Tag Archives: Rockhill

Pastors walk through transformation together

Learning Community
Members of Salem, Rockhill, and Doylestown congregations pray for one another at their joint worship service on February 10.

by Emily Ralph, eralph@franconiaconference.org

When Larry Moyer, pastor of Rockhill congregation, was seriously injured after falling off of the roof of his home in 2011, Randy Heacock, pastor of Doylestown congregation, filled in to preach.  Moyer’s recovery was long and difficult, but throughout the following year he was supported by Heacock and the other pastors in his Learning Community—Bruce Eglinton-Woods, pastor of Salem congregation, and Walter Sawatzky, a member of Plains.

“I valued the support of these pastors,” reflected Moyer, “the prayer support from their congregations, and Walter’s ongoing care of me personally and my family.  Randy made personal visits to my home as I was not able to attend our monthly meetings and on one occasion, the group met at my house.  I felt cared-for during my recovery journey.”

This care and prayer support is only one aspect of the Learning Community that these pastors formed in 2006 in response to conference encouragement to form pastoral support teams.  They invited Sawatzky, who was a Conference Minister at that time, to join them for insight and encouragement.

This team of four has met monthly ever since, sharing their challenges and joys of ministry, introducing one another to new resources, and supporting one another with advice and prayer.  “We wanted to meet together as we sensed our churches were on similar journeys and we wanted to share in mutual learning and encouragement,” Heacock remembered.  “Though each of us are different and have our unique emphasis, we share a common vision for a future church that is about being real with who we are in Jesus Christ before one another.”

Small groups of like-minded pastors is not a new concept in Franconia Conference, Sawatzky observed; support, study, and prayer groups have existed in various forms for years.  What has made this particular group successful has been both a commitment to one another and shared vision for what church could be.  “They have organized their activities around their immediate shared concerns,” Sawatzky said.  “[Then their activities] come out of relationship as these pastors have bonded as friends and in spiritual relationship with one another.”

Their congregations have also benefited from their relationship, both directly and through their growth as leaders, Eglinton-Woods said. “I have greater confidence and ability to lead transformation in our congregation as a result of being with other pastors who are doing the same thing. Continuing to teach, preach, encourage, and lead transformation in the face of comfortable Christianity has a cost but it has become an easier cost to bear [because of] being a part of this group.”

Soon after they formed their Learning Community, the group began working together to provide equipping events for their congregational leadership.  These workshops eventually developed into joint worship services where the congregations met to share stories of transformation, including one in February in which the congregations worshiped, shared testimonies of God’s joy, and prayed for each other.  This mutual prayer has always been a pivotal part of the pastors’ and congregations’ relationship, Heacock pointed out, because it keeps them from experiencing envy or from developing a sense of competition.

After six years, this Learning Community is still an important support for all three pastors—they rarely miss a meeting.  “I look forward to them and receive encouragement, insight, and new life every time,” reflected Eglinton-Woods.

“I am grateful for our learning community,” added Heacock.  “I believe God has brought us together….   Larry, Bruce, and Walter are men that are being transformed by and used by God.  I am honored to walk and learn with them.”

Conference Finance Update (February 2012)

the garden
Will, Kristin, and Maisley participate in an inter-generational activity at a Garden gathering, drawing a response to the question: Where do you find hope? The Garden received a Missional Operational Grant through Doylestown Mennonite Church. Photo by KrisAnne Swartley

The 2011-12 fiscal year is over and a new year has begun. 2011 was a difficult year for congregations, as evidenced by the decrease in giving to the conference—$80,000 below expectations. This is also reflected in the $75,000 decrease in forecasted giving from congregations for the new year. So, the conference budget continues to tighten its belt for the next year.

A sampling of the various activities of the conference during the months of December and January:

  •  $10,500 in Missional Operational Grants (MOG) was disbursed during this period to Providence, Rockhill, Doylestown, and New Hope Fellowship congregations. $513 in assistance was also granted to Nueva Vida Norristown New Life for the production of a video about the congregation and the financial need they are facing.
  • LEADership Minister Steve Kriss along with LEAD Advisor Donella Clemens led a congregational review of Whitehall in January, as part of the process for strengthening our congregations.
  • Conference Prayer Coordinator Sandy Landes met with prayer leaders and teams from three congregations and continues to lead a weekly prayer gathering at the conference center.
  • In December, the conference jointly hosted the annual pastor appreciation breakfast at West Swamp Mennonite Church along with Eastern District Conference.

Another tidbits:

The conference is in the middle of processing the sale of the development rights to Indian Creek Farm, the proceeds of which will be used to reduce the debt on the Souderton Shopping Center, which in turn will free up some additional funds for subsidizing conference ministries.

Operating Budget, Feb. 2011-Jan. 2012 (unaudited)

Actual Budget Last Year 2012-13
Revenue $791,116 $851,318 $894,712 $817,091
Expenses $841,272 $815,368 $902,030 $788,835
Line of Credit Payment $25,000 $25,000 $25,000 $25,000
Net ($75,156) $10,950 ($32,318) $3,256

Overwhelmed by Generosity; Young adults to build relationships in Mexico City

A group of younger adults will fly to Mexico City this July to build relationships and learn about connecting with local community. The trip, led by Rockhill Mennonite Church and Franconia Mennonite Conference, will partner with the Conferencia de Iglesias Evangélicas Anabautistas Menonitas de México (CIEAMM) in offering children and youth programs and community outreach.

“This is an exciting possibility for young leaders to contribute and learn in one of the world’s biggest cities, to help build on generations of leadership, service, and partnership between
American and Mexican Mennonites,” said Steve Kriss, Director of Leadership Cultivation for Franconia Conference. “I love the energy of Mexico City and the creativity of young leaders

Rockhill Mennonite’s youth pastor, Angela Moyer, has taken her youth group on service trips to Mexico City twice and felt like the time had come to expand the relationship between Mexican
and American Mennonites. In the past, American churches have always sent money, she said, “but these churches don’t need our money—they appreciate our time and energy.” Time and energy used not to construct buildings, but to share in the task of ministry.

The growth of technology has meant that these new relationships, separated by thousands of miles, can remain connected in everyday life. “I can text them,” Moyer said. “We’re on Facebook.” As she looked ahead to this summer, Moyer began to imagine how to further nurture these relationships. The idea for this trip as a broader Conference opportunity emerged; a trip that will be mutually beneficial for both American and Mexican Mennonites.

American visitors are blessed by their Mexican brothers’ and sisters’ hospitality, passion, and love. “[The team] will be overwhelmed by generosity,” Moyer said. They will experience
what it means to be involved in local community in tangible ways and catch a glimpse of what Anabaptism looks like in a context that doesn’t include shoe fly pie and funny cake.

At the same time, “We bring them the world,” said Moyer. Because of financial and immigration issues, many Mexicans can’t make the trek to the US. When American Mennonites visit, the CIEAMM’s young people get a chance to connect with the global church beyond Mexico, have an opportunity to learn and practice their English, and discover that the US is more
than Hollywood.

The Americans’ presence is also an encouragement. Moyer noted that Mexican pastors have asked her, “Why are you guys here serving the kids in our community when most of our own
church isn’t here?” Something about the presence of visitors, working alongside local believers, increases the energy in their own church for Bible School.

And for the CIEAMM, Bible School is still a big deal. The thirteen congregations that form the CIEAMM are on the fringes of Mexico City, ministering to broken families. The children who
live in their neighborhoods have nowhere to go when school is out; Bible School provides a safe and loving place and welcoming diversion, just down the street.

“We’ll be creating space for the church to love the community, in whatever way the local pastors feel would be helpful,” Moyer said, adding with a laugh, “That could take on a very different
look.” One time, she remembers, her youth group joined Bible School children on a peace march. Another time, a pastor was invited to a child’s 1st birthday party—so he brought the
entire team along.

No matter what happens, this will not be a typical service trip—it’s not about accomplishing a project, but about supporting and encouraging the work of the Mennonite Churches in Mexico
City. For those who have never been on a trip overseas before, this will be a great way to ease in, said Moyer. And for those who are service trip veterans, this will be a breath of fresh air, a chance to experience the meaning of generosity and locality.

The Mexico City trip, July 20-August 3, still has several slots available. For more information or to sign up, contact Angela Moyer (moyer1218@hotmail.com). The cost is $1000 per person.

An Intersection with God

Angela Moyer

I have described my calling experience or path of intersection with God like a cell phone ring tone. You don’t hear it at first, but then it gets louder and louder until you cannot ignore it. My calling began long before I realized what was going on. Once I realized I was being called to ministry, I looked back on events and conversations and realized that they all contributed to sensing and accepting God’s call to ministry in my life.

I first realized that I might be receiving a call to ministry at the Franconia Conference Assembly in 2004. I was there as a delegate for my church and there was a time of prayer and affirmation of the newly credentialed pastors. I began to weep for no reason. I had no idea why, but I had this sense that God was telling me that I would be up there some day. Unfortunately, I had an initial reaction of, “No way! I’ll tell you, God, the many reasons why I will never be a pastor. Ministry is not in my plan, I am an occupational therapist, I love my job, I didn’t go to seminary, and pastors are much closer to and know God much more than I do.”

But after that weekend, I began to reflect on why I had been so stirred by that prayer and the things that had been going on in my life, and I realized that maybe God did have some things in the working for me to pursue ministry. I knew I needed to at least be open to the idea and see where God would take me.

Many things had come together that year. My demanding job schedule had changed, I moved back to Souderton, PA, in order to work with the youth at my church, and realized that I really enjoyed it. Though I appreciated my job, I was more fulfilled with my time spent with the youth. I had been affirmed by the church regarding my work with the youth, and the church was completing period of transition where we began to look at areas in the church to grow, one being the youth. I remembered Franconia Conference Minister Walter Sawatzky and Interim Pastor Bob Petersheim both telling me earlier that year that they had sensed I had some ministry gifts that I should think about. I hadn’t at the time, but soon I realized that those conversations were a confirmation of the call I’d been experiencing.

Once I recognized all of these things there was too much coming together to ignore and I began to see things differently. God’s plan of salvation and his love for his people really began to convict and fascinate me. I realized that I had been given a gift of loving, encouraging, and listening to youth. I was able to develop these gifts while working in a city hospital with people in a variety of crisis moments. I saw the experiences, opportunities, and gifts that I had been given were all coordinated in order to prepare for this calling to youth ministry. These encounters helped me to begin to feel more comfortable with using the word “calling” and further confirmed that what I was experiencing was truly a calling from God. Finally, I shared this with my church, Rockhill Mennonite, and they too affirmed the call to pursue youth ministry.

I realize that many people including my parents, family, friends, teachers at Penn View Christian School and Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, and members of my church family all created the foundation for me to be able to hear and be open to receiving God’s call.
I have learned how important a calling is in ministry, because you need it to get through the struggles, questions, and tough times. I would have never embarked on this journey of ministry if I hadn’t been called by God to do this, and I will never survive the struggles in ministry without it. I have no formal pastoral training and so I have many doubts and times of second guessing. But I have learned that I am not called to be perfect, no matter the training, but to point others to God. It would be much easier to remain in a place of comfort where I have the qualifications and experience to know what I am doing. But I know that God has called me to be at this place and there is no other place I would rather be.