Tag Archives: Rockhill Mennonite Church

New Pages in the Old Story

by Steve Kriss, executive minister

In our end is our beginning;
in our time, infinity . . .
unrevealed until its season,
something God alone can see.
—Natalee Sleeth, “In the Bulb There is a Flower”

I like new notebooks and journals.  Fresh, blank pages represent new possibility.  The pages await new thoughts, encounters, and reflections.

The beginning of a year is like that too. New goals, resolutions, and opportunities.  Sometimes, though, we are so busy with the new pages that we don’t reflect on where we have been.

This year’s “Year in Review” offers a good glimpse of where we were together as a community in 2018.  Upon reflection, it tells the highlights and the transitions.  The things that worked and came to fruition.

But missing, sometimes, is the struggle and the not yet.  The places where things were difficult and hard.  The conversations yet unresolved.  Those, too, are part of our story and part of our ongoing work.

I don’t want to take for granted that just because we’ve been around so long, we’ll always have new years and new pages ahead.  All around us religious institutions, some with histories that are long and deep, continue to wrap up their legacies.  Franconia Conference is also challenged by the cultural changes around us.  Our future cannot be taken for granted. 

Steve Kriss (right) visits with Isai Sanchez, Diana Salinas, and Gama Sanchez along with board members Angela Moyer and Gwen Groff, on a visit to CIEAMM in Oaxaca in 2018.”

Our legacy must not only be stewarded, but also enlivened.  Some things will come to an end and some things will emerge—or even be reborn.  We’ve seen an end of a historic congregation at Rockhill and a re-emergent partnership with CIEAMM.  We’ve come to embrace something we never imagined now with 10% of Conference congregations on the West Coast.  We’re calling leaders, both young and mature, to credentialed leadership.  And we’re being challenged to refine our credentialing processes so that more people who are called by our churches can navigate the process with grace and integrity.

When I look at our future, I know that there are things only known to God.  I know that in our human responses along the way, we have both the possibility of filling the pages of a new year beautifully or with scratch marks and smudges. Sometimes we’ll need practice runs.  We’ll have first drafts that will need improved, articles and ideas that will need translated.

Entering a new year means offering appreciation for what has gone before, all the accumulation upon which we stand and move.  It also means being open to the possibility, the plans yet unfolding, and the unknown events that might yet emerge.  And it means trusting that God—in our ends, in our beginnings, in all of time—sees and is with us through it all: alongside, inspiring, inviting, revealing further glimpses of the dream rooted in the faith, hope, and love that last forever.

With gratitude, we begin to write the pages of a new year as the old, old story unfolds within and around us anew.

Angela Moyer Named Interim Assistant Moderator

On July 16, the Franconia Conference Board appointed Angela Moyer as interim assistant moderator. This position is interim pending affirmation by the Conference delegates at the November 2-3 assembly. With this new role Angela will sit on the Conference Board Executive Committee as vice-chair and be vice-chair of the Conference Board.

Angela grew up in Franconia Conference and served as youth pastor at Rockhill Mennonite Church from 2005 to 2011. During that time, she sensed God calling her deeper into ministry and enrolled at Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS), Lancaster, PA to pursue her Master of Divinity which she acquired in 2012.  Angela then went on to serve at Ripple in Allentown where she is currently one of five co-pastors. Throughout her career she has been bi-vocational, working as pastor and also as an occupational therapist. Currently, while serving the Ripple community she also works in Early Intervention at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation.

“Franconia Conference shaped me significantly as a child and youth at Penn View, Christopher Dock, and Rockhill Mennonite Church,” Angela said. “Then the Conference invested in me further when I attended seminary at Eastern Mennonite Seminary and through mentoring when I was a new pastor. I am humbled to be invited to share my gifts through this role. I serve with gratitude for the encouragement and nurture that the Conference has offered to me throughout my life.  I am encouraged by the ways in which the Conference continues to bear witness to the upside down kingdom of God as taught to us by Jesus.”  

Conference moderator John Goshow noted Angela’s involvement and outstanding service as a member of the Conference board since 2015 and on the executive minister search committee in 2016.

“Angela is deeply rooted in our Conference community with broad relationships in our urban and historic congregations.  She knows our story, our ministries and our global partners.  She’s a measured and thoughtful next generation leader who will bring wisdom, insight and hope to our work and witness together,” said Executive Minister, Steve Kriss.

Executive committee member, Jim King added, “Angela has a keen awareness and passion for the margins in our faith communities.  She holds her core values with the ability to communicate across generational and ethnic lines.  I think she will do well in facilitating our group process.”

With her roots in Telford and as an urban and bi-vocational pastor, her gifts and background are well-suited for this new role on the board.  For more about Angela, check out the article that welcomed her to the board in 2015.


A New Chapter in a Classic Story

by Mike Clemmer, Leadership Minister

On April 1, 2018 (Easter Sunday), Rockhill Mennonite Church and Ridgeline Community Church joyfully celebrated the resurrection of Jesus together in a nearly-filled-to-capacity Rockhill meetinghouse.  This service was the culmination of a year-long journey of prayer, discussion, and discernment about the possibility of joining together officially as one church, united in God’s mission and service to the community. On the previous Sunday, each church individually affirmed their desire to merge together with nearly unanimous votes from both congregations, confirming the vision of the new entity. The new merger will be led by Gibson Largent, who is the founding pastor of the Souderton church plant named “Ridgeline Community Church.” The joint venture will be meeting at the former Rockhill Mennonite meetinghouse in Telford.

Pastors Larry Moyer and Gibson Largent

This merger process started organically early in 2017 when Rockhill’s pastor, Larry Moyer, informed the Leadership Team of his desire to retire within the coming year. At the same time, persons from Rockhill had started to relate to Pastor Largent through their involvement together in several community-run ministries. At the time, Ridgeline was meeting at the Boys and Girls Club in Souderton. Conversations about some sort of joining together started very slowly. In fact, the idea began as only a simple thought that started to grow into a possibility and then became intriguing to both parties. In the months ahead, differences in structure, theology, vision, and outreach were discussed together and prayed over by each congregation. Although there seemed to be a lot of hurdles to jump over, as well as many difficult decisions that needed to be made along the way, the doors of opportunity towards merging never closed.

In November of 2017, the congregations decided to explore more deeply the possibility of merger by holding 4 joint worship times together. They also engaged in fellowship meals and other opportunities to help to get to know each other better. During this time, both congregations saw a lot of sameness and unity in their core vision and purpose. Indeed, their styles of worship were very similar, they both were passionate about the Gospel and the scriptures, and they both had a desire to connect with the communities of Souderton and Sellersville around them.  The decision was then made to keep moving forward and begin working at all the details necessary in making the possibility of a merger a reality. Legal issues involving the property and the cemetery needed to be dealt with, budgets and general structure had to be talked about, and areas of responsibility and accountability needed to be set up. While all of this was being discussed, both congregations still held meetings that allowed persons to share their concerns and support for the merger. There was deep sense that God’s Spirit was moving through the process. Denominational allegiances and personal preferences were put aside as there was a feeling that God was doing a work of synergy through the coming together of two groups.

Finally, in early March, both churches agreed to hold congregational votes to affirm the joint venture – and this passed with very strong support of everyone involved. This meant that Rockhill Mennonite Church would no longer exist as the entity that it once was,  but instead would be a part of God’s movement in their community through the new, joint effort of Ridgeline Community Church. Their mantra for this new beginning is “better together.”

As this chapter of Rockhill Mennonite Church closes, their past will always be with us and will be remembered. In 1735, several families moved to West Rockhill Township and started a faith community that they called Rockhill Mennonite Church. It was founded as a church that would be located in the community that they resided in and was to be a lighthouse for the community in which they lived. Since that time, Rockhill has served the community and the Franconia Conference well. They have sent out persons into the broader church who have impacted the church around the world. Indeed, their own J. C. Wenger is one of the most well-known historians and theologians in the Mennonite Church to this day. The writings of Magdalene M. Derstine have been treasured for their inspirational content for many generations. And without the passion for history that John D. Souder exuded in forming the local Mennonite Historians, we may have lost a lot of treasures from our past. But as this new chapter of the Rockhill story unfolds, it is clear to see that the church and its merger is simply an extension of the original story. A story of Christian brothers and sisters being faithful to their original calling and purpose – and that is to exist for the community around them for the sake of Christ.  May God bless this new work and use it for God’s glory!