Tag Archives: formational

100 Inches of Rain

by Brent Camilleri, Associate Pastor – Deep Run East Mennonite Church

Youth workers take part in a special resourcing seminar at Conference Assembly, Saturday, November 1. (Photo by Cindy Angela)

I am filled with hope any time I find myself in a room full of those who care deeply about the lives of young people and their voice in the church today. And so, I was feeling especially hopeful on Saturday November 2 as I attended Michele Hershberger’s seminar on youth ministry in a post-Christian era entitled “100 Inches of Rain.” Michele began by telling the story of the Choluteca Bridge in Honduras. Rebuilt in 1996, the bridge was an engineering feat. However, in 1998 Hurricane Mitch brought 100 inches of rain to Honduras in a period of just a few days. When the storm passed the Choluteca Bridge was still standing strong but the river had shifted course and no longer ran beneath the bridge, rendering it useless. In many ways this is how church ministry and, in particular, youth ministry feels today. Something has shifted, and the programs and approaches that felt successful two decades ago are no longer effective.   

Michele Hershberger (Photo by Cindy Angela)

And yet, Michele reminded us that this cultural shift isn’t cause for fear, but a challenge that can and should force us to adapt to the new flow of the river. Youth ministry is still vitally important. In fact the church needs its young people to lead today, not ten years down the road. God is in our youth right now, and the church is more resilient and effective when we minister WITH our youth, and not to them. To facilitate this type of ministry that works alongside our youth today, Michele Hershberger pointed out Four Conversions that the church needs to experience.

The first conversion is that we see youth differently. This means viewing them not as “Christians in training” but as fully integrated and vital parts of our communities. A 13-year-old 8th grader might be able to express truths about faith in a more effective way than I ever could. The second conversion that Hershberger highlighted is the need for us to see church differently. This means coming to terms with the fact that the church is not a building, it is US! As such, any time we gather, whether in a coffee shop or on a street corner, the church is there, making disciples who make more disciples…no building necessary. The third conversion that we need to undergo as we minister to youth in our post-Christian context is to see ourselves differently. Each of us is called to a mission field, no matter our age and no matter our profession. Plugged into Jesus, who is our source, we become the “wires” that carry the current of Christ with us everywhere we go. This is to be our primary calling as we follow Jesus and everything else should take a back seat! Perhaps it is a challenging call, but that is more than OK. Our young people are itching for a challenge, something that shows them just how real and important following Jesus is. And truthfully, we could all use a little more challenge in our faith. Michele brought our time to a close by highlighting the final conversion that we need, which is to see our success differently. She reminded us that this is God’s mission, not something that we own. And God invites ALL of us to make disciples, whether we are 12 or 42 or 92. Adults and young people are on this journey of faith together, and we need each other now more than ever as we work out how to faithfully follow Jesus.

Sacred Conversations

by Donna Merow, Methacton congregation      

Our Fall Equipping on September 19 began with a reading of Psalm 139 and a discussion about the nature of God, the foundation of the psalmist’s trust in God’s presence and providence.  The responses offered ranged from God’s inescapable scrutiny to a comparison with the pursuing mother in The Runaway Bunny.  Our speaker reminded the gathered clergy that while we are not the only reflection of God in the world, we are powerful representatives, called to reflect the divine character as fully as possible.

Our experienced presenter for this Fall Equipping was the Rev. Dr. Virginia Samuel Cetuk.  Her topic was Sacred Conversations, focused on the vital importance of confidentiality in our pastoral interactions.  A Pennsylvania native, Ginny was ordained in the United Methodist Church 45 years ago and currently serves as the Administrative Pastor at Princeton UMC.  Ginny has also served as an associate dean at Drew University and as a hospital and hospice chaplain (and with the FBI through her husband’s work and connections).  It was her years co-chairing Drew’s Sexual Harassment Committee that shaped her strong convictions about the need for confidentiality and the harm that is done when it is not kept. 

Ginny engaged us in a lively conversation about the meaning, values, expectations and limits of confidentiality, one of the pastoral issues addressed in both the United Methodist Book of Discipline and our own Shared Understanding of Ministerial Leadership.  Etymologically, trust (“fid” in Latin) is at the center of “confidential.”  Ginny used the language of betrayal to capture the internal experience of being exposed when confidantes break one’s trust and share confidences with others. 

The common understanding of confidentiality equates it with role of the parish priest—who tells no one what is shared in the confessional, often at great personal cost.  We struggled with this idea of “absolute confidentiality” and its implications for sharing with our spouses.  

Ginny offered case studies from her ministry context for discussion and invited us to do the same.  Participation was both wide and deep as we shared our stories and posed questions without easy answers.  One pastor spoke of the discomfort of keeping a confidence that was not extended to the sharer’s own family members, a decision he honored despite his disagreement.

Another pastor asked about generational shifts.  Our older members maintain a trust in their pastors that may not be true of the Boomers and beyond.  In an age of widespread therapy, struggles are often acknowledged and addressed elsewhere.  The very public life that social media affords also raised questions about our youngest members’ reality.

What are the assumptions and expectations of those who share intimacies with us?  If they don’t say, “Keep this confidential,” are we at liberty to add them to the prayer list or to announce them at church?  We were encouraged to engage with the mutual understanding that “If you are telling me, then you are telling me.”  Several pastors reported learning the hard way of the need to assume a private conversation and to ask for permission before sharing its contents wider. 

Does the disclosure come with expectations that we will do something?  One pastor cautioned that we need to be aware which of our many hats we are wearing to respond appropriately. 

Ginny affirmed that she wanted to leave us with many questions.  In this regard, her presentation was a resounding success!

Listen to the podcast on our Audio Gallery page!

Enjoy and Relax

by Aldo Siahaan, Leadership Minister

At the beginning of October, I returned to Jakarta, Indonesia with my wife Viviani and my son Eden. It had been almost three years since my last visit.  It was a short visit, but I knew I would love to see the location of my parents’ new grave. Originally, both my parents were buried in the Pondok Rangon Cemetery, but two years ago, their graves were moved to a new place called the San Diego Hill Cemetery. The distance to the San Diego Hill Cemetery was only 40 miles.

Aldo and family, visiting his parents’ gravesite

On the appointed day, Vivi, Eden, and I were joined by two of my nieces and three of my siblings; my sister Lita drove us. Before leaving, Lita had warned us: “Get ready—this will be a long journey. San Diego Hill Cemetery is in a suburb of Jakarta and we may get caught in traffic jams.”

On the way there, the journey to San Diego Hill Cemetery took only 90 minutes! Those who knew the traffic jams in Jakarta said, with joy, “Wow, our trip was very fast this morning!” After visiting my parents’ new grave, we returned to the car to go home.      

Coming out of the cemetery complex, we were immediately confronted with traffic.  When we checked the GPS, it said it would take 2.5 hours to get home. In the end, we had to travel 4 hours for the 40-mile distance.

What is interesting for me is how my sister Lita, the driver, stayed calm. No matter how many times other family members or I complained about the length of the trip or the traffic jams that didn’t move, Lita always said, “Just enjoy it” or “All passengers just relax!” How many times did Lita share stories or engage us in conversation so that we wouldn’t focus on the traffic? She made jokes or asked us to sing, reminding us to “just enjoy.”  There was nothing we could do to get out of the 4-hour traffic jam—it was a tough test for someone as impatient as me.

In today’s world, people want everything to be instant. The word patience is easy to speak but hard to live. Many people don’t want to be matured by God. What would have happened if Noah had been impatient or disobedient to what God had told him to do? What would have happened if Joseph had been impatient waiting for God’s promises through his dreams? Or Abraham, David, and others?

Maybe these heroes in the Bible said to themselves, “Just enjoy, just relax, engage in the process.” Yes, God wants me to learn to be patient, enjoy this life journey, and not run away from the process. I will say to myself, “Aldo, just enjoy the problem you have, relax, and engage in the process.”

“[It is] better to be patient than a warrior, and better to have self-control than to capture a city.” (Proverbs 16:32, CEB)

Appreciate Your Pastor

(reprinted with permission from Mennonite World Review)

by Stephen Kriss, Executive Minister

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. While one month is not enough to show appreciation to pastors, it’s an opportunity to focus on the work, ministry and difficulty of being a pastor.

I was called to a pastor role in my 20s. I threw my young energy into the life of the congregation. I wasn’t paid for full-time work. But that didn’t keep needs from arising at all hours of the day and night.

I worked other jobs. I went to grad school. What our young team lacked in experience we made up for in passion, care and long hours. Truth be told, I am not sure I have ever worked so hard and so long as those six years at Carpenter Park Mennonite Church in Davidsville, Pa. Now, in my conference-level role, there are rarely emergency calls at midnight or odd times.

Pastoring congregations in Anabaptist settings is not for the faint-hearted. Because of our understanding of the shared priesthood of all believers, we’re quick to share opinions and responses. To pastor and preach is to put your thoughts and actions to the test for public commentary on a weekly basis. Communities share feedback about the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, our haircuts and weight gain or loss.

But there are privileges in pastoral work. The schedule is often flexible. We get glimpses into people’s hopes and dreams, intimate moments of life’s critical passings. We carry the goodness and the best of community.

There are pitfalls. Demanding schedules disrupt family life and rhythm. Salaries are often unsustainable without second jobs. The cultural conflict that rips through our congregations often puts pastors on defense. It can be lonely and exhausting.

At the same tine, recent research indicates the pastoral role’s significance is on decline. There’s an erosion of trust due to abuses of the role and changes in our sociopolitical reality. The work of making those abuses public is essential for clergy to have any respect, but it can further erode trust. The humanity and fallibility of clergy can become all too real.

With all of that on the table, how might we appreciate pastors? Each pastor is his or her own person. But as I listen to pastors who feel close to burnout, sustainable salaries and expectations help. Acts of appreciation that go above and beyond expectation underscore value. Cutting back on criticism and heightening words of honest encouragement matter.

Let’s allow pastors to live into their role, to speak the words they feel the Spirit has given them, even when it makes us uncomfortable. Treat pastors as people with valid training and experience who can’t be debunked by a Google search or something we read on Facebook.

Let’s share honestly with pastors in our life struggles and experiences. This has been some of the most holy work for me. It requires pastors to settle ourselves enough to listen to the wildness of the soul — and depends on church members to be brave enough to bring forth more than “Good sermon, pastor.”

Whether or not your congregation marks this month, I hope we can extend appreciation for pastors. When we can’t figure out the right words or actions, there’s chocolate, coffee, plants, beef jerky, simple expressions to acknowledge the hard work.

Taking care of pastors extends the Good News, because leadership longevity contributes to the growth of faith communities.

Stephen Kriss is a teacher, writer, pastor and follower of Jesus living in Philadelphia.

A Delightful Surprise

by Mary Nitzsche, Associate Executive Minister

My husband Wayne and I recently attended a benefit event for a local non-profit, which included an auction.  Surveying the silent auction items, Wayne spotted a beautifully-crafted Martin guitar and asked if I had any interest in it.

I had not played a guitar for over 10 years and had donated my old guitar to a thrift store with no intentions of ever playing again.

The Martin guitar’s beauty and three-quarter-size caught my attention. I agreed to add our bid to the sheet.

Periodically, Wayne checked to see if others were adding their bid. Several times he asked my permission to increase our bid.

Doubt began to creep into my mind each time I consented.  Could I relearn the chords? Would playing the guitar aggravate the pain in my hand? Would I gain confidence to accompany singing in my congregation since I was never that accomplished before? At my age, could I improve my skill?

As the bids increased, I wondered about our dollar limit. The five-minute call came for the close of bidding. Wayne noticed a person at the table increasing their bid. One last time he asked me if I wanted the guitar. I was non-committal, but Wayne was determined, yet courteous. He asked the other bidder how badly she wanted the guitar and learned she was not as serious as he thought.

At the conclusion of the benefit, Wayne and I returned home with the guitar, knowing our donation would make a difference in the lives of people.

After arriving at home, I gently lifted my new guitar out of the case. I attempted to tune the guitar and was amazed that I remembered how to tune it without consulting Internet instructions! When I attempted to play a chord, I couldn’t remember any fingerings. Several days later, I printed a chart of the primary guitar chords. I struggled through the first song, looking back and forth from the chart to the song sheet while playing very slowly.  My confidence was rattled, yet I persisted with a different song.

All of a sudden, something clicked.

My long-term memory caught up with my short-term memory. It was an “ah-ha” moment that I couldn’t explain: the C, G, A, Em, and Am chords came naturally, without even looking at the fingering chart! After playing 20 minutes, my hand ached and my fingers were tender (a sign that I needed to develop calluses). That evening I went to bed cautiously optimistic that the purchase was a good thing.

Several days later, I spent an hour playing my guitar. To my surprise and delight, my ambivalence for purchasing a new guitar and the lack of confidence that I would regain the limited skill I once had was fading. Wayne’s persistence, encouragement, and generosity has inspired me to rediscover my love for singing and playing guitar.

This unexpected gift, a nudging of the Spirit, has given me a renewed spiritual practice for expressing and nurturing my faith.

Seeing the New Church

by Danilo Sanchez, Youth Formation Pastor

The doorbell rang and I knew it was time for baptism class. Four energetic youth stumbled through my door, took off their shoes, and found a place to sit.

“Did everyone bring their Bible and homework?”

One youth held up his English Bible while the others went to the Karen Bible app on their phone. We started the class by going over the homework, which was writing their faith story.

Some shared about Bible quizzes and memorizing Scripture in the refugee camps. Others shared about their Buddhist parents and not knowing anything about Jesus. The one experience they all had in common was camp at Spruce Lake last year. Each of them felt like a spark was lit and they desired to know more about Jesus.

I shared parts of my own faith story with the class and it was a humbling reminder that, despite our different upbringings, we were all called to be Jesus’ disciples.

Many topics in the baptism class, which I taught alongside Pastor Rose and Ah Paung (a Karen leader from Whitehall), were new to the group, and they asked so many questions about the person of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the big story of God. The most foreign topics we discussed were Anabaptist values, which come from our unique perspective on Jesus and Scripture. Through this baptism class, I found myself wondering, “What does Anabaptism mean for youth and young adults today?”

In my upbringing, Anabaptism meant daily discipleship, simple living, non-conformity, and non-violence. What that looked like in the day-to-day was a strong emphasis on holiness in my personal relationship with Jesus, not spending too much money on clothes, and being against war and abortion.

The values of discipleship, simple living, and non-violence are still present in Anabaptism today, but I see our youth and young adults express it in different ways. Simple living doesn’t just mean not being materialistic, but is also about sustainable resources and caring for creation. Non-violence isn’t just about protesting war or abortion, but is also about practicing peace in our schools, better gun laws to stop mass shootings, and preventing sexual abuse in the church. Many of the young Anabaptists emerging today want discipleship to include values like justice and community to fight against racism, sexism, and broadening the circle of people included in the kingdom of God.

While not all our youth understand or believe in those ideas yet, I recognize that the face of Anabaptism is changing and that our values are growing and expanding. I want the youth at Whitehall and the youth in our conference to know that there is space for them in the church and that they belong. The way youth and young adults choose to express their faith may not look like mine or the previous generations, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t being faithful to Jesus or Anabaptism.

As a pastor and a leader in the church, I need to make space for youth and young adults to express and explore their faith. One thing I know for sure is that I’m not trying to teach “Christian behavior” or even “Mennonite behavior” but, rather, to present the resurrected Jesus and trust that the same Holy Spirit that spoke to me is speaking to them.

At the end of August, we celebrated Than’s baptism. It was a joyous occasion and an honor to welcome a new brother in Christ. I looked upon the smiling faces of the youth and children as they embraced Than and said, “Here is the new church. Isn’t it beautiful?”

God at Work on Our Vacation

by Berdine Leinbach, Souderton congregation

My husband and I bumped into God frequently as we traveled to Tanzania to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.

His silky white beard was shaped like an Amishman’s. His skin was dark walnut. His eyes crinkled cautiously in greeting.  When the flight attendant was checking seatbelts, his body motions revealed limited neck mobility and vision issues, so I reached across and clicked in his seatbelt.

Later he struggled to put on a brand-new sneaker, which is really hard to do in an airplane seat. I unbuckled and dove under his window seat to loosen the laces and assist. Using my finger as a shoehorn felt oddly akin to foot washing.

Over the course of a long flight, multiple opportunities arose to serve him.  I felt like God had put me there on purpose. As we shared travel plans, I found he was retired professor from Bangladesh and a peace-loving Muslim. We shared our beliefs, respectfully and simply (I need more practice at that).

We prayed blessing on each other.  God was on our plane.

As we traveled along the rim of Ngorogoro Crater, the vehicle in front of us stopped. Our vehicle stopped. Just 20 feet away a huge elephant appeared out of the mist.  Our driver turned off the engine.

We watched, fascinated, as she looked at us, flapped her ears, and lifted her trunk in inquiry. A trumpet sounded from our left as another elephant appeared on that side of the road. The first one moved forward and, behind her, another younger elephant and a baby appeared, then another adult.

We were in awe of these amazing creatures, right there.  Soon the first elephant clambered down the road bank, crossed in front of our vehicle and climbed up the left side. The others soon followed.  Seconds later, nothing could be seen but mist and shrubs.

What a beautiful gift, a holy moment.  God was in creation.

Our tour company arranged for us to stop at Karatu Mennonite Church, a small outreach congregation started in 2010 by the Arusha (Mennonite) Diocese.  When we arrived, children greeted us.  We gave Pastor Peter Ojode a prayer shawl made by women from our home congregation. As I prayed aloud the prayer that goes with each shawl, I got all choked up. I sensed that this gift and prayer were aligning with something much bigger that God was already doing there.

Front row (left to right): Evangelist Nicodemus Malaki, Evangelist Meshack Shabani, Martina Victor (church treasurer), Tasiana Toway (church elder), Berdine and Steve Leinbach (Souderton congregation).  Back row (left to right): Pastor Peter Ojode (KMT Arusha), Sofia Mirobo (church elder KMT Arusha), Pastor Julius Churi (KMT Katesh), Pastor Emmanuel (General Secretary of KMT Arusha Diocese).

When the service began, my heart swelled with joy singing along to “Holy, Holy, Holy” and other songs. Thank goodness Swahili has phonetic spelling. 

When they had heard that we were coming, Pastor Emmanual Maro (general secretary of the entire diocese/conference of churches) and elder Sofia Mirobo traveled three hours on a bus from Arusha to come and translate for us, organize a brief meal, and welcome us. We are still processing the hospitality of this intercultural experience and wondering what God will do next.

Pastor Emmanuel emailed us after we returned home, “We thank God for a wonderful Sunday at KMT Karatu. We really appreciated the opportunity to exchange our views, and we do hope through our relationships with one another we are revealing the face of God to the world and advancing his kingdom in Jesus’ name.”

God is at work. May we all notice and join in.

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.

How to Pray for our New Churches

by Jeff Wright, Leadership Minister

“I desire, then, that in every place [we] should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument…” – 1 Timothy 2.8 (NRSV)

Franconia Conference is amid a lot of transition.  New congregations from across the US are aligning with the traditional core of Franconia congregations in Eastern Pennsylvania.  A merger with Eastern District is in process.  Churches from California and perhaps even Florida are joining the conference or at least exploring relationships.  Ties with international partners are expanding.  These are wonderful days to be a part of this historic body of believers.

Of course, the challenge is always one of communication across the human barriers of language, culture, and geography. Those from the center of conference life in Eastern Pennsylvania might wonder, “What can I do to encourage this growing movement?” It might sound trite, but I believe our prayers are the most powerful and effective offering we can make on behalf of the new expressions of Church that God is aligning with us in Franconia Conference. 

So, how ought we to pray for these new and emerging Franconia Conference congregations?

Wayne Nitzsche (right) prays for Jessica Miller at her installation service, November 2016

First, pray in the simple language of the Lord’s prayer that the Kingdom of God will come to Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Sarasota, Tampa, San Francisco, Mexico City, and elsewhere, just like it does in Souderton and Harleysville and Heaven.  In every place, God is at work.  Knowing that a dedicated band of Jesus-followers are simply praying, “Thy Kingdom Come…” is an amazing encouragement. 

Second, as you pray, remember that many of our new Franconia congregations have experienced significant trauma in recent years.  For example, the church in California came to Franconia out of a painful process.  Furthermore, they live with a constant anxiety regarding immigration status—even though most of our California members hold legal standing in the US.  Other new congregations aligning with Franconia have also experienced trauma of various kinds.  Praying for healing and increased empathy are gifts of hope for our new congregations.

Third, when you pray, be open to the changes God is putting in front of you.  Restoring the 175-year rift between churches in Eastern Pennsylvania will be transformation for Franconia Mennonite Conference.  A new name for this God-movement is coming.  As a conference of churches, we speak many languages.  While, in my experience, Franconia has done an outstanding job in learning to be intercultural and multi-linguistic, we still have room for growth.  New congregations from across the country and around the world will change the way we do church in our local congregation—and that is a blessing!  May we receive it as such.

Finally, pray for our pastors.  A small team of three friends, who encourage me in my work as a Leadership Minister (and pray for me in my role!), join with me in praying each day for a different Franconia Conference pastor that I am privileged to walk with in ministry.  We pray for their health and well-being.  We pray for their marriages and their families.  We pray for them to be resilient and tough.  We pray for them to be tender and broken.  It is the singular honor of my work to offer regular and sustained intercession for the pastors I serve with in Franconia Conference.  Your intercessions on behalf of the pastors and the staff of Franconia Conference are a treasured gift.

Perhaps in our postmodern, busy, overscheduled, hyperactive world, prayer has become a relic of a season past and gone from us.  I hope not!  May we, as an old/new conference of churches from New England, to Florida, to California, and beyond, be linked together by the simple, powerful proposition of praying for one another.

Waiting on That New Thing

by Mike Clemmer, leadership minister

On Sunday, June 30, I preached my last sermon as the pastor of Towamencin Mennonite Church.

I had the privilege of serving at Towamencin for 14 wonderful years, yet, in the past year, my wife and I have sensed the Lord’s call on our lives to transition into a new ministry opportunity. For Towamencin, this means that they will now to need seek out and call a new pastor. For April and me, it is beginning a journey of exploring the unknown lands of the Lancaster area so that we can use our gifts of ministry in a church near our family.

Leaving Towamencin and the Franconia area are certainly big changes for me – but I am also aware that it is a big change for the congregation. We always say, “transition and change are both part of life,” but, in reality, change hits us all hard.

We as Eastern District and Franconia Conferences are also in the midst of change as we move towards a reconciled and merged conference this Fall. Unfortunately, times of change often bring about a period of anxiety and fear.  I have seen some of these emotions at times in my own life, at Towamencin, and within both Conferences.

In the midst of transition, however, I am also amazed at how often I have seen God at work – in my own life, but also growth and renewal at Towamencin – as well as in the Conferences. It is helpful to remember that God is always at work and promises to be with us always. So perhaps, in times of transition, we need to lay aside our anxieties and simply celebrate what God has already done and put more of an effort into anticipating what God is about to do.  

My wife April recently wrote these words in a Lenten devotional regarding change:

On this journey of life, I find myself once again in a place of waiting on God: for direction, for clarity, for peace.  Change is on the horizon, and with that comes excitement, but also some anxiety and fear.  In my humanness, I like to know “the plan,” … to have a picture of what’s ahead … to be in control.  But we don’t always have the luxury of these things. Change isn’t always easy, but I’ve heard it said that growth doesn’t come without change.  During this time of waiting, I see that God is helping me grow by building a deeper trust in Him and a humility in me.  I’m reminded that this isn’t about “me,” but about what God is planning to do. And I’m seeing this as a time of preparation for whatever lies ahead.

The words “waiting” and “preparation” are great words to reflect on as we deal with the emotions that transition and change bring into our life.  Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”  Isn’t it amazing how God knows we often need to hear that reminder twice … Wait for the Lord!

As we continue to pray for our churches and our upcoming reconciliation of Conferences, may we also approach these uncertain times by preparing for what God is about to do by simply waiting on the Lord! Wait … Wait … “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19)