Tag Archives: Scott Roth

Together Once More

by Sue Conrad Howes, Eastern District Conference (West Swamp congregation), with Emily Ralph Servant, Franconia Conference (Director of Communication)

It was a potentially historic day for two Mennonite conferences that split over 170 years ago. 

Photo by Cindy Angela

On November 2, 2019, delegates from Franconia Mennonite Conference and Eastern District Conference met together at Souderton (PA) Mennonite Church to determine if reconciliation, which seemed unattainable in 1847, would now be possible.

It was hard to imagine that these two groups had been divided at all, as animated conversations and joyful reunions happened throughout the crowded fellowship hall as the delegates arrived. There was even an audible groan when it was announced that the Eastern District Conference delegates needed to move to another gathering room for their morning delegate session.  And so, for the morning, the two groups met separately, with the possibility of reconciliation on the afternoon horizon.

During Eastern District’s morning delegate session, leaders facilitated a discussion over the future and publicly recognized that the vote toward reconciliation was just the beginning of a new journey.  They thanked everyone who had helped to bring them to this point and then led in a time of sharing stories about where delegates were seeing God working in their congregations and ministries. 

Photo by Cindy Angela

Franconia’s morning delegate session included affirming Rose Bender Cook (Whitehall congregation) for a third term and KrisAnne Swartley (Doylestown congregation) for a second term on the Credentials Committee. Chris Nickels (Spring Mount congregation) was affirmed for a third term and Janet Panning (Plains congregation) for a first term on the Ministerial Committee.  Swartley and Panning will serve as committee chairs.  John Goshow (Blooming Glen congregation) and Beny Krisbianto (Nations Worship Center) were thanked for their nine years of service on the Conference Board.

Franconia also welcomed four new Conference Related Ministries: Peace Proclamation Ministries International (out of Plains congregation), Healthy Niños Honduras (birthed out of MAMA Project), Ripple Community Inc (out of Ripple congregation), and Taproot Gap Year (out of Philadelphia Praise Center).  The delegates welcomed a new congregation, Iglesia Menonita Ebenezer (Souderton, PA) and released West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship to transfer to Allegheny Conference.

Photo by Cindy Angela

After a meaningful joint worship in the morning, when credentialed leaders of both conferences who had passed away during the past year were remembered and newly credentialed leaders were introduced, anointed, and then commissioned to anoint others, the two conferences joined together for the afternoon session. Joy Sutter, moderator of Mennonite Church USA (Salford congregation), expressed gratitude to the delegates for demonstrating the path of reconciliation. “You are modeling a new and inspiring path for the future. As you move forward…, may you be blessed,” said Sutter.

The three-year process toward reconciliation, led almost exclusively by conference volunteers, was introduced by the Structure and Identity Task Force.  Sherri Brokopp Binder (Ripple congregation) & Rina Rampogu (Plains congregation) explained the process, the changes proposed, and the next steps, if the delegates voted affirmatively for reconciliation.

The task force had done its work, as few delegates posed questions or expressed any sense of hesitation with the proposal. The two conferences divided, for the last time, to discern and vote.

Photo by Cindy Angela

With the delegates reunited after the vote, John Goshow, Franconia Conference moderator, and Jim Musselman, Eastern District moderator (Zion congregation), shared the results of the historic vote: together, the conferences had voted unanimously for reconciliation.

Spontaneous applause and cheers of affirmation from the delegates erupted while leaders from both conferences shared hugs and broad smiles.  Together, the enthusiastic group sang, “Hosanna, Let Jesus be Lifted Up” and “Praise God from Whom” with gusto and gratitude.

Scott Roth (L) and Steve Kriss (R) lead the Conferences into a time of communion. Photo by Cindy Angela

Following the singing, Steve Kriss, Franconia Conference executive minister, and Scott Roth, Eastern District conference minister, spoke.  “I am rarely speechless,” Kriss admitted. “But we are about to do something that could not happen 150 years ago. We are about to sit together and take communion. For some of you, this split divided families, for some of you this split divided congregations. Today we celebrate the ministry of reconciliation that has been and will continue to be our life’s work.”

Roth reminisced about being charged with the ministry of reconciliation as a youth by adult leaders who knew that the reality of such a merger would be through the work of future generations. Roth shared his joy that the dream he had heard about as a youth was now being realized. “Remember,” Roth said; “although the paperwork is not completed, we are one in the Spirit and we are one in Jesus’ blood.”

Jessica Miller (Perkasie congregation). Photo by Cindy Angela

In the front of the fellowship hall, a pile of rocks had sat all morning, without mention. This column was reminiscent of the Old Testament practice of raising an Ebenezer, commemorating God’s help or celebrating memorable events. This rock structure was not to remain, however.  Instead, each church was instructed to take a rock home, paint it, and return with it to next year’s first assembly as a new conference. The rocks will then be formed into a fountain, representing the new conference, flowing with life.

Conference moderators, John Goshow (Franconia) and Jim Musselman (Eastern District) prepare to celebrate the reconciliation! Photo by Cindy Angela

The day’s events closed with a traditional action, which has been spoken by Franconia delegates to conclude their assemblies for more than a hundred years. On this day, however, delegates of both Franconia and Eastern District made the commitment together, as one gathered body:

“We affirm our desire to continue in and witness to the nonresistant and simple faith in Christ, looking for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

“Kami menegaskani keinginan untuk terus ikut dan menjadi saksi kesederhanaan iman dalam Kristus dan menjadi pembawa damai, terus mencari kepada berkat pengharapan serta memperlihatkan kemuliaan dari kebesaran Tuhan dan juru selamat kami, Yesus Kristus.”

“Afirmamos nuestro deseo de seguir testificando con la fe de no resistencia y sencilla en Cristo, mirando a la esperanza bendita y la venida gloriosa de nuestro gran Dios y nuestro Salvador Jesucristo.”

“Chúng tôi xin xác nhận nguyện-vọng của chúng tôi là tiếp tục và làm chứng cho giải pháp ôn-hòa và đức-tin chân thật trong Ðấng Christ, tiềm kiếm sự hy-vọng hạnh phước, và sự vinh quang của Ðức Chúa Trời đại quyền hiện ra và Ðấng Cứu Chuộc của chúng tôi là Ðức Chúa Giê-xu Christ.”

”我們重申我們的意願是繼續以和平及純正信仰去見證基督的生命,懷著美好的盼望,等候我們偉大的神及救主耶穌基督的榮耀顯現。”

Called Outside of “Church”

by Mike Spinelli, Perkiomenville congregation

It is not often that you get to bless someone as they enter a new ministry while knowing that they are staying around as part of your church family.  At Perkiomenville Mennonite Church (Perk for short), we were able to do this as we blessed Scott and Heather Roth for a new ministry with Young Life in the Upper Perkiomen Valley.

Scott Roth shares at Fall Assembly 2018.

Scott’s ministry in the Upper Perk Valley has taken many forms, from teen center and bike shop manager to thrift store director.  He has also been the associate pastor for Perk for the last five years.  Through it all, Scott’s heart for Upper Perk is well known, in the Valley as well as the church. 

As a church, Perk has benefited from Scott’s unconventional approach to ministry.  While we have some of the typical church programs for youth, Scott has also used his connections in Upper Perk to create on-going service projects.  He also used an online platform to connect kids in deeper exploration of faith themes.  But Scott felt there was a work he was called to outside of the “traditional church.”

Scott began to sense that God might be opening a new avenue of ministry; that avenue presented itself as Young Life.  Young Life is a national ministry aimed at engaging teenagers with the good news of Jesus through weekly club meetings, Bible studies and camp.  Young Life leaders first engage students in their own spaces—like clubs and sports—and invite them to join the weekly meetings when they are ready.

Scott worked with a group of volunteers to start the club portion of the program in the fall of 2017, but he began to feel he could be doing more.  Through a season of prayer and discernment with family, friends, and other associates, Scott pursued becoming a full-time missionary with Young Life.  His status with Young Life was confirmed in October of 2018.

Scott and Heather Roth are blessed by Perkiomenville leadership and Franconia Conference Leadership Minister Noel Santiago.

On December 16, 2018, Perk Church used part of the morning worship service to affirm and bless Scott and Heather for their past ministry and the new venture.  Different people of various ages spoke of Scott’s unique way of pushing their boundaries.  Scott shared how much Perk Church has blessed his family and how they are glad to remain as part of the congregation.  Together we celebrated Scott’s testing of our comfort zones and blessed them as a couple who were now stretching their own comfort with this new venture.

While Scott’s role at Perk has concluded, the Roths (including children Rowan and Ashlyn) will still call Perk their church home.  Scott noted that he will soon be a youth parent as Rowan will transition into the youth group after this school year.  The church is also part of his financial support team.  Knowing Scott, the partnership of Young Life and Perk Church will soon extend to helping new students and families engage and enter God’s kingdom and find new life in Christ.

A Glimpse Inside Eastern District’s Annual Family Reunion

by Scott Roth, Interim Executive Conference Minister of Eastern District Conference

When spring is in full swing,  Eastern District Conference (EDC) annually gathers to celebrate being family. Many times, congregations lose sight of the fact that they are not alone. In the hustle and bustle of our churches’ weekly gatherings, engaging in each other’s lives, and trying to make the world a better place by showing people the beauty of a relationship with God, we get bombarded with the concept of our local church. Many times, our local church becomes our focus and Conference turns into this “thing we do” versus this “thing we belong to”.  We even go as far as calling it family.

The Spring Assembly for EDC is not a gathering to do business, but to be family. The 10 churches of EDC have an opportunity to embrace the beauty of God’s family through the expression of the Mennonite lense. Our churches all have their local context, but this bond we have through our Mennonite Anabaptist heritage draws us together. Whether you are a congregation that is 300 or 10 years old, you are family in EDC.

Many wonder, what does this Spring Assembly look like? Over the years it has been a time of workshops, conference related ministries sharing their passions, and story-telling of God’s movement within our own contexts as congregations. Over the years we have found that Spring Assembly is a moment to pause and have a family reunion. Each year it is a time to refresh and see what God is doing amidst us!

This year the agenda was simple and interactive. 32 people gathered at Zion Mennonite Church and sat at round tables and began to engage each other. The morning was a time of reporting from Jim Musselman, Conference Moderator, and Pastor Scott Roth, Interim Executive Conference Minister. These reports talked of what is happening in the denomination, specifically in relation to the Journey Forward process and Constituency Leadership Council (CLC). We were reminded that the Journey Forward is a chance for churches to engage at a local level around what it means to be Mennonite Church USA. The hope is that every church will engage the Journey Forward study material that is being provided by Mennonite Church USA, so that when we go through the Journey Forward process in 2019 we’ll be equipped and ready to engage on how to move forward as a denomination. We, as local congregations, have this chance to interact around the materials that will shape our future denomination.

Time was then spent in circle tables reflecting and discussing the hopes and fears of joining with Franconia Conference and becoming one. This created dialogue to open up our hearts and minds to what it means to be conferences within the Mennonite context as well as being part of the Kingdom of God. Realizing that our two systems (Eastern District and Franconia) have a good working relationship, we know that at a local level, there are hurts that lie in more personal engagement stories. This being said, the hope is that we can both look at each other as conferences and view each other well when this process is all said and done, regardless of how a vote comes out.

To end the day, each church had time to share their stories of how God is working in their midst. Testimony was given to the presence that God has with us. God was seen in missions trips, community interactions, and new ways of discipling within our congregations.

When it was all said and done, EDC gathered together and had communion. They broke bread and gave witness to the daily work God is doing through us, remembering what God has done for us and continues to do with us. The Spring Assembly continues its tradition as a space for renewal, marking a moment of who we are as family in the Kingdom of God.

Taking the Light Out of the Building

As the world we live in continues to change within our congregations, we still seem to expect people to come to us. As a city on a hill, the light of the world (Matt. 5:14-16), it seems we are content to stay on our hill tops, but what if we take the lamp into the streets?

The Inquirer (Philadelphia) recently highlighted congregations doing just that in their article “From bike shop to drive-thru prayer, churches try thinking outside the pew.” Featured in the article is Franconia Conference’s very own Scott Roth and Perkiomenville Mennonite Church with their ministry Bike and Sol.

As quoted in the article, Scott says, “I don’t think that we, as believers, should be sitting in our churches on Sunday morning waiting for people to come into our buildings for us to tell them about Jesus and show them a better way of life.”

Read how Scott and others are getting out of their comfortable buildings and doing the ministry of Jesus as Jesus did it, in the streets: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/pennsylvania/from-bike-shop-to-drive-thru-prayer-churches-try-thinking-outside-the-pew-20170705.html.

Resurrected space brings new life in East Greenville

Project Haven
Scott Roth works on the East Greenville building with Tyler, Cory, and Darian, students from Upper Perk high school. Photo by Tyler Logan.

by Emily Ralph, eralph@franconiaconference.org

The moment that Scott Roth unlocked Peace Mennonite’s old building for the first time in September of 2012, he began to tear up.  One of the high school students with him asked why he was so emotional.  “I can’t believe this is actually happening,” he responded.

The journey to open what is now Project Haven, a community center in East Greenville (Pa.), had been long and circuitous.  Roth, youth pastor of Eastern District Conference’s New Eden Fellowship, had been a part of UPPEN (Upper Perk Prayer & Evangelism Network) and the regional ministerium for years.  In 2011, these groups faced a community crisis when a high school student committed suicide.  Leaders from the groups met with reprentatives from Upper Perkiomen School District to find out how they could help.

The school district wanted an organization that could be connected with all the major players in the community: school, police, faith communities.  And they needed this organization to provide an afterschool program, some sort of a community center that would not just entertain the students, but help to develop character and provide a calm in the storm of their lives.

Project Haven
Peace Mennonite’s old building in East Greenville, Pa., has been repurposed into a community center.

Meanwhile, Franconia Conference’s Peace congregation decided to close.  The members of the congregation, who had been active in their community, wanted the building to be used to continue God’s work in East Greenville.  Even as they grieved the end of their congregation, they believed that new life would result.  They chose to celebrate their last service together on Easter 2011, dreaming about what God would resurrect in their space.

Peace’s LEADership Minister, Jenifer Eriksen Morales, called a meeting of leaders from local congregations—some Mennonite and some from other denominations—to have a time of visioning together.  The leaders met, prayed together, looked at the building, and dreamed about what God might want to do in that place.  Seeds were planted and some of the pastors began to think about how their existing ministries might find a home in the old church building.

Even as the pastors were meeting and dreaming, Roth and team of leaders from New Eden were starting an afterschool program called Refuge at the Upper Perk high school.  The space was not entirely conducive to the type of activities Roth wanted to do with the students and he continued to look around for a new space.  After months of searching and uncertainty, Roth’s dream and the East Greenville building collided.

Project Haven
Photo by Tyler Logan.

As soon as plans were finalized, Roth began working with a team of student volunteers from the high school to renovate the building.  He formed an advisory team with leaders from his own church and Franconia Conference’s Finland and Perkiomenville congregations.  Soon other dreamers began to show up with ideas: the local senior center asked to move into the building and use it weekday mornings when the students were still in school; members of the former congregation joined Roth with ideas of ways to rejuvenate their existing clothing ministry; a member of Family Worship Center organized a bar alternative to utilize the space on Friday and Saturday nights.
“It’s like in Ephesians where it talks about the different parts of the body working together,” Roth said.  “If the body [of Christ] works together, we will achieve great things!”

In March—just in time for Easter—Project Haven will move into its new location: three blocks away from the local junior high school and five minutes from the senior high school.  While the project still needs supplies like tables and chairs, volunteers for continuing renovation, and financial donations for their ongoing work, Roth is amazed at how God has brought together people and resources so that this dream could come to life.

The dream has come a long way since pastors were praying together about possibilities, Eriksen Morales observed.  “I’m excited that the space is being repurposed,” she said with a big smile.  “From the beginning, God has been continually ‘bringing into being’—it’s exciting to see what God is bringing into being in East Greenville!”