Tag Archives: Garden Chapel

Partnerships Embodying Christ’s Way of Redemptive Peace

by Mary Nitzsche, Associate Executive Minister

The slogan, “Doing together what we cannot do alone,” was put into action on Friday evening, September 28, when three Franconia Conference congregations partnered in mission to assemble relief kits. After hearing about Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) plea to send 10,000 relief kits around the world this year, Blooming Glen Mennonite Church invited Deep Run East Mennonite Church and Perkasie Mennonite Church to join them in collecting money to purchase supplies and assemble the relief kits. Initially, the hope was to donate enough money to assemble 300 kits, but more than $9,000 was contributed, enough to buy supplies for 610 kits.

Approximately 90 people of all ages, ranging from 3 to over 80 years old, gathered to share a meal and fellowship around tables. Following the meal, each table group relocated to another table to assemble kits which included rolling and tying over 2,000 towels, packaging shampoo in plastic bags, placing an MCC sticker on the bucket, or securing the bucket lids. After nearly 1 ½ hours of this multi-generational, cooperative, “worker bee” effort, 610 buckets were loaded into trailers. The evening ended with a group picture and prayer of blessing that these kits share God’s compassion, healing, and hope to people suffering the devastation of disaster or war.

Throughout the Franconia Conference website we are reminded of partnerships that span the globe providing opportunities to learn and share resources to embody and extend Christ’s way of redemptive peace. The relief kit partnership prompted me to explore how other Franconia Conference congregations are pooling money, skills, or resources to worship together, host community forums or events, or provide ministry in their communities. Many of these events are multi-generational, cross cultural, or cross denominational, reflecting the expansiveness of God’s way of peace. Some of these local partnerships have been highlighted in Intersectings articles over the past year. Others I learned about recently and will briefly describe.

Several congregations partnered with organizations and people in their broader communities to foster awareness and understanding, promote justice, and take action to address issues. Garden Chapel partnered with their community in Morris County, New Jersey, to host a forum on opioids and addiction providing education and prevention strategies for addressing the problem. Salem, Rocky Ridge, and Swamp Mennonite congregations are partnering with community non-profit organizations and the Quakertown Borough to address the opioid crisis in their community. A meeting place is provided for adults and “directionless” youth to build relationships and engage in meaningful activities. Perkasie Mennonite partnered with trained conflict facilitators to host a community event encouraging civil and respectful conversations about gun policies.

Participants from Blooming Glen, Deep Run East and Perkasie gather together, after assembling over 600 MCC relief kits.

Other congregations planned celebrations and invited the community to participate. Plains Mennonite and Evangelical Center for Revival hosted a community Fourth of July Commemoration to celebrate and embrace diversity. Methacton Mennonite hosted a block party featuring a variety of food and music along a local dance/drum group. Ripple Church uses the sanctuary space of the St. Stephens Lutheran Community Center for worship services and shares several activities with the Christ Lutheran congregation. These activities include a Pesto Festival at the end of the summer using basil from their community garden, and a “Trunk or Treat” event in October to pass out treats from car trunks to the neighborhood children. Ripple also partners with Whitehall Mennonite to provide a Summer Bible School in the park.

Salford Mennonite and Advent Lutheran have partnered in sharing a community garden and providing food to those in their community; hosting educational events on anti-racism and other issues; worshipping together at an annual Thanksgiving service and taking an offering to support local and global ministry.

Several congregations planned joint worship services and opportunities for fellowship this summer. Nations Worship Center traveled to Deep Run East for worship and an intercultural fellowship meal. Centro de Alabanza and Towamencin Mennonite met for a joint baptism service followed by an intercultural fellowship meal. Our California congregations annually gather for worship, fellowship, and resourcing.

Some partnership stories have yet to be told, imagined, or planned. May these brief stories continue to encourage local and global opportunities to learn and share resources in our communities and beyond as we seek to embody and extend Christ’s way of redemptive peace.

God is Working God’s Purpose Out

by Marta Castillo, Leadership Minister of Intercultural Formation

When I was a child on furlough with my family, we used to visit different churches every Sunday to share our stories about Indonesia and what God was doing there.  I remember singing the song “God is working his purpose out” by Author: Arthur Campbell Ainger (1894). The lyrics say:

“God is working his purpose out, as year succeeds to year, God is working his purpose out, and the time is drawing near; nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be, when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

From utmost east to utmost west, wherever feet have trod, by the mouth of many messengers goes forth the voice of God, ‘Give ear to me, ye continents, ye isles, give ear to me, that the earth may be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.’

What can we do to work God’s work, to prosper and increase the love of God in all mankind, the reign of the Prince of peace? What can we do to hasten the time, the time that shall surely be, when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea?”

Garden Chapel celebrates the licensing of Pastor Hector Quinones.

Every year we join together at assembly to celebrate what God is doing, to spend time together as God’s people, and to make plans together discerning God’s purpose for us.  We discerned a few years ago to put approve a Church Together Statement Going to the Margins: Kingdom Mission Strategy stating that as followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to solidarity with those on the margins of the Christian community, our neighborhoods, and society at large, seeking transformation in ourselves, those to whom we minister, and the unjust systems we encounter. This statement was a building block on our Franconia Conference priorities of being “missional, intercultural, and formational” as we work to fulfill our mission to “equip leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission.”

Henri Nouwen writes, “Those who are marginal in the world are central in the Church, and that is how it is supposed to be! Thus we are called as members of the Church to keep going to the margins of our society. The homeless, the starving, parentless children, people with AIDS, our emotionally disturbed brothers and sisters – they require our first attention. We can trust that when we reach out with all our energy to the margins of our society we will discover that petty disagreements, fruitless debates, and paralysing rivalries will recede and gradually vanish. The Church will always be renewed when our attention shifts from ourselves to those who need our care. The blessing of Jesus always comes to us through the poor. The most remarkable experience of those who work with the poor is that, in the end, the poor give more than they receive. They give food to us.” (henrinouwen.org/meditation/going-to-the-margins-of-the-church/)

Along with celebrating their 9th anniversary, Centro de Alabanza held a graduation ceremony for IBA (Instituto Biblico Anabautista – Anabaptist Biblical Institute).

We may or may not be consciously working out this “Kingdom Mission Strategy” in our congregations and daily lives. Our pastors and leaders may or may not even remember this conversation and agreement from even a few years ago. The conversation, however, did help us set priorities and to consider God’s plans and purposes for us in ministry and mission. Whether we recognize it or not God is working out God’s purpose.

As was stated in the Church Together Statement, “In Scripture, we see Jesus affirming the value and image of God in those on the margins of his culture and society: tax collectors, women, lepers, the ceremonially unclean, Gentiles, etc. Today, marginalized people groups include but are not limited to individuals and families experiencing mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction, physical and intellectual disabilities, incarceration, racism, poverty, war, oppression and exclusion. Who are the marginalized individuals and families in your context and how are you intentionally reaching out and entering their lives with the love and hope of Jesus Christ? If we are to be faithful disciples of Christ and make seeking God’s Kingdom our number one priority, these are the people with whom we must be in solidarity.”

Nations Worship Center held a Bible Camp for community children with the theme “Raising the Standard”, thanks to the support of a Missions Operational Grant and teaching supplies from Salford Mennonite Church.

My testimony today is that this kingdom work is happening through the work of the Holy Spirit in the congregations of our Conference. Through pictures and descriptions, we celebrate today that God is working God’s purposes out in our communities. In the last few weeks I had the privilege of witnessing this in some of our immigrant communities, who minister in communities affected by drug and alcohol addiction, and are affected by racism and injustice. 

Psalm 33:11 says, But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. Nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that will surely be, when the earth is filled with the glory of God, as the waters cover the sea.”

Help and Hope for Morris County

In a testimony to community collaboration and an example of “going to the margins”, Garden Chapel opened their doors to leaders, law enforcement and local neighbors in Morris County, New Jersey for a special forum on opioids and addiction.

Local leaders join together with HOPE One, to bring hope and help to those struggling in New Jersey.

This free event held at Garden Chapel on Saturday, April 28 was, on the surface, a resourcing fair – raising awareness of the opiate epidemic, highlighting positive prevention strategies, and connecting people with local treatment and recovery services.  But for anyone who’s dealt with substance abuse and mental illness or knows someone who has, this event connected on a deeper, more critical level.

Data released by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office shows that drug overdose deaths in the state to be on a record-shattering pace in 2018.  Pastor Tim Hart knows all too well the effects of the drug crisis, having lost both his brother and best friend to the epidemic. “I have participated in way too many funerals for friends, parishioners and their children due to this crisis,” he says. “I have been to at least 12 funerals in 2017 and 2018, just from opiate, fentanyl, and heroin overdoses. I believe this is the devil’s imitation of the Holy Spirit, to steal, kill and destroy lives and families.”

Over the course of the day, thirty-four individuals received free training on administering Naxalone (Narcan), which could potentially save the life of someone overdosing on opioids.  Morris County’s HOPE ONE program was on site, offering access to services and treatment facilities to anyone in need.  The entire event was presented as a part of the countywide Stigma-Free Initiative, which aims to eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and substance use disorders.  “To truly change the way society views individuals with substance abuse and mental illness disorders, we must change our language, attitude and be more compassionate,” said Dover (NJ) Mayor James P. Dodd. “Regardless of the spectrum, we all know or have people in our lives who face these challenges.”

Volunteers greet guests with information and assistance.

Friends and pastors at Garden Chapel did their part as hosts, running a children’s program and providing Spanish translation, and are already seeing results.  The event has assisted at least 10 people to take the first step and enter detox or rehab, some of whom have direct connections to Garden Chapel, and calls are still coming in.

“We can extend our hand out to someone in need, who can grab it and get the help he or she needs,” says Victory Gardens (NJ) Mayor David L. Holeman.  Undoubtedly the hands of Garden Chapel will continue to be among those extended.  “All that know me know how dear this topic is to my heart,” says Pastor Tim, “and my passion is to never stop fighting for the lives of those struggling with this addiction.  I will continue to cry out to GOD while putting my faith into action, by partnering with anyone and everyone to make a difference.”

Garden Chapel to Address Opiate Epidemic

Garden Chapel is partnering with community and local leaders in Morris County and Dover, New Jersey to address the opiate and heroin crisis in a special public forum on Saturday, April 28, from 12:00 noon to 3:00 pm.

Speakers will include Morris County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Brad Seabury and Sheriff Jim Gannon. The focus of the program will be to provide an overview of the heroin and opiate epidemic and to inform the community about what is being done by law enforcement to combat the problem.

Representatives from CARESNJ, Hope One and the Town of Dover Municipal Alliance Committee will present strategies to help families who have been touched by addiction including CARES RECOVERY CENTER and HOPE ONE.  Volunteers whose lives have been touched by heroin and prescription drug addiction will also be present to have one on one discussions during and after the event.

Doors open at 12 pm to highlight and showcase recovery and treatment facilities and strategies for prevention through education and recovery.  Education and awareness tips will be available, and resources for children including hands on activities will be available.

Garden Chapel’s Pastor Tim Hart Receives Service Award

Tim Hart with his wife, Maria, and daughter, Melody.
Tim Hart with his wife, Maria, and daughter, Melody.

The Red Bandanna Service award is given to an individual or group who has shown initiative and dedication in support of children in need. In addition to his work as pastor at Garden Chapel (Dover, NJ), he also works at a local state university and spends his time mentoring youth in the community. He can be found playing basketball with them, just hanging out, even assisting them in finding treatment for addiction and walking with them through court proceedings. We are blessed to have Pastor Tim and Garden Chapel as a part of our Franconia family! Read more about Pastor Tim and the award he received here: http://www.nj.com/messenger-gazette/index.ssf/2016/09/red_bandanna_service_award_to_be_given_to_the_rev_timothy_hart.html .

One Stitch at a Time

A member at Methacton Mennonite Church, Tiana Martinez, was stirred to action by a sermon delivered by a guest speaker, Pastor Juan Marrero from Crossroads Community Center in Philadelphia, a ministry to those in recovery or recently released from prison who need a place to stay. Pastor Juan noted a need for blankets, and Tiana felt the Spirit’s nudge. She set a goal to donate 100 afghans to Crossroads by December 2015 thus launching, “One Stitch at a Time Ministry.” Tiana wondered is others across Franconia Conference would be interested in joining her in this endeavor. She contact her LEADership Minister, Jenifer Eriksen Morales, who helped Tiana connect with other congregations. So far, members of Methacton, Alpha, and Garden Chapel are working together to meet this goal. Participants were able to gather together to crochet and fellowship with each other, building relationships based in ministry between congregations.

The Missional Operations Grant helped to cover the cost of yarn and other necessary supplies to support One Stitch at a Time.

Spanish Ministry at Garden Chapel

Garden Chapel has a thriving children’s ministry that has grown out of their flourishing summer camp, community garden club, and a music ministry with community children. As more and more children form the community have become involved in the church there is a growing need to connect with their parents who are largely Spanish speakers.

The Missional Operations Grant provided by Franconia Conference to Garden Chapel is to support he congregations partnership with local pastor, Hector Quinones, who has a heart for the immigrant community. In addition, the grant will provide leadership and intercultural training,  written materials in Spanish, aid for bi-lingual service and to support a monthly Spanish service.

Garden Chapel Camp Blessed By Rising Teacher/Summer Service Worker

By Colin Ingram

Courtney GC Intern photo - webCourtney Drew thought all she was doing was helping to set-up and decorate the room of her Grandmother’s elementary school class a few days before school started. She was in middle school at the time and was not expecting the onslaught of thank-you notes she received from the students. From that time on, Courtney desired to be a teacher.

As an elementary and special education major at Delaware State University, Courtney has learned a lot about teaching. Through the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) summer service program, she is now applying what she has learned in the classroom to her work as the assistant director for Garden Chapel’s summer camp in Dover, New Jersey. Her program supervisor is Garden Chapel member Amy Zorilla.

“I start my student teaching soon, so I really feel like this is preparing me to become a teacher because I have different age groups and there’s always a conflict—someone who’s not paying attention or maybe doesn’t concentrate as easily,” Courtney said. “It’s up to me to find a way to keep everyone engaged and make them want to be involved.”

According to Courtney, the overall goal of the camp is to reinforce the Christian faith of the children.

As the assistant director, along with director Vison McCrae, she is responsible for the smooth running of the camp. Some of her responsibilities include filling out paperwork, handling and making registration forms and permission slips, operating parent and camper orientations, and camp counseling.

The six-week Garden Chapel Summer Camp runs from June 29 to August 7. About 25 campers ages 5 to 12 gather from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. The camp operates as two three-week sessions. The kids are from the church and surrounding community.

“I learned from Courtney how to discipline the kids better than I could have on my own and show them to do what they are supposed to,” counselor Ashely Smith said.

When she’s not calming kids or settling their disputes as a counselor, she is helping run the camp activities. The kids learn drama lessons at theatre, make crafts in art lessons, watch movies, play basketball, and jump on a moon bounce during free time. Each day campers have a devotion time before attending two separate Bible studies for older and younger kids. Overseeing the activities has helped prepare her as a teacher to lead children.

“Her authority with the kids makes me think of her as a leader,” counselor Michael McCall said. “She knows what to do and what to say.”

Courtney discovered the MCC service program when she was looking for grants to use for Garden Chapel’s camp. In past summers, Courtney was a camp counselor for Peer Place camp programs.

Conference group prays, crochets

by Jenifer Eriksen Morales

The first Sunday Michelle came to worship with Kairos Community, she reached into her bag and pulled out a beautiful purple hand crocheted shawl. “I hope it’s ok if I wear this,” Michelle said as she draped it over her shoulders. “I use it all the time,” she added. “It helps me feel close to God; like I’m wrapped in God’s warm beautiful love.”

I recognized the prayer shawl. Michelle and her family had a difficult year. In December I invited her to join me in attending Souderton Mennonite Church’s longest night service for those experiencing loss and pain. During that service, Michelle received anointing, prayer, and the shawl from pastors Sandy Drescher-Lehman and Tami Good. As Michelle gathered for worship in our “home church” that evening, I felt incredibly grateful to the women in Souderton Mennonite’s prayer shawl ministry who blessed my friend by gifting their time and hands to lovingly and prayerfully crochet these shawls, a source of art, beauty and comfort. I wondered if the creators had any idea how many lives and hearts they warm.

Michelle and her niece, Sage, read the Bible wrapped in God’s love together at a recent Kairos Community gathering.
Michelle and her niece, Sage, read the Bible wrapped in God’s love together at a recent Kairos Community gathering.

I never learned to sew. My grandmothers tried to teach me to knit and crochet. Those lessons didn’t go well. But even someone with clumsy hands can admire the quilts, wall hangings, embroidery and wide assortment of cloth items produced by Mennonite women and a few men. Quilting and sewing is a colorful piece of our rich heritage. Although not a part of my personal experience, I feel a sense of loss when, in my work with congregations, I hear that quilting and sewing circles are declining in number. I understand the core of these gatherings to have been a time of fellowship, community building, prayer and ministry. Items made were donated to those in need, given as gifts by the congregation or sold at auction to raise money for mission and ministry. Yet, recently I have come to realize the Spirit is knitting something new but perhaps not all that different into being.

I was thrilled to receive an e-mail from Tiana Martinez, a member of Methacton Mennonite Church. Tiana was stirred to action by a sermon delivered by guest speaker, Pastor Juan Marrero from Crossroads Community Center in Philadelphia. Crossroads provides safe and educational space for children and youth, but also has a food assistance program and a thriving prison ministry, which has given birth to a new congregation, Christ Centered Church, attended by many ex-offenders and their families. Pastor Juan noted a need for blankets, and Tiana felt the Spirit’s nudge. She set a goal to donate 100 afghans to Crossroads by December 2015, thus launching “One Stitch at a Time Ministry.” Tiana wondered if others across Franconia Conference would be interested in joining her in this endeavor. So far, members of Methacton, Alpha, and Garden Chapel are working together to meet this goal. Plans are being made for participants to gather together to crochet and fellowship with each other, building relationships based in ministry between congregations.

Tiana’s email opened my eyes. I realized there are a number of people across Franconia Conference who knit and crochet. Some congregations have an established and growing knit/crochet ministry, where people gather together to crochet blankets, prayer shawls, hats and scarves. The soft, warm, brilliantly colored items are donated to those in need or given as gifts from the congregation to newborns, people in the hospital or as lap blankets for the elderly. In fact, Souderton Mennonite gifted me with a prayer shawl for my ordination. Often, the teams of people who create these gifts spend time praying together in advance for those who will receive them. Though the products are different, it seems to me, the crochet/knit ministries and sewing circles share the same core values of ministry, prayer, and fellowship.

A funny thing happened when I told some people in a congregation about Tiana’s ministry. A woman piped up, “I don’t knit or crochet, but I can quilt and knot, would that be helpful?” Of course!

This cold winter and especially as March comes in like a lion, I am inspired by those across Franconia Conference who are quietly wrapping people in God’s warm, comforting, beautiful love, “one stitch at a time.”

If you’re interested in getting involved, Tiana Martinez invites individuals and congregations to help share God’s love “One Stitch at a Time” by crocheting or knitting afghans or donating any color 4-ply yarn. For more information please contact Tiana: tmartinez65@gmail.com.

Jenifer Eriksen Morales is the minister of transitional ministries and LEADership minister with Franconia Mennonite Conference.  

Franconia Conference gathers to celebrate, pray, confer, listen

Garden Chapel Children's Choir
Garden Chapel’s children’s choir led a rousing rendition of “Our God” at Conference Assembly 2013. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

Franconia Conference delegates and leaders gathered November 2 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa. to celebrate God still at work.   With a packed auditorium for a third united assembly with Eastern District Conference, representatives gathered to listen and pray, to celebrate newly credentialed and ordained pastoral leaders, and to work alongside one another after an over 150-year rift created two separate Mennonite entities.  The theme “God still @ work” was an extension of the 2012 theme, “God @ work.”

With singing in Indonesian, Spanish, and English led by Samantha Lioi (Peace and Justice Minister for both conferences) and Bobby Wibowo (Philadelphia Praise Center) and translation into Franconia Conference’s worshipping languages, delegates and representatives from nearly all of the Conference’s congregations from Georgia to Vermont gathered to confer around a board-crafted statement on the Conference’s increasing diversity in ethnicity, experiences, faith practice, and expression.   The gathering was punctuated with points of celebration including testimony from Peaceful Living led by Joe Landis and Louis Cowell from Salford congregation, a youth choir from the revitalizing Garden Chapel in Victory Gardens, NJ, and a moment to mark the upcoming November retirement of Franconia Conference Pastor of Ministerial Leadership Noah Kolb after 45 years of ministry, which was met with rousing applause and a standing ovation.

Noah blessing 2013
Noah Kolb was recognized and blessed for 45 years of ministry. He will retire in November. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

In a shortened one-day event, delegates spent the morning together around tables with Eastern District Conference to continue to deepen relationships across conference lines.  Business sessions were separate, and Franconia’s included a significant amount of time in conversations among table groups, conferring over the board statement and then reporting on those conversations to the whole body.  Delegates and representatives were encouraged to mix across congregational lines to better hear and experience the diversity of conference relationships.

For many, including Tami Good, Souderton (Pa.) congregation’s Pastor of Music & Worship, who was attending Conference Assembly for the first time, the table conversations were holy spaces.  Each person at her table was from a different congregation.   “I saw God at work in the gracious listening, especially in the time when we talked about the conferring statement,” Good reflected. “There were disagreements, but everyone was graciously listening and hearing.  Everyone actually wanted to hear each other.  It was a beautiful time.”

The conferring time, along with an afternoon workshop led by the Franconia Conference board, focused on prayer and visioning for the Conference into the future.   Conference board members Jim Longacre (Bally congregation), Rina Rampogu (Plains congregation), Jim Laverty (Souderton congregation), and Klaudia Smucker (Bally congregation) served as a listening committee for the daylong event.  They reported seven themes of consistent and continued conversation: engagement, diversity, shared convictions, authority, polity, the role of conference, and the reality of changing relationships and engagement.  Board members noted that there is much response work to do to continue the conversation and discernment process.

Bruce Eglinton-Woods, pastor of Salem congregation (Quakertown, Pa.), said, “The challenge is speaking clearly on what we believe and where we are at, which is often a challenge for Mennonite leaders. My hope and prayer is that we can trust God and release the idea of keeping it all together. We need to let God do the holding together.”

Franconia Conference delegates spent time conferring and praying together.  Photo by Bam Tribuwono.
Franconia Conference delegates spent time conferring and praying together. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

According to Rampogu, one of the longest standing Conference board members, “the hardest part about this kind of meeting is that there isn’t enough time. We want to share and to talk together,” she said.  “That is a positive sign.  People want to connect.  My hope and prayer is that we keep our goal in mind, keeping our mission focused on equipping leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission, with Christ in the center and churches focused on missional activity.”

In business sessions, delegates selected a number of positions by 97% affirmation including a 2nd term for conference moderator John Goshow (Blooming Glen congregation) along with board member Beny Krisbianto (Nations Worship Center), as well as ministerial and credentialing committee members Rose Bender (Whitehall congregation), Ken Burkholder (Deep Run East congregation), Mike Clemmer (Towamencin congregation) and Chris Nickels (Spring Mount congregation).   Randy Nyce (Salford congregation) who is completing a term as finance committee chair and board member reported on Conference finances, noting an 11% decrease in financial contributions from congregations.

“I was surprised and pleased that the attendance at Assembly 2013 was so strong; seeing the room filled to capacity was an affirmation of how much the delegates and guests in attendance care for our conference,” Goshow noted.  “Franconia Conference is all of us who are members of our 42 churches and our Conference Related Ministries.  It is my hope and prayer that together we chart a course that will advance God’s Kingdom in exciting and wonderful ways.”

Listen to the podcast.

Conference Assembly 2013 Highlight Video from Franconia Conference on Vimeo.