Tag Archives: MCC

Sparking Joy by Letting Go

by Emily Ralph Servant, Leadership Minister & Interim Director of Communications 

(originally published in The Mennonite)

“Hold each item, one by one,” Marie Kondo instructs families on her Netflix show. Then she says, “Only keep what sparks joy for you.” Everything else can be thanked and let go.

Sparks joy. That concept resonates for me as I have sought to live a whole and abundant life. Yet it’s an idea fraught with danger in a culture that equates happiness with indulgence.

Kondo’s method strikes a chord in me as she practices mindfulness and gratitude. I appreciate the way she gently encourages families to confront their overabundance and to do the hard work of letting go of anything that isn’t life-giving for them.

This technique alone may not be enough to transform American culture, however. I’ve heard stories of people who found the KonMari method life-changing when her book showed up on U.S. bookshelves in 2014 but who discovered that their tidy spaces had already refilled in the years that followed.

Perhaps the act of letting go doesn’t spark enough joy to keep us from accumulating more.

Kondo suggests that most people need practice to recognize what joy feels like. Christian mystics have long agreed that cultivating our awareness of joy can be a spiritual practice, one that draws us closer to the Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Letting go sparks joy for me because it connects to a deeper sense of purpose. God’s dream for our world is that everyone have enough, yet many of us consume more than our fair share of the world’s resources. What would happen if we took Jesus’ teachings seriously, if we truly lived what we say we believe, if we allowed love to drive us to radical, countercultural choices?

Ryan Servant breaks down an old piano. The family plans to repurpose it outside as a flower planter. Photo provided by author.

For my family, this has led to a journey of mindfulness: finding ways to reduce our waste by limiting what we purchase, avoiding packaging when possible, composting, recycling and reusing; prioritizing second-hand purchases, welcoming hand-me-downs and participating in the “gift economy” through local Buy Nothing groups; choosing to live well within our means in a small house; tapping into our creativity by “upcycling” what we have into what we need; and cultivating a lifestyle that wonders if we can do “more with less.”

And yes, this journey has included simplifying what we own and letting go of things that, a few years ago, we never thought we could release. We’ve found that letting go has grown easier as our motivation has emerged: to make space in our home to expand our family through foster care and adoption. Love for the children we have yet to meet overpowers our sense of loss; we have so much to gain by letting go.

Love motivates and sustains me on this journey. Love for the hurting children in our city and for the children of the world. God’s love compels me to care about how my choices affect the poor, the disenfranchised, the oppressed. We live in an interconnected world where our choices matter.

At the same time, I know our ability to choose is a sign of our privilege. We choose to do more with less. We choose to live in a small house. We choose to buy second-hand items. We can also choose to purchase sustainable products and shop at bulk-food stores. We have an overabundance to give away. We aren’t forced into these choices; we have the privilege of a middle-class income, reliable transportation and free time for hobbies, and we benefit from systems that advantage us at the expense of others.

Letting go also means accepting our responsibility to use our privilege to advocate for and alongside others who don’t have access to those choices. It means allocating part of our grocery budget to bring produce to food deserts in our city. It means advocating for the right to repair and for clean-energy incentives. It means working for safe and walkable neighborhoods. It means opening our home to a child who needs a safe, stable and loving family.

This journey is a long one, and it’s one I’m just beginning. It has led me to let go of my need for speed and embrace patience, to let go of my selfishness and learn kindness and generosity, to let go of my impulsiveness as I practice self-control. It’s a struggle, and I don’t always make good choices. But God’s Spirit is present, shaping me into the image of Jesus, who showed humanity how to let go for the sake of love (Philippians 2).

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a little Marie Kondo on Netflix—I certainly do—but we are called to something more than tidy houses. God’s Spirit is inviting us to commit to our neighborhoods and our world, letting go and embracing so that we love deeply and work for justice.

Only then will we truly spark joy.

If Marie Kondo has inspired you to tidy up this spring, consider these tips from Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) … CLICK HERE!

Letting Go Ethically

The Care and Share Shoppes in the Souderton Shopping Center are a part of the Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Shop Network.

If Marie Kondo has inspired you to tidy up this spring, consider these tips from Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), which runs a network of thrift shops across the United States and Canada, including the Care and Share Thrift Shoppes, a Franconia Conference Related Ministry.

  1. Do your research. Ask your local thrift shop what items they accept before donating them. Some thrift shops don’t have the resources to accept furniture or electronics. Others may have an “upcycling corner” where they’ll accept items that are broken or missing pieces (like a puzzle or board game).
  2. Clean your items before donating. Many thrift shops, especially those who depend on volunteers, don’t have the resources to clean or repair items. When your items are clean, they have a greater chance of being sold and avoiding the dumpster.
  3. Don’t donate broken items or old TVs. Unless a thrift shop tells you differently, assume they don’t have the resources to repair broken appliances or electronics—and it could cost them more money to responsibly dispose of them. Instead, look for recycling programs through your city, energy provider or local box stores.
  4. Be thoughtful. Would you give the item you want to donate to a friend or family member? If not, perhaps you need to think about a different way to reuse or recycle it.
  5. Buy second-hand items as much as possible. While thrift shops are grateful for your donations, repeatedly buying and donating new clothes (“fast fashion”) does more harm than good. Thrift shops are often overwhelmed by donations of women’s clothing but are more likely to need men’s and children’s clothing.
  6. Consider volunteering. MCC’s thrift shops are more likely to have the time and skills needed to ethically dispose of and recycle unsellable items if they have a strong volunteer base.
Volunteers receive donations at the Care and Shoppes.

MCC’s network of thrift stops are all working to handle donations responsibly, with concerted efforts to reduce waste and care for the environment. Most of the proceeds from the shops go to MCC’s “Most-Needed Fund,” which supports humanitarian efforts in local communities and around the globe, including relief and development, peacemaking, education, prison ministry and immigration advocacy. To see what’s happening at your local thrift shop, visit https://thrift.mcc.org/.

The Care and Share Shoppes are open for business, as well as for donating, Monday through Saturday — learn more at careandshareshoppes.org.  They also have a variety of volunteer opportunities.  Contact Suzanne Kratz (skratz@careandshareshoppes.org), Volunteer Manager, to learn more about becoming a part of the team!

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.

Partnership with MCC builds diverse leadership

by Lora Steiner, managing editor

Mikah
Mikah Ochieng was a Summer Service Worker this year at Philadelphia Praise Center.

When people think “urban,” chances are pretty good that Doylestown, Pennsylvania is not a place that comes to mind. Thirty years ago, it was a traditional farming community; now, it’s a well-off, artsy, suburban Philadelphia town. And yet, one congregation, Doylestown Mennonite, is incorporating a program traditionally geared towards urban congregations—the Mennonite Central Committee Summer Service Worker Program—to also reach out to a radically-changed surrounding community.

For the Doylestown congregation, having an MCC summer service worker is one of a number of initiatives they’ve begun in order to meaningfully connect with people in the community, moves that have at times felt stretching, and even risky. Over the last several years, says Pastor Randy Heacock, the church has opened its doors to various local initiatives, including a community garden and a peace camp, taking place this month. Derrick Garrido, who attends Doylestown Mennonite and is a student at Cairn University, spent the summer connecting with artists in the community, working to create space for artistic expression within the community and connect with those who might not have a faith community.

MCC started the summer service program in the ’80s, with the same focus it has today: To work in urban areas and provide employment and leadership opportunities to people of color. The goal, says program coordinator Danilo Sanchez (Whitehall congregation), is to allow people opportunities to stay in their home communities and churches and make a difference where they’re living now. Participants must be a person of color between the ages of 18 and 30, preferably enrolled in a university or college, and be connected with a constituent church of MCC, such as Mennonite Church USA or Brethren in Christ members. Some participants come through Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite colleges. Generally, a congregation submits a proposal first, and regional MCC coordinators review the application. If it is approved, applicants are then invited to apply to the MCC U.S. program. In the past, both Franconia and Lancaster Mennonite conferences have contributed financial support, and a number of congregations, such as Philadelphia Praise Center, have had someone in the program for the last several years.

This year, Mikah Ochieng worked at Philadelphia Praise Center, under the supervision of pastor Aldo Siahaan. Ochieng says he’s grateful for the opportunity to have been both a learner and a teacher in a community that has been so hospitable to him, and the one he calls home. When asked about challenges, Ochieng said that of course there had been obstacles, such as a small number of volunteers, but his experience has been that “what we lack in such resources we make up in our commitment to serve one another.”

“It’s a quality-over-quantity type of thing.”

IMAG0306
Derrick Garrido kneels beside soccer camp participant Ben Swartley.

New Hope Fellowship, in Alexandria, Virginia, has also participated in MCC’s Summer Service Program for many years. This year, Alex Torres worked with the church’s kid’s club, helped a friend of the congregation with a hip hop school, and assisted the Spanish-speaking community in a variety of ways.

Torres says he’d known others from the congregation who had participated in the summer service worker program, and wanted to make an impact in his community. He says his favorite part was working with the kids, and that he wanted to show them a different, more positive route than the one that’s laid out for many children in his community.

“Where I come from, there’s always a lot of not-so-good things happening… I pay a lot of attention to the youth around here.”

Over the last seven years, summer service worker participants at New Hope have chosen different areas: One worked in a homeless shelter, in part because that’s where he lived. Others who are bilingual have helped people navigate the system.

For New Hope’s pastor, Kirk Hanger, the one of the many benefits of the program is that thepeace camp 2 young adults are from the congregation—they know the context, the congregation and the community, and when it’s done, they stay.

“We get to continue to walk with these young adults and mentor them… and experience more of the fruit of what they’ve learned and done.”

Heacock says that his congregation has worked hard to figure out what it means to be missional—both in the community with relationships that already exist, but also, as he puts it, “How do we not just preserve it for us, but also use our space to be an outpost for the kingdom?”

“If the goal is to learn what God has for us in the midst of it, I really think there’s very little failure.”

So, how does Ervin do that?

by J. Eric Bishop, Souderton

Ervin StutzmanErvin Stutzman, Executive Director for Mennonite Church USA, will be the guest speaker at this year’s assembly: God@Work, November 10 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa.  Recently, Eric Bishop, a member of Souderton congregation and teacher at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, sat down with his friend Merrill Moyer, who has worked with Ervin for a number of years on the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board, to learn more about Ervin’s life and ministry.

Executive Board Member, Merrill Moyer, says, “Ervin has an energy level that I’ve rarely seen. There are seldom two consecutive minutes in a day when he isn’t doing something productive.” Moyer notes that even though there are twenty-one conferences in Mennonite Church USA, with a total of 900 congregations, Ervin “will know what’s going on in every conference and in many congregations as well.”

The biographical summary posted on the MennoMedia website is extensive in recounting Ervin’s many accomplishments:

Ervin R. Stutzman is Executive Director for Mennonite Church USA. Before taking on this role in January 2010, he served for nearly 12 years as Dean and Professor of Church Ministries at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, VA. He has also served the Mennonite Church in the roles of pastor, district overseer, missions administrator, conference moderator and, from 2001 to 2003, as moderator for Mennonite Church USA.

Ervin graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Cincinnati (Ohio) Christian University. He holds master’s degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Eastern Mennonite Seminary. He received his Ph.D. from Temple University. His master’s thesis at Eastern Mennonite Seminary was “Biblical Interpretation in the Free Church: Appropriating Scriptural Truth Through Communal Discernment.” For his doctoral dissertation he wrote “From Nonresistance to Peace and Justice: Mennonite Peace Rhetoric, 1951-1991.”

Ervin was born a twin into an Amish home in Kalona, Iowa. After his father’s death a few years later, his mother moved the family to her home community near Hutchinson, Kan. Ervin was baptized in the Center Amish Mennonite Church near Partridge. Later, he joined the Yoder Mennonite Church.

Ervin married Bonita Haldeman of Manheim, Pa. Together they served for five years with Rosedale Mennonite Missions in Cincinnati, part of that time in voluntary service. Ervin was ordained to serve as co-pastor of Mennonite Christian Assembly. From there, the Stutzmans moved to Pennsylvania, where they were members of the Mount Joy Mennonite Church. They currently live in Harrisonburg, Va.

Ervin is a preacher, teacher and writer. His Herald Press publications include Being God’s People, a study for new believers, Creating Communities of the Kingdom (co-authored with David Shenk), Welcome!, a book encouraging the church to welcome new members, Tobias of the Amish, a story of his father’s life and community, and Emma, A Widow Among the Amish, the story of his mother. Ervin enjoys doing woodworking projects in partnership with Bonita. They have three adult children, Emma, Daniel and Benjamin.

Part of Ervin’s Life Purpose Statement reads: In response to God’s love expressed in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I purpose to follow after God with all my heart so that God may be glorified in my life at all times and in every way.

Stutzman’s approach to leadership reflects his desire to get to know the people he serves. An entrepreneur himself, Stutzman has a special respect for business leaders who are known for their organizational dynamics and their ability to provide direction for those they are charged with leading. While on his many road trips as Executive Director, he makes special efforts to meet with area business people for them to share their view of the church, and teach him about effective leadership and management.

Moyer calls Stutzman a “visionary thinker,” one who is also able to “translate that vision into something that people can understand.” Though he has offices in Elkhart, IN and in Newton, KS, Stutzman chooses to keep his residence and home office in Harrisonburg, VA, a choice that Moyer suggests helps the Executive Director to resist the “beltway mentality” that can easily form inside those two centers of Mennonite Church administration.

Having hosted Ervin in his Souderton, PA home during some of those church-business related road trips, Moyer says that Stutzman is “a humble guy who fits in well in varied surroundings,” and that he can “sit down at the table and talk all evening about his passion for Jesus and his vision for the church.”

IVEP participants enrich host families’ lives

By Emily Wil, Mennonite Central Committee

IVEP hosts
Bonnie and Dave Moyer currently are hosting Elisabeth “Lisa” Spredemann of Brazil, right, a participant in MCC’s International Volunteer Exchange Program, in their home. (Photo courtesy of Bonnie and Dave Moyer)

AKRON, Pa. – Over the years, Bonnie and Dave Moyer, Zion congregation, have provided a home away from home to four young people from around the globe. In the process, their own lives have been enriched.

The Moyers, in their mid-50s, have hosted four young people, two from Indonesia and one each from Brazil and France. The three women and one man lived with the Moyers at different times as part of Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP).

“Each is as different from the other as night and day, but each is special,” Bonnie said. “They are strong in their personal faith and courageous to leave everything they know and come here.”

Now in its 62nd year, IVEP provides cross cultural experience to Christian youth, many but not all from Anabaptist congregations from around the world, said Andrea Geiser, coordinator of the IVEP U.S. program. In July, 53 young people will finish a year of IVEP service in Canada and the United States.

A new group will arrive in early August, and openings for hosts in Canada and the U.S. are still available.

“This is a chance for us to show hospitality to a brother or sister in Christ,” Geiser said. “Part of the program is to live with a local host family to learn the local culture and connect with a community. It does take extra time to host an IVEP participant, but hosts say again and again how their lives are enriched, their children learn and they have a very positive experience.”

The Moyers believe many people deny themselves the joys of hosting IVEP participants because they harbor unrealistic perceptions of what’s involved. The Moyers themselves worried whether they could fill the role.

“We wondered if we could do it without child-raising experience of our own, and we thought we were too boring for the younger set,” Bonnie said. What’s more, they each work more than 40 hours a week.

However, the couple is committed to international understanding. Bonnie manages a Ten Thousand Villages store in Souderton, which sells fairly traded crafts from around the world, and Dave served with MCC in Belgium from 1978 to 1980.

In 2005, a sponsor contacted Bonnie directly with an urgent need for someone to host an IVEP participant. She and Dave made a quick decision to participate as hosts, and they have never looked back. Dave said his concern about keeping an IVEP participant engaged and active was unfounded because the young people also become involved in their workplaces and congregations.

The Moyers adopt a low-key approach – giving their guests some individual living space while including them in family meals and as many or as few of their activities as each desires.

“They are young adults, not children. They have a purpose in being here and a job to go to. Their brains are tired at the end of the day, and they need some space,” Bonnie said.

However, Dave was thrilled when Edwin Hindom, who is from Papua, Indonesia, took a lively interest in his activities.

“He always wanted to be at my side and was fascinated by tools and machinery,” Dave said. “Edwin liked yard work and really enjoyed helping me with anything that involved the chipper/shredder especially, but also the lawn mower, weed whacker, power saw, cordless drill and snow blower.”

Food is one area where the Moyers try to accommodate their guests’ personal preferences. “You can make someone feel at home if you give them something familiar to eat,” Bonnie said.

Bonnie plans frequent meals with pasta for their current IVEP guest, Elisabeth “Lisa” Spredemann from Brazil, who says she could eat it every day. They found hot sauce for Nur Ninda Natalia “Lia” from Java, Indonesia, and for French woman Lucille Toilliez, who loved crepes, Bonnie would make a batch and freeze them so that Toilliez could help herself each morning.

Spredemann said her biggest worry coming into the program was whether her limited English would hamper her efforts to do a good job at her assignment as a recreational activities assistant at two retirement homes.

This is a common worry, Bonnie said, but she thinks IVEP participants are too hard on themselves. Host families help their guests build confidence with simple reassurance that they’re doing their jobs well and that their English is understandable and improving.

To learn more about the IVEP program, visit ivep.mcc.org.

Franconia Conference empowers young adult leaders through summer ministry initiatives

Benjamin Sutter, Franconia Conference Communication Intern, benjamins5@goshen.edu

Franconia Conference’s vision is to equip leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission. This summer ten young adults, pastors and congregations embodied the Franconia Conference vision of equipping leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission as part of the conference’s ongoing leadership cultivation initiatives. This summer partnerships extended with partners in mission, Philadelphia congregations, Mennonite Central Committee, Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College—all for the sake of carrying the good news through a new generation and context.

Photo by Aldo Siahaan
Adrian Suryajaya rediscovered patience as he worked with children this summer. Photo by Aldo Siahaan

Adrian Suryajaya served through Mennonite Central Committee’s summer service worker program. He worked with his home congregation Philadelphia Praise Center and plans to attend Eastern University as a first year student this fall.

“I enjoyed working with the children and my pastor (Aldo Siahaan) during the summer,” said Suryajaya. “I rediscovered the value of patience, flexibility, and humility . . . to seek God’s counsel when I’m in tough situations.”

Suryajaya organized various church events including a free music concert, a block party, and a summer peace program for children.

The hardest thing I had to do during the summer was to come up with the Peace Program planning,” Suryajaya said. “Once the blueprint was set, it was easy to do the program.”

For now, Suryajaya will continue his education at Eastern and work towards becoming a physician. “The things that I’ve learned during my internship definitely will help me get through the process of becoming a medical doctor,” he said. “For instance, I have to be patient about how long it will take to get my degree and I know that God will always be on my side in any situation.”

Brendon Derstine

Brendon Derstine wanted a taste of every part of ministry while working with his home congregation, Franconia Mennonite Church, in Telford, Pa, this summer.

I have been joining in a variety of ministries including worship leading, preaching twice this summer, teaching Sunday Schools, . . . visitation, going to church meetings, delegating at Pittsburgh, and helping out in other ministries as well,” said Derstine, who will be a senior at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), Harrisonburg, Va. this fall. “My focus has been intentionally broad so that I could get a big picture of the life of the congregation.”

Over the summer, Derstine connected with the role model of Moses as a leader.

I liken the pastoral vocation to the character of Moses leading the Israelites throughout the desert wilderness in the Exodus story,” he said. “Like Moses, pastors lead us throughout our lives—we call on them in times of need and harp on them when things don’t go our way. They walk with congregants in the best of times and the worst of times and they are expected to be everything to everyone.”

Moses understood that even though he was a leader, he was human, Derstine said. “High standards are good, but we must remember that pastors are only human, too,” he added. “They lead us toward the Promised Land, but ultimately, they don’t go make that decision for us to follow God—we make it. They remain on the east side of the Jordan.”

For Derstine, serving in his home congregation has been a blessing. “One of the greatest rewards of my time here at Franconia has been reconnecting with my home congregation after being away at school for 3 years. Ministry is a lot about relationships and connecting people to the ways God is already working in their lives.”

Ministry is a constant up and down, according to Derstine, “An ever-changing mix of emotions. It can be messy, but let’s face it, life is messy. And yet in its messiness, God is ever present.”

Derstine will finish his studies to be a sixth to twelfth grade teacher next spring. “I don’t see education and church ministry as that different from each other,” he said. “Whether I teach in a school, or follow God’s call in another direction, I believe that this internship has allowed me to practice teaching and caring for people in a variety of ways—two important components in both church ministry and education.”

Erica Grasse speaks at Blooming Glen congregation on a Sunday morning. Photo by Kreg Ulery

Erica Grasse, a junior at Goshen College, Goshen, Ind., also worked with her home congregation, Blooming Glen (Pa.) Mennonite Church, this summer.

Grasse echoed Derstine’s joys of rediscovering relationships, saying that what she enjoyed most about working at Blooming Glen was returning to her home congregation and reestablishing relationships and coming to appreciate her roots.

I have been getting opportunities to teach and work with the youth,” she said. “To sit in on various leadership meetings, to see perspectives of layperson ministry; and to look at strengthening the young adult program to better match the needs and resources of the church and community.”

While she enjoyed her summer, she said she recognized the needs of pastors to enjoy themselves as they work. “Pastors are out to have a good time, too,” she said. “The work of ministry is a tiring and daunting task, but sharing humor and food are two ways to keep sane.”

At Blooming Glen, Grasse says she comes away from the program with less certainty about a future occupation. “This internship has confused me even more,” she said. “As someone who is studying biology, environmental science, policy and economics, I have been challenged to see the pursuit of ministry work as a complementary component to my vocational interests. Yet, I have come to realize that my future may consist of things I cannot currently imagine myself doing.”

Grace Parker and Monica Solis interned at New Hope Fellowship in Alexandria, Va. Photo by Grace Parker

Seven other interns also spent their summer working through Franconia Conference contexts:

  • Monica Solis, a student at Northern Virginia Community College, served at New Hope Fellowship in Alexandria, Va. with Grace Parker, a junior at Goshen College.
  • Patrick Ressler, from Goshen, served at Germantown Mennonite Church, Philadelphia, through a partnership for supervision from Franconia Conference.
  • Jamie Hiner, senior, and Bianca Lani Prunes, sophomore, from EMU served with the Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association in Philadelphia.
  • Ben Sutter, a junior from Goshen, served with Steve Kriss on the communication team of Franconia Conference.
  • Joanne Gallardo, EMU Associate Campus Pastor, spent her summer doing a residency at Deep Run Mennonite Church East in Perkasie, Pa.

Philly Churches plan festival to benefit MCC

Ken Beidler, West Philadelphia, kenbeidler@yahoo.com

Philadelphia Anabaptist churches are planning the first ever Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Benefit Festival in Philadelphia. This inaugural event is scheduled for Saturday, October 29, 2011, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship, 4740 Baltimore Avenue, Philadelphia, PA19143.

Like other MCC Relief Sales, the Philly event will feature an auction, international food booths and children’s activities. With MCC East Coast offices headquartered inPhiladelphia, it made sense for there to be a relief sale in the city. Grant Rissler, MCC Financial Resource Development Coordinator, says, “Many relief sales take place at fairgrounds that have a rural feel. . . It’s exciting to see this Festival in Philadelphia working to innovate in the urban setting. That type of innovation is really one of the growing edges that will keep support for MCC strong and growing into newer generations.”

In addition to supporting MCC’s programs around the world, half of proceeds of the sale will benefit MCC Philadelphia’s work with prison ministry, alternatives to youth violence, gun violence prevention and a low-income housing ministry.

Fred Kauffman, MCC East Coast program coordinator, says, “The MCC Benefit Festival promises to be an occasion where the Philly churches can work together and bring the diversity of our gifts and cultures into the process. We look forward to connecting with neighbors, MCC supporters, churches outside of Philly, and with each other to create a public witness for Christ and the kingdom which he proclaimed.”

For more information about the festival or to coordinate donating an item for the auction, visit eastcoast.mcc.org/phillyfestival, e-mail PhillyBenefitFestival@gmail.com or call (215) 535-3624.

A variety of ethnic foods will be available at the MCC Benefit Festival in Philadelphia. Photo by Anna Ralph

East Coast Activity Center Workshop

Ron Smucker, October 24, 2010

The annual meeting of the MCC East Coast Material Resource Centers was hosted at the new facility of the Material Resource Center at Souderton on September 30 and October 1, The purpose of the workshop is to inform, inspire and challenge centers in their ongoing missions. Participants from the local center were joined by representatives from Cumberland Valley Relief Center, Puerto Rico, Buena Vista Sewing Center, Ephrata and Philadelphia Urban Presence.The program was opened with greetings from one of the co-founders of the MCC Material Resource Center of Harleysville, Norman Good. Following a devotional period, a tour of the new facility was conducted by Sharon Swartzentruber, Coordinator for the center.Participants were reminded of the global ministry and impact of MCC through presentations by MCC workers who have served in various places. Highlights included presentations by Daryl Yoder-Bontrager, Darrin Yoder, Ken Sensenig and Larry Guengerich. An historical perspective of the 70 year partnership of the Brethern in Christ Church and MCC was given by Curtis Book. A sense of the Urban Presence in Philadelphia was shared by Fred Kauffman.After sharing dinner together at a local restaurant, several members presented some MCC stories at the Souderton Mennonite Home.Friday included devotional time by Paul Godshall who summarized MCC work involvement in Indonesia. All of the centers were invited to share some news of interest along with their challenges. Lunch for both days was provided by local volunteers and overnight out of town visitors were hosted in homes in the community. Participants were inspired and affirmed as they left to return to their own mission.

An Open Pastoral Letter to Anabaptist Churches

An Open Pastoral Letter to Anabaptist Churches
from Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

In response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, many members of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ congregations reached out to Muslims in their communities to support and encourage them. In the face of ever-increasing anti-Islam sentiment, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S. urges congregations to redouble those efforts.

MCC U.S. also calls on the Florida church that has stated its intent to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of the attacks to abandon the plan and instead embrace Christ’s love for all.

Anabaptist history provides a sobering reminder of the need to respect those with a different faith. During the 1500s in Europe, religious and political leaders persecuted Anabaptist believers, with thousands facing violence or death as a result of their beliefs. Because of this history, Anabaptists around the world have long advocated for freedom of religious expression for people of all faiths.

In the twentieth century, some Anabaptist communities in Canada and the U.S. again were subject to stereotyping during the first and second World Wars, as a result of their German heritage. Experiences such as these should reinforce for all Christians, and especially Anabaptists, the dangers of assumptions and stereotypes about one’s beliefs.

Christians should take instead the example of Jesus, who reached out in love and respect to all who drew near to him. He recognized the human dignity and worth in every person, as created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). He challenged his followers to extend compassion without reservation (Matthew 22:34-40; 1 John 4:7-21).

MCC’s work around the world, including in predominantly Muslim countries, has shown us the importance of interfaith bridge-building. MCC is committed to continuing and strengthening this work in international contexts but encourages Anabaptists in the United States to also find ways to build these bridges in their own communities.

The Bible tells us to extend hospitality (Hebrews 13:1-2; 1 Peter 4:8-10). Sharing in meals and conversation can be a radical act, and a powerful counteraction to violence. Let us follow Jesus by showing hospitality to neighbors near and far.