Tag Archives: Pennsylvania 2015

Part-time Registration for Mennonite World Conference Now Open

by Phyllis Pellman Good

Mennonite World Conference (MWC) is now offering part-time registration for assembly, which will be held July 21-26 at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The daily registration rate for adults is $120 per day, and part-time registrants may join friendship groups, attend afternoon workshops and the art exhibit, participate in the Global Church Village, and other activities. Parking or shuttle service is included in the fee.

Magali Moreno of Paraguay is managing registrations for the gathering.
Magali Moreno of Paraguay is managing registrations for the gathering.

Tours, service projects, the Anabaptist World Cup, and Assembly Scattered will only be open to those who register for the full assembly. Meals are not included in the adult daily rate, although food can be purchased at the Farm Show Complex.

Registrants who cannot participate in the entire assembly may also share a full-time registration with another person, an option that may appeal to Mennonite organizations or churches who are unable to close down for a full week. Congregations and small groups are encouraged to use this option for participants who wish to attend part of the event.

Registration manager Magali Moreno says there are some drawbacks to such arrangements: “We can offer only a single one-of-a-kind registration bag, outfitted with necktie handles, and filled with our brand new songbook, with each full-time ticket.”

As of mid-March, MWC had received registrations from 64 countries.

“Once you enter the Farm Show Complex, you will be in a global community,” says Moreno. “Your registration is like a passport to the global church!”

For full-time or part-time registration for Pennsylvania 2015, go to www.mwc-cmm.org/pa2015.


Franconia Conference and Mennonite World Conference: intersections of global proportions

by Sharon Williams

Mennonite World Conference (MWC) Assembly, Pennsylvania 2015, is coming to the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, July 21­–26. Emily Ralph’s job is to make sure that everyone knows about it.

Emily RalphEmily is the associate director of communication for Franconia Conference and joined the Pennsylvania 2015 leadership team when MWC subcontracted its communications work to the conference. Emily is responsible for many aspects of communications before, during and after the assembly, and is helping to lead a team of 75 volunteers who will produce media coverage for attendees and everyone else around the world. They will provide videography, photography, and graphic design; livestream the worship services; record sessions; do reporting; handle oral interpretation and written translations; engage all manner of social media; and connect with the press.

This assembly’s theme is “Walking with God/Caminemos con Dios/En Marche avec Dieu.” The communication team’s goal is to help build the Anabaptist global community on location and around the world. Another goal is to lay the groundwork for Indonesia 2021, the next global assembly.

Franconia Conference’s commitment to intercultural ministry and relationships is a key component in MWC’s planning. The conference and MWC have cultivated a partnership that dates back at least to the late 1990s when conference leaders exchanged sabbaticals and visits with then MWC president Mesach Krisetya (1997–2003) of Indonesia. Franconia Conference has had strong representation at previous assemblies in Canada, India, Zimbabwe, and Paraguay; Pennsylvania 2015 is an opportunity for the conference to further this partnership of ministry and mission.

Franconia Conference members can be directly involved with hosting this summer’s assembly. Volunteer opportunities include working with Emily on the communication team, doing translation, joining a music ensemble or the intercessory prayer network. Some members will lead workshops and some conference congregations will host tour groups. More congregations are needed to welcome assembly participants for worship on Sunday, July 26, as the Farm Show Arena cannot accommodate the traditional influx of local congregations for the closing worship service.

Information about the assembly and registration is available online. Volunteers who can commit to serving four to six hours each day can request a reduced registration fee if needed. Click here for more information.

All are invited to join the rich diversity of Franconia Conference with global brothers and sisters in worship and fellowship, and recommit to “walking with God” together.

Sharon K. Williams is a musician, editor and congregational/non-profit consultant. She serves the Lord with the Nueva Vida Norristown New Life congregation as minister of worship.

Prayer ‘essential’ for MWC assembly

by Phyllis Pellman Good, Mennonite World Conference

Joanne Dietzel of Strasburg, Pa., coordinates the MWC Prayer Network. — Liesa Unger/MWC

Mennonite World Conference is establishing a Prayer Network, recognizing the importance of prayer in preparation for its global assembly July 21-26 in Harrisburg, Pa.

“We are organizing an event which will bring people together from all over the world,” said Lynn Roth, MWC North America representative. “I believe it can happen only if it is bathed in prayer and is God’s doing.”

The first worry on everyone’s mind is obtaining visas.

“Our main concern is for young people,” he said. “But older persons from some of the countries where the largest Anabaptist churches are located — Ethiopia, Congo and India, for example — may have trouble, too.

“The American government’s concern for security, now more than ever, means that many of our sisters and brothers will likely be denied the possibility of worshiping and fellowshiping in this grand reunion.”

A visa task force is prepared to support registrants going through the visa process.

“We promised to do all in our power to work with U.S. government officials and embassies in those countries where this issue is especially difficult,” he said. “We believe that prayer is essential.”

A second concern is getting North American Anabaptists to see the assembly as a not-to-be-missed opportunity.

“Many of us will probably question whether we can set aside things in our daily lives long enough to travel to and attend the whole five and a half days of PA 2015,” Roth said. “We want to pray for ourselves, that we will learn the gift of hospitality of the heart and be willing to be transformed by the experience of hosting the global church.”

Inspired by Zimbabwe

The idea for a Prayer Network came from the Zimbabwean Brethren in Christ Church, which hosted the MWC assembly in 2003. In Zimbabwe, food and fuel were scarce, the economy was weak and the government unreliable. The Zimbabweans acknowledged all of this, stockpiling food and fuel months in advance. They also prayed.

Zimbabwean BIC member Ethel Sibanda led a Prayer Network. She also rallied people who weren’t attending the assembly but wanted to assure hospitality.

“We have learned from the Zimbabweans,” said Prayer Network coordinator Joanne Dietz­el of Strasburg, Pa. “We invite everyone who believes in prayer and the global church to join the Prayer Network.”

All who sign up on the MWC website will receive emails sharing specific needs and giving thanks for blessings.

Jane Hoober Peifer, a member of the Prayer Network planning team, has launched an MWC Prayer Walk in Lancas­ter.

“ ‘Walking with God’ is the theme for PA 2015, so walking while praying seems like an appropriate discipline to practice,” Peifer said.

She hopes groups of walkers will form across North America and around the world. Ideas for forming an MWC Prayer Walk group will appear on MWC’s Prayer Network page, along with passages of Scripture and prayer requests.

Read your way to Pennsylvania 2015

by Phyllis Pellman Good, for Mennonite World Conference

Whether you’re planning to attend the next Mennonite World Conference assembly, or just want to learn more about Anabaptists around the world, Mennonite World Conference staff have book recommendations for you.

“We should be well-informed hosts,” says Richard Thomas, who chairs the advisory council for the assembly. “Most of us probably can’t become fluent in Indonesian or Amharic or French between now and next July. But we can certainly learn more about our sister churches around the world.”

Five-volume global history series available

Mennonite World Conference recently commissioned a five-volume global history series, with one volume for each continent where Anabaptists live. The books are written by people from those continents and reflect the perspectives and experiences of the local churches. The series includes:Testing Faith and Tradition (Europe volume), Mission and Migration (Latin America volume), Anabaptist Songs in African Hearts (Africa volume), Churches Engage Asian Traditions (Asia volume), and Seeking Places of Peace (North America volume).

MWC Histories“I’m reading these books as one way to get myself ready for Pennsylvania 2015. I want to have a deeper understanding of how my sisters and brothers have found and sustained their faith,” said Thomas. “Many of them have survived wars and hunger and immense political pressure. Many have Muslim neighbors. I have so much to learn from them–and the histories tell those stories.”

Book about shared convictions

Thomas said he is also reading What We Believe Together: Exploring the “Shared Convictions” of Anabaptist-Related Churches, by Alfred Neufeld. The book is based on the Mennonite World Conference statement “Shared Convictions of Global Anabaptists,” and includes stories from around the world and questions for discussion.

Book discussions planned

Books discussions are being held around Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that will run through June 2015.

Conference staff are encouraging those unable to attend a book discussion to organize their own gathering, and use the books as Sunday School resources.

The assembly will be held July 21-26, 2015 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Five ways you can help prepare for Pennsylvania 2015

 by Phyllis Pellman Good for Mennonite World Conference

Next July, Anabaptists from around the world will gather for worship and fellowship at Mennonite World Conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. More than 8000 participants are expected to attend, and conference staff and volunteers are making arrangements to feed and lodge attendees, as well as preparing worship services, workshops, music, and the Global Church Village, a large display area and meeting place.

Mennonite World Conference is inviting North American congregations to get involved now, and help begin welcoming brothers and sisters from across the globe.

Pennsylvania 2015 will include worship, singing, and time for reflection in small groups. Photo by Merle Good.
Pennsylvania 2015 will include worship, singing, and time for reflection in small groups. Photo by Merle Good.

Here are five ways you can support the gathering:

Join the prayer network. You’ll receive monthly emails about particular needs as conference staff prepare. Two big prayer requests: that attendees from the global south will be granted visas so they can attend, and that churches here will offer extravagant hospitality as they welcome participants from other parts of the world.

Learn more about your global family of faith. A good resource is What We Believe Together, by Alfred Neufeld. The book is based on the Mennonite World Conference statement “Shared Convictions of Global Anabaptists,” and includes questions for discussion, so it’s a great resource for Sunday School classes and small groups.

Want other resources for your congregation, Sunday School class or small group? Check out Mennonite World Conference’s resource page, which includes news, background information, and guides for congregations.

Volunteer. It takes a (global) village to welcome so many people, and volunteers are needed now, as well as during the assembly. Those who assist during the gathering receive a discounted registration rate. More information is available at www.mwc-cmm.org/pa2015volunteer.

Partner. MWC is encouraging congregations in the U.S. to partner with each other so that churches with fewer financial resources or with recent immigrants to the U.S. can attend the gathering. The registration cost is split three ways: MWC and both congregations contribute part of the fee.

Register! Plan to attend Harrisburg 2015, where you’ll build relationships and remember the gift of belonging to an international family of faith. Register at www.mwc-cmm.org/pa2015registration.

Partnership solution developed to make PA 2015 attendance possible

by Phyllis Pellman Good, Mennonite World Conference

MWC see youHarrisburg, PA – “What a sad irony it would be if we welcomed the world to PA 2015 but we failed to find a way for our U.S. and Canadian sisters and brothers who belong to immigrant congregations, and to congregations who need financial support, to attend MWC’s Assembly next summer,” reflects Lynn Roth, Mennonite World Conference’s lead North American staff person.

“We have a rich diversity of nationalities within our 1400-plus congregations in the U.S. We worship in at least 20 languages – Indonesian, Amharic, and Karen, to name just a few. Many of the members of these congregations are fairly recent immigrants. Many of them have limited incomes. They want very much to attend PA 2015. But many cannot afford the registration fee, nor can they afford to take time off from work to attend.

“Yet we believe it is essential for people from these congregations to experience the global church and to be strongly represented at the Assembly to be held July 21-26, 2015 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

“Their presence at PA 2015 will help all of us more fully grasp the wonderful variety within the North American church,” says Roth.  “And having had this experience, we won’t be content to live so separately in the future.”

A partnership solution

“We’ve put together a plan that shares responsibility for solving this dilemma,” explains Roth. “Regional and area conferences, together with local congregations and church organizations with resources to share, are invited to partner with Mennonite World Conference, and with these congregations with limited financial resources.” (See below for details.)

“We urge all congregations and area conferences across North America to join us in this effort – both those who need financial support and those who have funds to share. Please keep this opportunity to ‘care for those in our household of faith’ in mind as you plan your 2015 budget,” suggests Roth.

“Email registrations@mwc-cmm.org for instructions about how a conference or congregation can become a partner by sending funds to MWC for their portion of the registration, and how the persons receiving the subsidy should register.”

A gift that keeps on giving

“Think of this as an investment in our ongoing life together as a North American church,” says Roth. “PA 2015 gives us a rare chance to learn to know our neighbouring churches – our sisters and brothers from other cultures and language groups, and with different economic status – as partners.

“We want to continue our shared life together when the last guest has gone home from PA 2015,” reflects Roth. “As a North American church, we want to more fully experience being part of a global faith family as a result of preparing for and hosting the Assembly.”

Here’s how the partnership solution will work:

The registration fee for a North American adult for PA 2015 (including the full meal plan) is $575.

  • Mennonite World Conference will subsidize $150 of that cost.
  • MWC invites the congregation’s regional conference or a partnering congregation to donate $150.
  • The participating individual (or his/her congregation) pays the balance of $275.
  • In addition, these persons will be given priority to stay in private homes for $25 per night (totaling $125 to $150).
  • An additional cost for which creative funding must be found is transportation to and from PA 2015.

Celebrations kick off 2015 Mennonite World Conference assembly

by Phyllis Pellman Good, Mennonite World Conference

Mennonites and Brethren in Christ in eastern Pennsylvania enthusiastically welcomed Mennonite World Conference leaders on Sunday, July 20 at two kick-off celebrations, exactly one year in advance of the opening of the July 2015 Mennonite World Conference assembly. The 2015 assembly will be held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

One of the kick-off events was held on the morning of July 20 at Harrisburg Brethren in Christ Church. The afternoon event, held on the same day, took place at Mount Joy Mennonite Church.

MWC leaders join in the kick-off celebration. Left to right: Vikal P. Rao of India, assembly program committee; Liesa Unger of Germany, MWC chief international events officer; and César García of Colombia, MWC general secretary. Photo by Merle Good
MWC leaders join in the kick-off celebration. Left to right: Vikal P. Rao of India, assembly program committee; Liesa Unger of Germany, MWC chief international events officer; and César García of Colombia, MWC general secretary. Photo by Merle Good.

At both events, MWC General Secretary César García introduced the assembly theme, “Walking with God.” He noted it is drawn from the story of the disciples walking the road to Emmaus, in Luke 24. The disciples seem to be in a contentious discussion, but they still walk side by side.

“Only when they were seated at the table, communing together, did they discover who Jesus was,” said García. “When we are together in communion, we see with different eyes. And we discover Jesus in a new way.”

Songwriters Frances Crowhill Miller and Daryl Snider and song leader Marcy Hostetler led the afternoon audience of some 300 in rousing international singing.

Vikal P. Rao of India, a member of the assembly program committee, gave the audience a glimpse of the Global Church Village. The village will be a performance area within the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, where assembly will be held.

“Every afternoon during the assembly, our stage will be filled with storytelling, drama, and music. We will celebrate our diversity within the unity of MWC,” he told the crowd.

Joanne Dietzel introduced the prayer network.

“We face two pressing concerns as hosts of Pennsylvania 2015,” she said. “Will all of our sisters and brothers from the Global South who want to join the assembly be able to get visas to enter the U.S.? And will those of us who live in North America be willing to offer hospitality of the heart to our guests? Will we step out of our overly-busy lives and fully join the week of worship, fellowship, and service, from July 21-26 next year?”

For more information about the 2015 MWC Assembly, go to mwc-cmm.org/pa2015.  Franconia Conference provides communication support for Pennsylvania 2015.

Local churches to offer hospitality for 2015 MWC Assembly

MWC Assembly ScatteredMennonite World Conference Staff

Gahira sat on the street, resting from her one-mile walk into the city.

Cheryl (United States) had met Gahira on the plane into Axum, Ethiopia.  After using gestures and drawings to get to know one another, Gahira made it clear that she wanted to serve Cheryl coffee, an Ethiopian act of hospitality.

When they had parted at the airport, Cheryl wasn’t sure if she would ever see the Ethiopian woman again.  But here Gahira was, a woven basket of injera and a carafe of coffee in hand.  Cheryl gathered coffee cups from the hotel and sat on the patio with Gahira and her son, an interpreter, and the other members of Cheryl’s touring party.

“Together we celebrated our presence in this place,” Cheryl reflected later. “This place made holy by the warm, loving gesture of Gahira.” (read the full story)

Cheryl and her companions were just some of the hundreds who participated in Assembly Scattered in 2003, where they encountered the people, ministries, and stories of Anabaptist churches in an urban area or community while traveling to or from the Mennonite World Conference Assembly Gathered in Zimbabwe.

In 2015, Assembly Scattered will take place in communities across North America immediately before and after the Assembly Gathered in Harrisburg, PA, USA on July 21-26, 2015. These visits provide opportunities for Anabaptist brothers and sisters from around the world to get a taste of the church in North America and for hosts to experience the wonderful diversity of the global family of faith.

“After 20-some hours on planes, with my body clock six hours off, I finally arrived in Harare, Zimbabwe, eager for rest and sleep,” remembers Daniel (United States).  It was dark when he arrived at his hosts’ home, but the evening meal was ready. “[Canaan and Listei] had me sit down in the living room in front of a coffee table arrayed with food.”

Listei washed his hands in a Zimbabwean gesture of welcome. “She apologized that she couldn’t kneel before me because her knees were stiff,” says Daniel. “We older people understand each other on a subject like this.” (read the full story)

The 2015 Assembly Scattered will open doors for building new relationships with Anabaptists from around the world.  Each location will include partnerships among local congregations and ministries to introduce participants to a specific context of Anabaptism in North America.  Although the participants are responsible for their own travel arrangements and paying for their own lodging and food for the 1-3 day trip, local communities are encouraged to offer hospitality.

“Despite the additional work involved, it was a great privilege to serve borscht [soup] to so many visitors,” says the main cook at the KM 81 Mennonite Leprosy Hospital in Paraguay, which hosted an Assembly Scattered group in 2009.  “I dare say that most enjoyed the food and showed their appreciation by singing beautiful hymns.” (read the full story)

Groups of North American churches are invited to submit applications to host an Assembly Scattered in their community.  Go online at www.mwc-cmm.org/pa2015 and click on “Assembly Scattered” for more information and registration forms.

“I’m looking forward to working with North American churches that are eager to extend hospitality to guests in their communities,” says Evanna Hess, the newly appointed Assembly Scattered coordinator from central Pennsylvania. “It will be exciting to see the friendships that develop as a result of their hospitality.”

The deadline for submitting proposals is June 1, 2014.

Walking together while speaking different languages

MWC Program Oversight Committee
Marius van Hoogstraten takes notes as the Program Oversight Committee plans  Assembly 2015’s subthemes. Photo by Emily Ralph.

by Emily Ralph, for Mennonite World Conference

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – “Isn’t English your first language?” Marius van Hoogstraten (The Netherlands) asked Don McNiven (USA), after a laughter-filled conversation about the proper spelling of the English word “future.”

Both men are members of Mennonite World Conference’s Program Oversight Committee, which met in October to further plan the upcoming Assembly at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on July 21-26, 2015.

The committee members represent churches from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America and each speak at least two languages. In order to communicate for their planning sessions, they use the one language they have in common: English.

While all committee members speak English fluently, they discovered that translating their conversation into the languages of their homelands was not always as easy.

“When looking for a theme we had wanted to use the word ‘story’ in the title,” reflected Liesa Unger (Germany), Chief International Events Officer for Mennonite World Conference.  What they discovered, however, was that the English word “story” would translate into “history” in many languages and the idea of “history” was not what the team was trying to say.  So they settled instead on the theme of “Walking with God.”

One of the committee’s tasks during their October visit to Pennsylvania was to plan the subthemes for each day of Assembly. This task was more difficult than it seemed: how would they find simple, memorable words to describe the theme of each day that mean the same thing in all of Mennonite World Conference’s worshiping languages?

MWC Program Oversight Committee
Vikal Rao, Thobekile Ncube, and Egon Sawatsky enjoy some fun as the Program Oversight Committee works out details for Pennsylvania 2015. Photo by Emily Ralph

They encountered their first problem in deciding on a word to use to describe the work of evangelism and social justice: words that translated well into Ndbele, the language spoken by committee member Thobekile Ncube (Zimbabwe), or French and Spanish didn’t have direct translations into modern German, for instance. Other words described only speaking the good news of Jesus without including caring for the poor or working for justice as part of evangelism.

Why so much effort for clear communication?  Because communication is an essential value for Mennonite World Conference, said César García, Mennonite World Conference General Secretary, in a recent article.  “Communication has the same root as other important words in Mennonite World Conference’s mission and vision: communion and community. It is not possible to have real communion with those with whom we do not communicate.”

And so the work for clear communication continues for an event that will include as many as 10,000 people from 85 different countries. Fiona Neufeld (Paraguay), one of Assembly 2015’s interpretation coordinators, joined the Program Oversight Committee to plan translation for the event, which will be available for all worship services in Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

Yet the Assembly planners are also aware of a challenging reality: for many of those traveling to the United States in 2015, these “common languages” are still not their first language. The team plans to honor and celebrate this diversity by using other languages as part of the morning and evening worship services.

Mennonite World Conference’s diversity of language and culture will also be celebrated through the Global Village, which, under the direction of Vikal Rao (India), will provide space for congregations from each continent to share their culture, food, worship practices, and way of life with the global church.  The Global Village will include a stage for performances of music and dance from around the world.

MWC Program Oversight Committee
Although their work is challenging, Fiona Neufeld, Liesa Unger, and Don McNiven take a moment to laugh with their colleagues. Photo by Emily Ralph.

“You get to know other cultures and worldviews through their language, which allows you to get to know other people and their realities,” reflected Egon Sawatsky (Paraguay), youth program coordinator. “Getting to know these people from around the world and their stories shows how great God is, and how diverse his creation is. Sometimes we think we [alone] have the image of God, but then we realize that his ways and his thoughts are way higher than ours.”

Franconia Conference is partnering with Mennonite World Conference to provide communication support in preparation for the Global Assembly in Harrisburg, Pa, in 2015.  To find out more about joining the volunteer team, head to Mennonite World Conference’s website: http://www.mwc-cmm.org/.