With a stable team of LEADership Ministers in place, Franconia Conference will be adjusting administrative and communication staffing into the first half of 2015. After 15 years of ministry leadership and administration, Gay Brunt Miller (Spring Mount congregation) announced her intent to leave the conference sometime in early 2015. Brunt Miller has served alongside three different executive leaders and submitted her intent to resign early to allow the Conference to transition smoothly while she explores new vocational possibilities.
Emily Ralph, associate director of communication, relocated to Lancaster in 2013 where she began a pastoral position at Sunnyside Mennonite Church. After serving Franconia for four years, she intends to resign her Conference role by March 1, 2015. Emily will continue communication work with Mennonite World Conference through the global assembly in Harrisburg this summer.
“Gay and Emily have poured their hearts and souls into the ministry of Franconia Conference and we’ve been blessed by them and through them; I have been especially blessed in my role as executive minister. Communication and administration have undergirded the strength of conference ministry over these last few years,” said Ertell M. Whigham, Franconia Conference Executive Minister.
The hiring process for administration and communication roles will begin immediately with an intention to have some overlap within both roles. Staff changes in communication and administration open the possibility for the role to be shaped to serve the conference’s current needs.
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, 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.
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.”
from Steve Kriss, Director of Communication
The communication team at Franconia Conference is excited to welcome our summer ministry intern–Ben Sutter. Ben is a student at Goshen College in communication and history. He’s finishing up his first week of work with us and is living with Aldo Siahaan in South Philadelphia. He’ll be in the office on Mondays and doing the rest of his work from the field–which will include time in Harleysville, Mexico City, Baltmore, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. He’ll be writing some articles, spending some time in meetings, engaging with congregations and helping to update our website. I’m glad to have Ben working here–and hoping that we can continue to cultivate his gifts in communication and his interest in serving in the way of Christ.
He’s grown up as part of the Kern Road Mennonite Church in South Bend, Indiana, but has been attending Waterford Mennonite Church while studying at Goshen. He recently received a scholarship with the Fund for Theological Education and participated in a conference in New Orleans with them earlier this summer. Please welcome Ben in his work, in his questions, in his exploring God’s call with and among us.
Ben can be reached by phone on Mondays at the Conference Center (267-932-6050, ext. 123) or by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marlene Frankenfield, Franconia Conference Youth Minister and Campus Pastor at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School announced her resignation effective July 15. Marlene served in roles both with Dock and Conference for the last 12 years working tirelessly with young leaders. She said, “I plan to do a big exhale and I hope to live into the quote from Frederick Buechner, ‘The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”’
According to Ertell M. Whigham Jr., Conference Executive Minister, “I’m excited about Marlene’s future. She’s moving forward to continue to cultivate her ministry call. She’s contributed much to us as a community in bridging the world of youth, youth ministers, conference and Christopher Dock. I value her insights as well as commitments and look forward to building on her work over the next years.”
Currently, a youth ministry vision task force is working in conjunction with Eastern District Conference to extend and enhance Franconia Conference’s ongoing partnerships and commitments to youth ministry and leadership development. More details will be released as they are available on transition and future direction of youth ministry within the intercultural, missional and formational priorities of Franconia Conference.
Dr. Conrad Swartzentruber, Principal at Dock High School remarked, “Marlene has a deep passion for our youth and Christopher Dock greatly benefited from her presence. Her participatory approach enabled students to develop gifts of leadership and ministry. She met students where they were, always pointing them to Christ. While we will miss Marlene at Dock, we wish her God’s richest blessing as she continues to use her gifts in ministry to others.”
Emily Ralph of Bechtelsville, Pa has been named associate director of communication beginning May 1. Most recently she was part of the pastoral team at Swamp Mennonite Church in Quakertown, serving in a worship minister role and as cofounder of a communication/public relations business, Rethink Creative Services. Emily’s work will focus around web-based communication, conference assembly and development communication. She will be employed two days a week based at the Mennonite Conference Center in Harleysville and will be a full-time student at Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Pennsylvania.
According to Steve Kriss, Director of Communication, “Emily’s gifts and commitments complement our direction in providing more effective and frequent communication in a variety of venues, following up on recent requests from both conference board and constituency. Emily brings a commitment to excellent and professional quality work along with a passionate commitment to follow in the way of Christ. Her work will be an asset as we continue our journey together toward equipping, empowering and embracing God’s mission.”
Noel Santiago has accepted a position as LEADership Minister for Spiritual Transformation. Executive Minister Ertell Whigham invited Noel into a continuing staff role following his transition from the executive minister responsibilities. According to board chair John Goshow, “We are pleased that Noel will be continuing to offer his significant ministry gifts within the congregations and ministries of Franconia Conference.”
Gay Brunt Miller will assume the role of Director of Administration. Her LEADership Minster responsibilities will be transferred to other Conference staff. Gay will work directly with Ertell Whigham who was named Executive minister earlier this month. This is a familiar role for Gay as she worked with similar responsibilities previously with Franconia Conference.
Both roles are effective immediately. Other staff positions remain unchanged at this time though some continued realignment is projected in the work of LEADership ministers as responsibilities and workloads are adjusted.
Several Franconia Conference staff have shifted job responsibilities this summer. Jessica Walter terminated her position with Franconia Conference in May this year as she began a position with Care & Share Shoppes in Souderton, Pa, as bookstore manager. Jessica worked with the Conference for nearly four years in communication and leadership development. Her work has been assumed by other conference staff. Gay Brunt Miller is working with leadership resource coordination while communication tasks are divided between Carla Ferrier, Steve Kriss and Melissa Landis, however the future of Intersections is still in discussion as costs for print publications continue to rise with increased movement of information via the worldwide web.
Sandy Landes has requested a leave of absence from her work as prayer coordinator this summer. She will re-evaluate her work and role this fall. Sandy will still pass along prayer requests to congregational coordinators by email in the summer months.
LEADership minister Jenifer Eriksen Morales is on maternity leave due to the birth of a daughter earlier this summer. Jenifer intends to resume work in September. Other conference staff are providing short-term oversight and guidance during the summer months for congregations where Jenifer serves as LEADership minister.