Tag Archives: Iglesia Menonita Ebenezer

Together Once More

by Sue Conrad Howes, Eastern District Conference (West Swamp congregation), with Emily Ralph Servant, Franconia Conference (Director of Communication)

It was a potentially historic day for two Mennonite conferences that split over 170 years ago. 

Photo by Cindy Angela

On November 2, 2019, delegates from Franconia Mennonite Conference and Eastern District Conference met together at Souderton (PA) Mennonite Church to determine if reconciliation, which seemed unattainable in 1847, would now be possible.

It was hard to imagine that these two groups had been divided at all, as animated conversations and joyful reunions happened throughout the crowded fellowship hall as the delegates arrived. There was even an audible groan when it was announced that the Eastern District Conference delegates needed to move to another gathering room for their morning delegate session.  And so, for the morning, the two groups met separately, with the possibility of reconciliation on the afternoon horizon.

During Eastern District’s morning delegate session, leaders facilitated a discussion over the future and publicly recognized that the vote toward reconciliation was just the beginning of a new journey.  They thanked everyone who had helped to bring them to this point and then led in a time of sharing stories about where delegates were seeing God working in their congregations and ministries. 

Photo by Cindy Angela

Franconia’s morning delegate session included affirming Rose Bender Cook (Whitehall congregation) for a third term and KrisAnne Swartley (Doylestown congregation) for a second term on the Credentials Committee. Chris Nickels (Spring Mount congregation) was affirmed for a third term and Janet Panning (Plains congregation) for a first term on the Ministerial Committee.  Swartley and Panning will serve as committee chairs.  John Goshow (Blooming Glen congregation) and Beny Krisbianto (Nations Worship Center) were thanked for their nine years of service on the Conference Board.

Franconia also welcomed four new Conference Related Ministries: Peace Proclamation Ministries International (out of Plains congregation), Healthy Niños Honduras (birthed out of MAMA Project), Ripple Community Inc (out of Ripple congregation), and Taproot Gap Year (out of Philadelphia Praise Center).  The delegates welcomed a new congregation, Iglesia Menonita Ebenezer (Souderton, PA) and released West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship to transfer to Allegheny Conference.

Photo by Cindy Angela

After a meaningful joint worship in the morning, when credentialed leaders of both conferences who had passed away during the past year were remembered and newly credentialed leaders were introduced, anointed, and then commissioned to anoint others, the two conferences joined together for the afternoon session. Joy Sutter, moderator of Mennonite Church USA (Salford congregation), expressed gratitude to the delegates for demonstrating the path of reconciliation. “You are modeling a new and inspiring path for the future. As you move forward…, may you be blessed,” said Sutter.

The three-year process toward reconciliation, led almost exclusively by conference volunteers, was introduced by the Structure and Identity Task Force.  Sherri Brokopp Binder (Ripple congregation) & Rina Rampogu (Plains congregation) explained the process, the changes proposed, and the next steps, if the delegates voted affirmatively for reconciliation.

The task force had done its work, as few delegates posed questions or expressed any sense of hesitation with the proposal. The two conferences divided, for the last time, to discern and vote.

Photo by Cindy Angela

With the delegates reunited after the vote, John Goshow, Franconia Conference moderator, and Jim Musselman, Eastern District moderator (Zion congregation), shared the results of the historic vote: together, the conferences had voted unanimously for reconciliation.

Spontaneous applause and cheers of affirmation from the delegates erupted while leaders from both conferences shared hugs and broad smiles.  Together, the enthusiastic group sang, “Hosanna, Let Jesus be Lifted Up” and “Praise God from Whom” with gusto and gratitude.

Scott Roth (L) and Steve Kriss (R) lead the Conferences into a time of communion. Photo by Cindy Angela

Following the singing, Steve Kriss, Franconia Conference executive minister, and Scott Roth, Eastern District conference minister, spoke.  “I am rarely speechless,” Kriss admitted. “But we are about to do something that could not happen 150 years ago. We are about to sit together and take communion. For some of you, this split divided families, for some of you this split divided congregations. Today we celebrate the ministry of reconciliation that has been and will continue to be our life’s work.”

Roth reminisced about being charged with the ministry of reconciliation as a youth by adult leaders who knew that the reality of such a merger would be through the work of future generations. Roth shared his joy that the dream he had heard about as a youth was now being realized. “Remember,” Roth said; “although the paperwork is not completed, we are one in the Spirit and we are one in Jesus’ blood.”

Jessica Miller (Perkasie congregation). Photo by Cindy Angela

In the front of the fellowship hall, a pile of rocks had sat all morning, without mention. This column was reminiscent of the Old Testament practice of raising an Ebenezer, commemorating God’s help or celebrating memorable events. This rock structure was not to remain, however.  Instead, each church was instructed to take a rock home, paint it, and return with it to next year’s first assembly as a new conference. The rocks will then be formed into a fountain, representing the new conference, flowing with life.

Conference moderators, John Goshow (Franconia) and Jim Musselman (Eastern District) prepare to celebrate the reconciliation! Photo by Cindy Angela

The day’s events closed with a traditional action, which has been spoken by Franconia delegates to conclude their assemblies for more than a hundred years. On this day, however, delegates of both Franconia and Eastern District made the commitment together, as one gathered body:

“We affirm our desire to continue in and witness to the nonresistant and simple faith in Christ, looking for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

“Kami menegaskani keinginan untuk terus ikut dan menjadi saksi kesederhanaan iman dalam Kristus dan menjadi pembawa damai, terus mencari kepada berkat pengharapan serta memperlihatkan kemuliaan dari kebesaran Tuhan dan juru selamat kami, Yesus Kristus.”

“Afirmamos nuestro deseo de seguir testificando con la fe de no resistencia y sencilla en Cristo, mirando a la esperanza bendita y la venida gloriosa de nuestro gran Dios y nuestro Salvador Jesucristo.”

“Chúng tôi xin xác nhận nguyện-vọng của chúng tôi là tiếp tục và làm chứng cho giải pháp ôn-hòa và đức-tin chân thật trong Ðấng Christ, tiềm kiếm sự hy-vọng hạnh phước, và sự vinh quang của Ðức Chúa Trời đại quyền hiện ra và Ðấng Cứu Chuộc của chúng tôi là Ðức Chúa Giê-xu Christ.”


Dios está presente: Presentando la Iglesia Menonita Ebenezer / God is Present: Introducing Ebenezer Mennonite Church

(scroll for English)

por Jennifer Svetlik, congregación de Salford

La Iglesia Menonita Ebenezer comenzó en junio de 1958 como parte del ministerio hispano de la Iglesia Menonita Grace en Lansdale. Se inició como una comunidad para puertorriqueños que vinieron al área a trabajar en la agricultura de verano. El Rev. Guillermo Chewing fue el primer pastor y el hermano Earl Stover también tuvo un papel vital en la obra. En 2005, la iglesia se independizó de Grace, se mudó a la Ruta 113 en Souderton con un nuevo pastor y cambió su nombre a Iglesia Menonita Ebenezer. En noviembre de 2009, la iglesia se mudó al edificio de la Iglesia Menonita de Zion donde continúan reuniéndose, con la Escuela Bíblica a las 11:00 am y adoración a al medio día los domingos.

“Dios en su misericordia ha estado presente en nuestra congregación, manifestándose con su poder y su soberanía, en medio de las pruebas en el proceso de cambios en nuestra iglesia” dice Hilda Vince’s, una líder de la iglesia, “ Hemos tenido hermanos enfermos en los cuales Dios ha manifestado su poder al darles sanación, y sentimos su Santo Espíritu en medio nuestro porque nos ha fortalecido en momentos de ver la partida de hermanos a la morada con Dios”.

Sumado, Hilda añade que gracias a la teología  “Ebenezer ha podido llegar a otras personas a nivel internacional. A pesar que la iglesia ha menguado en número de miembros por diferentes razones, el Señor ha traído nuevos miembros. Dios nos ha bendecido por estar firmes en nuestra fe en Cristo”, Hilda comparte.

La Iglesia Ebenezer había sido parte de la Conferencia del Distrito Este anteriormente, pero se fue cuando la iglesia se independizó. Ahora la iglesia desea unirse a la Conferencia de Franconia porque reconocen el valor de relacionarse y estar unidos con otras iglesias Menonitas locales.

“A través de la Conferencia podemos… adquirir recursos que nos ayudarán a crecer como iglesia y aprender de otros y sus ministerios, y aplicar estas ideas, guiadas por el Espíritu Santo, a nuestra propia iglesia”, agrega Hilda.

La Iglesia Ebenezer representa parte del trabajo ministerial inicial en la Conferencia del Distrito Este realizados con hispanohablantes. Nos complace darles la bienvenida como congregación de la Conferencia de Franconia al mismo tiempo que estamos en el proceso de reconciliación con el Distrito Este” reflexiona el ministro ejecutivo Strive Kriss y añade “Todo esto es trabajo de reconciliación, aprender de nuestra historia, honrar nuestra historia compartida y creer que Dios está llevando la congregación y las dos conferencias a realizar algo nuevo juntas haciendo algo nuevo con nosotros juntos .

“La comunidad Latinx continúa creciendo en los condados de Bucks y Montgomery, donde muchas de nuestras congregaciones han estado arraigadas por generaciones. Esperamos que con las hermanas y hermanos en Ebenezer seguiremos cultivando un vibrante testimonio anabautista y una vibrante comunidad juntos ”.

by Jennifer Svetlik, Salford congregation

Ebenezer Mennonite Church began in June 1958 as part of the Hispanic ministry of Grace Mennonite Church in Lansdale, PA. It started as a community for Puerto Ricans who came to the area to work in summer agriculture. Rev. Guillermo Chewing was the first pastor and Earl Stover also played a vital role in the church. In 2005, the church became independent from Grace, moved to Route 113 in Souderton with a new pastor, and changed its name to Ebenezer Mennonite Church. In November 2009 the church moved to the Zion Mennonite Church building in Souderton, PA, where they continue to meet, with Bible study at 11:00 am and worship at noon on Sundays. 

“God in his mercy has been present in our congregation, manifesting his power and sovereignty in the midst of trials, in the process of changes in our church,” says Hilda Vinces, a leader in the church.  “We have had sick members in which God has manifested his power by giving them healing, and we feel his Holy Spirit in our midst because he has strengthened us when church members have passed away.” 

In addition, Hilda shares, through technology, “Ebenezer has been able to reach other people internationally. Although the church has diminished in number of members for different reasons, the Lord has brought new members. God has blessed us for being firm in our faith in Christ.”

Iglesia Ebenezer had previously been a part of Eastern District but left when Grace congregation became independent. Now the church seeks to join Franconia Conference because they recognize the value of relating to and uniting with other local Mennonite Churches. 

“Through the Conference we can … acquire resources that will help us grow as a church and to learn from others and their ministries, and apply these ideas, led by the Holy Spirit, to our own church,” Hilda adds. 

Iglesia Ebenezer represents some of the initial work in Eastern District Conference ministering alongside Spanish speakers. We are glad to welcome Ebenezer as a congregation of Franconia Conference at the same time as we are in the process of reconciling with Eastern District,” Franconia’s Executive Minister Steve Kriss reflects. This is all reconciliation work, he points out—learning from shared history, honoring a shared story, and believing that God is bringing the congregation and the two conferences together to do a new thing.

The Latinx community continues to grow in Bucks and Montgomery counties where many of our congregations have been rooted for generations. We hope that with the sisters and brothers at Ebenezer, we will continue to cultivate a vibrant Anabaptist witness and community together.

Meeting Neighbors Near and Far

by Kiron Mateti, Franconia Board Member (Plains congregation)

As a relatively new board member with below average Spanish skills, I was surprised, but honored, when Franconia’s Executive Minister Steve Kriss asked me to join him and a Pennsylvania contingent to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Anabaptist churches in Mexico City.

A portion of our Pennsylvania contingent: Mary & Danilo Sanchez, Steve Kriss, and Kiron Mateti (not pictured: David Yoder and Cathy Godshall).

I boarded the plane with the stress of work still looming over me, and the mixed feelings that come with leaving a pregnant wife and two girls at home in PA while going on an exciting trip to Mexico.  With strong encouragement from my lovely and thoughtful wife, however, we agreed that this trip would be an opportunity to meet the real people of Mexico, to put faces to the impersonal news stories I often hear, and to allow God to recalibrate my ideas of who His people are in the world.

Our gracious host Oscar drove Steve, Danilo & Mary Sanchez (Ripple congregation), and me around Mexico City in Carlos Martinez Garcia’s Toyota Avanza.  I had previously met Carlos, moderator of the Conferencia de Iglesias Evangélicas Anabautistas Menonitas de México (CIEAMM) at the “Renewing Nations & Generations” gathering before 2018 Fall Assembly.  I enjoyed getting to know Carlos more and meeting Oscar for the first time, and greatly appreciated their hospitality.

Oscar’s heart reminded me of my Uncle Ravi in India.  One day, as we were driving to someone’s house for lunch, I mentioned how fresh the fruit in the road-side stand looked.  After we arrived and greeted everyone, we didn’t notice Oscar slip out.  Then, suddenly, Oscar had come back with fresh papaya, and proceeded to cut it and personally serve me a bowl with Tajin and fresh squeezed lime.  Que bien!

My mom’s native tongue is an Indian language called Telugu.  It is one of my life’s regrets that I can’t speak Telugu. In my defense, some of my hesitation to even try stems from instances of uncontrollable laughter when attempting to speak Telugu with my mom.  I guess I have an American accent.

But with Spanish I determined it would be different.  Spanish was not new to me—I had taken four years in high school.  But that was almost two decades ago!  I decided that I would speak what little Spanish I knew, and I would welcome the laughter.

But the laughter never came.

Instead my new amigos y hermanos appreciated my feeble Spanish, and I was amazed and thankful for how many people were willing to teach me along the way. And also, thank God for Google Translate!

The celebration services at El Buen Pastor, Luz y Verdad, and Cristiana de Paz congregations were a wonderful glimpse into a thriving Anabaptist church presence in Mexico City.  I was thankful to worship with my fellow believers, my neighbors from afar, and thankful to build relationships with the churches there.

Members from Iglesia Menonita Ebenezer at the Fourth of July “You Are Welcome” event.

Back home, at our 2nd annual “You are Welcome” Fourth of July picnic, Plains Mennonite Church and the Evangelical Center for Revival joined with Iglesia Menonita Ebenezer to enjoy music, food, and games in the sun at Plains Park.  Following my trip to Mexico, I found newfound courage that day to interact with fellow believers across the language and cultural divide. God used this trip to teach me that I don’t need to travel far to meet my neighbors—I can build relationships with my neighbors right here at home.