My husband Wayne and I recently attended a benefit event for a local non-profit, which included an auction. Surveying the silent auction items, Wayne spotted a beautifully-crafted Martin guitar and asked if I had any interest in it.
I had not played a guitar for over 10 years and had donated my old guitar to a thrift store with no intentions of ever playing again.
The Martin guitar’s beauty and three-quarter-size caught my attention. I agreed to add our bid to the sheet.
Periodically, Wayne checked to see if others were adding their bid. Several times he asked my permission to increase our bid.
Doubt began to creep into my mind each time I consented. Could I relearn the chords? Would playing the guitar aggravate the pain in my hand? Would I gain confidence to accompany singing in my congregation since I was never that accomplished before? At my age, could I improve my skill?
As the bids increased, I wondered about our dollar limit. The five-minute call came for the close of bidding. Wayne noticed a person at the table increasing their bid. One last time he asked me if I wanted the guitar. I was non-committal, but Wayne was determined, yet courteous. He asked the other bidder how badly she wanted the guitar and learned she was not as serious as he thought.
At the conclusion of the benefit, Wayne and I returned home with the guitar, knowing our donation would make a difference in the lives of people.
After arriving at home, I gently lifted my new guitar out of the case. I attempted to tune the guitar and was amazed that I remembered how to tune it without consulting Internet instructions! When I attempted to play a chord, I couldn’t remember any fingerings. Several days later, I printed a chart of the primary guitar chords. I struggled through the first song, looking back and forth from the chart to the song sheet while playing very slowly. My confidence was rattled, yet I persisted with a different song.
All of a sudden, something clicked.
My long-term memory caught up with my short-term memory. It was an “ah-ha” moment that I couldn’t explain: the C, G, A, Em, and Am chords came naturally, without even looking at the fingering chart! After playing 20 minutes, my hand ached and my fingers were tender (a sign that I needed to develop calluses). That evening I went to bed cautiously optimistic that the purchase was a good thing.
Several days later, I spent an hour playing my guitar. To my surprise and delight, my ambivalence for purchasing a new guitar and the lack of confidence that I would regain the limited skill I once had was fading. Wayne’s persistence, encouragement, and generosity has inspired me to rediscover my love for singing and playing guitar.
This unexpected gift, a nudging of the Spirit, has given me a renewed spiritual practice for expressing and nurturing my faith.
Angela Moyer, assistant moderator, Danilo Sanchez, Youth Formation Pastor, and I represented Franconia Mennonite Conference at the biannual Constituency Leadership Council (CLC) February 28-March 2. Others attending from Franconia Conference included Joy Sutter, Moderator Elect of Mennonite Church USA, and Buddy Hannanto, representing the Indonesian Mennonite Association.
The CLC is comprised of representatives from each area conference, churchwide program agency, and constituent group. While not a decision-making body, CLC serves as a forum for discernment, conversation, and networking. This group of 50-60 persons function as denominational elders offering counsel to the Executive Board on issues of faith, life and churchwide statements. Glen Guyton, Executive Director of MC USA, emphasized CLC’s importance, acknowledging that our “concerns are heard and taken seriously.”
An emphasis of CLC is building relationships of trust among executive board representatives, conferences, racial/ethnic groups, and churchwide program agency leaders. Sitting around tables, sharing personal and ministry stories, worshipping and sharing communion, eating meals together, discussing important matters of our common life, and playing group games remind us of the covenant we hold—to be the presence of Christ and share in Christ’s reconciling mission with each other and in our communities and places of ministry.
Angela Moyer commented that, “attending CLC helped me learn to know our new denominational leaders. God has given us a gift in these leaders, who have passion for God and the church, and a vision for our denomination.”
Lively, yet respectful, conversations centered around two key issues: a review of the MC USA membership guidelines and an update of the potential merger of The Mennonite and Mennonite World Review (a decision delayed last fall to process the concerns raised by CLC).
Barth Hague, chair of The Mennonite’s board, gave a brief update to inform CLC of the recent decision to resume the merger process.
The membership guidelines, which were implemented in 2001 and reviewed in 2013 and 2015, are once again an issue for the MC USA delegate body to consider at MennoCon19 in Kansas City this summer. Eight recommendations for the Executive Board’s consideration were discerned around eight table groups utilizing the “Six Thinking Hats” approach to decision-making. This approach provided opportunity to depart from a predictable pattern of debate. Instead, the guidelines were processed from six different perspectives: neutral, optimistic, critical, emotional, innovative, and process oriented. I found this process helpful since everyone at the table was speaking from the same perspective for an allotted time, allowing us to shape a unified recommendation. In Danilo’s words, “Even though there were disagreements around the table, everyone was respected and valued.”
Angela, Danilo, and I were honored to serve as Franconia Conference representatives at CLC. Danilo summarized our shared experience and reflections well, “Throughout our meetings, it was evident that every pastor and leader who attended CLC loves the church and loves Jesus. Through CLC, I gained a trust and confidence in our denominational leadership. I believe their desire is for MC USA to be faithful followers of Jesus and to be an Anabaptist witness to the world.”
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.
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.
Much research is being done on what makes individuals, families, and pastors resilient in our complex and ever-changing culture. In February, I was sent a link to a New York Times article, “The Stories That Bind Us,” by Bruce Feiler. Based upon research, Feiler noted that the single most important factor in a person’s ability to weather the challenges of life is to develop a strong family narrative. Children and youth who know a lot about their family history and have a sense of being a part of a larger family, tend to function in healthier ways when facing life’s challenges. Feiler emphasized the importance of creating, refining and retelling family stories including the ordinary, positive, and difficult experiences of family life.
The biblical story is our foundational narrative giving us instruction, poetry, rituals, prophecy, and stories to talk about our faith in God. Numerous times in scripture, there is mention of telling the story to the children, reenacting a ritual, or giving witness to what is seen and heard (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Joshua 4:6-7, Psalms 44:1, Psalms 78:6, Isaiah 43:10, John 1:7, Matthew 28: 17-20, Luke 24:48, Acts 1:8). The scripture is packed with stories of people living in families and in a faith community dependent on God and each other to live out their faith. These stories remind us of who God is, who we are, how we are a part of a larger family, and how the faith community continues to be called to live God’s mission in the world.
At a retreat in March, Leadership Ministers reflected on past and more recent Franconia Conference stories of ordinary people doing ordinary things to serve God. Our stories reflected themes of generosity of time, talent, and finances; breadth and depth of relationships; lament of congregations being asked to leave conference or choosing to leave; resiliency during internal, national, or international crisis; welcome of people and congregations of color; vision to begin local ministries or ministries beyond our geography.
Biblical, family, congregational, conference, and denominational stories connect us to each other, past and present. They remind us of God’s steadfast love, mercy, and faithfulness in all generations; our failures, inaction, learnings, and activities; and our shared identity and mission. Stories remind us of our common commitment to Jesus Christ, to living as followers of Christ, and bearing witness to Christ’s kingdom on earth.
Recently, I viewed a TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” presented by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She frankly declares that those in power often determine which stories are told, where a story begins, and what is included or excluded. This power reinforces and perpetuates stereotypes. One single story is incomplete and emphasizes differences. It creates a narrative that shows a people, place or issue as one thing over and over again and that is what they become. Multiple stories enhance understanding and have the power to humanize, empower, and heal.
As we engage in the reconciliation and restructuring process of looking at the possibility of forming a new conference with Eastern District Conference, what stories need to be told? Who determines which stories are told and what is included in the stories? How will these stories guide us in imagining a new future, facilitate healing of past or more recent wounds, form our new identity, and shape our vision for the future? May we continue to share the ordinary, positive and difficult stories with an openness to hearing multiple stories. As we shape the future together, may our stories enhance our understanding, give witness to the Spirit’s activity among us, facilitate healing, and empower us to imagine what the Spirit is calling us to be and do.
For generations, one of the primary tasks of Franconia Conference was to provide leadership accompaniment with congregations and credentialed leaders. The call to serve as a bishop was a serious call to lead, serve and offer wisdom and counsel. It was a weighty role. I grew up with a bishop in my home community in Allegheny Conference and for some of us in Franconia, we remember those days, too. Our bishop still wore a plain coat on Sundays and he preached long sermons. I still remember being surprised to see him visiting his sister one day while working on the garden to pick green beans and he was wearing a flannel shirt, conversing (not preaching) and laughing.
For almost a decade now, our conference has framed this work as leadership ministers. We have attempted to find footing alongside congregations to invite, provoke and accompany during rapid cultural changes. Our conference is now served by a team of ten leadership ministers: men and women from different generations, with different cultural backgrounds and different language capacities to continue to cultivate God’s dream among our 45 congregations. It’s a key task and incarnation of what we do together.
Our leadership ministers met the end of March, during what we hope will be the last heavy snowstorm, at Mariawald Retreat Center near Reading to review and reimagine our work together. Some of us weren’t able to get there due to the snow, so we used Zoom to connect with these colleagues. Some colleagues left early and some stayed later to wait out the storm. In the meantime, we enjoyed the lovely and hospitable space of Mariawald, hosted by Catholic nuns from Africa who are now in Berks County as part of their vocation of serving God and the church. The snow was stunningly beautiful even though we may have been ready to move onto spring. It was in some ways metaphoric of the difficulty and possibility of doing our work in this time and space.
Together we began the task of refining our work. We will continue to work around the Conference’s approach to ministry and leadership which is formational, missional and intercultural. We will continue to align our ministry staff around those ongoing priorities. We are beginning to work together to understand how to include congregations at our farthest distances now with a staff representative based in California to serve our congregations there. And we’re evaluating best practices to serve congregations that are close by to us too, sometimes just blocks from where we live or less than a mile from the Conference office at Dock Mennonite Academy.
I am grateful now for a full staff team after over a year of navigating through changes. We are beginning to learn together, to laugh, to build deeper trust. We are leaning in toward our individual gifts and callings recognizing our invitation to serve God in the way of Christ’s peace through our historic and growing community. As a Conference, we are privileged to be resourced well through ongoing generosity and wise stewardship. I continue to be grateful for the sense of care and mutuality that we have together and the divine invitation to continued transformation by the power of the Spirit in this journey of faith, hope and love together.
Mary Nitzsche and I made our first trip to visit the California congregations since the three were welcomed into our Conference in November. International Worship Church (IWC) in San Gabriel, Jemaat Kristen Indonesia Anugerah (Grace Indonesian Christian Fellowship) in Sierra Madre and Indonesian Community Christian Fellowship (ICCF) in Colton are located within an hour of each other, all to the east of Los Angeles along the 210 and 10 freeway corridors. They are located in a stretch of large suburbs that flow into what is known as the Inland Empire. Each suburb is distinct, but these communities – sometimes more like cities themselves – merge together to create the US’s second largest metropolitan area.
We spent time with each congregation. If you hustled, you could likely attend each congregations’ worship gathering, all on the same Sunday. Mary and I split the responsibilities, though, so we would have time to visit with each group. Mary brought greetings to the English worshipping community at International Worship Church at 11:00 am and preached at JKIA at 2:30 pm. I preached at the Indonesian language service at IWC at 12:30 and at ICCF at 5:30.
There was food afterward the worship services. After over a decade of walking alongside Indonesian congregations, I recognize the gracious island hospitality and celebration that remains intact here in the States as well. At IWC, I had a bowl of spaghetti brought from the kitchen, when the servers realized that I didn’t eat seafood, which was the main dish provided for lunch. At ICCF, there was an anniversary celebration which included traditional Indonesian satay, rice and soup, along with karaoke that was a mix of pop, praise songs and traditional hymns.
There is new opportunity and challenge by being bi-coastal. We’re navigating the legal requirements necessary for credentialed leaders in California, which are different from Pennsylvania. We’re having to learn new geography, time zones and context. We are moving toward adding a staff person based in Southern California, as well. Aldo Siahaan, Conference LEADership minister and pastor at Philadelphia Praise Center is also initiating an online Zoom call for Indonesian speaking pastors across our Conference. These things will help to ensure our flourishing together.
There is still a sense of surprise for me that we are here in this time and place. This trip meant beginning to think and care for California in a way that I haven’t before – as a pastor. What is the Spirit provoking through this holy experiment? In what ways can we live and move into this time and space, where God’s capacity is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or imagine through the power at work within us (Ephesians 3.20)?
As we begin to move into this space, beyond dreams and into new realities, I invite your prayers for us together. I’m still grateful for the overwhelming sense of the Spirit’s direction at assembly to welcome the California congregations to become part of us. And in that welcome, I believe there will continue to be transformation.
I began last year, 2017, with an openness to the “new thing” God may have for me without any idea of what that might be (other than becoming a grandmother for the first time!). Shortly into the new year, I was asked to consider a “new thing”—serving in a conference role. As many of you are aware, I accepted this “new thing” and began serving as Associate Executive Minister of Franconia Conference July 1. This transition meant leaving congregational ministry to re-enter a conference ministry role. While having served in conference ministry work previously in Ohio Mennonite Conference for 12 years and volunteering on various Franconia Mennonite Conference committees and the Board over the past eight years, I am continuing to discover “new things” God has for me.
After six months in my new role and at the beginning of a new year, I commit again to an openness for God’s “new thing.” Jesus invites me, invites all of us committed to following him, into a deeper relationship, understanding, and living each year of our life. There is never a season of life that is to remain stagnant. Jesus is our model, teacher, and guide.
Inspired by a Sunday morning discussion at Perkasie Mennonite Church last summer, I read through the gospel of Luke noting what Jesus saw, heard, touched, and where Jesus went, what he said, and what he did. As I reflect on the notes I took, Jesus’ experiences, words, and actions inspire movement. He was open to entering into places devout Jews would not go and seeing opportunities for ministry wherever he went; to engaging with people considered “unclean,” seeing their potential and inviting them to follow; to using earthy images in his storytelling to teach timeless truths and inspire action; to challenging the religious leaders’ and disciples’ interpretation of the law, pointing them to new understandings, and inviting them to sacrificially live out these principles; to observing those in need of healing regardless of their status, extending a word or touch of healing, and inviting them to experience wholeness through a relationship with him.
In a culture and environment of change, Jesus promised his disciples and promises us that the very Spirit that raised him from the dead is accessible to us. During 2018, as we are called into new places — to interact with a variety of people we typically choose to ignore or avoid, to read, interpret and live scriptural principles that reveal God’s true intentions for this time, and to offer healing and wholeness in situations of suffering, injustice, or loss, may the Spirit of Jesus inspire and empower us to engage the “new things” prepared for us as individuals, congregations, and in our conference this year.
Franconia Conference continues to follow God’s call, sharing the Good News of Christ Jesus and empowering and equipping others to, as well. Executive Minister Steve Kriss said, “We have much to do and much possibility.” This work is not possible without the many gifted individuals God has blessed the Conference with.
In January, as Steve Kriss took the reins of Executive Minister, a time of transition was announced that included introducing three interim LEADership Ministers, one even serving as Interim Director of Congregational Resourcing. As the time of transition comes to a close, so too comes some changes.
One of those interim LEADership Ministers has agreed to extend their interim role. Wayne Nitzsche will continue through September in his role as interim LEADership Minister, working with Alpha, Bally and Taftsville congregations. The other two interim LEADership Ministers, Emily Ralph Servant and Randy Heacock, have agreed to stay on as contracted LEADership Ministers. Emily concludes her work as Interim Director of Congregational Equipping and Resourcing this month, but will continue to serve as a LEADership Minister with Ambler, West Philly, Plains, Methacton, Perkasie and Spring Mount congregations. Randy will continue working with Wellspring, Towamencin and Rocky Ridge congregations.
July 1 brought two new faces to the Conference office. As previously announced, Mary Nitzsche began as Associate Executive Minister. Her area of focus will include the ministerial committee, work with retired pastors, women pastors, interim pastors and chaplains. Mary will serve to represent the Conference in times when Steve is not available and an “executive” presence would be deemed helpful and important. Per the original announcement, Executive Minister Steve Kriss wrote, “Mary’s gifts will help add depth and care to our ministry and leadership team. I’ve experienced Mary as someone who genuinely exhibits the fruits of the Spirit in her life and trust that she’ll bring that fruitful presence further into our life together.”
Another new addition to the Conference office in July is Juanita Nyce, who will work as an Engagement Advisor for the Conference. Juanita will help Conference Leadership and staff look at how to develop connections with their constituency and beyond that help to extend the Conference vision and mission together. Juanita is part of Salford congregation and previously worked at Rockhill Mennonite Community.
Franconia Conference is a blessing to have so many gifted and talented children of God to work together spreading God’s love and light in the world.
There is much work that is done within the Conference and each person, committee, taskforce, congregations and Conference Related Ministry plays a role in that work. On April 13, Franconia Conference announced that Mary Nitzsche’s role in the work of the Conference would be changing as she joins Conference Staff, stepping down from the Chair of the Ministerial Committee and her role as a pastor at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church. While Blooming Glen enters a process of discernment to fill the role left by Mary, so too the Conference has been discerning who God might be calling to fill the role of Chair of the Ministerial Committee.
The Chair of the Ministerial Committee also would serve on the Franconia Conference Board and oversee the Credentialing Committee which conducts interviews of credentialing candidates. This is a large role, as the Ministerial Committee is responsible for overall policies related to the calling, credentialing, training, and disciplining of those persons being credentialed by the Conference, along with the granting of ministerial credentials in keeping with A Mennonite Polity for Ministerial Leadership.
Through much discernment the Board invited current Ministerial Committee member Ken Burkholder to serve as interim Chair of the Ministerial Committee. According to the Conference bylaws, this is a role that is to be appointed by the delegate assembly which does not meet until November 4. In order to ensure that the work of the Conference can continue, the Board agreed that Ken would be able to easily step into the role of chair and would be a good fit for the position long term.
Conference Moderator John Goshow stated, “Ken’s six years of experience serving on the Conference’s Ministerial Committee makes him uniquely qualified to fill the role of chair for this important committee.”
Ken’s name will be presented to the delegates at the Fall 2017 Assembly for the role of Ministerial Committee Chair and subsequently a member of the Conference Board.
Ken was originally appointed by the Conference Delegate Assembly to the Ministerial Committee in 2011. He attended Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS) and received his Masters in Divinity in 2005 after working in the business world for 11½ years. Since his graduation from EMS he has been serving as lead pastor at Deep Run East Mennonite Church. He and his wife Karen (Frankenfield) Burkholder have two children – Alyssa (20) and Justin (17), a recent graduate of Dock Academy.
Executive Minister, Steve Kriss, says, “Ken brings pastoral and professional experience that offers significant wisdom and insight to lead the important work of the ministerial committee. He will be a valuable board member as well helping to represent the current needs and possibilities of our Conference’s credentialed leaders. I’m grateful for his willingness to accept this position and responsibility in this time of transition to help offer stability and strength to our ongoing work together.”
When asked about his new role as interim chair Ken stated, “It’s an honor and privilege to respond to this call – serving God, and the church, as interim chair. I look forward to continuing to work with a terrific team of people on the Ministerial Committee, as we, together, give leadership to the credentialing of persons across Franconia Mennonite Conference.”
In his spare time, Ken enjoys being with family, cheering for the Phillies, reading, and running.
Franconia Mennonite Conference Delegates voted at the 1987 Assembly to allow congregations to request credentialing for female leaders. That vote led to two women entering the credentialing process. One of those women would not be ordained for another 29 years. The other, Marty Kolb Wykoff, was credentialed in 1988, at which time she was serving at Taftsville Chapel Mennonite Fellowship. Since Marty’s credentialing, Franconia Mennonite Conference has credentialed numerous women. Currently, 30% of Franconia Conference active credentialed leaders are women. In 2015, Franconia Conference credentialed their first woman of color, Leticia Cortes. Still, within Franconia Conference there is only one instance where a woman serves as lead pastor with an associate she oversees. All other credentialed women in the conference who hold pastoral roles are either solo pastors or associates. While women receive the call from God to ministry, they still face many earthly obstacles. With all of this in mind, it led some to question what the credentialing process is like for women and how they remain resilient in ministry when some still object to them being in ministry.
In the summer of 2016, with the blessing of the Conference Ministerial Committee, then-Director of Leadership Cultivation, Steve Kriss, invited Anne Kaufman Weaver to interview 11 active female credentialed leaders within Franconia Conference. The purpose was to look at women’s pastoral resiliency. This was an extension of research Anne began in Atlantic Coast and Lancaster Conferences. While co-teaching a course at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Anne discovered a book regarding pastoral resiliency that only voiced male pastors. This made her wonder, what resiliency looks like for female pastors and ultimately lead to her research.
On, April 25, 30 people from around Franconia Conference – 14 men and 16 women – met at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church to hear Anne report from her Women’s Pastoral Resiliency research in Franconia Conference. There were six themes that emerged from her research regarding important elements to women’s pastoral resiliency: 1) spiritual formation, 2) self-care, 3) emotional intelligence, 4) cultural intelligence, 5) family and relationships, and 6) leadership. Anne’s questions to the women she interviewed focused on their calling, the credentialing process, areas of self-care, resources, obstacles, and what the conference and seminaries should know.
Throughout the morning , Anne discussed key points in the areas of credentialing, calling, self-care, and obstacles. Credentialed women from the Conference also shared some of their experiences.
Kris Anne Swartley, Minister for the Missional Journey at Doylestown Mennonite Church, shared about her experience in the credentialing process, where licensing was fine for the congregation, but when it came time for ordination, the congregation was reluctant. She spoke of the need to separate her personal process from that of the congregation, the importance of open communication with the congregational leadership, and the chance to share one-on-one and in small groups about her call story.
Mary Nitzsche, Pastor of Pastoral Care and Spiritual Formation at Blooming Glen, shared about her calling experience. She spoke of the way others seemed to recognize a calling in her before she did, even though she would play the “preacher” to all her dolls when she was four years old. She shared about wrestling with the call as it came when she was married with children. How would stepping into her call impact her family?
Speaking about self-care was Sandy Drescher-Lehman, Pastor at Methacton Mennonite Church. She spoke of the support of her husband, and being renewed in nature. Anne’s research shows that exercise and relaxation was key to the women interviewed, along with opportunities to meet with other women in ministry, engage in hobbies, and spend time with family and friends.
The morning ended with Anne sharing some of the obstacles faced by women in ministry, including patronizing language and stereotypes, being expected to take minutes or help in the kitchen. Even the size of the pulpit, having to stand on a stool to see over it, and the constant thought of appropriate clothing that accommodates a clip-on microphone can be obstacles. A challenge Franconia Conference is specifically seeing is that it takes women longer to move through the credentialing process than their male counterparts. Younger women don’t seem to be named to conference-wide positions as often as younger men. Congregations in Franconia Conference still differ on their interpretation of the Confession of Faith; there is a zeal to uphold the article regarding sexuality, but not the same zeal to uphold the article on credentialing women.
The Franconia Conference Ministerial Committee, Conference Board and staff have read and discussed Anne’s research and are working to implement ways to better support women in ministry. The congregations in Franconia Conference are also taking steps to examine this topic. Last fall, Franconia Mennonite Church held a series of discussions and studies on women in ministry. Franconia Conference continues to work to support all those who are a part of the Body of Christ. In the 30 years since affirming women in ministry, the Conference has come a great distance, yet there is still a long way to go.
Read Women’s Pastoral Resiliency Research by Anne Kauffman Weaver here.
Hear the Podcast of Anne’s presentation at Blooming Glen here.