Tag Archives: Peace

Seeking Shalom

On Sunday, October 28 the following was sent to Franconia Conference pastors as they prepared to gather with our communities. May we continue to live into these statements as a community of Christ’s people:

As people of Christ’s peace, we extend our prayers and sympathies to those whose lives have been touched by the horrific violence at the Tree of Life Synagogue yesterday in Pittsburgh.

As people of the Book, we mourn alongside the Jewish community with the comfort of God who walks with us even through the valley of the shadow of death.

As people of prophetic witness, we stand against the spirit of anti-Semitism that seeks to deny the image of God reflected in the Jewish people.

As people of faith, we commit to the ongoing struggle of realizing God’s dream for all people to live in peace and without fear.

Pray, Fast, Lament, and Bear Witness: Nigerian Brethren Give Testimony

Mark Baliles, pastor, Indian Creek Church of the Brethren
Sharon K. Williams

In April 2014, the world was stunned by the abduction of more than 200 school girls in Chibok, Nigeria.  Most of the girls are still in captivity, sold as brides in other countries, or dead. The violence perpetrated against Christians and Muslims by the Boko Haram before that incident has continued and escalated over these past eight months: murders, kidnappings, rapes, and the destruction of homes, businesses, and church properties.

a-displaced-family-in-nigeriaThe Church of the Brethren has a close connection with the persecution and suffering in Nigeria.  Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) is one of the major Anabaptist denominations in that country. The majority of the schoolgirls are members of EYN congregations. Over 170,000 church members and 2,094 pastors and evangelists are known to be displaced, 8,083 members killed, and 1,390 (of 2,280) local churches destroyed. Many other persons are feared to be dead.[1]

Indian Creek Church of the Brethren, Harleysville, is hosting Nigerian church leader Rev. Dr. Musa Mambula and his wife, Sarah, for a first-hand information session on Sunday, January 11, 5-6 pm. An author, speaker, and the Spiritual Director of the EYN, Reverend Mambula will share about the suffering of the Nigerian churches, and how they have sought to survive and to live with love and compassion in the midst of such violence.

EYN has issued a fervent call for all Christians to join them in prayer, fasting, lament, and bearing witness to the power of Jesus Christ in addressing this crisis. Mennonite World Conference has called “for its churches to offer a shower of prayer, blessing, solidarity, and financial support for the suffering church in Nigeria.”[2]

children-rejoice-over-bowlsThe Church of the Brethren in the U.S., under the guidance of EYN leaders, is assisting with resources for the distribution of food and supplies, temporary housing, relocation of Kulp Bible College and EYN headquarters, establishment of Care Centers, and trauma healing ministries. Few international relief organizations are working in Nigeria. A week of prayer and fasting was observed by the denomination in August. This practice continues in many congregations.

Rev. Mambula will also share with the Christopher Dock Mennonite High School community in the chapel service on Monday, January 12. An online interview with Musa and Sarah Mumbula is also available (start at 29 minutes).

The Indian Creek Church of the Brethren is located on Route 63, one mile west of Route 113.

[1] Roy Winter, “Brethren Disaster Ministries Leader Returns from Trip to Nigeria,” December 22, 2014.

[2]MWC Issues Urgent Appeal for Prayer for the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria,” December 2, 2014.


Salford’s Peace Camp joins Tom Chapin on Souderton stage

Salford's Peace Camp joins Tom Chapin on the stage during one of Souderton's Sundae  Concerts in the park.
Salford’s Peace Camp joins Tom Chapin on the stage during one of Souderton’s Sundae Concerts in the park. Photo courtesy of Sundae Concerts.

by Bob Keeler, Montgomery News (reposted by permission)

When Tom Chapin took to the stage for his June 29 Concert Sundaes performance in Souderton (Pa.) Community Park, it was expected he’d have some friends along, so it was no surprise that fellow musicians Jon Cobert and Michael Mark were there.

They weren’t the only ones there to accompany the three-time Grammy winner, though.

Members of the Salford Mennonite Church Peace Camp also got to sing from the Maurice W. Foulke Bandshell.

This was the ninth year for the Peace Camp, which ran June 23 through 27, according to Meredith Ehst, who with Ashley Miller and Carissa Gredler are interim directors of children’s ministries at the church on Groff’s Mill Road in Harleysville.

The Peace Camp used a grant from the Salford Mennonite Foundation Fund to partner with Concert Sundaes to sponsor Chapin’s appearance, Ehst said.

“It was great to partner with them and the community to bring him to the area and have such a great community event,” Ehst said.

“It really was a great night for the kids and they’ll really remember peace camp,” she said. “Tom and the band were really great to work with and it worked out really well.”

Chapin was chosen because some of his songs are part of the music at the camp, she said.

“The three songs the kids sang [with Chapin], we use each year and have incorporated into the program,” Ehst said.

The children, who met Chapin the night of the concert, rehearsed with his CDs, she said.

The children also performed sign language to the songs.

They performed with Chapin just before intermission.

After-intermission songs performed by Chapin, Cobert and Mark included the Steve Goodman-written “City of New Orleans,” recorded by Arlo Guthrie and Willie Nelson, Harry Chapin’s “Mail Order Annie” and “Cat’s in the Cradle,” and the Chapin family anthem “Circle” with a verse tailored specifically to Concert Sundaes. Tom Chapin is the brother of Harry Chapin, who was killed in a traffic accident in 1981. In addition to his songwriting and performing, Harry Chapin was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his humanitarian efforts to end hunger.

“It was a wonderful concert. I think everybody had a great time,” Sam Martin, Concert Sundaes Committee chairwoman, said.

The church contacted Concert Sundaes to see if it would be possible to work together to schedule and sponsor the Chapin concert, she said.

Although there have been other types of support for Concert Sundaes, this was the first partnership of this kind that she remembers, Martin said.

“We don’t really have a policy because it doesn’t happen all that often, but we’re always open to any ideas,” she said. “Each thing, we take to the committee. It’s a committee decision.”

Peace Camp, for children who have completed kindergarten through fifth grade, included a meal for the children in its 5 to 8 p.m. sessions each night, Ehst said.

It is somewhat similar to Vacation Bible School, but Salford has created its own curriculum, she said.

The youngest children learn about “Peace and Me,” the oldest learn “Peaceful Conflict Resolution” and the middle classes are taught “Peace with the Earth,” she said.

Many of those who attend are from the community and are not members of the church, she said.

Salford member Mary Jane Hershey, who got the idea for it from Quaker programs at Gwynedd Friends Meeting, introduced the idea for the peace camp to Salford, Ehst said.

“It really just goes along with our core values as Mennonites,” Ehst said.

Concert Sundaes are held 7 p.m. Sundays in the park at Reliance Road and Wile Avenue. The fifth show of the 10-concert season, Chapin’s appearance marked the halfway point. In contrast to some other years, none of the five had to be moved inside because of rain.

“We hate to go inside and this weather has just been a gift to us,” Martin said.

Attendees at the concerts are invited to take photos and submit those pictures to be posted on Concert Sundaes Facebook page.

“Luke Bennett, a member of our committee, has kind of amped up the Facebook page,” Martin said. “I think the photos entice people to come to the park, too.”

The chaos isn’t going anywhere

candles in chaosby Emily Ralph, associate director of communication

“Why don’t you take off your coat and stay awhile?”

I couldn’t get my friend’s words out of my mind.  I had been in my new home for four months and still my walls were bare.  It was time.

We spent all day Saturday hanging photos up the stairwell, decorating the top of the piano, getting the right tools and wine-colored candles for the candelabra in the living room.  I still had work to do, but I felt a wave of satisfaction every time I passed one of my newly decorated walls.  I was settling in.

By Monday, the satisfaction had dissolved into gloom.  It was my day off, but all day my mind was running wild with everything I still had to do, questions I still had to answer, people who still needed my help.  Emails and texts were flying with work problems that couldn’t wait and I found myself growing increasingly tense as my Sabbath day ticked by and, instead of feeling rested and prepared for the week, I felt exhausted and grumpy.

How is it possible, I wondered, to go back and forth so quickly from joy and satisfaction to frustration and fatigue?  I remembered my spiritual director reminding me that times of transition can be chaotic—it’s normal to feel emotions run wild in times of drastic change.

It was time to take charge of the chaos in my mind.  I lit the candles around my living room, thankful I had taken the time to decorate.  I sat down with my journal and began to pour out my heart to God, the good and the bad, the joy and sorrow, the times of feeling at home and the times of feeling lost.  I closed my eyes to meditate and heard God’s invitation: Why don’t you take off your coat and stay awhile?

The chaos and uncertainty weren’t going anywhere, I realized.  I could continue to fight it, to struggle to find balance and order, or I could settle into the chaos and accept that sometimes life is like that.  God was present, even in the chaos.

As I felt a peace begin to tip-toe into my heart, I slowly came back to awareness of the room around me.  A steady “drip-drip-drip” was coming from near the fireplace.

I startled and jumped to my feet, dashing across the room to discover that one of the candles on my newly hung candelabra had tipped sideways and had, apparently, been dripping for some time.  Wine-colored wax covered the wall, the floor, the armchair.

As I sank to the floor, gentling trying to scrape wax off the wood, I fought tears.  This was exactly the kind of day I had been having.  I couldn’t even meditate on settling into the chaos without—

Suddenly I began to laugh.  The chaos wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  Sometimes life is like that.  Why don’t you take off your coat and stay awhile?

Introducing Salford Mennonite Church

Salford Mennonite ChurchSalford Mennonite Church, located in Harleysville, Pa., was founded in 1717.  An agrarian congregation throughout its history, the past 50 years has seen a transition to a suburban and professional lifestyle for its members.

Church leadership consists of a pastoral team of four (lead pastor Joe Hackman and three associate pastors, Maribeth Benner, Ben Wideman and Beth Yoder) with additional support staff, and a church board made up of nine members.  Present membership is 450, with an average Sunday morning attendance of 300.

Our mission statement declares our desire to be “A joyful, learning community eager to live and share the peaceable way of Jesus.”  We have a sister church relationship with Dios Con Nosotros in Mexico City, and a local neighbor relationship with Advent Lutheran Church of Harleysville.

Salford Mennonite ChurchWe have a garden ministry shared with Advent Lutheran, regularly participate in Mennonite Disaster Service trips, Chosen 300 Meal Ministry feeding the hungry in Philadelphia, and an active Justice and Peace ministry.  Our facility is active during the week with Salford Mennonite Child Care Centers (campuses at Salford and Dock Woods community).

Our congregational focus for the next few years is “Learning to Listen: across the generations, in our personal lives, and in our local community.”  See our website and our photoblog for more glimpses of life and ministry at Salford.

Brokenness and healing in Doylestown

Chaplain George Lindsey and KrisAnne Swartley at Doylestown congregation’s Veteran’s Day prayer service. Photo by Randy Heacock.

by KrisAnne Swartley, Doylestown congregation

On Sunday evening November 10th, a group of people from the community and from Doylestown congregation gathered to reflect on the painful parts of life and to seek hope in God’s Presence.

Chaplain George Lindsey of the local VFW, spoke honestly and with vulnerability about the depression he felt while deployed in Iraq, as well as the PTSD he struggled to overcome when he arrived back home. He also spoke with great confidence about God’s comfort and the many ways God has healed and continues to heal him.  George led us in singing “Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand!”

Ron and Robin Miller also spoke about the hope they find in Jesus as they continue to grieve the loss of their son, Brett. They read from Psalm 22, “from birth I was cast upon you, God. Do not be far from me, for trouble is near.”

In the candlelight and silence, with broken pieces of slate in our hands to symbolize how broken we sometimes feel, we waited on God. We could hear one another weeping. And then we prayed that God in Jesus would make all things well, even in the midst of suffering.

After the service was over, many of us stayed to talk and pray with one another. It was a healing time of honesty and hope, this beautiful evening that broke down barriers between “church” and “community.”

Gun to garden tool

RAWtools Phila
Cherie Ryans of Philadelphia forges metal from a gun to be made into a garden tool with Mike Martin of RAWtools from Colorado Springs, CO. (The Simple Way photo/Dan Brearley)

by Mimi Copp Johnson, Mennonite Central Committee East Coast

Gary Lebo was on his cell phone 117 miles away in Dillsburg, Pa. Item number 104, a cultivator mattock (hand tool used to break up the soil), was up next at the Philadelphia Festival & Auction, which benefits Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

Lebo was determined to bid on this garden tool even though he could not be there in person.   On the other end of the line, was an auction volunteer standing at the back of the room at West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship ready to place bids for Lebo.

Not just any old garden tool, this cultivator was constructed, in part, from a handgun, at a Philadelphia blacksmith workshop devoted to turning “swords into plowshares” and “spears into pruning hooks.” These visionary words are from the Biblical prophet, Isaiah.

Cherie Ryans, a mother whose child had been killed with a handgun in Philadelphia, helped make the tool.  She forged the metal from a gun on anvils loaned by conservative Mennonite farmers.  Fred Kauffman, former MCC staff person, shared with the auction audience that with each strike of the hammer on the red-hot iron, Ryans said a word, “This….is….for….my…son.”

With the tone set from this story, the bidding began at $300. It climbed to $500, $600, $700.

“I am sick and tired of hearing on the news almost every evening about someone else expressing violence by using a handgun,” said Lebo explaining why he kept bidding. “The idea of pouring energy into gardening rather than violence is exhilarating for us!”

The final bid was for $850 by Gary and Gloria Lebo of Dillsburg Brethren in Christ Church. Another person added a $150 donation to make the total $1,000.

“I thought it was all over,” Lebo recounts, until he received a call from Kimberly Tucker, a friend from Dillsburg Brethren in Christ Church, who was at the auction. “She was scolding me for buying it out from under her, and then she kindly offered to bring it home for me and charge me mileage!”

Tucker said she had her eye on the tool because she “wanted to purchase it to use throughout the year at church as a symbol of peace—turning swords into plowshares.”

The blacksmith workshop was done by RAWtools and was sponsored by Shane Claiborne, Heeding God’s Call, Kingdom Builders Network and MCC East Coast.  RAWtools Inc.’s mission is to repurpose weapons into hand tools to be used in the creation of something new and to prevent the weapon’s use for violence.

A similar tool had been donated by RAWtools to the Rocky Mountain Mennonite Relief Sale the weekend before in Colorado that went for $675.

Now the tool is also a storytelling piece.  The Lebos have had several opportunities to share the story and hope to have more.

“Another dream I have,” Lebo says, “is to return it to the auction next year to be sold again so someone else can enjoy the experience, share with others and raise more money for MCC.” 

Mennonite Central Committee: Relief, development and peace in the name of Christ

Goshen College Announces Scholarship in Honor of Becky Felton

Becky FeltonScholarship to benefit Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies students

GOSHEN, Ind. – Becky Felton, Goshen College class of ’76 and a member of Perkasie congregation, was a champion of peace and justice. Even when faced with a terminal illness, she confronted it knowing that she was at peace with God and with others.

Before Becky passed away in November 2012, she and her husband, Jon, had the gift of time to talk about the organizations that were dear to her and where she would like their family support to go upon her death. There were many places where she had worked and volunteered that shared Becky’s vision of working toward a good and just world, and many of those places received memorials in Becky’s name.

But it was Goshen College that held a very special place in her heart. It is there that she went as a young woman from Yoder, Kansas, to begin her journey as a servant of the church. With a degree in religion, she went into the world to advocate and serve as a voice for the marginalized and those in need. She looked to the college as the foundation and catalyst that ignited her passion for peace and social justice.

Jon, with and their children Cody ’09 and Torey, have established the Rebecca Beachy Felton Peace and Social Justice Scholarship as a loving tribute to Becky and her life passions. This endowed scholarship will benefit Goshen College students pursuing a major or minor in Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies, a legacy that will nurture future champions of peace and justice.

“The way Becky wove her passion for peace into her church, family and community commitments represents a way of life that we hope will characterize all our PJCS graduates, so we’re very grateful that the Felton family has chosen to honor Becky’s memory with a scholarship,” said Joe Liechty, Professor and Department Chair, Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies, Goshen College.

Becky was a persistent advocate for peace and justice in her congregation as well as in her community and with the joint Peace & Justice Committee of Franconia and Eastern District Conferences. Wayne Nitzsche, her pastor, described Becky as a congregational peacemaker in many ways. “Perkasie has a worship ritual of lighting a peace lamp as we recite our pledge to be peacemakers. Becky urged us to consider and pray for peace locally and globally,” he said. “But most importantly, Becky modeled the way of Jesus in her relationships in the congregation and beyond.”

Those who knew her well describe Becky as an advocate of peace and justice, at peace with God and at peace with others. Becky served the Peace & Justice Committee as secretary, financial secretary, and registrar for the annual Winter Peace Retreat. Because of her broad understanding of current peace and social justice issues and her character, however, these roles don’t adequately describe her presence and her leadership, both in her congregation and with those on the Peace & Justice Committee. She was aware, compassionate and proactive.

Becky was honored on the day of her funeral by the Franconia and Eastern District Conferences as the recipient of the 2012 Peace Mug Award, recognizing her life-long commitment to peace and justice. Her memory and passions will live on to impact the world through this scholarship.

If you are interested in remembering Becky with a gift to this scholarship, contributions can be sent to:  The Rebecca Beachy Felton Peace and Social Justice Scholarship, Goshen College, 1700 South Main Street, Goshen, IN  46526, or online at www.goshen.edu/give and follow the links, designating the scholarship name in the comments section.

Becky also left a generous financial gift to Mennonite Central Committee to pursue peace and justice through the work of relief, development and peacebuilding. Donations in her honor can be made via mail to Mennonite Central Committee, 21 S. 12th Street, PO Box 500, Akron, PA 17501-0500, online at donate.mcc.org/project/where-needed-most or over the phone at 1-888-563-4676.  Please note this gift is in memory of Becky Felton.

Introducing Garden Chapel

Garden Chapel
Photo by Sean Anderson.

We are “The Garden Chapel” from Victory Gardens, New Jersey. We are a small, diverse, loving, and growing congregation located in Morris County, New Jersey. The borough of Victory Gardens was founded in 1941 by the federal government to house workers from a nearby munitions factory. It was named after the vegetable gardens people planted during World War II in response to food shortages. It is the smallest municipality in size (91 acres) and population (1,520) in Morris County, but the most densely populated.

During the Vietnam War young men were being drafted into the military services. Since serving in the military is completely contradictory to our beliefs, the Mennonite Church negotiated an “Alternative Service” arrangement with the government. This allowed conscientious objectors to serve our country in a manner consistent with our understanding of the Lord’s commands. Instead of going to war, these men served at Greystone State Psychiatric Hospital assisting patients in various capacities. Initially, the men formed a house church, but they saw that the community of Victory Gardens was not served by a single church. With the assistance of the Franconia Conference, they planted our church in 1971. To this day it remains the only church in the community. How truly wonderful it is that God would plant a peace church in a community founded for war!

We have been blessed with our new Pastor Tim Hart since last March. Tim grew up in the community and has attended our church since childhood. He is keenly aware of our strengths and our needs and has a dynamic vision for the future.

Our mission statement is “Loving God, Loving Our Neighbors, & Loving Each Other.” We try to live this out by our outreach to the community. We have an annual “Community Day” picnic were we reach out with food, fun, and fellowship with our neighbors. This year we distributed 105 book bags filled with school supplies to needy children. During the holidays we prepare and deliver meals to shut-ins and seniors. When we visit and fellowship with them we are reminded to “… remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)

We are praying that God will enable us to develop a Hispanic Ministry and also help us to restore our summer youth program which in the past has shown God’s love to many young people. Please pray for us as we are praying for all of you.

Find Garden Chapel on the web: http://www.gardenchapelchurch.org/. Download the pdf:  Introducing Garden Chapel.

Seeking peace and pursuing it with Conference youth

by Don McDonough, Arise

Arise & Methacton youthWhat happens when a youth group from a 274-year-old congregation (Methacton) meets with the youth from a community outreach that is just about a year old (Arise)?  What happens when you then pile those youth in a couple of vans and drive two hours to a cabin where they will be cooped up for a couple of days?  What happens when you add to this mix three 50-something-year-old leaders who want to connect with these kids and have a serious discussion about being peacemakers? You get a weekend when all of us learned a lot about each other and probably a little more about ourselves, a weekend when we all learned that we can have a lot of fun together.

The teenagers could not have been more different.  The ethnic differences were the first to fade away and as we got to know each other better, a variety of other differences began to surface.  The students were raised and shaped in different contexts and by different influences.  Some attend church regularly, others don’t.  They came from five different high schools, each of which had its own culture and its own idea of what is cool.  One youth described the car that they wanted their grandfather to buy for their 16th birthday.  How must that have sounded to the person next to them who never knew their grandparents and for whom the hope of owning a car seemed so far out of reach?

Arise & Methacton youthDespite our differences, we were able to bond and soon shared freely about ourselves and our lives.  Our discussions centered around peace issues; more than just war or mass shootings, we talked about an attitude of peace.  The youth shared about bullying, social media abuse, and sports violence.  For the older leaders, it was sad to see how the very activities we used participate in for relaxation and community building have turned into a competitive, anxiety-causing force.  Even the cheerleaders shared how their focus was less on encouraging their team and more on degrading the other team.  How do we become peacemakers in this environment?

We were so blessed to have Ron Wycoff-Kolb along.  Ron shared passionately about how God convicted him to become a conscientious objector even though he had voluntarily joined the military during the Vietnam War.  We listened intently as he told the story of his family’s rejection and the price he had to pay for following this call to peacemaking.  We were challenged; in the end, a diverse group of teens and a few post-mid-lifers found some common ground. May all of us be brave enough to take a costly stand for peace, whatever our context and whatever our age.