “If they’re told they’re going to lead next, they’ll go somewhere else where they can lead now.”

During the second half of the breakfast, a panel of intergenerational leaders from the conference shared challenges and hopes. This panel included pastors from Philadelphia Praise Center, Ambler Mennonite, and Nueva Vida Norristown New Life.

“We tend to congregate around people who mimic us and seem like us,” shared Andrew Huth, outreach pastor for Ambler. Intergenerational leadership can help bring new and different people into churches, he said.

“Church is a place where we come to discuss and wrestle [with life],” Huth said. “[Intergenerational church] allows for a broader range of people to participate … When we expand a discussion in the church, that can only be a good thing.”

 

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Intergenerational Questions and Trends

Holy Hospitality

By Ben Sutter, benjamins5@goshen.edu, Franconia Conference CommunicationsBen in the coffee shop

One thing I’ve experienced this first week of living in Philadelphia is hospitality. I arrived last Monday at one in the morning and was picked up by my boss, Steve Kriss. Steve took me to his own house, because my more permanent housing arrangements hadn’t been settled yet. He welcomed me into his life and his work for three days, allowing me to live with him. He embraced my questions and my musings as he began to describe the city and the conference. He helped me start recognizing and thinking about the nuances and characteristics that I would run into in this new setting. I felt acknowledged and accepted into his work in the conference. Steve showed me only the beginning of the incredible hospitality that I have encountered in my first eleven days in Philly.

Last Wednesday I was welcomed into the home of Pastor Aldo, one of the pastors of Philadelphia Praise Center. Aldo lives in a home with five other Indonesian young men and an older woman we call “Ibu” or “mother”. I’ve come to dearly love staying in this house, even though I’ve barely been there a week. Everyone in the house is busy, but they’re all interested in each other’s lives. Food is a very important part of how we relate to each other. Almost every time I open the front door and come back to the house, the first question I’m asked is if I’ve eaten yet. Whoever is home at mealtime eats together. I fill my plate with rice and noodles and Ibu always tells me that I need more. She takes my plate from me and adds at least one more heaping spoonful.

My roommates Yonathan and Ardi have embraced me as a friend and brother in Christ. They’ve taken me around the city and shown me the ropes. Yonathan showed off Chinatown and the Redding Market, while Ardi explained the train system to me and took me to the train station to buy my ticket to work. They’ve treated me to food, buying me McDonalds and Phileo Yogurt. We hang out together in the evenings, watching TV in the house and walking around the city.

This past Sunday, I attended my first services at Philadelphia Praise Center, one in Indonesian and a second in Spanish. I was amazed at everyone’s willingness to include me. People welcomed me as I walked into the sanctuary, shaking my hand and saying “hello,” “hola,” or just giving me a big smile. Even though languages were different, communication was possible.

In the Indonesian service, I listened to the message through a translator speaking into a head set. The songs weren’t translated, however, and many were sung in Indonesian. Most of the songs showed English translations alongside the Indonesian words on the screen in the front of the church, but I found myself drawn to singing the Indonesian. It was too hard to follow both the English translation and the Indonesian words sung by the congregation. Singing the Indonesian words, even in my poor pronunciation, made me feel apart of the community. It didn’t matter if I knew exactly what I was singing or even if I was doing it well. All that mattered was that I was joining the community in praising God. I could tell that at the core of whatever I was singing, God was being praised—God received the glory.

I’m excited to see where this summer takes me. I have felt embraced by the conference and supported by its people. I recognize the presence of God in the relationships that I’ve begun to foster and the barriers that I’m beginning to help break down. I pray that as I continue my work, I will continue to see God’s dream for the world revealed in authentic and tangible ways.

 

Conferences initiate intercultural worship and songwriting cohort

By Ben Sutter, benjamins5@goshen.edu, Franconia Conference Communications

As a conference embracing formational, intercultural, and missional values, Franconia Conference will join with the Eastern District Conference to offer a series of experiences exploring intercultural worship. In preparation for this year’s joint Conference Assembly, the conferences are initiating a worship and songwriting cohort open to anyone interested in playing and creating music together. Leaders hope this time of joint worship will encourage musicians in both conferences to offer their skills and creativity to the Conference Assembly in a new way.

The “jam sessions” will take place on four separate Fridays throughout the summer in the second floor of the Mennonite Conference Center in Harleysville, PA. The sessions will be held July 15, August 5, August 26, and September 16 from 7pm until 9pm.

Coordinator Emily Ralph, Associate Director of Communication for Franconia Conference, is excited about the possibilities that might emerge from this event.

“The purpose of these ‘jam sessions’ is to create a diverse community of musicians that can work out together what it means to be an intercultural worshiping community,” says Ralph. “I look forward to this being an experience that will unite musicians and songwriters across geographic, cultural, and ethnic boundaries.”

Musicians and songwriters of all instruments and ability levels are encouraged to attend. Prayer intercessors are also invited to pray during meetings, either onsite or from their homes. The cohort will join in study, worship, jamming, and songwriting to inspire times of corporate worship that are formational, intercultural and missional.

Ralph asks participants to come with an open heart and a willingness to make friends and allow the Holy Spirit to move through their musical gifts.

“I hope that we will form friendships that will allow us to minister together in the future, build relationships that will lead the way in church unity, and create a new expression ofworship that will reflect who we are as a diverse community of worshipers.”

Ralph cautions participants to release their own definitions of success for this event.

“This is an experiment,” she says. “We don’t know how it will turn out or if it will even be a ‘success’ by human standards. My definition of success is that we’re going to try and see what happens. We’re going to be finding our way, so it could get really messy.”

Defining the process as messy doesn’t scare Ralph. She is excited about the opportunities that this cohort could generate.

“Messy isn’t bad,” says Ralph. “Sometimes it takes messiness to create something new!”

Those interested should RSVP to Ralph at eralph@franconiaconference.org.

Welcome our summer ministry intern!

from Steve Kriss, Director of CommunicationBen Sutter
skriss@franconiaconference.org

The communication team at Franconia Conference is excited to welcome our summer ministry intern–Ben Sutter.  Ben is a student at Goshen College in communication and history.  He’s finishing up his first week of work with us and is living with Aldo Siahaan in South Philadelphia.  He’ll be in the office on Mondays and doing the rest of his work from the field–which will include time in Harleysville, Mexico City, Baltmore, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.  He’ll be writing some articles, spending some time in meetings, engaging with congregations and helping to update our website.   I’m glad to have Ben working here–and hoping that we can continue to cultivate his gifts in communication and his interest in serving in the way of Christ.

He’s grown up as part of the Kern Road Mennonite Church in South Bend, Indiana, but has been attending Waterford Mennonite Church while studying at Goshen.  He recently received a scholarship with the Fund for Theological Education and participated in a conference in New Orleans with them earlier this summer.   Please welcome Ben in his work, in his questions, in his exploring God’s call with and among us.

Ben can be reached by phone on Mondays at the Conference Center (267-932-6050, ext. 123) or by e-mail, benjamins5@goshen.edu.