Tag Archives: global

Conference youth participate in interfaith initiative

by John Stoltzfus, Franconia Conference Youth Minister 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanking God for new offices, my Mac and Skype

by Stephen Kriss, director of leadership cultivation

transpacific interview
Steve, Mary, Aldo, and Verle Skype with Ubaldo for his credentialing interview.

In less than a decade, the Mennonite Conference Center has moved to its third location.   With increasingly dispersed staff, the Center has downsized to serve as a hub and back office for activity out and about.

My first day in the offices at Dock High School this week included crowding around my MacBook Pro with Verle Brubaker (Swamp) Mary Nitzsche (Blooming Glen), and Aldo Siahaan (Philadelphia Praise Center) for our first transpacific ordination interview by Skype.  We were interviewing Ubaldo Rodriguez, originally from Colombia, educated at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, who is now serving with SEND International in Manila, the Philippines.  Ubaldo is there to support and train mission workers from the 2/3rds world, hoping to build connections between Latin America and Asia.

Ubaldo is connected with a one of our partner congregations, New Hope Fellowship in Alexandria, VA, begun by Kirk Hanger after returning from a long term assignment with Franconia Mennonite Missions in Mexico City over a decade ago.   As a community, we keep being shaped and reshaped by our relationships and engagement in the world.  And now some of those connections are more easily sustained through technology like Skype, which we thanked God for in our interview.

Franconia Conference keeps changing and moving.  It’s not just our desks and cabinets, but it’s how we’re following the Spirit, paying attention to the pillar of fire that urges us to follow in the way of Jesus that moves us to be a part of God’s great redemption story in Souderton, Harleysville, Lansdale, Alexandria, Mexico City and Manila.

Read your way to Pennsylvania 2015

by Phyllis Pellman Good, for Mennonite World Conference

Whether you’re planning to attend the next Mennonite World Conference assembly, or just want to learn more about Anabaptists around the world, Mennonite World Conference staff have book recommendations for you.

“We should be well-informed hosts,” says Richard Thomas, who chairs the advisory council for the assembly. “Most of us probably can’t become fluent in Indonesian or Amharic or French between now and next July. But we can certainly learn more about our sister churches around the world.”

Five-volume global history series available

Mennonite World Conference recently commissioned a five-volume global history series, with one volume for each continent where Anabaptists live. The books are written by people from those continents and reflect the perspectives and experiences of the local churches. The series includes:Testing Faith and Tradition (Europe volume), Mission and Migration (Latin America volume), Anabaptist Songs in African Hearts (Africa volume), Churches Engage Asian Traditions (Asia volume), and Seeking Places of Peace (North America volume).

MWC Histories“I’m reading these books as one way to get myself ready for Pennsylvania 2015. I want to have a deeper understanding of how my sisters and brothers have found and sustained their faith,” said Thomas. “Many of them have survived wars and hunger and immense political pressure. Many have Muslim neighbors. I have so much to learn from them–and the histories tell those stories.”

Book about shared convictions

Thomas said he is also reading What We Believe Together: Exploring the “Shared Convictions” of Anabaptist-Related Churches, by Alfred Neufeld. The book is based on the Mennonite World Conference statement “Shared Convictions of Global Anabaptists,” and includes stories from around the world and questions for discussion.

Book discussions planned

Books discussions are being held around Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that will run through June 2015.

Conference staff are encouraging those unable to attend a book discussion to organize their own gathering, and use the books as Sunday School resources.

The assembly will be held July 21-26, 2015 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Five ways you can help prepare for Pennsylvania 2015

 by Phyllis Pellman Good for Mennonite World Conference

Next July, Anabaptists from around the world will gather for worship and fellowship at Mennonite World Conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. More than 8000 participants are expected to attend, and conference staff and volunteers are making arrangements to feed and lodge attendees, as well as preparing worship services, workshops, music, and the Global Church Village, a large display area and meeting place.

Mennonite World Conference is inviting North American congregations to get involved now, and help begin welcoming brothers and sisters from across the globe.

Pennsylvania 2015 will include worship, singing, and time for reflection in small groups. Photo by Merle Good.
Pennsylvania 2015 will include worship, singing, and time for reflection in small groups. Photo by Merle Good.

Here are five ways you can support the gathering:

Join the prayer network. You’ll receive monthly emails about particular needs as conference staff prepare. Two big prayer requests: that attendees from the global south will be granted visas so they can attend, and that churches here will offer extravagant hospitality as they welcome participants from other parts of the world.

Learn more about your global family of faith. A good resource is What We Believe Together, by Alfred Neufeld. The book is based on the Mennonite World Conference statement “Shared Convictions of Global Anabaptists,” and includes questions for discussion, so it’s a great resource for Sunday School classes and small groups.

Want other resources for your congregation, Sunday School class or small group? Check out Mennonite World Conference’s resource page, which includes news, background information, and guides for congregations.

Volunteer. It takes a (global) village to welcome so many people, and volunteers are needed now, as well as during the assembly. Those who assist during the gathering receive a discounted registration rate. More information is available at www.mwc-cmm.org/pa2015volunteer.

Partner. MWC is encouraging congregations in the U.S. to partner with each other so that churches with fewer financial resources or with recent immigrants to the U.S. can attend the gathering. The registration cost is split three ways: MWC and both congregations contribute part of the fee.

Register! Plan to attend Harrisburg 2015, where you’ll build relationships and remember the gift of belonging to an international family of faith. Register at www.mwc-cmm.org/pa2015registration.

Introducing Towamencin Mennonite Church

TowamencinTowamencin Mennonite Church is located on Sumneytown Pike in Kulpsville, adjacent to the Lansdale exit of the PA Turnpike. The church has been around since 1713.

Towamencin can be described as a family-friendly, traditional, Anabaptist congregation that is evolving in its diversity and mission. Families from Ethiopia, Kenya, India, and Ghana now call Towamencin their home and we are struggling together to embrace our missional identity. Our mission statement calls us to extend God’s healing, hope, and forgiveness to all through the power of the Holy Spirit, yet we are finding that in practice, this can be a difficult task. So with God’s help, we are on a journey of learning.

Our leadership structure includes a team of four elders, a deacon, and two deaconesses along with our pastor. We also have a church council which gives a voice to persons in the pews.

The location of the church affords us opportunities for ministry. In fact, thousands of commuters drive by our building each day. Our inspirational sign with weekly thought-provoking messages provides both words of encouragement and challenge to these commuters. Some of the commuters use our parking lot for carpooling.  We serve breakfast cake and coffee to these folks several days a year in attempt to get to know them better.

Twice a year, we hold a yard sale which brings many persons to the church. We have found that many of these folks are in need of prayer and a listening ear. Our prayer tent has been a great tool for ministering to these folks. One of our largest ministries at Towamencin is Vacation Bible School.  Each year, 80% of the kids that come to VBS are from the community. This has provided a way for us to connect in direct ways with persons from the community.