Tag Archives: Ray Hurst

Sharing Breakfast and Life

by Emily Ralph Servant, Interim Director of Congregational Resourcing

“I was not really looking forward to the morning event.  I wasn’t even sure it had much to do with my call and work,” confessed Joy Sawatzky, a chaplain at Living Branches.  “What happened was a nice surprise.  I like surprises.”

The “morning event” was a breakfast sponsored by Living Branches and Franconia Conference exploring questions of spirituality across generations.  On February 14, a panel of leaders answered questions about calling, spiritual practices, and hope.

“What happened was heart-felt sharing from three different generations around call and how that was and is lived out, not just in the lives of those on the panel, but in the table conversations afterwards as well,” reflected Sawatzky.

Panelists Krista Showalter Ehst, John Ruth, Paula Stoltzfus, James Krabill, Josh Meyer, and Ray Hurst expressed curiosity about other generations, pondered over advice they would give to their younger selves, suggested practices that are important in the life of the Church, and confessed how their priorities in ministry have been shaped by their life experiences (listen to the podcast).

After the panelists shared, pastors gathered around tables to share their own stories, challenges, and questions.  The take away—a hope for the future of the church and a hope for more of these conversations.

Living Branches began to explore sponsoring conversations on aging after a pastor told them, “Our church is aging, however our energy is focused on family and youth; we would appreciate thinking and talking together about issues of aging. Help us.”   Living Branches believes that as a member of the community and a participating ministry of the Franconia Conference, they have a calling to connect with and resource their community and churches around the issues of aging, says Margaret Zook, Director of Church & Community Relations at Living Branches.  “We believe that joy and purpose in life is enriched through conversations at all stages of our life.”

Credentialed leaders are invited to two breakfasts this April:

  • April 19, 8-10am, at Souderton Mennonite Homes. Chaplains from Living Branches will present the documentary “Being Mortal” and facilitate a conversation around faith and end of life issues.  (RSVP to Margaret_Zook@LivingBranches.org).
  • April 25, 9-11am, at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church. Anne Kaufman Weaver will lead a conversation around her research in resiliency for women in pastoral leadership (RSVP at franconiaconference.org/events).

“Taking time to be together to learn, to network, to eat together, to drink coffee and tea together helps keep our leadership and relationships vibrant and lively,” says Franconia Conference executive minister Steve Kriss.  “While our schedules are busy, this time apart, even for a few hours, is an important respite and a significant time to strengthen both skills and relationships among us as credentialed leaders in our conference community.”

For questions related to upcoming events or to request resourcing for your congregation, contact Emily (email or 267-932-6050, ext. 117).

Living Branches names pastoral care & service team

Russ Mast

When visionary leaders from Franconia Mennonite Conference founded Souderton Mennonite Homes and Dock Woods Community, serving older adults and families in the name of Jesus was at the heart of their mission. When the Boards of these two ministries came together to form Living Branches in 2008, we again affirmed that the vision and vitality of our shared ministry is rooted in and guided by Jesus. “Recognizing the importance of our faith heritage to our mission, we wanted to ensure that pastoral care played a prominent role in Living Branches,” explains Edward Brubaker, President/CEO. “We also felt that service to others was core to our Anabaptist Christian identity.”

This past fall, Living Branches combined Pastoral Care and Volunteer Coordination across the three campuses to create a unified Pastoral Care and Service Team. After interaction with a number of good candidates, the Pastors, Volunteer Coordinator and Living Branches leadership unanimously decided to call Ray Hurst to serve as our first Director of Pastoral Care and Service. Ray leads a gifted new team, which includes Jim Derstine, Pastor at Dock Meadows (Zion Mennonite); Lorene Derstine, Pastor at Dock Woods (Plains); Mark Derstine, Pastor at Souderton Mennonite Homes (Blooming Glen); and Lynne Allebach, our Volunteer Coordinator (Methacton).

Ray brings more than 20 years of ministry, pastoral care and social service experience to Living Branches. He began his ministry in Kansas, where he served as Co-Pastor of Tabor Mennonite Church in Newton for 11 years. Ray then became Lead Pastor of Community Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia, for a decade. Both were larger, multi-staff congregations. Ray moved to the Philadelphia area three years ago when his wife, Brenda, accepted a call to serve as Pastor of Frazer (Pa) Mennonite Church. Since moving to Pennsylvania, Ray has served autistic youth and adults living with mental illness. He also worked for a year as Executive Director of Good Samaritan Shelter in Phoenixville.
Ray earned a Master of Divinity Degree in Pastoral Counseling from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Trinity College. He is an avid gardener and is passionate about the Christian call to work for peace and justice.

“We have a strong interest in nurturing the ongoing faith development of older adults,” says Ray. “Our faith isn’t finalized when we reach a certain age; rather, we can always continue to mature in our faith journey.” Ray and his team are creating spaces to talk about questions of life and faith in the context of community. Ray recently started a column in a monthly resident newsletter titled “Roast Preacher” where he invites conversation with residents around an aspect of faith that he is pondering.

With these changes, the Dock Woods and Dock Meadows chaplains are now referred to as pastors, which had already been the tradition on the Souderton Mennonite Homes campus. As Ray explains, “For some, the term ‘chaplain’ can signify a shorter-term ministry to an individual. At Living Branches, however, we’re looking to form meaningful relationships for the balance of a person’s life, and we’re also tending to the wider faith community on all three campuses. We feel this new language embraces our Anabaptist heritage of faith in the context of community.”

Another way we’re embracing our Anabaptist approach to spirituality is including Volunteer Coordination in the Pastoral Care and Service Team. “Serving others is at the heart of the Gospel,” added Ray. “By including Volunteer Coordination in our vision for Pastoral Care, we are helping others connect more fully with service as a wonderful, life-giving spiritual discipline.”
In addition to engaging our residents, their families and staff members around issues of spirituality, our Pastoral Care and Service Team strives to be a resource for area pastors and coordinators of congregational health ministries. One way we do this is through annual Pastoral Care to Seniors seminars.

As Ray summarizes, “We are here to be expressions of Christ’s love, as we minister to the needs of the whole person—mind, body and spirit.”