Tag Archives: formational

Sharing Breakfast and Life

by Emily Ralph Servant, Interim Director of Congregational Resourcing

“I was not really looking forward to the morning event.  I wasn’t even sure it had much to do with my call and work,” confessed Joy Sawatzky, a chaplain at Living Branches.  “What happened was a nice surprise.  I like surprises.”

The “morning event” was a breakfast sponsored by Living Branches and Franconia Conference exploring questions of spirituality across generations.  On February 14, a panel of leaders answered questions about calling, spiritual practices, and hope.

“What happened was heart-felt sharing from three different generations around call and how that was and is lived out, not just in the lives of those on the panel, but in the table conversations afterwards as well,” reflected Sawatzky.

Panelists Krista Showalter Ehst, John Ruth, Paula Stoltzfus, James Krabill, Josh Meyer, and Ray Hurst expressed curiosity about other generations, pondered over advice they would give to their younger selves, suggested practices that are important in the life of the Church, and confessed how their priorities in ministry have been shaped by their life experiences (listen to the podcast).

After the panelists shared, pastors gathered around tables to share their own stories, challenges, and questions.  The take away—a hope for the future of the church and a hope for more of these conversations.

Living Branches began to explore sponsoring conversations on aging after a pastor told them, “Our church is aging, however our energy is focused on family and youth; we would appreciate thinking and talking together about issues of aging. Help us.”   Living Branches believes that as a member of the community and a participating ministry of the Franconia Conference, they have a calling to connect with and resource their community and churches around the issues of aging, says Margaret Zook, Director of Church & Community Relations at Living Branches.  “We believe that joy and purpose in life is enriched through conversations at all stages of our life.”

Credentialed leaders are invited to two breakfasts this April:

  • April 19, 8-10am, at Souderton Mennonite Homes. Chaplains from Living Branches will present the documentary “Being Mortal” and facilitate a conversation around faith and end of life issues.  (RSVP to Margaret_Zook@LivingBranches.org).
  • April 25, 9-11am, at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church. Anne Kaufman Weaver will lead a conversation around her research in resiliency for women in pastoral leadership (RSVP at franconiaconference.org/events).

“Taking time to be together to learn, to network, to eat together, to drink coffee and tea together helps keep our leadership and relationships vibrant and lively,” says Franconia Conference executive minister Steve Kriss.  “While our schedules are busy, this time apart, even for a few hours, is an important respite and a significant time to strengthen both skills and relationships among us as credentialed leaders in our conference community.”

For questions related to upcoming events or to request resourcing for your congregation, contact Emily (email or 267-932-6050, ext. 117).

From Dust You’ve Been Created

“Do you not realize what the Holy One can do with dust?”–Jan Richardson

By Steve Kriss, Executive Minister

Growing up in a dominantly Catholic community, I annually had ash envy.   There was something about that mark of the cross on the forehead, the smear and the audacity of wearing it out and about in town and at school that made me want to be marked similarly.

This year I joined the shared worship at Blooming Glen, jointly planned with Deep Run East and Perkasie congregations.  Each of the congregations’ pastoral leaders had a part.  I found my eyes becoming full as I watched them mark each other’s foreheads, after finishing marking those who came forward.  There was something both beautiful and awful in the fragility of the statement “from dust you’ve been created, and to dust you shall return,” being spoken to pastoral colleagues I know and love.

“Do you not know what the holy one can do with dust?”  It’s a serious question, written poignantly.  The dust of human existence breathed on by God becomes true life and even resurrection. Until then, we have these fragile days of marking, of honoring life, of sharing generously, of witnessing profoundly, of journeying together in sickness and in health, ’til death do we part.

Last Thursday, we honored the relationships we have with our credentialed leaders in an evening dinner with music.  It was a lovely night with good food and fellowship around tables while listening to some Gospel Folk music by The King’s Strings.   It felt like an extravagant night out for some of us.  A few pastors incredulously and skeptically wondered how the costs had been covered.  Two families from our community paid the bill as a gift, to show their appreciation for our credentialed leaders and conference.  Our pastors who attended felt honored.  It’s one of the ways we honor life’s fragility, through generosity and appreciation.  I’m grateful for our donors and our time together.

We set out now into these 40 days of journey toward the cross and resurrection.  Some of us are fasting from sugar or social media.  My catholic cousins often refrained from chocolate or soft drinks.   A recent suggestion I appreciated invited us to give away something every day.  They are all acts of devotion or attempting to focus direction differently.   These can be meaningful practices that stretch and strengthen our spiritual reflexes and muscles.  The Hebrew prophets repeatedly provoked honest service, pure-heartedness, and justice-seeking & doing over showy displays.  Our religiosity and practice, even during holidays, that help tell the story of our faith have little meaning without right relationships.

We continue to work and hope across our conference, our cities and towns, our country and all the world of sharing God’s extravagant and creative love incarnated in Christ and also through us when we live out the invitation in Isaiah to seek justice, share generously and relieve the burdens of those who struggle.   This is our journey this season of Lent, and always.

 

Grateful for a Sad Surprise

By Randy Heacock, LEADership Minister

When Steve Kriss, Conference Executive Minister, invited me to consider being a LEADership Minister, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect.  I have a LEADership minister and I have been in the conference long enough to remember the early conversations of the role of a LEADership Minister.  However, one of my first interactions, a phone call from an elder of a congregation I now serve as a LEADership Minster, caught me by surprise.  Steve never warned me of such a call, nor was it listed in the memo of understanding I signed.  I attended the training on mandatory reporting; Barbie Fischer, Conference Communication Manager, provided some guidelines for communication protocol so that confidentiality is maintained.  I was ready to go, so I thought.

An elder called and began with the following statement, “Randy, I need to apologize to you and ask for your forgiveness.”  He went on to explain how he had heard something about me that he allowed to shape his opinion of me.   When my name came up at their elders meeting, he raised some questions based on what he had heard about me.  The other elders challenged him to speak to me directly rather than to rely on what he had heard.  Hence, he began with an apology for not speaking to me first.  His sincere apology and request for forgiveness provided a solid foundation for us to discuss his questions.   I believe we both ended the conversation grateful for the interaction.

Though grateful, I soon felt a sense of sadness regarding this conversation.  Sad, because it made me realize how rarely I have been involved in communication with other believers in which a person requested to be forgiven.  In 30 years of pastoral leadership, I can only recall one other time when a person asked for my forgiveness.  I wondered why this is so rare in the church that proclaims that reconciliation is the center of our work.   At the same time, I have witnessed men with whom I have played basketball with for 15 years apologize to one another on a far more regular basis.   Why is it more common for these men, many of whom do not share a faith commitment, to readily apologize to one another?

While I could provide some possible answers, I prefer to let us think on this for ourselves.  I do know the positive outcome of one elder’s apology.   I was deeply moved and our relationship enhanced by his phone call.  It also challenged me to consider what stops me from freely seeking the forgiveness of another.  I am grateful for this sad surprise.   I pray we all may grow and experience the fruit of forgiveness in our relationships as the norm rather than the exception.

Luke 17:4, “”And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

Disoriented Following

By Wayne Nitzsche, Interim LEADership Minister

I’ve been granted the privilege of walking with the congregations of Alpha, Bally and Taftsville as they engage the journey of calling a pastor. Jenifer Eriksen Morales has prepared them well for the steps in the process. But as in all of life, we make plans and sometimes it works to perfection and for a brief moment we believe we’re smartly in control. The rest of the time, life happens.

For example, recently I planned for a weekend trip to Taftsville, Vermont to have meetings with the Transition Team, Council and to preach on Sunday morning. The meetings went well, the congregation offered warm hospitality, and Vermont showcased its winter beauty, a dazzling display. Sunday afternoon when I’d plan to return home, four inches of new snow blanketed our vehicles. Vermonters for whom that is no big deal,
cautioned me about evening travel in blowing and drifting snow. I decided to spend an extra day and wait out the storm.  Initially I was frustrated. How could I miss a Monday morning and evening meeting and a day of work? When I let go of the temporary and minor disorientation of my schedule I was able to relax. I was gifted with an hour-long walk in the snow, and engaging conversation with my delightful hosts.

My change of plans was a minor inconvenience. But other situations feel more major. Heather Wolfe, member of the Taftsville Transition Team reflected on a piece of their four year pastoral search process. At one point, two pastoral candidates seemed to be real possibilities. However, both people withdrew their names from consideration. Dorcas Lehman, who was an interim pastor at that time, reminded the Team that Moses wandered in the wilderness for forty years before reaching the Promised Land. Surely Moses felt much disorientation, and disappointment.  Heather remarked that they hoped it didn’t take 34 more years to get to their Promised Land of finding a pastor!

In January, I visited Alpha Mennonite Church and was delighted to hear Krista Showalter Ehst preach a sermon called “Disoriented Following” based on the text from Matthew 4. Jesus begins ministry in a new place, and immediately calls two sets of brothers.

Krista began with her own story of disoriented following. She was about to graduate from seminary. A congregation inquired about her openness to a pastoral call. While on a silent retreat she sensed the Spirit validating her call to pastoral ministry. Soon there were multiple long-distance Skype interviews with a search committee resulting in a call to candidate at that church. Krista purchased plane tickets but then suddenly questions began to emerge from the search committee and the offer to be the pastoral candidate was withdrawn. Krista was obviously disoriented and devastated. Questions about that experience remain, but she testifies that it led to growth and new opportunities.

Krista says about Matthew 4:12: “Jesus himself is coming off a very disorienting experience–his temptation in the wilderness. Somehow, this disorienting wilderness experience seems to have brought him a renewed strength and clarified call as he now chooses this moment to begin his ministry.”

Later she says about the call of the brothers, James and John, and Peter and Andrew: “What a daring decision, and what a disorienting decision! They don’t even know what “following Jesus” means–in fact they may not even know that this guy’s name is Jesus yet! All they have to go on is his invitation and this cryptic phrase that they’re going to somehow fish for people. And so without any concrete sense of what lies ahead or where they will be led, they step out into this abyss of newness and change. I can’t imagine a more disorienting moment. I’m curious whether, an hour down the road, James turned to John or Peter turned to Andrew and said: “Brother, what in heck are we doing?”

Matthew has a purpose when he tells this story. And I think part of it is to remind his readers that the brothers’ disorienting beginning to their discipleship is indicative of the overall nature of discipleship. Being Jesus’ disciple has the potential to totally transform and change the shape of our lives–what we do with our lives, our relationship to family and friends and the various people and things we come to depend on. Being a disciple of Jesus and the kingdom he proclaims may just turn our lives upside down and call us away from everything familiar and secure.” This is just a little piece of Krista’s sermon. She agreed to send me the manuscript. Being the generous person she is, I’m sure she’d share it with you too.

What is your personal story of disoriented following? We all likely have many as we try to follow Jesus, and trust God’s loving care. We surely have them as congregations too. Often pastoral transition can be very disorienting for a congregation. It’s when congregations turn to the conference for leadership. It offers a great opportunity to live into the disorientation and grow by reconsidering current identity, context and mission.

Clearly we are in a disorienting time as a nation.  It offers the church the opportunity to differentiate itself from nationalism, patriotism, redemptive violence and consumerism that is often confused with American Christianity but has nothing to do with the gospel of Christ.

That Sunday at Alpha, Krista concluded her sermon by leading us into sharing the Lord’s Supper. Perhaps we need to more frequently rejoice in this gift that Jesus gave us. As we eat and drink may it prompt a powerful memory of his life; freely given for love of this beautiful but often disorienting world. May we live into these disorienting times, as individuals, and congregations so we may live courageously, oriented toward Christ’s kin-dom, coming on earth as it is in heaven.

We Need Each Other

By Maria Hosler Byler, Associate Pastor for Youth and Family Faith Formation at Salford Mennonite

“The extent to which we are surprised by the results of the election demonstrates the poverty of our relationships. The extent to which we don’t understand the need for immigration reform demonstrates the poverty of our relationships.” As I listened to Dr. Christena Cleveland at Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s School for Leadership Training (SLT), I was struck yet again by a consistent theme: we need each other, in all our differences, to glimpse the power of God and join in the work of God in the world.

One of the things I love about SLT is that it turns people of authority into students for a few days. The ones I’m used to seeing up front at conference and denominational events are sitting and listening, taking notes and asking questions. At SLT, we participants — the majority of us white church leaders with a significant amount of agency in our daily lives  — learned from keynote speakers Dr. Cleveland and Drew Hart about race in society. We were called to take our turn “at the foot of the table,” as Dr. Cleveland said.  That’s how we really live into Jesus’ upside-down kingdom.

Using illustrations from scripture and their lives, the speakers explored the depth of race’s impact on our society. They explored how our racialized society maintains itself and why it’s so hard for white people to see and confront racism — why we need people with a “view from the underside,” in Hart’s words, to recognize it. They called the largely white audience to recognize how we’ve been socialized into racial bias, and that Jesus never called us to shame but to repentance and new life together.  Dr. Cleveland showed us by example how to notice privilege in our own lives.  We were being tutored in how to reach beyond ourselves as a demonstration of respect and also of our need.

But it’s not just that we need each other’s perspective, or that we need to learn from one another to understand Jesus’ message.  No, we each have a role to play in dismantling racism, wherever we are.  When we’re uncomfortable we can benefit by staying at the table and continuing the conversation.  In fact, that’s what we were doing at the conference: listening, learning, checking our assumptions and discerning our next steps. One conference attendee asked Drew Hart, “What can I do about racism in my predominantly white community?” and Hart responded, “You’re right at the center of the action!”  Throughout the conference I heard calls to learn and act right where we are, building relationships with our literal neighbors.  I attended a workshop where we practiced listening to people we disagreed with.  In another workshop we discussed what it means to “seek the peace of the city” where you are (Jer. 29:7) and spent some time brainstorming for our own contexts.

I left SLT with a clear sense of my need for others’ perspectives, and also of my ability to make a difference where I am.  And I came home with new questions: Who might I need to listen to better in order to gain a fuller understanding of Jesus?  Where might my privilege be causing me to miss an important lesson?  And how can I stay true to what I’ve learned about power and justice right here in my daily life?

For more of this year’s School for Leadership Training check out Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s article: “School for Leadership Training addresses pastoral responses to a racialized and divided America”

Faith and Life Gatherings Commence

pastors meeting 1At the 2015 Conference Assembly the delegate body affirmed the Faith and Life Church Together Statement that calls for “the conference to reestablish the Faith and Life Commission for the purpose of providing at least quarterly gatherings for pastors to discern and study scripture together.” The first of these Faith and Life gatherings were held this month.

The Faith and Life commission was established the first quarter of 2016 and includes Rose Bender (Whitehall) as chair, Josh Meyer (Franconia) as vice chair, Nathan Good (Swamp), Kris Wint (Finland), Verle Brubaker (Swamp), Penny Naugle (Plains), and the staff liaison is the conference executive minister. The commission has been meeting since May of this year reviewing the Church Together Statement, ministry description, and preparing for the quarterly gatherings.

This month they held their first quarterly gatherings at Plains, Salem, Indonesian Light, and one by Zoom teleconference. 60% of the conference’s credentialed leaders participated. The theme being going to the margins.

A recurring question that came up from the feedback of these gatherings was how do we think together theologically about the issues we are facing?

In September, the conference was reminded about the importance of spiritual practices when living in covenant with one another at the conference-wide gathering with MCUSA moderator-elect, David Boshart. The commission sees learning to hear God together as a spiritual practice and looks forward to the coming faith and life gatherings as a way of engaging this spiritual practice together with other credentialed leaders.

Steve Kriss, Franconia Director or Leadership Cultivation & Congregational Resourcing stated, “The gatherings offered an important time to reflect, to breathe, to share, and to pray together. These times whether face to face or virtual provide important opportunities to strengthen our relationships together and compel our calls to witness of the faith, hope and love that we know through Jesus.”

Future topics will be announced as the dates of the gatherings are announced. Currently, the commission is working on dates for gatherings in February, May, and August of 2017. Stay tuned for more specifics.

 

Visible and Invisible Realms

By Noel Santiago

Colossians 1:16 (NIV), “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”

noel-photoWhile Colossians 1:16 clearly states that God created the “visible and invisible,” could we say that we in the west rely more on what we see than what we don’t see? Is it fair to say that we don’t always believe nor live as if the spirit world is real? I wonder if this is because we have grown up under the influence of the enlightenment movement, that swept Europe around 300 year ago, claiming if you can’t prove it scientifically, it doesn’t exist.

I appreciate and value much of what science has helped bring forth. Indeed, many of the early scientist themselves where Christians. However, there seems to be many challenges for us in the west when it comes to believing and living as if the spirit is real.

First, the challenge with the scientific method is: how do you prove the existence of say, angels, demons or God for that matter — especially, when they don’t hang around long enough for us to conduct reproducible scientific experiments that yield the same results, which is one of the fundamental requirements of the scientific method.

Another challenge is that while we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, we forget that it is also a Middle Eastern book whose worldview is quite different than the western worldview. In this worldview, the spirit realm is very real and evident in our lives. So as westerners, with a culture where anything not scientifically proven is superstitious or folk tradition, we have a greater challenge to see the spirit realm.

There is also the notion of the “God gap” that exists within in our society. The God gap says that science will eventually be able to answer all questions we don’t have answers to now and consequently we won’t need God or the spirit world to help us understand and explain what we don’t know.

The Bible talks about binding and loosing (Mt 16:19); whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven, etc. This is the interplay between these two realms, the realm of what you can see and touch and the realm of what you cannot see and touch.

The Colossian text tells us that the spirit world is real! It’s as real as the world in which we live, for out of it came all things that exist, into existence! Might we take some time to consider the possibility that the spirit world is just as real as the physical world? What, if any, difference might this make in our lives, our communities of faith and in the world?

Conferring and Expecting the Spirit to Show Up

by Stephen Kriss

This fall is a season of conversation for Franconia Conference.  As the summer winds down and the autumn is upon us, Conference staff are busy with meetings that come before our annual assembly.   The Conference’s two task forces and the Faith and Life Commission that have flowed out of our Church Together Statements continue to be accompanied by staff.  Aldo Siahaan is walking with the Faith and Life Commission while Ertell Whigham is on sabbatical.  Jenifer Erickson-Morales is working with the Addressing Abuse Task Force and John Stotlzfus with the Israel/Palestine Task Force.

In addition, as we prepare for Assembly, we’re coordinating efforts for the upcoming meeting with Mennonite Church USA moderator elect David Boshart on September 10th, open to all members of Franconia and Eastern District congregations and strongly encouraged for all Franconia pastors and delegates.  This meeting will aid in preparing us for items related to assembly and discernment.   This upcoming conversation and others that staff will be engaging with will include more information on our relationship with each other, with Eastern District Conference and Mennonite Church USA.   These all are important conversations, conferring around healthy relationships that both give and receive counsel.

Board and staff are also fielding requests from congregations that may wish to join our Conference and will need consideration at this fall’s Conference Assembly.  Some are new groups, others are migrations from other Mennonite Church USA conferences and some from other denominational affiliations.  This is careful conversation and conferring work for sure.  We’ll know more about the outcomes this fall.

Staff are also beginning to do some work as the board has requested, including analyzing the percentages of the budget used toward our goals of equipping (around 60%).  We’re also taking a look at our staff salaries as the board looks toward the upcoming executive minister transition.   It’s a time of evaluating and calibrating.

IMG_5367We’ve also spent some important time together as pastors and credentialed leaders.  It wasn’t a formal conferring time, but nonetheless a time of gathering together in Princeton for rest and rejuvenation paid for through a grant given to Everence from the Lilly Foundation toward pastoral excellence.  50 of us gathered at the Erdman Center at Princeton Theological Seminary for a day away.  We spent a night out on the town for dinner, heard jazz from the gifted Ruth Naomi Floyd, listened to the input from Calenthia Dowdy, a professor at Eastern University and Jon Heinly, a student at Yale Divinity School.  Randy Nyce (Salford congregation) and Jeff Godshall (Franconia congregation) offered input and guidance toward healthy finances for pastors/credentialed leaders for the long haul.   It was a good 24 hours together.

IMG_5385There is much happening in this space in between.   While we prepare for our gatherings later this fall, we’re conferring and discerning.  These conversations guide our patterns for life together as we seek to strengthen the life and work of congregations, ministries and leaders.   After 300 years, we are still challenged and enlivened by the possibilities around us.  We still gather to talk together, believing the Spirit shows up in our conversations, in our work, in our conferring together.

In other Christian traditions, liturgy is called “the work of the people.”  In our tradition, where community is almost sacrament, these patterns of conferring are the work of us as a people together.   May the Spirit continue to stir as we gather.

Kingdom Transformation: Partnership between Church and Marketplace

By Noel Santiago

“Picture in your mind a world where: the transforming power of Jesus Christ is significantly impacting every individual family, church, workplace, school, government, city and nation. Imagine a Christian church where: every local congregation is acting in unity and partnership with other believers to see their city and nation transformed! Contemplate the future of society if: every Christian understood who they are in Christ and embraced their calling to be “salt and light” to a dark and hurting world?”

Dr. Gregory M. Pagh, Pastor at Christ Church, Elk River, Minnesota

Noel article photo 1 - 6-23-16Ed Silvoso, of the Transform Our World ministry, in his book Transformation, shares some perspectives and understandings to kingdom transformation that seeks to help churches partner with what he calls marketplace ministers. This approach has resulted in the kind of picture noted by Pastor Pagh. Here are some highlights about what is needed for kingdom transformation in terms of marketplace partnerships.

We begin with identifying some characteristics of the congregation: Matthew 16:18-19, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

When Jesus talked about “upon this rock I will build my church” he was referring to ‘ekklesia’ which is a Greek word meaning ‘ruling assembly.’ Understanding the authority and function of the assembly is fundamental to properly implement what Jesus initiated in Matthew 16:18. This assembly is not limited to a church building. It operates wherever two or three are gathered and it’s ruling foundation is love!

Imagine then a river with two banks. One bank is prayer evangelism having to do with transformed living; the other bank is comprised of five biblical paradigms having to do with transformed thinking. Let’s briefly outline what this could look like.

Prayer Evangelism: Transformed Living

Luke 10:5-9 state, “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.  Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you;  cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

The first step in prayer evangelism is blessing! As seen in verse five, “When you enter a house, first say, `Peace to this house.'” Peace speaks of blessing. So you start by blessing people — people in businesses, government, education and neighborhoods. Keep in mind that we are blessing people who are all created in the image of God, not unwholesome activities or behaviors.

Step two is fellowship! “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide” speaks in verse seven of fellowship. Fellowship with those who God brings through divine opportunities as you connect and relate to those around you.

Third step is to meet felt needs! We read in verse nine, “cure the sick” speaking to meeting felt needs. Minister God’s Love as you listen to others stories and pray with them allowing the love of Christ to touch their hearts as well as yours.

Finally we need to share the good news!  Verse nine instructs us to “say to them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you’,” we must proclaim the kingdom by sharing the good news of hope in Jesus Christ.

Five Biblical Paradigms: Transformed Thinking

  1. The great commission is about discipling nations (cities, towns, and neighborhoods), not just individuals. The expression ‘discipling nations’ is at first hard to grasp, but basically it means: “teaching a nation what Jesus taught us for the purpose of causing it to embrace the goodness of God and to reflect the character of Christ” (Transformation p. 123).
  2. The marketplace (the heart of the nation) has already been redeemed by Jesus and now must be tended to by God’s followers through the ministry of reconciliation. The marketplace is most concisely defined as encompassing business, education and government. However, it includes everywhere that you live, work and play.
  3. Every Christian is a minister, and labor is worship. In the beginning, God told Adam to ‘tend the garden’ (work). This would be a core activity that formed part of his relationship with God. The most dynamic word in the great commission is the word, “Go!” When many of us “go,” we “go to work.” The workplace is one of our primary circles of influence.
  4. Our primary call is to take the Kingdom of God to where the kingdom of darkness is entrenched in order for Jesus to build the Church. An expression from a pastor that seems to sum this up is: “What a relief when I finally understood that Jesus builds the church, not me.”
  5. The premier social indicator that transformation has taken place is the elimination of systemic poverty. “The WORD became flesh and moved into our neighborhood” (John 1:14 as stated in the Message).

Partnering for Transformation

The call is for Jesus’ disciples to look around our work places and neighborhoods and to pray blessing for those around us, allowing the Holy Spirit to transform our living; to be present in ways that allow the gospel message of Jesus to be shared personally with each and to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Tuning Fork

by Mike Clemmer

tuning fork - 4-28-16As a young boy, I enjoyed going to my grandparent’s house to explore the many knick-knacks that were displayed around their home. Of all the fun items to see, the one that intrigued me more than any other was my great grandfather’s tuning fork. I would spend countless hours repeatedly striking it against the heel of my shoe and then holding it to my ear to listen to the sound of the vibrations – a concert A – over and over again. I would then attempt to match the pitch that I heard in my ear with my own voice while imagining myself as a chorister leading a hymn. The inscription pressed into the metal on one of the tuning fork’s tines stated “A = 440 vibrations guaranteed,” meaning that the sound in my ear would always be the same – guaranteed! But although I always heard the same pitch in my ear, somehow my ability to match that pitch with the sound of my voice was less than a perfect match.

Years later and still having the tuning fork in my possession, listening for the perfect pitch has become both a labor of love as well as a conduit for lessons of faith. As an Anabaptist   follower of Jesus, I hold Jesus at the center of my faith – he is the “perfect pitch” on which all of my life is centered. Indeed, as Hebrews 13:8 states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  Yet, just as I often struggle to match the musical pitch perfectly with my tuning fork, so I too often fail to match the way that Jesus set forth as the center of my faith. Maybe I am simply not listening close enough? It also gets tricky at times – both in life and music, that is – because all songs do not start in the key of A. Some are written in a minor key and some in a major key. Some songs even use the same words but have a different melody. In those cases, I need to begin with the perfect pitch and work at deriving the correct starting note from that center place. This takes work and practice. In fact, I find that often times, I need to go back and strike the tuning fork again and again just to hear the Concert A clear enough to find the correct pitch needed to start the song that I am leading or living. In both music and life, I believe I would be further ahead if I would take time to listen to the guaranteed vibrations of Jesus and allow his perfect pitch to resonate within my heart, mind, and soul.

Mike Clemmer is Lead Pastor at Towamencin Mennonite Church, and a LEADership Minister for Franconia Conference.