Ken Beidler, West Philadelphia
On Sunday, March 14 amid joyful music and dancing, West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship (WPMF) celebrated the ordination of Lorie Hershey. The afternoon service welcomed participants from the many diverse communities that have shaped Hershey’s call to ministry, culminating in a litany of blessings and a liturgical dance that had everyone out of their seats and dancing in the sanctuary.
Focusing on Paul’s words in Galations 5:25 “since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”, Leonard Dow, pastor of Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, invited Hershey and WPMF to the “dance of cooperation” in which pastor and congregation participate in the movement of God’s Spirit.
Tracing the theme of dancing through the Scriptures from the prophetess Miriam to King David and into the early church, Pastor Dow, exhorted the congregation to trust that God will help us learn the right steps to move into faithful service in the world.
Three years ago, WPMF, an urban Anabaptist congregation extended the call to Hershey to be their pastor. Hershey, a 2005 graduate of Eastern Mennonite Seminary M.Div, moved to Philadelphia with her husband, Brent and two children, Dillon and Eden.
Sylvia Horst, chair of the WPMF Human Resources Committee shared the affirmations of numerous leaders and others in the congregation. Addressing Lorie on behalf of the congregation, Horst said, “Lorie, you have indeed shown strong and clear gifts in working with WPMF. As a leader you are steady and reliable, exemplifying integrity and a Christ-like spirit. You coordinate well, with appropriate attention to detail. At the same time, you are able to let go of plans when necessary to allow the Holy Spirit to work. You listen with insight for what God might be saying to us.”
Invited guests representing the varied congregations and church institutions that have helped to shape Hershey’s call to ministry offered blessings as she enters a new chapter of ministry. After each blessing, a bright colored strand of cloth was woven into a tapestry which was given to Hershey. During the reception that followed the service, attenders were invited to write a personal message and include it in the tapestry.
Franconia Conference Representatives, Noah Kolb, Pastor of Ministerial Leadership and Marlene Frankenfield, Conference Youth Minister, offered prayers and words of challenge to Hershey as she stepped into ordained ministry.
Julie Prey-Harbaugh, the worship leader, led the congregation in responding with the words, “Together as one body, we pledge to you our support that you might freely exercise the ministries of leadership committed to you. Our material gifts, our prayers, our counsel, and our encouragement support you. We pray that you may be given a deep love for those whom you serve and that Christ might be expressed through you in word and deed.”
John Pritchard, pastor of Calvary United Methodist, which owns the building in which WPMF worships and Rabbi Lauren Herrmann of Kol Tzedek Synagogue, read Psalm 150 in English and Hebrew.
A deep sense of gratitude to God permeated the service of ordination, heard in the joyful music, strong drumming and WPMF’s intergenerational choir’s singing of the African-American spiritual, “Guide my feet.” From the opening song, which celebrated God’s presence “Here in this Place”, the congregation, which is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary of ministry in Philadelphia, was led in a celebration of how God calls and raises up leaders to build up the church and extend God’s Kingdom.
In her response to the service, Hershey utilized the metaphor of the dance to describe her calling to WPMF. She said, “Ten years ago I couldn’t have imagined that I would be standing here being ordained. If I were to use one word for my journey to this point today it would be “movement”. Movement towards God, with God and movement in myself: towards wholeness in my understanding of God and myself. This congregation has been dancing for 25 years now. While some of the dance steps may have changed over the years, the DJ has remained the same.”
photos provided by WPMF