Tag Archives: Sandy Landes

Learning and Celebrating Along the Way

by Randy Heacock, Leadership Minister

In my work both as a pastor and for the conference, one of my greatest rewards is the opportunity to learn from and with others working in God’s Kingdom.

This display from Sandy Landes’ ordination represents God‘s power to transform what was once a barren desert into a lush land.

In the first congregation I served as a young minister in the United Methodist Church, the board of ordained ministry was wise enough to pair me with an older minister (younger than my current age) to mentor me.  Charles and I were very different both in our theological perspective and in our view of worship; however, he taught me the importance of accepting affirmation and “to let it sink deeply into your entire being.  Challenges and criticism will come frequently enough and you will need to have a strong bank account of affirmation to keep your balance.”  Fast forward to my current work, I file notes of affirmation and appreciation with a prayer of gratitude as evidence of God’s grace.

More recently, in working with the pastoral search committee at Towamencin, a person called to share concern regarding our process.  As I listened, I gained a fuller understanding both of what happened at our last meeting and how we could find our way forward.  Grateful for the honest feedback, I reached out to some other people for wisdom and discerned an approach for our next meeting.  The meeting was vastly improved with more vigorous engagement.  On the ride home, I thanked God for the varied gifts people contribute to the church. 

I recently met with Tim Moyer, pastor of Bally congregation, for breakfast at his house.  Let me first say that Tim knows how to fix breakfast!  As we talked, his excitement and energy was contagious.  The Bally congregation is working to learn about and practice a centered-set approach.  Tim shared how this focus is uniting the congregation.  They are also rethinking and reshaping who they are as a church.   I give thanks for the fresh wind of God creating new expressions.  I look forward to what God is yet to do at and through Bally. 

At Doylestown, where I serve as pastor, we recently celebrated the ordination of Sandy Landes.  Sandy’s ordination was a tribute to God’s constant pursuit and Sandy’s willingness to say “yes.”  Many people present would have witnessed Sandy’s transformation through the process of refusing, then reluctantly leading, and now leading boldly in a public setting.  Former members, family, neighbors, colleagues, and friends celebrated Sandy’s faithful example of answering God’s call.   The day after Sandy’s ordination, I rejoiced for the many people who nurtured and participated in this work of God. 

The photo above is a display that was present during Sandy’s ordination.  It represents God‘s power to transform what was once a barren desert into a lush land.  As in the little stories I have shared, it visually reminds us of God’s life-giving power.  May we all give thanks for the ways we have witnessed God’s transformational power.  May we continually learn to wait on God. 

 

 

An Update on An Experiment in Going to the Margins

By Stephen Kriss

“The first duty of love is to listen.”—Paul Tillich

As part of our practices in this summer space in between, we’ve taken our conference staff meetings “to the margins”, which so far has meant meeting at Doylestown and Alpha congregations for an afternoon to eat, pray and learn alongside the pastors who work in those settings before engaging our regular conference staff agendas.   We’ll go to Quakertown to learn about the work of Salem congregation’s engagement with partners and neighbors yet for our last of these meetings later this month.

doylestown
Doylestown Mennonite Church

These going to the margins meetings have felt like holy disruptions of our routine.   We’ve received the gracious hospitality of Krista at Alpha, and Randy, KrisAnne and Sandy at Doylestown.  We’ve had great ice cream and burritos.   We’ve learned by listening to both the possibilities and struggles for ministry and life in one of the wealthiest communities in Bucks County, as well as what it feels like to work and hope just across the Delaware River.

Alpha Mennonite Church
Alpha Mennonite Church

I’m noticing some things that have been happening through our experiment.   Some of these things might encourage our continued journey of “going to the margins” for the sake of the Good News.   This is a small disruption, a monthly afternoon staff meeting.   But breaking our routines invigorates our conversations and builds our relationships together, differently.  We carpool.   We talk differently and about different things because we are in different spaces.  In navigating the logistics of simply going to a different location, we think differently rather than simply showing up in the same place.  Our two meetings at the margins have been times when we’ve been highly engaged with one another, even when dealing with routine tasks and procedures (seriously).   I look forward to what we’ll learn later this month.  A few staff members have asked if we can continue this kind of meeting alongside congregations’ into the future.

Admittedly, it does cost us some extra time and mileage resources to get to these places, which I’d say is well worth the effort thus far.   By eating together, we create a different rhythm of gathering that opens conversation differently.   By listening and praying with the pastors in their settings, we’ve had opportunities to both bless and to learn.   In going to the margins, we find what happens when we respond to Jesus’s declaration to go and then the transformation that happens when we listen to each other and in the midst, to sense the presence of God and discover our hearts are still strangely warmed together on the way in this time in between.

Getting Ready for “Biblical Interpretation through Anabaptist Eyes”

by Sharon Williams

What will motivate you to get out of bed this Saturday morning?

Mike Clemmer
Mike Clemmer

“I am excited about this event because anytime I have the opportunity to discuss the Scriptures with other people and we are all open to the leading of the Spirit, God always speaks to me,” says Mike Clemmer, pastor of Towamencin Mennonite Church. “So I look forward to the opportunity to hear God’s voice speak into my life.”

 

Aldo Siahaan
Aldo Siahaan

Aldo Siahaan pastors Philadelphia Praise Center and is one of the conference’s LEADership ministers, and says, “As a Christian and pastor who is a ‘new’ Anabaptist/Mennonite, I am always eager to learn more about understanding the Bible from an Anabaptist perspective.”

“I am excited about this event,” says Sandy Landes, prayer minister with the Doylestown congregation. “So many voices clamor for attention in our world and the Bible, as a message for Sandy Landesour lives today, sometimes gets lost at sea. I look forward to hearing and learning about reading the Bible with faith. I want to grow with my brothers and sisters in our understanding of ways to interpret the Bible that will compel us to dig deeper, ask more questions and to increase our faith in God at the same time. I pray that we can learn to communicate with each other, increasing our trust as we respect the differences we bring to the table.”

Three Anabaptist biblical scholars—Laura Brenneman, Terry Brensinger and Dennis Edwards—will headline the event.

The event, this Saturday, 9 a.m.–3 p.m., is free. Registration is required on the conference website or by calling 610-277-1729; donations for lunch will be accepted. Penn View Christian School is located at 420 Godshall Road, Souderton.

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.

 

Praying for Eric Frein at Spruce Lake Retreat

by Sharon K. Williams

Spruce Lake Retreat Center
Spruce Lake Retreat Center

On September 12, 2014, Eric Frein allegedly shot two police officers at the Pennsylvania State Police station in Blooming Grove. Bryon Dickson died and Alex Douglass was critically injured. Frein eluded a massive manhunt in the Poconos Mountains and a national media campaign for seven weeks.

The village of Canadensis, Pennsylvania became the focal point of the search, as Frein’s parents live nearby. Spruce Lake Retreat, a conference-related ministry, was four miles outside the 10-mile search area.

Outdoor education groups, a large part of Spruce Lake’s ministry in the fall, started to call. Was Spruce Lake employing security guards? How could reservations be canceled?

The Spruce Lake staff began to pray that Eric would be found quickly without further injury to anyone, and that Spruce Lake would be able to recover their guests. Christians in the area gathered daily for prayer at the local United Methodist church. They prayed for protection of the police and the local residents. When Spruce Lake’s executive director Mark Swartley and other staff openly prayed for Eric, they realized they were introducing a unique request.

Meanwhile, the search and the cancellations continued. Ertell Whigham, Franconia Mennonite Conference’s executive minister, consulted with Mark as to how the conference might be supportive. They decided to invite the intercessory prayer team to minister “on the ground.”

Four intercessors (Don Brunk, Souderton Mennonite; Sandy Landes, Doylestown Mennonite; Jeannette Phillips, Hopewell Christian Fellowship; and Noel Santiago, Franconia Conference’s minister of spiritual transformation) came forward.

“Our desire,” said Noel, “is to hear from God, believing that what emerges is from God.” As they prayed throughout the day, four directives came into focus:

  • An invitation for the Spruce Lake staff to take their eyes off “the man in the woods” (Eric) and to focus on “the man on the wood” (Jesus), the One who knows all things;
  • A petition for the people and the land—for healing, peace, and keen awareness of the presence of God;
  • Eric’s salvation—to know and accept God’s love and forgiveness;
  • Comfort and healing for the Dickson and Douglass families.

The next day, October 30, Mark excitedly phoned Noel. “Did you hear? Turn on the news! They found Eric—and no one was harmed!”

“The timing,” reported Jeannette, “was a God thing.” It had taken several days for the intercessors to make arrangements for the visit.

Spruce Lake lost $155,000 due to the cancellations of 35 outdoor school and weekend retreat groups. The retreat center did not hold deposits or force contracts. “While police assured us that we were not in the search area, we did not argue with people’s fear,” said Mark. “But we chose to honor God for what God has done and what God is doing. God is in this situation. We are in God’s care. What was out of our control was in God’s control.”

In November, Spruce Lake held a fundraising campaign to make up some of the lost income, and were able to raise $25,000 in a matching donation challenge.

“Our prayer commitment is not finished,” said Noel. “We continue to pray for Eric’s salvation, and for healing and reconciliation for all involved.”

Franconia congregations partner to fight human trafficking

Franconia pastor Josh Meyer sparked conversation at the February 8 delegate gathering when he asked delegates to partner in issues of justice.  Photo by Emily Ralph.
Franconia pastor Josh Meyer sparked conversation at the February 8 delegate gathering when he asked delegates to partner in issues of justice. Photo by Emily Ralph.

by Sheldon C. Good, for Franconia Conference

As debate around human sexuality continues to leave many church leaders wondering what binds together people with diverse beliefs, at least four Franconia Conference congregations are partnering to advocate for basic human rights, declaring that human beings shouldn’t be abused, raped, and sold.

The four Pennsylvania congregations – Doylestown, Finland, Franconia, and Philadelphia Praise Center – independently of each other became aware of the issue of human trafficking, commonly defined as the illegal movement of people, often for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.

These congregations are each comprised of members with diverse theological perspectives, racial makeup, and socio-economic status, making their shared interest in addressing human trafficking unique and important at a time when conversations around homosexuality have polarized many churches.

Each congregation has taken its own steps toward becoming informed about the impact of human trafficking internationally, nationally, and locally, and toward advocating for victims of human trafficking everywhere.  It wasn’t until recently, however, that leaders from the four churches realized their shared conviction at a seemingly surprising location: a delegate meeting.

In February, as Franconia Conference leaders conducted business and wrestled with questions related to homosexuality, Josh Meyer, associate pastor of Franconia congregation, stood up and appealed to church leaders, “What are the more important matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness that we can gather around?”  For example, Meyer suggested, despite differing opinions about homosexuality, doesn’t everyone agree that human beings shouldn’t be abused, raped, and sold into slavery?

IMG_3560“That was the appeal that sparked a quick, on-the-spot poll of pastors and leaders present to ask, ‘which congregations want to be in conversation on this, want to get together to work on this?’” said Samantha Lioi, Franconia Conference minister of peace and justice.

After the delegate meeting, leaders from the four congregations, plus Lioi, formed an informal task force “to explore what it would look like to work together and make responding to human trafficking a priority in our Conference,” Meyer said. The task force organized a resourcing breakfast focused on human trafficking, held in September, and organized an anti-trafficking workshop to be held during Conference Assembly on November 15. The task force is planning a day of public witness, where people will be invited to gather and pray outside popular trafficking spots in southeastern Pennsylvania.

“Moving forward, we’re excited about making more congregations aware of the issue, and providing practical, tangible ways for churches to respond together,” Meyer said.

The Finland congregation has been addressing human trafficking for several years, hosting local speakers including Debbie Wright, an activist who is producing a documentary about sex trafficking in southeastern Pennsylvania. Pastor Kris Wint first encountered trafficking while in Cambodia. “To do nothing is to keep people enslaved and live contrary to the One we claim to follow,” Wint said.

Franconia congregation has focused a Sunday morning service on trafficking, hosted an awareness night, heard from guest speakers, and provided resources on how to get involved in combatting trafficking.  “My sense is many congregations don’t even realize the extent to which human trafficking is a reality in our world,” Meyer said. “There are more slaves in the world today than at any other time in human history.  Churches need to know about this … My other sense is that many churches are aware of the situation but don’t know what to do in response. It seems like such a big issue; it’s hard to know how to engage. If we can find ways to help churches act in practical, tangible ways, that would be a great thing.”

About three years ago, Doylestown staff members KrisAnne Swartley and Sandy Landes began prayer walking around Hilltown. As they walked, they became aware of area businesses that profit from the sex trade: adult bookstores, strip bars, massage parlors.

“It deeply troubled us, but we weren’t sure what we could do about it, other than continue to pray,” said Swartley, Doylestown’s minister for the missional journey.

Eventually, the Doylestown congregation connected with local advocates: Worthwhile Wear and The Well. With this kind of partnering, Swartley sees advocating for an end to human trafficking as missional.

“Individually, we can do very little to end modern day slavery,” she said. “As we partner together, we can accomplish so much more – each person and congregation offering different gifts as we have them, for this ministry.”

Adrian Suryajaya agrees. Some members of his congregation, Philadelphia Praise Center, have been victims of forced labor and wage theft.

“It is important that we work together on this issue because it is such a big, overwhelming issue to tackle alone,” he said. “We need a lot of resources and teamwork.”

The diversity of the Franconia Conference congregations partnering to end modern day slavery shows this teamwork is already happening. Lioi hopes more join in, and hopes the upcoming conference assembly will provide ample opportunity to do so.

“I don’t know why, but it seems this injustice, this oppression in particular, has drawn a more diverse group of leaders together than any other I have seen,” she said. “I believe we can be publicly present in standing against traffickers and standing with survivors, especially since we have information about places close to our congregations that have been centers for trafficking.”

Helping People to Pray

Sandy Landesby Sandy Landes, Doylestown

Writing a call to ministry story is probably the last thing I ever expected to do if you would have asked me fifteen years ago. At that time in my life, I had doubts about the role of women in leadership and yet I was serving in different capacities in my home congregation, Doylestown Mennonite Church. As I look back on that time, I think the call to ministry had been brewing in my life for several years.

After working as an elementary school teacher for four years, my husband Steve and I began having children and my focus changed to homeschooling, which was a natural extension of my love for learning and teaching. I learned some leadership skills in the steering committee of the homeschool group of which we were active members. Being called to ministry in the church, however, was a different kind of leadership for which I was not ready.

Around this time, I read a book entitled Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle Church.  It ignited a spark in me that had been smoldering for some time.  I felt called to begin a prayer time in our congregational setting.

Inviting people to pray during Sunday School, we focused on intentionally praying for our congregation, our community, and persons we knew by name who were not yet followers of Jesus. Out of that prayer time, we learned about prayer, about God and ourselves. Doylestown Mennonite Church graciously allowed this group to develop a prayer room where persons could come to pray together or on their own.

I gradually began inviting the congregation to more and more prayer initiatives as well as connecting with other persons involved in prayer ministry. Randy Heacock, pastor of Doylestown, encouraged and welcomed my involvement in calling the congregation to prayer.  He, along, with the Ministry Leadership Team, affirmed my giftings by asking me to serve on staff as Prayer Minister. I sensed the Spirit was opening the door so I stepped in. Since then I have made several more steps into this calling. I served for several years as Prayer Ministry coordinator for Franconia Conference, working alongside staff and pastors in the conference as well as prayer leaders.  Being mentored by Noel Santiago in the prayer ministry was also helpful for me.

It was during this time that Steve and I attended a conference at Spruce Lake Retreat.  The speaker invited us to ask God what our mission was and I very clearly heard, “You are called to help people pray.” At that time, I did not connect that mission with being called to the ministry as a vocation.

Taking on the identity of a pastor grew gradually as I continued to serve as prayer minister in the congregation but also in other settings. Connecting with persons in my local community, serving on prayer teams in local businesses, and doing more pastoral care visitation in retirement communities have all been important ways for me to grow into the identity of pastor.

The more I think about the mission statement I sensed from the Holy Spirit several years ago, the more I realize that was a call to pastoral work. In Acts 6, we read the story of the apostles discerning their calling in the context of the local church. The apostles declared their priorities to be prayer and the ministry of the word.  Randy preached from this text at my licensing on Jan. 5 and the more I ponder  this, the more I realize that helping people to pray is a  pastoral task.  How important it is that pastors teach the word, but also pray and invite, lead, model, and encourage others to pray!  When we as followers of Christ are able to grow in our relationship with God through prayer, we will be transformed and changed. Very simply, I see that as a priority for pastors. I am thankful to be called to serve Christ, the church, and the world in this way.

The hesitations I had about women in ministry were changed as I began to understand God’s invitation to all in Acts 2:17 where Peter reminds the crowd of the prophecy in Joel of the Holy Spirit being poured out on all people, sons and daughters, young and old. I see the incredible ways God uses both men and women in the kingdom work and I am grateful for God’s work in all of us. I anticipate growing in hope and joy as I continue to walk this journey of ministry alongside my brothers and sisters.

Conference announces realignment of staffing

by Emily Ralph, eralph@franconiaconference.org

Ertell Whigham
Ertell Whigham

Due to continued reductions in congregational giving, Franconia Conference has made a number of staffing adjustments, most effective February 1, according to Executive Minister Ertell Whigham.  These adjustments are in response to a call by the conference board in May of 2012 to reduce staff FTE (full-time equivalency), stewarding both financial and human resources while better aligning personnel with conference priorities. Over the course of 2013, Conference staff will be reduced from 8.5 to approximately 7.5, a total reduction of about 12%.

“We were blessed to enter this year debt-free, but paying off the mortgage on the Souderton Shopping Center did not change the economic realities we’re facing, including a pattern of decreased giving from conference churches,” Whigham said.  “While it will be challenging to provide ministry support with a more limited staff, we will continue to make every effort to meet the needs of our congregations and leaders.”

Both Noah Kolb, director of ministerial leadership, and Conrad Martin, director of finance, will reduce their percentage of time employed through the Conference. Martin will reduce to three-quarters time and Kolb, who began transitioning from a full-time role last year to move toward semi-retirement, will reduce further to half-time.  Some of Kolb’s responsibilities will shift to other LEADership ministers including Jenifer Eriksen Morales, who will increase her load to fulltime.

Franconia will partner with Eastern District Conference to increase Carla Ferrier, administrative assistant, from three days a week to fulltime.  In addition to the new administrative work for Eastern District, Ferrier will also take over some basic bookkeeping and move into an office manager role.

Sandy Landes
Sandy Landes

Sandy Landes, conference prayer coordinator, will step down on February 28 from her conference position to focus on ministry in the Doylestown congregation, where she has been on staff for eight years.  “Sandy has brought a contagious and enthusiastic spirit and perspective to prayer ministry that has helped raise prayer awareness and especially intercessory prayer ministry to another level of importance in Franconia Conference,” reflected Franconia’s minister for spiritual transformation Noel Santiago, who has worked closely with Landes since she came on staff in 2007.  “Sandy has been invaluable in keeping prayer at the center of Conference work and life. While she will be greatly missed on staff, we are grateful that she will continue in ministry through her local congregation.”

The prayer coordinator position, which was entirely grant-supported, will be discontinued and Santiago will oversee future conference prayer ministry.

Samantha Lioi, who was contracted last year by Franconia and Eastern District conferences as Minister of Peace and Justice, has extended her contract for another two years.  Her position is supported by grants—congregations or individuals interested in supporting her work can contact conference Executive Minister Ertell Whigham.

Ray Yoder
Ray Yoder

In addition to its paid staff, Franconia Conference also benefits from the wisdom and guidance of volunteer LEADership Ministers.  Randy Heacock, lead pastor of Doylestown congregation, has joined the conference’s volunteer staff and is now serving as the LEADership Minister for Wellspring Church of Skippack.  Ray Yoder, who has served as one of Franconia’s volunteer LEADership Ministers for several years, will be retiring this spring.

“We’ve appreciated Ray and his work with congregations,” said Whigham, “but more importantly, he’s had a pastoral presence on our team and a level of wisdom and maturity that we all have benefitted from during his time on staff.”

Whigham also anticipates possible additional shifts in job responsibilities in the coming months to further align staff strengths and resources with conference priorities.

“As a board, we recognize the importance, reach, and depth of the work of Conference staff as we strive together to fulfill God’s vision of proclaiming Christ,” said Marta Castillo, assistant moderator, Nueva Vida Norristown New Life congregation.  “We thank our staff for their passion, flexibility, and commitment to lead in equipping leaders and congregations to be missional, formational, and intercultural Anabaptist communities of faith through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

God IS at Work…

by Sandy Landes, Franconia Prayer Ministry Coordinator

On November 10, Franconia and Eastern District Conferences will gather for our annual assembly, around the theme of “God at Work.”  More information.

How do we live life in such a way that it requires faith? Hebrews 11 says that, “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him, must believe that He exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

I see God at work building faith in Him in many different ways in our community. In my role as prayer ministry coordinator for Franconia Conference, much of what I do involves seeing people cooperating with God through prayer as they put their faith in a God who invites us to come to the throne of grace with boldness (Hebrews 4:16).

On Wednesday, September 12, twenty-eight pastors and credentialed leaders gathered at Camp Men-O-Lan (Quakertown, Pa.) to spend the day in prayer and fellowship. God was at Work as the pastors listened to what God was saying to them through the Word, through the testimonies of each other, and through creation. I saw faith built as leaders related the ways in which God has been faithful and is providing all they need to continue to follow Jesus and equip the church for ministry.

Salem Mennonite Church (Quakertown, Pa.) was the setting for another example of God at Work, releasing his healing power. Marcella Ruch shared her story of being a “yes” woman for God, even as God called her to a healing ministry after retirement. We may hear the words, “healing ministry” and assume it means only a prayer ministry but there is a duality to the work God is doing through Marcella. Since her retirement 15 years ago, God has used Marcella to start a free clinic for uninsured people in her city of Colorado Springs, to start a medical outreach for the families of Liberia, and to minister his healing power wherever she goes. God blessed Marcella as she shared her testimony and inspired others to also say “yes” to God, even if it doesn’t fit in with their plans. Several persons were touched by God’s love as they received personal prayer ministry by a prayer team.

God's house of promise
God’s House of Promise, on Allentown Road in Souderton, Pa.

I also see God at Work in a new ministry beginning this week in the little stone building on Allentown Road just below Lower Road in Souderton, Pa.  God’s House of Promise is an ecumenical ministry with the purposes of uniting the body of Christ and transforming our community through the continuous reading of God’s Word aloud on a daily basis, offering a place to pray for personal, community, and worldwide needs, and uniting our community in monthly worship.

The kick-off event for God’s House of Promise was held on Saturday, Sept 22 at Souderton (Pa.) Mennonite Church. Seeing worshipers from many different denominations praying together is an example of God at Work answering the prayers of Jesus in John 17, “that they would all be one.”

It is encouraging to see God at work in so many different ways in our community, in the church and outside. As I have been prayer-walking with a close friend in my neighborhood, we have been drawn to stop in at a local bar and to connect with and bless the new friends we are making there. It requires faith that God is at work as we share stories and build connections on a personal level. Through God’s nudging we have prayed for healing, for provision of jobs, and for blessing on the families of the employees. It requires faith to believe that the kingdom of God is present as we enter in to an unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable environment, but we trust that God is at work because we believe, as it says in Ephesians 3:20, that “He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

How have you seen God at work in your congregation, community, and conference?  Share your story (in a sentence or several paragraphs—up to you!) here.

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

Learning to listen . . .

Sandy Landes, Doylestown
slandes@franconiaconference.org

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.

Practice of IntercessionA 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.