Tag Archives: Sandy Drescher-Lehman

Grace to Fail at Faith and Life

by Sandy Drescher-Lehman, Methacton congregation

As I abandoned my warm cozy couch by the fire on Thursday evening, February 7, to head into the cold and rainy night toward Swamp Mennonite Church, I couldn’t remember anything about why I was doing this except that I had registered for another Faith and Life gathering. The thought of being with other credentialed leaders, whoever would show up, was meaning enough for my heart and soul (think: ENFP, Enneagram 7).

Being the first to arrive, I watched Swamp’s pastor, Nathan Good, putting the final touches on a welcoming table of fruit, cookies, and chocolate bark and then enjoyed the arrival of other pastors.   These were “my people”.

As we settled down around tables and J.R. Briggs, author of the book Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure, began his talk, I finally remembered what the topic was.  I also remembered that when I had registered, I wasn’t sure why I’d need to hear about this, since everything’s been going so well for me and the community at Methacton Mennonite Church.

But that wasn’t the point really.  I had voted a few years ago at conference assembly to affirm a group of pastors to provide quarterly gatherings for study, enrichment, and fellowship around how we practice our faith in life. They have delivered and I’ve never been disappointed.

J.R. Briggs, author of “Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure”.

What I soon realized was that the points the speaker was making were good to be reminded of, because even on my best days, I do make a lot of mistakes.  We all do, of course! What we do with those failures, and the accompanying feelings of rejection—and ultimately shame—was the topic for discussion.  How do we attend to the failures that we should expect and that Jesus does not keep us from, so that we can continue to find joy in our ministries?

After reading 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 & 16-18 several times together, we  shared our definitions of failure and success and vulnerability.  What do we do when we get BLASTed (Bored, Lonely, Anxious/Afraid, Stressed, or Tired)?  We were invited to think about the lies we’re tempted to believe about ourselves when we make mistakes, and the masks we put on to cover them. Instead of defining our success by the 3 Bs (Building, Bodies and Budget), we were encouraged to find freedom in the 4 Fs (Faithfulness, Fruitfulness, Fulfillment and Fellowship).

And those are the words I left the evening with: the good news that God uses people who fail, the good news that is only available to those who have failed, and the good news that freedom is found in nothing to hide, lose, or prove. J.R. and those around my table that night, in honest and vulnerable sharing, renewed my joy of being a pastor, alongside so many other wonderful people, who all fail at times and can then talk and pray about it together.

Thank you to the Faith and Life Commission members, for another good time of study, reflection, and renewal.

If you missed J.R.’s presentation, or would like to see it again, CLICK HERE

Faith & Life gatherings for credentialed leaders are held quarterly.  This year’s topics revolve around issues of leadership.  Our next gathering will be held in several locations around eastern PA and via Zoom on May 8 & 9, focusing on women in leadership with Carolyn Custis James.

Coming Together in New Ways

Last year Methacton Mennonite Church experienced their community knocking on their door, as they collectively grieved the loss of “The Methacton Oak” thought to be over 380 years old. Pastor Sandy Drescher-Lehman recounts this experience in New Energy Brings the Community to Celebrate and Remember, as the community came together, “remembering and celebrating the tree that belonged to all of us and to our ancestors.”

The congregation enjoyed their time with their neighbors so much and the connections the tree helped them make, that this year on September 30, the congregation once again gathered with their neighbors to celebrate their shared stories and their diversity.

Bluegrass group with Methacton Mennonite’s worship team

On that beautiful fall afternoon, more joy and peace was added to the world; from morning worship with hymns, a cappella and praise music, to an afternoon of Aztec drumming and dancing and a Bluegrass Band, God was praised in as many ways as they could invite the Spirit to be present! 

Nicolas and Jonathan with the drum they made, and the sapling from the fallen Methacton Oak

Nicolas and Jonathan Morales from Souderton Mennonite Church created a drum from The Methacton Oak utilizing Aztec tools for part of the process. That drum and the boys were part of the indigenous dance group La Danza Azteca, who, with drum beats and dancing, blessed the land where a seedling from the old oak is growing .

Dave Benner from Methacton resurrected the Bluegrass group he’s sung with, including Merle and Floss Hunsberger and Sharon Hunsberger, and invited the Methacton worship team to join them for a grand finale. 

Garrett (4th from right) and Wilson (far right)

Also honored in the day was Garrett Campbell from a local Eagle Scout troop, who re-set 130 of the toppled gravestones, and Wilson Roth, who has also done significant cemetery restoration of the old graveyard.

Music also accompanied lots of food, crafts and lawn games, and John and Charlotte Herschal’s animal wood carving demonstration.

John Herschel demonstrating his animal wood carvings

It is truly a gift to be able to celebrate the many talents and gifts of our neighbors in and outside the walls of our meetinghouse. God continues to use The Methacton Oak even in its death.

To read more about the La Danza Azteca performance at Methacton’s Block Party, visit http://www2.philly.com/philly/entertainment/arts/traditional-aztec-dance-honors-the-great-fallen-charter-oak-at-methacton-mennonite-church-20181006.html.

New Energy Brings the Community to Celebrate and Remember

By Sandy Drescher Lehman, Pastor at Methacton Mennonite Church

On July 21, 2017, disaster greeted the congregation of Methacton Mennonite Church as we gathered for worship. Our planned liturgy immediately turned into a service of lament, as we witnessed the crash of a huge branch of the 381 year old, white oak at the corner of our cemetery.

The next day, as an arborist — along with many of our neighbors and folks from the Worcester Historical Society — joined us to figure out a way to save the tree, it began to crack.  Everyone ran for their lives, literally, in all directions and watched, as the tree fell – a complete and decisive DO NOT RESUSCITATE! It was totally hollow except for the raccoon family who had made it their home.

The next weeks and months were filled with conversations of lament and inquiries from people who held a strong, and often spiritual, connection to this community landmark all their lives. “Can I have some of the wood?” “That’s the oldest living thing I’ve known”. “I feel like part of me died with that oak!” These were just some of the feeling expressed.

At the same time, our congregation was asking what we could do to reach out to our neighbors. Suddenly the light went on.  Forget the spaghetti dinner idea — that didn’t work anyway. Forget the yard sale that had minimal response from the neighbors. Our community was now coming to us, asking to be part of us!  This was so obviously a gift of God, using the death of “our” tree to bring the community to us!  We jumped on the lightning bolt!

November 5 was the great Community Tree Day. We invited the community to join us in remembering and celebrating the tree that belonged to all of us and to our ancestors. We began with a worship service, singing about the wonder of God’s nature – especially in trees, reading stories and scriptures about our invitation to be Oaks of Righteousness, each holding an acorn of hope in our hands.

After worship, more neighbors joined us for a rich time of story telling and sharing photos of their Methacton Oak memories, followed by soup and cookies in the shape of oak leaves and acorns for more neighbors than had ever entered our Fellowship Hall. Folks from the Worcester Historical Society joined us to offer the community an afternoon of making memories. An activity room was full of projects where people could make things out of pieces of the Old Oak’s wood and leaves. For sale were forest green mugs with an image of the tree on the front, prints and cards from a local painter, and acorn shaped Christmas tree ornaments that Ray Cooper, another neighbor, had turned out of branches from the wood.

Historians John Ruth and Leslie Griffin led a cemetery tour, telling stories about people who have been buried under the Oak since the Revolutionary War, before the day culminated with a double tree planting.  A neighbor, Bayard DeMott, donated and planted a new White Oak, and Paul Felton, a 97 year old forester came with a 3 foot baby of the original Oak that he had planted and nurtured for 6 years, for us to grow across from his Mother Oak. Hubert Swartzentruber blessed the trees and the day with a poem he wrote in response to the news of the fall of the Historic Methacton Oak.

We continue to celebrate the unique and Holy gift that “fell into our laps” to grieve and celebrate with our community. God seems to have no end to giving us ways to nurture our relationships with each other and notice Holiness in our midst.

All Together in One Place

by Chris Nickels, Pastor at Spring Mount Mennonite Church

On Sunday June 4, five Franconia Conference congregations (Wellspring, Methacton, Spring Mount, Frederick, and Providence) gathered in Skippack to worship together and have a picnic.  Skippack has some historical significance, being the place where Mennonites first settled in  Montgomery County.  A few centuries later we are still here, seeking to live out a vision of faithful witness to Jesus Christ.

In the beautiful surroundings of Hallman’s Grove, tucked within a residential neighborhood just east of the village, I was reminded of the life and Spirit that surrounds us. One’s senses could pick up the sights and sounds of creation as well as a gentle breeze— especially meaningful on this day of Pentecost that was the focal point of our gathering.

We celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit to the first followers of Jesus (Acts 2), and the gifts of the Spirit present among us today. Worship included speaking and singing in different languages, and a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer included nine languages (Spanish, Indonesian, English, German, Greek, Italian, Kannada, French, Vietnamese). Pastor Sandy Drescher-Lehman of Methacton Mennonite Church presented a children’s story about the birth of the church—complete with birthday cake! —and she and the children led us in a fun birthday song.

We prayed for each other, for our pastors, and also for a local food pantry, all of which reminded me of our common mission in central Montgomery County.  Our pastors took turns giving a short message about how we have been living out God’s mission and how we are being empowered for ministry by the Spirit. The picnic, organized by members of each church, provided plenty of delicious food and space to build relationships with one another.

The event was a team effort among our congregations, and I think we are discovering that we really enjoy working together and are being blessed in our common activities and growing relationships. Despite the small size of our individual congregations, we are noticing that we benefit from diverse membership and from the wisdom of our elder members. We are realizing that our small congregations can be a blessing to our conference and also to our local communities. We have unique gifts to offer, and by the end of our time together I felt energized for how we might continue to share the love and light of Christ together.

Faithful Resilience

By Barbie Fischer, Communication Manager

Franconia Mennonite Conference Delegates voted at the 1987 Assembly to allow congregations to request credentialing for female leaders. That vote led to two women entering the credentialing process. One of those women would not be ordained for another 29 years. The other, Marty Kolb Wykoff, was credentialed in 1988, at which time she was serving at Taftsville Chapel Mennonite Fellowship. Since Marty’s credentialing, Franconia Mennonite Conference has credentialed numerous women. Currently, 30% of Franconia Conference active credentialed leaders are women. In 2015, Franconia Conference credentialed their first woman of color, Leticia Cortes. Still, within Franconia Conference there is only one instance where a woman serves as lead pastor with an associate she oversees. All other credentialed women in the conference who hold pastoral roles are either solo pastors or associates. While women receive the call from God to ministry, they still face many earthly obstacles. With all of this in mind, it led some to question what the credentialing process is like for women and how they remain resilient in ministry when some still object to them being in ministry.

Anne Kaufman Weaver

In the summer of 2016, with the blessing of the Conference Ministerial Committee, then-Director of Leadership Cultivation, Steve Kriss, invited Anne Kaufman Weaver to interview 11 active female credentialed leaders within Franconia Conference. The purpose was to look at women’s pastoral resiliency. This was an extension of research Anne began in Atlantic Coast and Lancaster Conferences. While co-teaching a course at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Anne discovered a book regarding pastoral resiliency that only voiced male pastors. This made her wonder, what resiliency looks like for female pastors and ultimately lead to her research.

On, April 25, 30 people from around Franconia Conference – 14 men and 16 women – met at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church to hear Anne report from her Women’s Pastoral Resiliency research in Franconia Conference. There were six themes that emerged from her research regarding important elements to women’s pastoral resiliency: 1) spiritual formation, 2) self-care, 3) emotional intelligence, 4) cultural intelligence, 5) family and relationships, and 6) leadership. Anne’s questions to the women she interviewed focused on their calling, the credentialing process, areas of self-care, resources, obstacles, and what the conference and seminaries should know.

Throughout the morning , Anne discussed key points in the areas of credentialing, calling, self-care, and obstacles. Credentialed women from the Conference also shared some of their experiences.

Kris Anne Swartley, Minister for the Missional Journey at Doylestown Mennonite Church, shared about her experience in the credentialing process, where licensing was fine for the congregation, but when it came time for ordination, the congregation was reluctant. She spoke of the need to separate her personal process from that of the congregation, the importance of open communication with the congregational leadership, and the chance to share one-on-one and in small groups about her call story.

Mary Nitzsche, Pastor of Pastoral Care and Spiritual Formation at Blooming Glen, shared about her calling experience. She spoke of the way others seemed to recognize a calling in her before she did, even though she would play the “preacher” to all her dolls when she was four years old. She shared about wrestling with the call as it came when she was married with children. How would stepping into her call impact her family?

Speaking about self-care was Sandy Drescher-Lehman, Pastor at Methacton Mennonite Church. She spoke of the support of her husband, and being renewed in nature. Anne’s research shows that exercise and relaxation was key to the women interviewed, along with opportunities to meet with other women in ministry, engage in hobbies, and spend time with family and friends.

Newly credentialed women – and men – at Conference Assembly 2016.

The morning ended with Anne sharing some of the obstacles faced by women in ministry, including patronizing language and stereotypes, being expected to take minutes or help in the kitchen. Even the size of the pulpit, having to stand on a stool to see over it, and the constant thought of appropriate clothing that accommodates a clip-on microphone can be obstacles. A challenge Franconia Conference is specifically seeing is that it takes women longer to move through the credentialing process than their male counterparts. Younger women don’t seem to be named to conference-wide positions as often as younger men. Congregations in Franconia Conference still differ on their interpretation of the Confession of Faith; there is a zeal to uphold the article regarding sexuality, but not the same zeal to uphold the article on credentialing women.

Anne shares her report on women’s pastoral LEADership and resiliency with the Franconia Conference leadership ministry team.

The Franconia Conference Ministerial Committee, Conference Board and staff have read and discussed Anne’s research and are working to implement ways to better support women in ministry. The congregations in Franconia Conference are also taking steps to examine this topic. Last fall, Franconia Mennonite Church held a series of discussions and studies on women in ministry. Franconia Conference continues to work to support all those who are a part of the Body of Christ. In the 30 years since affirming women in ministry, the Conference has come a great distance, yet there is still a long way to go.

Read Women’s Pastoral Resiliency Research by Anne Kauffman Weaver here.

Hear the Podcast of Anne’s presentation at Blooming Glen here.

Unity in Thanksgiving

By Sandy Drescher-Lehman, Pastor of Methacton Mennonite Church

Four Franconia Mennonite Conference churches met on the Sunday before Thanksgiving to proclaim the One who unifies them even amidst the diversity of opinions, theology, wealth, and political persuasions among other things. Ideas had been brewing in the hearts of several pastors of small churches in close proximity to each other for some time, to find ways to support and resource each other.  Last summer, that dream became a reality as the pastors began to meet together. One of the outcomes of those meetings was this joint Thanksgiving worship service.

The pastors and congregations of Wellspring Church of Skippack, Frederick Mennonite Church, and Spring Mount Mennonite Church gathered at Methacton Mennonite Church on November 20 for the anticipated and momentous event!  People who usually have plenty of room on their benches, were packed in like smiling sardines.  Singers who ordinarily can identify every voice, were overwhelmed with the grand blend of harmonious praise. A colorful mountain of boxes and cans and bags began to grow in the front of the sanctuary as people streamed in with their offerings of food to be shared with their neighborhood food pantry. An open conversation among the four pastors,  inspired comradery with other churches who also have an average of 15-30 members and who also each share the vibrancy of unique vision and mission intentions, centered around following Jesus Christ. Three pastors were happy to hear Mike Meneses share the Word and four song leaders led their congregations in a round of “Go now in peace,” (#429 HWB).

Friendships were lit and fanned into beautiful flames as we then spent informal time together around the tables of food and drink, with hopes of more joint ventures to come.  Emulating what was shared at Conference Assembly two weeks earlier, we celebrated what is being planted and watered in our separate congregations and were inspired to notice how God calls us to grow into the days before us.

Worthy of our Calling to Extend Christ’s Peace

by Stephen Kriss

During the last staff meeting in this space in between, I invited my colleagues to share their celebrations and questions for the last month.   Without exception, the celebrations and questions had to do with pastors.   We celebrate the completion of pastoral search processes, with the beginning of Mike Spinelli’s leadership at Perkiomenville; the call of Maria Hosler Byler to an associate pastor role at Salford; Josh Jefferson’s installation and licensing last Sunday at Souderton as a youth pastor; and Sandy Drescher-Lehman’s beginning as pastor at Methacton. Many of these processes were lengthy discernments.   We celebrate the new beginnings and new possibilities that leadership can bring in the life of our communities.

Conference staff took a road trip with Pastor Bruce Eglinton-Woods (Salem), to explore the community where the congregation is ministering.

Our questions had to do with how we walk with pastors and congregations through difficult times.  We wonder how God will provide with prolonged pastoral search processes at Franconia and Taftsville.  We prayed as John Bender from Allentown who was in the hospital making difficult decisions between life and death, as he was readmitted to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia (he made the decision by the time our meeting had ended).  We prayed for an upcoming surgery that Charlie Ness from Perkiomenville will be undergoing.   These are all things we attend to as staff beyond our meeting time and carry in our hearts and heads.

The last month has meant focused attention on planning for Conference Assembly — a great time to celebrate the work God is doing in our midst, and spend time discerning and equipping ourselves for the future.  Registration and the docket are available at http://edc-fmc.org/assembly/  to help us, as a conference, prepare for assembly at Penn View Christian School.  Postcard invitations and posters will be coming to your congregations in the next two weeks. We’ve hosted and gotten some feedback from our time with David Boshart (moderator-elect) from Mennonite Church USA.  We’re prepping for his return at assembly to discuss more specific issues around human sexuality that continue to challenge our capacity to be church together, while going to the margins to be and proclaim the Good News.

Our conference executive minister Ertell M. Whigham comes back on the job on Saturday, October 1.  My season of this stretch of the race as acting executive minister has passed.  I’m ready to return the baton and responsibilities back to Ertell as he navigates the next few months.  I’ve learned a lot in these months.  I’ve been busier than usual with meetings, emails, texts and phone calls.  I have lots of hope for us as a community, but recognize our fragility at the same time.  God continues to bless us with flourishing, and challenges enough to test and grow our hearts, minds, and souls.

At the beginning of these three months, I felt drawn to the text to “live a life worthy of my calling.”  This time, ending this stretch, I want to turn that text back over to us as individuals and a community, to stay focused on the things we’ve discerned together, and to live, work and minister together in such a way that honors the sense of call that exemplifies what God has invited us toward in extending the peace of Christ to each other and to neighbors nearby and faraway.

A daughter’s tribute to John M. Drescher

by Sandy Drescher-Lehman, Souderton congregation

John Drescher with family
John Drescher with the family that he loved, August 2013. Photo provided.

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.

That’s one of the many quotes we received over these last two weeks from your hearts to ours. We’ve been overwhelmed and grateful for your love to us and for our parents. Many of you know that two of Dad’s greatest joys were writing and preaching. The man we knew best was the one who cried tears of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love and who surrounded us with his laughter, his creativity ,and his daily prayers for each of us by name.

When he couldn’t stand long enough to preach any more this past year and his hands were too shaky to write—when all that was over, the thing that kept him wanting to live was his family. He cried tears of unspeakable love as he told us that even though he was so eager to touch Jesus, he cried tears of overwhelming grief to know that he was leaving us.

Dad worked out his life with words, writing them and sharing them. He worked at how to do relationships with words. He admitted that our mother was the one in his life who inspired him to write about the fruit of the Spirit. He asked her out for a date when someone in college pointed to her and said, “That woman would do anything for anyone,” and he found out how true that would be.

Dad moved around a lot when he was a child and made a decision to not do that when he had a family. He did travel a lot for the work that he loved. When he came back, he always had something in his suitcase for each of us—usually a pack of life-savers—that was a splurge for him, to let us know he’d missed us. In the summers, he plowed up a plot for each of us in our big garden and taught us the value of honoring the land. I remember him bragging to anyone who would listen about the big cantaloupe I raised and sold at our roadside stand, to earn money for Christmas presents. He was my overt cheerleader in everything from my childhood creations to being a pastor when it wasn’t okay for women to do that.

His favorite sermon to preach—the one he told me a few months ago that he still wanted to preach again—was on encouragement. He was a cheerleader for the church of Jesus Christ, for each person who shared their stories with him and for each of us in his family.

We’ll miss our cheerleader.

Dad taught us by his example to never accept a job based on what it will pay, but how it resonates with God’s calling. He taught us to decide how much we need to live on and give the rest away; that giving away 10 percent of what we earn is only the place to start.

He showed us that miracles happen all around us, all the time, and that we just need to notice them. Before gas got expensive, he took us on Sunday aft drives to look at the “views.” It was always the same one, but it was always newly amazing to him. Nature was to be honored and enjoyed. Life itself was a miracle.

Each of us in the family have our own experiences of times that he and mother together prayed us through crises of health and faith and emotional upheaval in our lives. I’m sure our memories of his faith and the power of prayer will help us keep watching for and expecting miracles, but we’ll miss his prayers.

After Dad was gone, we found the poems he wrote for this day in a folder with his memorial service plans. So he finished his life with poems again. In his last weeks of life, he was reading the scriptures purely for himself. We’d over hear him repeating Psalm 90, the psalm that upheld his spirit at the end, the last one he’d memorized for such a time as this:

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God. You turn us back to dust, and say, Turn back, you mortals. For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past. You sweep them away and they are like a dream… Satisfy us in the morning, with your steadfast love so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days… Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands—O prosper the work of our hands!”

May it be so for each of us, as we choose to allow Dad’s prayers and his spirit to live on through us.

John M. Drescher passed away on July 10, 2014.  Excerpted from the eulogy given at John’s funeral by his daughter, Sandy. Posted with permission. 

What’s in a Vacation?

MCC East Coast bike ride
Front row – Ruth Walter (Souderton), Sandy and John Drescher-Lehman (Souderton) Vernon Martin (Salford) Daryl Derstine (Blooming Glenn). Back Row – Len Walter (Souderton) Gene Kropf (Salford) and Steve Histand (Blooming Glenn)

by Sandy Drescher-Lehman, Souderton

Why would these 8 people from three different churches in our conference choose to spend 5 of their lazy days of summer vacation together, being NOT-lazy?

  1. They enjoy making the wheels on a bike go round and round.
  2. They wanted to help raise money to support Mennonite Central Committee’s project of planting trees in Haiti.
  3. Biking is their favorite way to stay in shape.
  4. They enjoy meeting other people from across North America who are making the same vacation choice!.
  5. They’re WILLING to sleep in tents for a week.
  6. They like to eat good food at the beginning and end and in-betweens of a good, hard day of biking.
  7. They know what an incredible gift it is to experience the beauty of God’s world, intersecting with healthy bodies and wholesome fellowship, all wrapped up in a good cause.

When I say that “All of the above” are the true answers, you’re likely asking, “Who WOULDN’T want to use their vacation to do that and how can I join this great endeavor?” Well, know that you, too, are welcome to join this ride the next time around!  Read on to learn some of the possible benefits.

Every year for the past 20, Mennonite Central Committee has sponsored a bicycle trip as one of its fund-raisers, alternating routes on the east and west coast.  Michigan and Ohio have also run similar trips of their own. This year, during the first week of August, the East Coast MCC ride was in the beautiful hills, under the voluptuously clouded skies, surrounding three of the Finger Lakes in northern New York. The group of 50-some bikers, including members of Souderton, Salford, and Blooming Glen congregations, plus another dozen staff who took care of the trip details of eating, sleeping and getting from place to place, raised over $60,000.00 – an exciting new record!  Thank you to each of you who sponsored one of us and to everyone who shares our passion for spreading God’s love throughout the world through the ministries of MCC.

I loved that bikers from 16 to 81 years of age, at all skill levels, could enjoy the same roads, worship in all of our different ways of noticing God’s presence, sing and pray together, and find out about each other’s families and the ministries we were returning to at the end of the week. Uniting around the things we had in common was energizing.  Sharing the tasks of camping was fun. Hearing new ways, from each other, of being God’s messengers in the world was inspiring.  And pedaling 300+ miles of roads that were hardly ever flat, was downright exciting, often exhausting and occasionally exhilarating!

Hiding treasures where others may find them

House of Prayer: Welcome
House of Prayer: Welcome

by Sandy Drescher-Lehman, Souderton

Making safe space for people to experience the love of God has been a passion of mine ever since I can remember.  That passion has been given life in camp settings, in prison cells, in our home and yard, in homeless shelters, on bicycle trips, in mental health facilities, and in churches.

Thirty years ago, after a profound experience at a retreat center of God’s love totally enveloping and holding me, my life verse became Isaiah 43: “But now, [Sandy], the Lord who created you says, ‘Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name. You are mine.’”  Since that day, I have had the desire to live as many minutes of my life as possible in the heart of that much Love and to help others to connect with that much Love in whatever way they can experience it, thus receiving the healing we all need to become more fully human and to hold more of the Divine.

House of Prayer: Life's Transitions
House of Prayer: Life’s Transitions

A formative book for me was, “Prayer and Temperament” which taught me the different ways that different personalities pray. I resonated with Sue Monk Kidd, when she said “Symbols are the language of the soul” and Paul Tillich who called Christians to the revitalization of their inner lives through the recovery of symbols. I began to notice how not only symbols but color, also, called my soul to go deeper into the wordless heart of God.

Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach encouraged the practice of looking for God in everything. I noticed, as a worship leader, that when all of our senses are called for, people more easily engage in the heart of worship rather than only staying in their head with words and reasoning. And I’ve always loved the stories of Pippi Longstocking, who hid treasures in old tree stumps so she could watch her friends joyfully discover them on their “thing-finding” adventures.

House of Prayer: Resting with God
House of Prayer: Resting with God

So, when I became one of the pastors at Souderton Mennonite Church, I had the chance to combine all those learnings and passions!  Joy Sawatzky and I began inviting people to special times of prayer to begin the Lenten season, combining input with times of silence; spending time alone with God in any of the several prayer centers we created, each with colors and symbols and scriptures. The variety was in the ways participants were invited to use their body or mind or taste buds or ears or sense of smell or sight.  When we ended these retreats by “sharing the wealth” of our time with God, we were always overwhelmed to hear how God had come to each person in exactly the way that was most needed – far beyond anything we could have planned or imagined!

Then about 7 years ago, the ideas for different ways to pray suddenly exploded into 50 and then 60 centers, as more people joined the team, creating ways to express and make available to others how they prayed most easily. In experimenting with each other’s favorite methods and colors and symbols for praying, we discovered that when we try new ways of prayer, we sometimes go even deeper into the heart of God than engaging our usual patterns over and over. We organized the centers into rooms of a house – the kitchen (where we pray as we eat), the study (where we pray as we read and write and kneel and listen to music), the playroom (where tactile centers and craft centers help children play their prayers), the bedroom (where it’s enough to just BE; resting in God’s comfort), the art room (where all kinds of things to create wait to be discovered), and the great outdoors (where the sounds and smells and sights of creation invite us to pray in our walking and in noticing God in the world)

House of Prayer: Prayer Wheels
House of Prayer: Prayer Wheels

And my Pippi-heart loves to hide treasures in places where those who enter may or may not find them! The “House” symbolically calls us to see every room we enter as a place of prayer; every moment we live is another chance to be aware of God’s love and peace and mercy and grace and healing and whatever else we need from the One who created us and continues to create through us!

Souderton’s Lenten House of Prayer will be open February 8-18th, from 9am to 9pm in the congregation’s fellowship hall.  All are welcome to visit.  For more information or to access other Lenten resources from Souderton congregation, visit their website.