Tag Archives: Rocky Ridge Mennonite Church

Congregational Profile: Rocky Ridge Mennonite Church

by Franco Salvatori, Rocky Ridge congregation

“It was the literal fulfillment of scripture that caused me to join Rocky Ridge Mission. As I saw these faithful Christians coming eight or more miles from their homes and gathering up in their cars Italians, Poles, Dutch, American Negroes, and Germans, to take them to the house of the Lord, I was made to feel that here is a group of Christians who are really making their religion practical.”1 

James & Rowena Lark. Photo: GAMEO

That was Rowena Lark’s description of Rocky Ridge congregation at its inception in the early 1930s.  Rowena’s husband James would later become the first African American minister ordained by the Mennonite Church in 1944. 

As a Mission Outreach, the pioneering families of the church not only drove 8 miles to invest in the “Paletown” community that had grown up around the Rockhill quarry a few miles south of Quakertown, PA, but they relocated their families there to begin the church, a school (Quakertown Christian School), and a number of businesses.  They wanted to make a difference in the lives of the people who were living in the area between Paletown and Three Mile Roads, Old Bethlehem and Doylestown (SR.313) pikes.  And the difference was noticed, as heard in Rowena Lark’s words.

Consistent with its origin, the church continues to represent a unique diversity in its body.   Current members and attenders include people who have immigrated from North & South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and China.  The church has also recently begun to share building space with the Evangelical Blessing Church, consisting of people from Central and Southern African countries. 

Bishop Antonio Alfredo Barros (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Angola), Pastor Franco Salvatori, & Tarun Guardia (Bible Translator and Indian Missionary).

Rocky Ridge maintains a strong missionary “sending” ethos.  Early workers from the Rocky Ridge mission went on to later serve in other mission ministries in Minnesota, Vermont, Montana, Chicago, and Canada.  Currently, the church supports missionaries in Pakistan, India, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, all who had formational faith experiences at Rocky Ridge.  Joel Nsongo, Executive Director of Congolese Community Development Network (CCDN), says, “This community has been instrumental in so many seasons of my own life.  From their investment in me as a young man with the IVEP program, through raising my own family and later, the foundation of CCDN, Rocky Ridge has helped shape the work and vision God has given for my life and family.”     

Currently, the church describes itself as “a community of people, bonded by faith in Jesus Christ, committed to being Shaped by God’s Word, to Sharing life as God’s Family, and to Sacrificing for God’s Mission.”  That’s modern language for the same impulse that started the church in the late 1920s.  As we look towards the future, Rocky Ridge is prayerfully committed to re-imagining what it means to live out the same intercultural, gospel-centered move toward the community that has always been at the center of its reason for being. 

Prayer Requests:
* that they would courageously follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives and organizationally
* that they would creatively engage their neighbors with the Good News of Jesus
* that they would consistently surrender their will, aspirations, and desires to will of the Father

Partnerships Embodying Christ’s Way of Redemptive Peace

by Mary Nitzsche, Associate Executive Minister

The slogan, “Doing together what we cannot do alone,” was put into action on Friday evening, September 28, when three Franconia Conference congregations partnered in mission to assemble relief kits. After hearing about Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) plea to send 10,000 relief kits around the world this year, Blooming Glen Mennonite Church invited Deep Run East Mennonite Church and Perkasie Mennonite Church to join them in collecting money to purchase supplies and assemble the relief kits. Initially, the hope was to donate enough money to assemble 300 kits, but more than $9,000 was contributed, enough to buy supplies for 610 kits.

Approximately 90 people of all ages, ranging from 3 to over 80 years old, gathered to share a meal and fellowship around tables. Following the meal, each table group relocated to another table to assemble kits which included rolling and tying over 2,000 towels, packaging shampoo in plastic bags, placing an MCC sticker on the bucket, or securing the bucket lids. After nearly 1 ½ hours of this multi-generational, cooperative, “worker bee” effort, 610 buckets were loaded into trailers. The evening ended with a group picture and prayer of blessing that these kits share God’s compassion, healing, and hope to people suffering the devastation of disaster or war.

Throughout the Franconia Conference website we are reminded of partnerships that span the globe providing opportunities to learn and share resources to embody and extend Christ’s way of redemptive peace. The relief kit partnership prompted me to explore how other Franconia Conference congregations are pooling money, skills, or resources to worship together, host community forums or events, or provide ministry in their communities. Many of these events are multi-generational, cross cultural, or cross denominational, reflecting the expansiveness of God’s way of peace. Some of these local partnerships have been highlighted in Intersectings articles over the past year. Others I learned about recently and will briefly describe.

Several congregations partnered with organizations and people in their broader communities to foster awareness and understanding, promote justice, and take action to address issues. Garden Chapel partnered with their community in Morris County, New Jersey, to host a forum on opioids and addiction providing education and prevention strategies for addressing the problem. Salem, Rocky Ridge, and Swamp Mennonite congregations are partnering with community non-profit organizations and the Quakertown Borough to address the opioid crisis in their community. A meeting place is provided for adults and “directionless” youth to build relationships and engage in meaningful activities. Perkasie Mennonite partnered with trained conflict facilitators to host a community event encouraging civil and respectful conversations about gun policies.

Participants from Blooming Glen, Deep Run East and Perkasie gather together, after assembling over 600 MCC relief kits.

Other congregations planned celebrations and invited the community to participate. Plains Mennonite and Evangelical Center for Revival hosted a community Fourth of July Commemoration to celebrate and embrace diversity. Methacton Mennonite hosted a block party featuring a variety of food and music along a local dance/drum group. Ripple Church uses the sanctuary space of the St. Stephens Lutheran Community Center for worship services and shares several activities with the Christ Lutheran congregation. These activities include a Pesto Festival at the end of the summer using basil from their community garden, and a “Trunk or Treat” event in October to pass out treats from car trunks to the neighborhood children. Ripple also partners with Whitehall Mennonite to provide a Summer Bible School in the park.

Salford Mennonite and Advent Lutheran have partnered in sharing a community garden and providing food to those in their community; hosting educational events on anti-racism and other issues; worshipping together at an annual Thanksgiving service and taking an offering to support local and global ministry.

Several congregations planned joint worship services and opportunities for fellowship this summer. Nations Worship Center traveled to Deep Run East for worship and an intercultural fellowship meal. Centro de Alabanza and Towamencin Mennonite met for a joint baptism service followed by an intercultural fellowship meal. Our California congregations annually gather for worship, fellowship, and resourcing.

Some partnership stories have yet to be told, imagined, or planned. May these brief stories continue to encourage local and global opportunities to learn and share resources in our communities and beyond as we seek to embody and extend Christ’s way of redemptive peace.