Tag Archives: Mike Ford

Riding for a Better Future

by Mike Ford, Blooming Glen congregation, with Rabbi Nathan Martin

In May 2019, a unique group of bicycle riders will ride from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. on behalf of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light (PA IPL), a statewide organization dedicated to helping faith communities bring a moral voice to climate change.

There will be a mix of Quaker, Mennonite, Jewish, and nonreligious participants, riding together to promote an awareness of climate change issues and environmental stewardship. In D.C., we’ll join with a group of riders from State College and spend a day on Capitol Hill, meeting with congressional delegations to share our concerns about the need to keep environmental sustainability as a central value in their legislative work.

Mike (3rd from L.), John (4th from L.) and Ben (far R.) and their host family in Newark, DE during the 2018 ride.

Having done the ride in 2018 alongside Mennonite pastors John Stoltzfus and Ben Wideman, I found it a wonderfully educational experience. Each day along the way we met with faith communities to hear their stories of how they were working to make their communities and cities more sustainable. A Presbyterian congregation in Maryland was eager to share how they became certified as an “earth care” congregation by the Presbyterian Church USA movement; a synagogue in Baltimore shared how they are becoming a neighborhood organizing hub for community activities and urban renewal, including environmental advocacy.

Fixing a flat

I love discovering things and making new friends while on a bicycle. Riding mile after mile alongside two Jewish rabbis, we learned about each other’s faith traditions, finding many common traits such as valuing peace and justice. We were hosted by church/synagogue folks along the route and enjoyed delicious food and gracious hospitality. We met pockets of passionate environmental stewardship folks along the way, all motivated to care for the earth by different faith traditions.

It was also stimulating to meet with legislative representatives and advocate for policy to help care for the earth as the future home for my children and grandchildren. I look forward to our May 2019 adventure/advocacy trip and encourage you to follow along through the PA IPL website.

Donate online or mail donations in support of the 2019 Bike Ride to: PA Interfaith Power & Light, 210 W. Hamilton Ave. #295, State College, PA 16801.

Journeying In Faith

By Steve Kriss, Executive Minister, and Mary Nitzsche, Associate Executive Minister

Brent, Danilo and Mike

As Conference Youth Minister John Stoltzfus completed six years in that role with Franconia Conference in July, he stated, “As a conference we need to continue to ask the question of how we are passing on the faith and work of the church to the next generation. How are we doing as a church in modeling a self-giving faith centered in Jesus Christ? We will need to place our trust and hope in a revealing God who has been faithful for many generations. We trust that the same Spirit that is at work in our lives will continue to live and move in our children and the next generation of the gathered body of Christ.”

The reality of congregational and conference youth ministry is changing. Conference has been aware of this. Two years ago the Board invited a taskforce to review how conference equips youth ministers, leaders and the youth. John was a part of this process. The task force results and recommendations should be available in the next months.

In August, John and his wife Paula relocated to Harrisonburg, VA where Paula began a pastoral role at Park View Mennonite Church.  Before leaving, John helped to develop an interim plan for continuing Conference youth ministry. Recognizing that youth ministry requires the work of many, three youth pastors have volunteered to serve in the following roles for the next school year: Brent Camilleri, associate pastor of Deep Run East, is assuming leadership for facilitating the ongoing monthly youth pastor gathering; Mike Ford, pastor of youth at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church, is coordinating the Spring Junior High Late Night Blast; Danilo Sanchez, associate pastor of Whitehall and co-pastor of Ripple, will continue to serve on Mennonite Church USA Youth Ministry Council and be a liaison to the denomination.

Conference is grateful for the willingness and readiness of Danilo, Mike and Brent, who bring long histories of service and leadership in our Conference to carry extra responsibilities over the next months ensuring our youth and their leaders continue to be supported and equipped. This interim arrangement gives Conference time to continue the review process and discernment before making any long-term decisions regarding Conference youth ministry.  We value your prayers for continued discernment in next steps as we together imagine Conference-wide youth ministry into the future that is rooted in our shared Anabaptist values and carries out our shared priorities of (trans)formation that is both missional and intercultural in the way of Christ’s peace.

An Interfaith Creation Care Journey

by Mike Ford, Associate Pastor of Youth, Blooming Glen Mennonite Church

Philly group send-off

This past month, PA Interfaith Power and Light (PA IPL) organized two groups totaling 18 bicyclists to ride from Philadelphia and State College, PA to Washington, DC. Our cause was to gather as an interfaith group to travel to our nation’s capital to meet with our legislators, to make a moral case for long term environmental care and clean energy legislation.  Riding bikes helped create relationships within the diverse groups, as well as demonstrate to our legislators our commitment to care for the environment in our travel.  Three pastors with ties to Franconia Mennonite Conference participated in Philadelphia to DC ride, including myself, Mike Ford from Blooming Glenn Mennonite, Conference Youth Minister John Stoltzfus, and former Associate Pastor at Salford, now Campus Pastor at 3rd Way Collective at Penn State, Ben Wideman.

Philly group in DC

Ben, who rode in the past with the State College group, initiated this riding group from eastern Pennsylvania.  In addition to the three Mennonite pastors, our Philadelphia group consisted of two Jewish rabbis and a SAG (Support and Gear) wagon driven by a Unitarian Universalist minister.  Sharing with each other about our faith traditions was fascinating and enlightening.  Daily discussion and daybreak rituals mixed Christian prayer, poetry, Jewish blessings, song, scripture, and the blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn).  Particularly with our Jewish friends, we found an amazing amount of commonality in the history of our people and their persecution and migration around the world. 

Fixing a flat

Rabbi Nathan Martin summed up the trip well in commenting, “It just seemed to me like a really powerful statement, to bring different people of faith together to do something positive by getting on their bikes, by connecting with faith communities along the way and then bringing their voice to the halls of Congress and making their concerns known about climate change.”

People from various faith communities supported us along the way.  Lodging, meals, and hospitality were provided by a UCC minister’s family, a Presbyterian church, the House of Peace (Baltimore), a Jewish synagogue, and an elderly Quaker couple.  Part of the purpose of our ride was to fundraise to support the work of PA IPL, and over $15,000 was donated.

Meeting with Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick

The ride took us from the oil refineries of South Philadelphia to beautiful countryside, challenging hills, and busy city streets.  The State College crew rode 200 miles over 5 days, while the Philadelphia contingent tallied 180 miles in 3 days.  Our final day was spent off the bikes on Capitol Hill, meeting with Pennsylvania Senators and Representatives to encourage them to work on bipartisan efforts and existing bills that take a long term look at creation care and stewardship through greater support for renewable, clean energy sources.

The trip stirred in all of us a deeper desire to inspire and educate others to heed God’s directive to be good stewards of our common home.  You can read more about the trip here.

Every Ordination is Miraculous

By Steve Kriss, Director of Leadership Cultivation & Congregational Resourcing

oil lamp 9-24-15
To order a Dancing Flame Oil Lamp handcrafted by June Keener Wink please call 413-258-4243 or e-mail junewink@gmail.com.

The year 2015 has been a year of ordinations in Franconia Conference.   We’ve been celebrating and marking commitments and calling nearly every six weeks . . . Mike Ford at Blooming Glen, Joe Hackman at Salford, Donna Merow at Ambler, Angela Moyer at Ripple, Kris Wint at Finland, Josh Meyer at Franconia, Samantha Lioi at Whitehall and Ubaldo Rodriguez at New Hope Fellowship in Baltimore for mission work in the Philippines.

Ordination is an ancient process of setting apart leaders for public ministry in the way of Jesus.  Within Franconia Conference, we follow a set of procedures that seek to honor both the individual and the community while respecting the work of the Spirit within both settings.  There is coursework for completion, interviews, paperwork that intends to keep our communities both safe and accountable, mental wellness assessments, varieties of continuing education and varying levels of mentoring.   Some of our pastors breeze through the process at a steady and assured pace in the two year minimum waiting and working period of licensing.   Others take much longer to plumb the depths of call both personally and communally and to wrestle it out.   Personal disclosure, it took me six years of working, waiting and wondering in Allegheny Conference before I could wrap my head around the commitments and calling that ordination entails.

We take this process seriously yet the days of ordination have a more celebratory tone. There are few times in our lives when we make commitments that will shape our life like ordination.  In front of a gathered congregation at the request and affirmation of a particular Christian community, we make commitments to serve, lead, pray, study, turn from evil and live into the role of Christian leadership as long as God sustains.

Many of us wrestle with the meaning of ordination.   I’ve found this human and historic process of calling, recognizing, working and wrestling and receiving becomes quite holy.   Somewhere in the wrestling and symbols, the questions and the mundane of the paperwork, the Spirit unfailingly shows up.

In this flurry of ordinations in the midst of a turbulent time, I am confident that the Spirit is still at work with us, trying to bring life.   Each person who says yes to the invitation of God and the community strengthens the possibilities of future “yes” responses into the next generation.   This round of ordinations represents our first millennial generation ordained ministers, our first Italian American woman, our first ordination for mission work in the Philippines.  We’ve called at some of our most historic congregations and our newest.  The churches are rural, suburban and urban.  We’re recognizing the sons and daughters of historic Franconia Conference families, as well as persons who were drawn to Mennonite congregations by conviction, relationships and call.  We’ve held events in Episcopal and Lutheran facilities and even at a Lancaster Conference church in Baltimore.  (Interesting side note, a Lancaster Conference African congregation recently used the Towamencin meetinghouse for an ordination worship).

It’s definitely a different time.   The ordination process isn’t what it used to be.  There’s no somber ceremony with Bibles or hymnals and a slip of paper as in Mennonite history.   But the holy moments remain, those wonderful spaces where community and Spirit commingle to cultivate surprising invitations toward ordination and wonderfully amazing continued responses of “yes I am willing.”   Every time we ordain, it’s a sign that the church will go on.   And in these days of turbulence and questions both in the church and in the culture around us, every yes somehow feels miraculous.   And I’m grateful to get to witness it as the Good News still breaks upon us. . . this year about every six weeks.

Worship event to foster connection among youth

by Sheldon C. Good

Luke Hartman
Luke Hartman will be the guest speaker at the June 1 youth worship event. Photo by Lindsey Kolb/Eastern Mennonite University.

HARLEYSVILLE, Pa. – Franconia and Eastern District Conferences are hosting junior and senior high youth this June at an event that will feature elements very similar to the biennial Mennonite Church USA youth convention, but with one key difference – it’s outside.

The worship event, cosponsored by the Mennonite Heritage Center, will be held from 12-3pm on June 1 on the lawn of 569 Yoder Road, Harleysville, a campus shared by the Mennonite Heritage Center and the Conference offices.  The rain location is Christopher Dock Mennonite High School’s auditorium (Lansdale, Pa.).

After eating lunch together at noon, potentially hundreds of youth will spread out on the lawn for free time and then worship featuring Luke Hartman, vice president of admissions at Eastern Mennonite University (Harrisonburg, Va.), as the main speaker. Hartman’s message will focus on John 17’s call to unity in the body of Christ. He will collaborate with his good friend Peder Eide, a popular musician and worship leader in the Lutheran Church.

Additional music will be provided by Susquehanna, a band of students from Christopher Dock. Band members are John Bergstresser, Ryan Moyer, Austin Kratz, Brooks Inciardi, Simon Nam, Derek Reeser, and Ethan Neal.

John Stoltzfus, conference youth pastor and one of the event planners, anticipates that the event will invite youth to consider “what God is doing among us and who God is calling us to be together.”

He said there are several goals for the event: to provide opportunity for deepening relationships and fellowship among youth across conference churches; to give space for youth to engage in inspiring worship and experience renewal in their relationships with God and one another; and to offer a witness to the surrounding community of the church’s call to be a united people of God.

Mike Ford, associate pastor of youth at Blooming Glen (Pa.) congregation, has also been integrally involved in the event’s planning. He hopes that “youth leave challenged and encouraged spiritually, and that they also experience a healthy dose of fun and fellowship.”

The gathering is part of an ongoing commitment in Franconia Conference to help individuals and congregations connect, says Ertell Whigham, Franconia’s executive minister.  “While it’s true that it takes little or no effort for us to find opportunities to disagree, it takes a greater commitment to reach out across our diversity and connect in ways that express the kingdom of God,” he reflects.  He encourages congregations to keep this event in prayer, as youth gather to worship, play, grow, and share a meal together in Christ.

“Now that’s a very cool way to connect,” he says.

Ministerial Update (November 2013)

Joy Sawatzky
Joy Sawatzky, pictured here receiving prayers of blessing at Conference Assembly 2012, was approved for ordination at the November 3rd ministerial meeting.  Photo by Andrew Huth.

from Noah Kolb, outgoing Pastor of Ministerial Leadership

The ministerial committee met on November 3rd.  Chris Nickels was welcomed as a new member.  Marlene Derstine was thanked for her completed time of service.

  • Sandy Landes was approved for a license toward ordination at Doylestown congregation as Pastor of Prayer and Pastoral Care.
  • Joy Sawatzky was approved for ordination as Pastor/Chaplain at the Souderton Mennonite Homes.  Joy is a member of Plains.
  • John Bender’s ministerial credentials were received from Allegheny Conference for ministerial leadership at Ripple and Franconia congregations.
  • The ministerial credentials of Emily Ralph and Robert Nolt were approved to be transferred to Lancaster Conference.
  • The license toward ordination for Julie Prey, Joe Hackman, and Scott Franciscus were renewed for another two years.
  • Duane Hershberger’s ministerial status was changed from active to retired.
  • Donna Wilkins’ license for specific ministry was terminated with the end of her responsibilities at Blooming Glen.
  • Mike Ford, formerly youth pastor of Franconia congregation, has transferred to Blooming Glen, working in youth ministries.
  • Walt Morton is serving as an interim pastor at Lakeview.

Ministerial report (September 2013)

The Ministerial Committee met on September 4:

  • We took action to grant a specific license to Tim Hart to serve as pastor of revitalization for Garden Chapel.
  • We approved ordination for Emily Ralph from the Salford congregation who has been called to an associate pastor position at Sunnyside in Lancaster.
  • We granted a license toward ordination to Tami Good who is serving as minister of worship and music at Souderton.
  • Arnold Derstine and Mike Ford have resigned from the pastoral team at Franconia.
  • Blooming Glen has hired Mike Ford as youth pastor.
  • Frederick and Lakeview are seeking interim pastoral leadership.
  • Perkiomenville is seeking an associate pastor and Alpha and Taftsville congregations are looking for pastoral leadership.

I love learning more every week

Mike Ford
mford@franconiamennonite.org

My journey to become the Senior High Youth Pastor at Franconia Mennonite Church started with an innocent conversation over a year ago with Marlene Frankenfield, Franconia Conference Youth Minister (if conversations with Marlene are ever innocuous). I was working with Marlene and another conference youth minister on the details of a future event and felt that it would be appropriate to drop the hint that, while I would assist in the planning, it was likely that I would not be there in person to host the event because I was sensing a job change was in the wind. Marlene’s response was, “You know, Franconia Mennonite is looking for a youth minister.”

I recall that I tried to politely respond, saying something like, “Thanks, but no thanks,” thinking at the time that becoming a youth pastor wasn’t likely what the Lord had in mind. Yet, God’s nudge to Franconia persisted, and a year later, here I am, writing on the eve of my installation service as a pastor. Indeed, a journey that was initially unexpected and challenging at times is now exciting and fulfilling as I learn my way.

Over the last two years, my wife and I had been feeling God’s nudge to consider a vocational change. Frankly, I had thought at the time that, after 13 years in Christian camping, I’d be headinginto some field other than vocational ministry. We had heard California pastor and author Erwin McManus speak and were deeply impacted by his challenge to not get too comfortable in your service to the Lord, not to stop taking risks, to be willing to serve the Lord no matter what change in life might come of it. We began a season of putting ourselves sincerely before the Lord, asking if God was leading us to a new place where we could serve, considering options and opportunities as they opened up.

I believe that all Christians are in full-time ministry, called to be salt and light to the world through our daily service, whether we lay bricks or deliver mail or wait tables or manage people or parent children or otherwise. Some of us get the privilege of doing our full-time ministry through a position at the church. I’m excited to serve
at Franconia, hoping that my love for Jesus and desire for others to grow in service and passion might well serve the needs of our youth. To be sure, there have been times on the journey when I’ve wondered if I have what ittakes to be a good pastor, if my take on culture was well suited, if not growing up in the Mennonite church waslearning_more.jpggoing to be a handicap. In the end, as we talked, prayed, and discerned, God gave all involved a sense that this could and would work for his glory, that we’d both learn and be stretched in healthy ways, if we were willing to walk forward in faith.

Here I am, still getting used to the title of “pastor,” wondering if one ever gets used to that title. I mean, simply put, I’m just a guy who loves and is excited about life in Jesus and wants others to know and follow him. Now I get the incredible opportunity to do that each day as my vocation, focusing on Senior High youth. I’m excited, I’m fortunate, and I love learning every week more about the youth I work with, the church I serve, and the area I now call home.