Salem Mennonite Church says they were being challenged by God “to watch, look, and listen…” then join in! As they did this, Pastor Bruce at Salem was invited to organize the volunteers for the Union Cemetery project, a Quakertown private non-profit cemetery, that ended up in disarray. The project would be a cemetery clean-up, beautification, and weed whacking project. Salem Mennonite Church envisioned an opportunity to engage local youth to assist in the project. The Missional Operations Grant (MOG) that Salem received assisted in the purchase of necessary materials for the clean-up project and aided in providing space for youth to build relationships with church members.
Through this project, Pastor Bruce and Salem Mennonite Church have been able to build relationships with youth, local businesses, the community, and government leaders. It has lead to opportunities for the church to engage more deeply with their community.
For more information about the project and the other doors God is opening in Quakertown for Salem view the video below of Pastor Bruce sharing the cemetery upkeep testimony at the 2015 conference assembly:
Do you know what your congregation’s vision is? What does it mean? How do you pray for your congregation? How do we understand what God wants?
If you are a leader in your congregation, how does your congregation’s vision and mission impact how you lead? How do you pray for the other leaders?
Several years ago, Franconia Conference initiated a new phase of connectivity with congregations for the mentoring and resourcing of pastors. Our LEADership ministers, carefully chosen to offer a wide breadth of skills and expertise, are assigned to specific congregations, but also available to any congregation needing specific assistance for a season. This model calls for a proactive posture of oversight that is vision-oriented.
Much has been learned from this fluid way of walking alongside of pastors. Noel Santiago is implementing an upgraded process he’s framed as LEAD 2.0.
The primary focus of LEAD 2.0 is preparing all leaders to define, embrace, and lead God’s vision and mission for their congregation.
LEAD 2.0 starts with a 24-hour retreat for pastors and elders. As they focus on the congregation’s vision and mission, they also give significant time to a ministry of prayer with each congregational leader. Particular attention is given to listening for what God is saying.
Noel, along with congregational pastors and elders each share about their experiences in the following Sunday’s worship. This helps to create a sense of ownership and accountability between the leaders and the congregation.
The new dimension of LEAD 2.0 is for the church council, worship leaders, Christian education leaders, youth leaders and others to experience a similar but shorter process. An elder, pastor and Noel facilitate a session with each group of leaders.
The congregation’s vision and mission is front and center. Each leader shares about how she or he understands it and carries out the vision in their respective ministry area. Leaders interact around these understandings. During a time of prayer, the group offers words of appreciation for each leader and asking in prayer what each leader needs to know.
“Watch, look, listen; when you see me working, join in” is an invitation from God that the Salem congregation has been attentive to for several years. LEAD 2.0 has given a new way to focus the congregation’s vision and mission with all the leaders. “It is waking us up to what God wants for us as part of God’s ‘church of Quakertown,’” says Bruce Eglinton-Woods, the congregation’s lead pastor. “This process has raised our awareness of the need to work together with other churches to share Jesus’ ministry of love and hope with our neighbors.”
Churches in the Quakertown area have organized a code blue homeless shelter, and are seeking ways to reach out to 50-60 homeless teenagers in their school district. Weed whacking in the town’s cemetery has become a way to build relationships with the community and with at-risk teens who join them to do required community service. They are looking for concrete ways to reach people struggling with related issues of addiction, human trafficking and poverty. The Salem congregation is an integral part of these ministries.
Salem is taking LEAD 2.0 one step further by offering a day for listening, discernment and prayer for everyone in the congregation. It will be a “review of the future,” not the past. As they pray and encourage each other, participants will watch, look, and listen for what God is doing and how they might be called to join in God’s work.
God is using LEAD 2.0 to stir a passion at Salem for people who do not know Jesus and need to be part of a faith community. “How can our hearts not be broken? Homeless kids should be able to turn to the church; they should know they can do that. We are also learning how to love one another and that we have love to share. It’s fun,” says Bruce.
LEAD 2.0 is still pretty new. But congregations are already experiencing positive interactions of encouragement, support, ownership and accountability happening between the various leadership groups. Lay leaders are more mindful of and empowered to speak into the vision. Together, they are “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead . . . press[ing] on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14 NRSV).
Noel Santiago is Franconia’s LEAD Minister for Spiritual Transformation.Sharon K. Williams is a musician, editor and congregational/non-profit consultant. She serves the Lord with the Nueva Vida Norristown New Life congregation as minister of worship.
Franconia Conference delegates and leaders gathered November 2 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa. to celebrate God still at work. With a packed auditorium for a third united assembly with Eastern District Conference, representatives gathered to listen and pray, to celebrate newly credentialed and ordained pastoral leaders, and to work alongside one another after an over 150-year rift created two separate Mennonite entities. The theme “God still @ work” was an extension of the 2012 theme, “God @ work.”
With singing in Indonesian, Spanish, and English led by Samantha Lioi (Peace and Justice Minister for both conferences) and Bobby Wibowo (Philadelphia Praise Center) and translation into Franconia Conference’s worshipping languages, delegates and representatives from nearly all of the Conference’s congregations from Georgia to Vermont gathered to confer around a board-crafted statement on the Conference’s increasing diversity in ethnicity, experiences, faith practice, and expression. The gathering was punctuated with points of celebration including testimony from Peaceful Living led by Joe Landis and Louis Cowell from Salford congregation, a youth choir from the revitalizing Garden Chapel in Victory Gardens, NJ, and a moment to mark the upcoming November retirement of Franconia Conference Pastor of Ministerial Leadership Noah Kolb after 45 years of ministry, which was met with rousing applause and a standing ovation.
In a shortened one-day event, delegates spent the morning together around tables with Eastern District Conference to continue to deepen relationships across conference lines. Business sessions were separate, and Franconia’s included a significant amount of time in conversations among table groups, conferring over the board statement and then reporting on those conversations to the whole body. Delegates and representatives were encouraged to mix across congregational lines to better hear and experience the diversity of conference relationships.
For many, including Tami Good, Souderton (Pa.) congregation’s Pastor of Music & Worship, who was attending Conference Assembly for the first time, the table conversations were holy spaces. Each person at her table was from a different congregation. “I saw God at work in the gracious listening, especially in the time when we talked about the conferring statement,” Good reflected. “There were disagreements, but everyone was graciously listening and hearing. Everyone actually wanted to hear each other. It was a beautiful time.”
The conferring time, along with an afternoon workshop led by the Franconia Conference board, focused on prayer and visioning for the Conference into the future. Conference board members Jim Longacre (Bally congregation), Rina Rampogu (Plains congregation), Jim Laverty (Souderton congregation), and Klaudia Smucker (Bally congregation) served as a listening committee for the daylong event. They reported seven themes of consistent and continued conversation: engagement, diversity, shared convictions, authority, polity, the role of conference, and the reality of changing relationships and engagement. Board members noted that there is much response work to do to continue the conversation and discernment process.
Bruce Eglinton-Woods, pastor of Salem congregation (Quakertown, Pa.), said, “The challenge is speaking clearly on what we believe and where we are at, which is often a challenge for Mennonite leaders. My hope and prayer is that we can trust God and release the idea of keeping it all together. We need to let God do the holding together.”
According to Rampogu, one of the longest standing Conference board members, “the hardest part about this kind of meeting is that there isn’t enough time. We want to share and to talk together,” she said. “That is a positive sign. People want to connect. My hope and prayer is that we keep our goal in mind, keeping our mission focused on equipping leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission, with Christ in the center and churches focused on missional activity.”
In business sessions, delegates selected a number of positions by 97% affirmation including a 2nd term for conference moderator John Goshow (Blooming Glen congregation) along with board member Beny Krisbianto (Nations Worship Center), as well as ministerial and credentialing committee members Rose Bender (Whitehall congregation), Ken Burkholder (Deep Run East congregation), Mike Clemmer (Towamencin congregation) and Chris Nickels (Spring Mount congregation). Randy Nyce (Salford congregation) who is completing a term as finance committee chair and board member reported on Conference finances, noting an 11% decrease in financial contributions from congregations.
“I was surprised and pleased that the attendance at Assembly 2013 was so strong; seeing the room filled to capacity was an affirmation of how much the delegates and guests in attendance care for our conference,” Goshow noted. “Franconia Conference is all of us who are members of our 42 churches and our Conference Related Ministries. It is my hope and prayer that together we chart a course that will advance God’s Kingdom in exciting and wonderful ways.”
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.”
For three Sunday evenings in February, March, and April, pastors, prayer intercessors and persons wanting to learn about prayer intercession came together for times of teaching, worship and prayer. Noel Santiago, Leadership Minister for Spiritual Transformation for Franconia Conference, taught on the Basis for Intercession, the Practice of Intercession, and the Power of Intercession. With an average attendance of 60 persons from churches throughout the region, there was a positive response to the teachings and the opportunity to practice what we were learning.
A team from Salem Mennonite Church helped us experience God’s presence with great joy as they led in worship at the first session in February, held at the conference center. Noel’s teaching focused on the Basis of Intercession, and some of the key points in that teaching included:
We are bi-locational, being seated in the heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 2:6) and living on earth. We will reflect the world we are most aware of, heaven or earth.
We are like Adam, God’s representatives on earth. (Psalm 8:5-6).
We have been given authority by God to pray forth what God wants to see happen here on earth, hence we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
The second session in March was held at Franconia Mennonite Church due to the wonderful attendance in February. The Practice of Intercession was the focus and we learned:
God is always speaking and has a variety of ways of communicating with us. Are we listening?
Prayer is finding out what God wants to do and asking God to do it (1 John 5:14).
This definition puts our relationship with God at the center and our primary posture in prayer becomes one of listening.
One of the challenges is that sometimes we are too quick to pray instead of waiting to hear what is on God’s heart for a person or situation.
One of the ways the will of God is accomplished on earth is that it is spoken.
An encouraging part of this evening was taking the time to listen to God and write down the words, thoughts and scriptures we heard. We then turned those words into a crafted prayer, which we were encouraged to keep praying
April 3 was the culminating session of this series and it focused on hearing God for one another, the Power of Intercession. The evening began again with worship and testimonies of how God has answered prayer and changed the way we pray as well as the ways we experience our relationship with God. Some of the main points covered were:
Two of the most important factors in our life are what we believe about who God is and who we are.
If you are not being shaped by the love of God, you are probably being shaped by your experiences.
“The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power” (I Cor. 4:20).
God’s word has power, and embedded in that word is the power to accomplish it (Isaiah 55:10-11).
We closed the evening with another time of listening to God for each other, writing a prayer and then speaking the words of encouragement to each other. Many were blessed by this exercise of hearing a word for another person and trusting that it was God speaking. The group was remindeded to discern the words given to them with others, to judge the word according to biblical principles, and to pay attention to the character requirements of scripture. Those who attended these sessions came away with new understandings of God and what it means to pray by listening first.
More teachings on prayer are being planned, and there will be continuing opportunities to practice what is being taught.
For updates check out prayer.franconiaconference.org.