Tag Archives: Christopher Dock Mennonite High School

Junior High Youth Have Late Night Blast

by John Stoltzfus, Franconia Conference Youth Minister

Whose job description includes this clause: Must be willing to have face covered in shaving cream and decorated with cheese curls? If you answered, “Junior high youth sponsor,” you are correct! Junior high youth sponsors are some of the bravest people in ministry.

At junior high youth events, helmets are sometimes necessary...
At junior high youth events, helmets are sometimes necessary…

If you were at the Late Night Blast on March 13, you would have witnessed such a scene and a lot more crazy fun. Close to 150 junior high youth and adult sponsors representing 18 churches gathered for this annual event sponsored by Franconia Conference and Eastern District Conference. It was hosted by Christopher Dock Mennonite High School.

Last year, the event was an all-night lock-in; this year it morphed into a “Late Night Blast,” ending at 11:15 p.m. While some youth lamented the loss of staying up all night, most responses to the evening were still very enthusiastic.

Part of the purpose of this annual event is to give our youth a positive and memorable experience of worshipping together, playing hard, and catching a glimpse of the larger body of Christ that makes up our conference churches. This event also gives a wonderful opportunity for our youth workers to partner together in ministry.

... As are Cheetos.
… As are Cheetos.

The evening started off with some mixer gamers led by staff from Spruce Lake and by Brent Camilleri from Deep Run East Mennonite Church. Justin Hange and a band from Calvary Church in Souderton then turned up the noise for the evening and led in a spirited time of singing and worship.

“That was awesome!” remarked one youth following the singing.

Scott Roth, pastor at Perkiomenville Mennonite Church, kept the energy flowing as he shared stories of how he sees God at work in his life and his community bringing hope and healing. He challenged the youth to bring together a knowledge of God’s Word with an active obedience to God’s Word in everyday life.

The rest of the night was full of fun activities to choose from: soccer, basketball, dodge ball, human Dutch Blitz, Wally ball, Gaga Pit ball, Nerf blasters, and more. One of the popular new games introduced this year was Human Hungry Hippos. It’s the classic board game with a much needed upgrade. One of the perks of being a junior high youth sponsor is the freedom to experiment with wild and crazy games. Of course, the policy is always safety first, and helmets were required.

The evening ended with a shower of giveaways from Mennonite colleges and camps. Thank you to everyone that helped to plan and carry out all the activities and a special thank you to all the youth leaders that commit themselves to serving with their youth. Their commitment was exemplified by one sponsor giving up her shoes to a youth who needed more appropriate athletic shoes to participate in the games.

Conference youth participate in interfaith initiative

by John Stoltzfus, Franconia Conference Youth Minister 

“We pursue peace and tolerance through dialogue and mutual understanding. We want to teach honesty and sincerity of purpose amongst the different religious groups in Nigeria. We want to teach respect of each other’s language, culture, and faith.”

Musa Mambula, who serves as the national spiritual advisor for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), spoke these words in a recent chapel at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. He spoke movingly about how Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN) remains committed to nonviolence, peacemaking, and forgiveness while suffering much violence perpetuated by radical groups, specifically Boko Haram.

Despite the violence which has cost many their lives, Mambula’s message is one of healing. He described a coming together of different faiths to face violence with understanding and love. Further, he encouraged the students to pursue peace in their own contexts through building relationships of understanding and compassion with people of other faith traditions.

Youth assemble MCC hygiene kits.
Youth assemble MCC hygiene kits.

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this past January, a group of Mennonite youth representing three conference churches did this very thing by participating in a new initiative of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadephia called “A Day of Walking the Walk.” Nineteen youth and thirteen adults representing four different faith traditions and ten different faith communities came together for a day of building bridges through dialogue, exploration of sacred spaces and community service.

During the day each faith tradition had the opportunity to give a presentation on the values, beliefs and worship practices of their respective communities. When it came time for the Mennonite tradition, many of the questions from the participants of other faith traditions dealt with what is more typically attributed to the Amish such as questions of electricity use and horse and buggies! Evan Moyer, from Souderton Mennonite Church, remarked that he was not expecting to answer questions related to the practice of rumspringa (a term that often refers to an Amish rite of passage when a young person explores the outside world and makes a decision whether or not to remain Amish).

One of the interesting questions that came out of the discussion of whether or not

Emily Rittenhouse and a fellow participant from the interfaith dialogue.
Emily Rittenhouse and a fellow participant from the interfaith dialogue.

Mennonites have a particular style of dress was this: “If you look the same as everyone around you, what distinguishes you as Mennonites?”

Marjorie Scharf, who serves as the director of youth initiatives, remarked that a key impact of these interfaith encounters is an increased appreciation and commitment in one’s own heritage and faith identity.

Another important component of these interfaith encounters is service learning. For this event, the youth provided and put together sixty hygiene kits through the Mennonite Central Committee Material Resource Center in Harleysville. The Mennonite youth gave explanation as to why service and compassion for the poor and needy is a key value to their understanding of what it means to follow in the way of Jesus.

The day ended with participants filling out a sign that read “I will continue to Walk the Walk by…” Responses ranged from “having our church become involved” to “reaching out to other students across faith lines and creating a welcoming environment.” Emily Rittenhouse, from Salford Mennonite Church, was inspired to educate herself more about other faith traditions and to love others unconditionally.

Dock, Penn View schools announce merger

The boards of Penn View Christian School (Souderton, Pennsylvania) and Christopher Dock Mennonite High School (Lansdale, Pennsylvania) announced that they have unanimously agreed to pursue a plan to create a unified school system. The two schools have entered a formal process to outline the details of integration, with a goal of implementing the plan in the 2015-16 school year. The process is expected to last around three months.

Christopher Dock principal Conrad Swartzentruber speaks to students in chapel. In addition to providing space, the move will also allow more regular interaction between students, pastors and conference staff.
Christopher Dock principal Conrad Swartzentruber speaks to students in chapel.

The action taken by the boards is the culmination of many years of collaboration between Penn View and Christopher Dock. Throughout the discernment process, both boards have sought input from Mennonite Education Agency, and Mennonite Health Services also provided consulting support. Dr. Conrad Swartzendruber will serve as the “Staff Integration Officer.” He was jointly appointed by both boards and will oversee communication and planning during the formal three-month integration process.

“Throughout our histories, the schools’ stories have been interwoven, as Mennonites responded to God’s call to provide high-quality, Anabaptist-infused primary and secondary education,” said Warren L. Tyson, chairman of the Christopher Dock board. “Our vision is to build on that history and extend the impact of Christ-centered Mennonite education by creating a unified school system guided by Anabaptist values.”

In 2006, the schools partnered with Franconia Mennonite Conference and Eastern District Conference to develop GPS 2012, a strategic planning document that has been used by both schools to guide decision-making and growth initiatives.

“We believe that the integrated school system will enhance our ability to further realize the GPS 2012 goals of connections, accessibility, educational excellence and impact,” said Penn View Board Chair Mark Bergey. “Together, we can create a fully integrated curriculum and a streamlined transition process for students, while enhancing educational and administrative specialties across the system.” Penn View currently has 565 students in early childhood through eighth grade, while Christopher Dock has 353 students in grades nine through twelve.

Delegates commit to waiting, hoping, discerning at Assembly

Bob & Bonnie Stevenson
Charlie Ness (Perkiomenville) and Bonnie Stevenson pray for Bob Stevenson before he brings the message during Friday night worship. Photo by Emily Ralph

by Emily Ralph, associate director of communication

“Waiting on God is expectant and hopeful,” declared Marta Castillo, Franconia Conference’s outgoing assistant moderator, at the opening of the United Franconia and Eastern District Conferences’ 2014 Assembly.  The theme of this year’s gathering, held November 14-15 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa., was “Esperando: Waiting & Hoping.”

“We’re not waiting for something, we’re waiting for somebody,” added Bob Stevenson during Friday evening worship.  “Waiting is not just a passive sitting back.  And so the word I have is that we wait ‘until’ [we receive the power of the Spirit] and then we get up and go!”

Stevenson and his wife Bonnie were called and commissioned as missionaries to Mexico at a Franconia Conference Assembly 26 years before.  They were celebrated Friday night as they reached a milestone in their ministry: the transition from raising missionary support from the States to full funding through their congregation.  “I thank the Lord for allowing us to be a part of this conference,” Bonnie responded after she and Bob were presented with a Spanish fraktur created by Salford congregation member Roma Ruth.  “There are many times on Friday morning when we have our prayer together … that we pray for each one of your congregations by name.”

praying for Danilo Sanchez
Conference leaders pray for Danilo Sanchez, Whitehall, one of this year’s newly credentialed leaders. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

The theme of leaders raised up and called from within the Conference continued on Saturday during the joint delegate session, when the gathering recognized a number of newly credentialed leaders who were licensed out of Franconia congregations.  “Where do our pastors come from?” asked Steve Kriss, Franconia Conference director of leadership cultivation.  “They come because you invite them.”

This year also saw the credentialing of leaders from other conferences and denominational backgrounds, adding to Franconia’s increasing diversity.  “Diversity is a catalyst for growth,” reflected Jessica Hedrick, Souderton congregation, during table feedback.  Her table encouraged conference delegates to prioritize prayer and, as corporate discernment continued, to recognize “the opportunity to learn from each other instead of necessarily trying to get everyone to agree.”

KrisAnne Swartley praying
KrisAnne Swartley, Doylestown, joins in prayer for the other congregations at her table. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

The theme of listening well and together wove through many of the stories and hopes shared throughout the weekend.  Danilo Sanchez, Whitehall congregation, named three areas that it seemed the majority of delegates were wrestling with: “Listening to the Spirit, how to sit with our differences, and how to love like Christ.”

The Franconia Conference Board asked delegates to consider what kind of conversations needed to be planned leading up to the Mennonite Church USA convention in Kansas City next summer, knowing the likelihood that Convention will include decisions about denominational structure and human sexuality.  Many delegates agreed that the questions of structure and sexuality only skimmed the surface; perhaps there were other questions that should be asked instead.

delegates conferring
Delegates discussed difficult issues around tables with grace and laughter. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

Josh Meyer, Franconia congregation, wondered how the upcoming dialogue could form those participating into the image of Christ.  “How we have this conversation is just as important as any decisions that we make,” he said.  “It doesn’t matter what we decide in Kansas City; if we don’t treat each other as sisters and brothers in Christ, then we’ve missed the point.”

Throughout the weekend, conference leadership encouraged delegates to actively wait on the Spirit, to take time for stillness and listening, and to collaborate in acts of justice and mercy.  “We must not become paralyzed by the issues of the day,” encouraged Eastern District moderator Brenda Oelschlager, “but move forward in love … as God leads us along new paths.”

Several new paths highlighted included a new Lehigh Valley collaboration in hiring Sanchez as youth minister, welcoming two new Philadelphia congregations (Centro de Alabanza and Indonesian Light Church) into an exploration of membership in Franconia Conference, and the move of the Mennonite Conference Center to the campus of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School in Lansdale (Pa.).

Aldo Siahaan introduces new congregations
LEADership Minister Aldo Siahaan introduces two new congregations exploring membership in Franconia Conference: Centro de Alabanza and Indonesian Light Church. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

Although 2014 saw the beginnings of new ministries and the licensing of many new pastors, it also brought the deaths of three influential church leaders: Paul Lederach, John Drescher, and Israel Bolaños.  In reflecting on their legacies, Kriss encouraged delegates to remember them by carrying on their work of teaching, writing, and mission.

“The gospel isn’t good news until someone takes it and goes with it,” Bob Stevenson agreed.  The power which sends the church is not political or force, but “a power that is a ‘preach the gospel to the poor’ power, it’s a ‘healing the broken heart’ power….  What will change this world is us, God’s people.”