Tag Archives: Church of the Brethren

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.

Pray, Fast, Lament, and Bear Witness: Nigerian Brethren Give Testimony

Mark Baliles, pastor, Indian Creek Church of the Brethren
Sharon K. Williams

In April 2014, the world was stunned by the abduction of more than 200 school girls in Chibok, Nigeria.  Most of the girls are still in captivity, sold as brides in other countries, or dead. The violence perpetrated against Christians and Muslims by the Boko Haram before that incident has continued and escalated over these past eight months: murders, kidnappings, rapes, and the destruction of homes, businesses, and church properties.

a-displaced-family-in-nigeriaThe Church of the Brethren has a close connection with the persecution and suffering in Nigeria.  Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) is one of the major Anabaptist denominations in that country. The majority of the schoolgirls are members of EYN congregations. Over 170,000 church members and 2,094 pastors and evangelists are known to be displaced, 8,083 members killed, and 1,390 (of 2,280) local churches destroyed. Many other persons are feared to be dead.[1]

Indian Creek Church of the Brethren, Harleysville, is hosting Nigerian church leader Rev. Dr. Musa Mambula and his wife, Sarah, for a first-hand information session on Sunday, January 11, 5-6 pm. An author, speaker, and the Spiritual Director of the EYN, Reverend Mambula will share about the suffering of the Nigerian churches, and how they have sought to survive and to live with love and compassion in the midst of such violence.

EYN has issued a fervent call for all Christians to join them in prayer, fasting, lament, and bearing witness to the power of Jesus Christ in addressing this crisis. Mennonite World Conference has called “for its churches to offer a shower of prayer, blessing, solidarity, and financial support for the suffering church in Nigeria.”[2]

children-rejoice-over-bowlsThe Church of the Brethren in the U.S., under the guidance of EYN leaders, is assisting with resources for the distribution of food and supplies, temporary housing, relocation of Kulp Bible College and EYN headquarters, establishment of Care Centers, and trauma healing ministries. Few international relief organizations are working in Nigeria. A week of prayer and fasting was observed by the denomination in August. This practice continues in many congregations.

Rev. Mambula will also share with the Christopher Dock Mennonite High School community in the chapel service on Monday, January 12. An online interview with Musa and Sarah Mumbula is also available (start at 29 minutes).

The Indian Creek Church of the Brethren is located on Route 63, one mile west of Route 113.

[1] Roy Winter, “Brethren Disaster Ministries Leader Returns from Trip to Nigeria,” December 22, 2014.

[2]MWC Issues Urgent Appeal for Prayer for the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria,” December 2, 2014.