Tag Archives: Philadelphia

Home for Christmas

by Emily Ralph Servant, Interim Director of Communication

The house sits on Emily Street, a three-story, red-brick townhouse whose stoop rests directly on the sidewalk along a narrow city street.

Bethany House, which sits on Emily Street in South Philadelphia, will serve as a conference-owned parsonage.

The third floor windows look out over the surrounding blocks, where brand new rowhomes, nestled between century-old houses, bear witness to the creeping gentrification of this densely populated and diverse neighborhood.  Dotted between the rows of houses are lots that won’t long be empty, neighborhood parks, and the occasional sidewalk garden planted in clusters of multicolored pots.

Its name is Bethany House, and soon this house will become a home.

For a number of years, members of the conference community have been concerned about the rising cost of housing in South Philadelphia.  As the city has experienced an influx of immigrants and a renewal of its urban core, the neighborhoods surrounding Franconia’s South Philly congregations have seen a quick and dramatic increase in housing costs.

This gentrification makes living and ministering locally more and more difficult, especially for credentialed leaders who don’t have the resources to purchase a home.  In response to growing support among the conference constituency, the board decided that now was the time to act, while the purchase could still be considered an investment in the rapidly growing housing market.

In December, upon the review and recommendation of the Properties and Finances Committees, Franconia Conference purchased the house on Emily Street to be used as a conference-owned parsonage.  This home will be available for conference congregations in South Philadelphia to use when, and for as long as, needed.

Bethany House’s first residents will be Leticia Cortes and Fernando Loyola.  The pastoral couple of Centro de Alabanza de Filadelfia, Cortes and Loyola have been struggling to find a safe and stable living arrangement for their family for eleven years.  Because Bethany House is close to their congregation’s building, Cortes and Loyola anticipate that living there will open up new possibilities for outreach in their community as they get to know their neighbors better.

This dream is shared by the South Philly congregations.  “My hope is that this house can be a blessing for the neighborhood,” said Melky Tirtasaputra, associate pastor at Nations Worship Center, who also served as an advisor during the search.  “We pray that the people of this house will bring change and peace to the people in that area.”

The purchase of this property not only shows conference support of Philadelphia churches, explained conference moderator John Goshow, but also provides an opportunity for the rest of the conference to partner with our South Philly congregations in building God’s kingdom, as “the entire Franconia Conference community works together to point people to Christ.”

The move will also put Cortes and Loyola closer to their church community—this was one of the appeals of the house, Tirtasaputra explained.  Members of Centro de Alabanza are excited about the move and have already been busily at work on the house, making repairs and painting.

Ten percent of Franconia Conference members live and worship in South Philadelphia, which makes it important to start investing in the neighborhood, suggested executive minister Steve Kriss.  While Centro de Alabanza is currently using the parsonage, Tirtasaputra reflected, it’s a gift to all of the South Philly congregations since, in the future, pastors from other congregations may also find themselves in need of a home.

“The Bethany House continues Franconia Conference’s tradition of mutual care for our pastors,” described Kriss.  “It will ensure healthy leadership for what has been a rapidly growing part of our conference community.”  The house was named after the village where Jesus went for rest, care, and friendship (John 12:1-8), Kriss said, “a place of gracious hospitality.”

The Conference’s decision to purchase a Philadelphia parsonage is more than just a financial gift, according to Cortes and Loyola; it also says something about the relationship that the wider conference has with its South Philadelphia brothers and sisters: “We feel like this investment is an affirmation of Franconia Conference’s confidence in our church ministry and in us.”

The pastoral couple’s hope is to move in by the end of the year and, it’s quite possible, they may even be home for Christmas.

Bethany House has been partially funded by estate gifts and individual contributions, but we still have funds to raise!  You or your congregation are invited to participate in this ministry by making a designated contribution to Franconia Conference online or by sending a check with “Bethany House” in the memo line to Franconia Mennonite Conference, 1000 Forty Foot Rd., Lansdale, PA 19446.

Celebrating Nations and Generations in South Philly

by Aldo Siahaan, Leadership Minister, with Chantelle Todman Moore, Intercultural Coach

We walked silently through the streets of South Philadelphia.

Pastors and leaders gather after the prayer walk.

Pastor Joshua and Anita So from San Francisco and I focused on praying for the people and for the city. No interruption of cell phones.  No chatting. We built our relationship with one another through our prayer.  It was a dream come true for me.

A couple of years ago, when I was representing Franconia Conference on the board of Mennonite Central Committee, we held a gathering where the people of color who served on the board could talk and share our thoughts.

After this wonderful experience, I dreamed that we could do something similar for leaders of color in Franconia Conference to strengthen our relationships with one another and think together about how we could participate and experience inclusion more in the life of the conference.  On November 1, 2018, this dream became reality.

Hendy Stevan, pastor at Indonesian Light Church, and Chantelle Todman Moore, Franconia Conference Intercultural Leadership Coach

The Renewing Nations & Generations gathering met at Nations Worship Center (NWC) in Philadelphia for an afternoon and evening of prayer, worship, visioning, and connecting a diverse group of ministers, some of whom identify as Chinese, Indonesian, Mexican, Black, and persons of color within Franconia Conference.  For the first time, ministers of color in Franconia Conference had a space to hear from each other as we listened to the Holy Spirit together.

Beny Krisbianto (NWC), Kiron Mateti (Plains Mennonite Church), Marina Stevan (Indonesian Light Church), and Emmanuel Villatoro (Philadelphia Praise Center) took turns leading worship in English, Indonesian, and Spanish.  It was a taste of heaven as people from different nations sang together in different tongues.

We played together, laughing as we tried to draw portraits of one another.  We connected over Indonesian and Mexican foods.  Those of us who arrived feeling tentative or shy found courage as we made new friends and discovered that this was a safe space to be honest about our experiences in the past and our desires for the future.

We spent time in small groups, discussing our hopes, dreams, and fears.  What makes us excited about the future of the Church and our conference?  What are our dreams for our communities, our congregations, and our conference?  What do we lament?  How could our conference invest in young millennial leaders and credentialed ministers of color?  Our conversations were only the beginning, but it was a good start for ministers of color to get to know each other and dream together.

We ended the day with a hope that this could become an annual event and a commitment to value one another across generational differences: seeing and honoring our elders as we love and respect emerging leaders, co-laboring together, with God, in the mission of the Church.

As we continue our ministry in Franconia Conference in the days and months to come, I hope that all of our brothers and sisters will see that the presence of ministers of color and ethnic churches are a gift from God.  These gifts are deeply needed to complete the work that God is doing in our conference and in our world.

 

Seeking peace in their cities, urban leaders gather in Philadelphia

by Rachel Sommer for Mennonite Central Committee East Coast and Mennonite Church USA

urban ministry conference
Chantelle Todman Moore (Philadelphia program coordinator, MCC East Coast), Freeman Miller (retired bishop, Philadelphia District of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA) and Glen Alexander Guyton (chief operating officer, Mennonite Church USA) pray together for peace in their cities at the Urban Anabaptist Ministry Symposium co-sponsored by MCC East Coast and Mennonite Church USA. (MCC photo/Rachel Sommer) 

In a letter to Jerusalem’s exiled leaders, the prophet Jeremiah called on them to work for the welfare of Babylon, the city to which they had been deported. “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city,” he wrote. “Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jer. 29:7).

From October 2-4, nearly 100 Anabaptist leaders gathered in Philadelphia to discuss what responding to Jeremiah’s charge looks like in the 21st century.

Participants came from cities including New York; Hampton, Virginia; Philadelphia; and Washington, D.C., to attend the Urban Anabaptist Ministry Symposium organized by Glen Alexander Guyton, chief operating officer for Mennonite Church USA, and Chantelle Todman Moore, Philadelphia program coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) East Coast.

The symposium invited urban leaders to discuss practical Anabaptist ministry in their cities. “Being a peace church isn’t just about not going to war – it’s about manifesting God’s kingdom in our own communities,” said speaker Addie Banks, executive director at The Groundswell Group in the Bronx, New York.

Banks said the symposium provided opportunities for her to learn from colleagues in new ways. “Each of us has a tool. We all need tools to do our work, and gathering here with one another is like assembling a toolkit.”

During plenary sessions, Banks along with Al Taylor, pastor of Infinity Mennonite Church (Harlem, NY), and Ertell Whigham, associate pastor of Nueva Vida Norristown New Life (Norristown, Pa.) and executive minister of Franconia Mennonite Conference, shared “best practices” from their ministries.

Whigham spoke about the need to develop personal connections in culturally diverse contexts. “To be intercultural in the church of God today means that I will recognize how God has blessed you in your life, and I will recognize the gift that you are to me,” he said. “I will allow the Jesus in you to be the Jesus in me.”

Workshop leaders drew from first-hand experience to facilitate sessions on youth and young adult ministry, education for urban leaders, immigration, developing community partnerships and dismantling oppression.

Additional event sponsors included the African American Mennonite Association, Cookman at Emerging Ministries Corporation, Franconia Mennonite Conference, Goshen (Indiana) College, Kingdom Builders Anabaptist Network of Greater Philadelphia, Mennonite Mission Network and Philadelphia FIGHT.

Symposium organizers hope that participants will continue to connect and collaborate with one another. “I’m excited about the relationships that were forged here,” said Guyton. “This gathering showed that we can all benefit from the expertise of Anabaptist leaders who are carrying out practical ministry in their own contexts.”

Ben Walter, one of the pastors at Ripple, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, said the conference was one of the best he’d ever attended. He appreciated that voices often on the margins were given ample space and emphasis, and found it “helpful and enlightening” to hear the diverse perspectives and experiences represented among attendees.

Todman Moore hopes that urban Anabaptist leaders will convene in other cities in coming years. “We’d love to hear from Anabaptist leaders in other urban areas who are interested in discussing practical ministry in their contexts,” she said. She invites leaders to contact her (215-535-3624, ChantelleTodmanMoore@mcc.org) or Guyton (574-524-5282, GlenG@MennoniteUSA.org) to discuss planning similar initiatives in other cities.

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

Holy Hospitality

By Ben Sutter, benjamins5@goshen.edu, Franconia Conference CommunicationsBen in the coffee shop

One thing I’ve experienced this first week of living in Philadelphia is hospitality. I arrived last Monday at one in the morning and was picked up by my boss, Steve Kriss. Steve took me to his own house, because my more permanent housing arrangements hadn’t been settled yet. He welcomed me into his life and his work for three days, allowing me to live with him. He embraced my questions and my musings as he began to describe the city and the conference. He helped me start recognizing and thinking about the nuances and characteristics that I would run into in this new setting. I felt acknowledged and accepted into his work in the conference. Steve showed me only the beginning of the incredible hospitality that I have encountered in my first eleven days in Philly.

Last Wednesday I was welcomed into the home of Pastor Aldo, one of the pastors of Philadelphia Praise Center. Aldo lives in a home with five other Indonesian young men and an older woman we call “Ibu” or “mother”. I’ve come to dearly love staying in this house, even though I’ve barely been there a week. Everyone in the house is busy, but they’re all interested in each other’s lives. Food is a very important part of how we relate to each other. Almost every time I open the front door and come back to the house, the first question I’m asked is if I’ve eaten yet. Whoever is home at mealtime eats together. I fill my plate with rice and noodles and Ibu always tells me that I need more. She takes my plate from me and adds at least one more heaping spoonful.

My roommates Yonathan and Ardi have embraced me as a friend and brother in Christ. They’ve taken me around the city and shown me the ropes. Yonathan showed off Chinatown and the Redding Market, while Ardi explained the train system to me and took me to the train station to buy my ticket to work. They’ve treated me to food, buying me McDonalds and Phileo Yogurt. We hang out together in the evenings, watching TV in the house and walking around the city.

This past Sunday, I attended my first services at Philadelphia Praise Center, one in Indonesian and a second in Spanish. I was amazed at everyone’s willingness to include me. People welcomed me as I walked into the sanctuary, shaking my hand and saying “hello,” “hola,” or just giving me a big smile. Even though languages were different, communication was possible.

In the Indonesian service, I listened to the message through a translator speaking into a head set. The songs weren’t translated, however, and many were sung in Indonesian. Most of the songs showed English translations alongside the Indonesian words on the screen in the front of the church, but I found myself drawn to singing the Indonesian. It was too hard to follow both the English translation and the Indonesian words sung by the congregation. Singing the Indonesian words, even in my poor pronunciation, made me feel apart of the community. It didn’t matter if I knew exactly what I was singing or even if I was doing it well. All that mattered was that I was joining the community in praising God. I could tell that at the core of whatever I was singing, God was being praised—God received the glory.

I’m excited to see where this summer takes me. I have felt embraced by the conference and supported by its people. I recognize the presence of God in the relationships that I’ve begun to foster and the barriers that I’m beginning to help break down. I pray that as I continue my work, I will continue to see God’s dream for the world revealed in authentic and tangible ways.

 

Pastoral Training Program ‘Steps’ into Philly

Eastern Mennonite Seminary at Lancaster’s STEP program (Study and Training for Effective Pastoral Ministry) will offer its first cohort session in Philadelphia in September 2010. This cohort is a move by the seminary to offer pastoral training to urban and racially and ethnically diverse pastors.

“This is a big deal for us,” said EMS at Lancaster director Mark R. Wenger. “EMU is responding to dynamic church growth, community outreach and ministry in Philadelphia.”

Every year since STEP began in 2004 church leaders from Philadelphia have participated in the program. But it required driving every month to Lancaster for sessions.

“Offering STEP in Philadelphia fits with my vision for taking high quality pastoral training as close to the local congregation as possible,” Dr. Wenger said.

Karen Jantzi, adjunct instructor at Temple University and member of Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, served on the advisory committee for the STEP Philadelphia cohort. She will also teach in the program.

“I believe that everyone needs to have an introduction to basic theology and biblical studies,” Dr. Jantzi said. “I’m excited about this program because it indicates that the Pennsylvania conferences and the denomination understand the importance of nurturing leadership within the city.”

The advisory committee, made up of pastors and leaders in Philadelphia, helped Wenger and EMS determine the feasibility of starting a cohort in the city. They also helped shape the program to make it relevant to the urban context.

Wenger is expecting 8-15 persons for this year’s cohort in Philadelphia. Participants will be Anglo, African-American, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Latino. While most will be from urban settings, at least one pastor from a rural congregation will join them.

“The sociological study by Conrad Kanagy titled ‘Roadsigns for the Journey’ spoke about racial/ethnic congregations being the growing edge of the denomination. This is what I’m observing in Philadelphia,” said Wenger. “Working in an urban setting will have some challenges,” he continued. “One is that many of these churches don’t have the resources that more
rural congregations have to help educate their pastors.”

To help with affordability, Wenger is raising money to provide $1,000 scholarships for each participant.

The STEP program (Study and Training for Effective Pastoral ministry), a partnership between Lancaster Mennonite Conference and Eastern Mennonite University, provides training for people who are licensed for pastoral ministry or who have been encouraged to consider pastoral work, but may not have had college, Bible school or seminary.

For more information on the STEP program, contact Mark Wenger at 717-397-5190 or by email at wengermr@emu.edu