Tag Archives: Steve Kriss

New Pages in the Old Story

by Steve Kriss, executive minister

In our end is our beginning;
in our time, infinity . . .
unrevealed until its season,
something God alone can see.
—Natalee Sleeth, “In the Bulb There is a Flower”

I like new notebooks and journals.  Fresh, blank pages represent new possibility.  The pages await new thoughts, encounters, and reflections.

The beginning of a year is like that too. New goals, resolutions, and opportunities.  Sometimes, though, we are so busy with the new pages that we don’t reflect on where we have been.

This year’s “Year in Review” offers a good glimpse of where we were together as a community in 2018.  Upon reflection, it tells the highlights and the transitions.  The things that worked and came to fruition.

But missing, sometimes, is the struggle and the not yet.  The places where things were difficult and hard.  The conversations yet unresolved.  Those, too, are part of our story and part of our ongoing work.

I don’t want to take for granted that just because we’ve been around so long, we’ll always have new years and new pages ahead.  All around us religious institutions, some with histories that are long and deep, continue to wrap up their legacies.  Franconia Conference is also challenged by the cultural changes around us.  Our future cannot be taken for granted. 

Steve Kriss (right) visits with Isai Sanchez, Diana Salinas, and Gama Sanchez along with board members Angela Moyer and Gwen Groff, on a visit to CIEAMM in Oaxaca in 2018.”

Our legacy must not only be stewarded, but also enlivened.  Some things will come to an end and some things will emerge—or even be reborn.  We’ve seen an end of a historic congregation at Rockhill and a re-emergent partnership with CIEAMM.  We’ve come to embrace something we never imagined now with 10% of Conference congregations on the West Coast.  We’re calling leaders, both young and mature, to credentialed leadership.  And we’re being challenged to refine our credentialing processes so that more people who are called by our churches can navigate the process with grace and integrity.

When I look at our future, I know that there are things only known to God.  I know that in our human responses along the way, we have both the possibility of filling the pages of a new year beautifully or with scratch marks and smudges. Sometimes we’ll need practice runs.  We’ll have first drafts that will need improved, articles and ideas that will need translated.

Entering a new year means offering appreciation for what has gone before, all the accumulation upon which we stand and move.  It also means being open to the possibility, the plans yet unfolding, and the unknown events that might yet emerge.  And it means trusting that God—in our ends, in our beginnings, in all of time—sees and is with us through it all: alongside, inspiring, inviting, revealing further glimpses of the dream rooted in the faith, hope, and love that last forever.

With gratitude, we begin to write the pages of a new year as the old, old story unfolds within and around us anew.

2018: The Year in Review (And a Sneak Peek of 2019)

It’s a new year in Franconia Conference, a time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going.

Joshua So, pastor of San Francisco Chinese Mennonite Church, second from left, along with his wife, Anita So, with Steve Kriss, Leadership Minister Jeff Wright, and Jerrell Williams.

2018 was a year of rejoicing in new and continuing relationships and of saying good-bye to old ones.  Our conference celebrated 100 years of mission in Norristown, PA, and reignited relationships with the Conferencia de Iglesias Evangélicas Anabautistas Menonitas de México (CIEAMM), which was birthed out of Franconia’s mission work in Mexico in the 1950s.  We welcomed a new congregation, San Francisco Chinese Mennonite Church, and saw Rockhill Mennonite Church leave the conference to merge with Ridgeline Community Church.  Four individuals were ordained this year and three were licensed toward ordination, including Franconia’s first credentialed leader from Generation Z.  We said good-bye to six credentialed leaders: one who transferred to another conference, one who retired, and four who passed away.

In 2018, Franconia Conference Board saw the addition of some new members: Kiron Mateti, Yvonne Platts, & Cory Longacre as Members-at-Large and Angela Moyer as Assistant Moderator in anticipation of moderator John Goshow completing his term in 2019.  The conference staff also grew with the addition of a California-based Leadership Minister, Jeff Wright, and the calling of Chantelle Todman Moore as an Intercultural Leadership Coach.  Over the summer, Franconia was joined by a leadership cultivation intern, Jerrell Williams, who traveled around the conference and blogged about his experiences.  Early in the year, Franconia’s new Leadership Minister team took a retreat at Mariawald Retreat Center near Reading, PA, to redefine and clarify their conference work of walking alongside congregations and leaders in a rapidly changing time.

Leadership for conference youth ministry also shifted this fall as Franconia’s Youth Minister, John Stoltzfus, relocated to Virginia and three youth pastors (Brent Camilleri, Mike Ford, and Danilo Sanchez) agreed to share responsibility for planning youth events, equipping youth pastors, and networking with other youth leaders across the denomination.  The conference is currently evaluating how the conference will equip youth leaders in the future.

Participants in the first US Spanish-only Sister Care Retreat hike in the woods around Spruce Lake.

We enjoyed spending time together in 2018.  The conference’s Faith and Life Commission led four conversations around church practice and leadership, focusing on baptism, church membership, communion, and leadership.  Leaders of color met for conversation and brainstorming at the Renewing Nations & Generations gathering and we held the United States’ first all-Spanish Sister Care Retreat.  Credentialed leaders were equipped during a series of boundaries trainings and leadership teams met to learn about and practice God-centered decision-making.

Franconia Conference and Eastern District continued conversations about merging in 2019.  At a joint Conference Assembly in November, delegates discussed some of the sticky issues that will need to be resolved in order to form something new moving forward.

Franconia closed out the year by purchasing a parsonage to be used by South Philadelphia congregations.  This is just one of many examples of partnerships across congregations, geographies, and differences throughout the year.

In 2019, those partnerships will continue as Franconia anticipates additional congregations seeking membership and looks forward to celebrating the 60th anniversary of CIEAMM.  2019 will also be the year that Franconia and Eastern District conferences make the final decision about merging, beginning with discussing some ideas for a new structure at Spring Assembly on May 4 and coming to a final vote at Assembly in November.

Look forward to more resourcing in 2019, including a gathering for retired pastors in the spring and a Boundaries 201 training on confidentiality and pastoral care in the fall.  Faith and Life will continue with three more gatherings focused on leadership: failure in leadership (featuring J.R. Briggs) on February 6 & 7; women in leadership (featuring Carolyn Custis James) on May 8 & 9; and multicultural leadership on August 7 & 8.

March brings its own slate of training events, including “Building Compassion from Love,” a gathering for women on March 30 at Centro de Alabanza, which will explore how God’s love is the foundation which allows us to build on the joy and sorrow of our life stories, experience healing, and show compassion for ourselves and others.  On March 28, a pastors’ breakfast will discuss “Mission as Risky Love,” wrestling with how we talk about and engage in mission so that our risk-taking is grounded in the story of a God who risked everything for the sake of love.

A few other dates to save!

Mennonite Church USA convention will be held in Kansas City on July 2-6.  Registration doesn’t open until February 6 (housing registration opens February 13), but convention staff are already accepting applications for volunteers.

And all credentialed leaders should save the date for our annual appreciation event.  Pencil in August 24, with many more details to come closer to the time!

A response:

“This year’s ‘Year in Review’ offers a good glimpse of where we were together as a community in 2018.  Upon reflection, it tells the highlights and the transitions.  The things that worked and came to fruition.  But missing, sometimes, is the struggle and the not yet.”  –Steve Kriss, executive minister.  Read more…

The One Who Knocks

by Stephen Kriss, Executive Minister

This is the great seriousness of the Advent message and its great blessing. Christ stands at the door. He lives in the form of people around us. Will you therefore leave the door locked for your protection, or will you open the door?
— from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s sermon for the first Sunday in Advent of 1928 in Barcelona

As I write this, thousands of migrants are stranded at Tijuana, one of Mexico’s most dangerous cities. At times they are within shouting distance of peaceful and prosperous San Diego County, CA. There are jobs across the frontera, generated by a booming economy with low taxes and high expectations. And relative safety. They’re fleeing violence and grinding poverty. God only knows what will happen to them by the time you read this.

I’ve seen refugees before.

In Rome, at St. Paul’s in the Walls, straggling in from small boats that made it across the Mediterranean with hopes of prosperity and work.

At Calais, young men who trudged across Central Asia and some fleeing East African violence waiting to hitch a ride on a lorry to jobs at restaurants and with family and friends in the United Kingdom.

One time in a cadre, clutching what seemed like all that they had through Barajas airport at Madrid with bags marked “UNCHR” (UN Refugee Agency), the kind I’d use to carry my groceries.

“The Flight into Egypt” by Henry Ossawa Tanner (c. 1907). Public Domain.

In Mary and Joseph, running away from a violent king, crossing borders and languages and customs to save their son from certain death.

And in Mennonite churches —where the presence of refugees from Myanmar has boosted the futures of dwindling churches, where new congregations have been birthed by Indonesians fleeing violence and seeking asylum, where pews are filled by Nepalis suddenly dislodged from Bhutan, by Vietnamese and Cambodians who arrived a generation ago.

Those who knock at the door and come inside change us, deepening our gratitude and generosity, enriching the possibilities of our future.

We, as Mennonites, have been these folks as well, fleeing the Ukraine and adrift in the Atlantic until someone unlocked the door to Paraguay. Or streaming to new possibilities in North America by homesteading land to lay foundations for colonizing empires by pushing back indigenous people. It’s not always a pretty entrance.

We have at times found the doors locked ourselves. We have been fearful and hopeful, at the end of our rope, the one seeking loving kindness and mercy. We have been running from slaveholders and the legacy of white supremacy, running from abusers, persecution and poverty. We have been outsiders, too.

We have sometimes forgotten ourselves and our wandering stories.  Fear has grown in the space of our forgetting. That fear overshadows our ability to see the stranger as ourselves.

This same kind of fear drove shooters to a black church in Charleston and a synagogue in Pittsburgh.  The fear is a cycle so that we are afraid that the one at door might seek to destroy our very existence.  We become comfortable and culpable by normalizing, “it would have been better if they’d had an armed guard.”  With an armed guard, the stranger never even makes it to the door. 

We are safe.  We survive but become a shell of ourselves, shrouded in fear.  Safe and secure, we strain to hear the knock of the One who seeks shelter to be born again, even in our own hearts, homes, and communities, in this season when love and light broke in.  And we move in faith to unlock the door.

 

Home for Christmas

by Emily Ralph Servant, Interim Director of Communication

The house sits on Emily Street, a three-story, red-brick townhouse whose stoop rests directly on the sidewalk along a narrow city street.

Bethany House, which sits on Emily Street in South Philadelphia, will serve as a conference-owned parsonage.

The third floor windows look out over the surrounding blocks, where brand new rowhomes, nestled between century-old houses, bear witness to the creeping gentrification of this densely populated and diverse neighborhood.  Dotted between the rows of houses are lots that won’t long be empty, neighborhood parks, and the occasional sidewalk garden planted in clusters of multicolored pots.

Its name is Bethany House, and soon this house will become a home.

For a number of years, members of the conference community have been concerned about the rising cost of housing in South Philadelphia.  As the city has experienced an influx of immigrants and a renewal of its urban core, the neighborhoods surrounding Franconia’s South Philly congregations have seen a quick and dramatic increase in housing costs.

This gentrification makes living and ministering locally more and more difficult, especially for credentialed leaders who don’t have the resources to purchase a home.  In response to growing support among the conference constituency, the board decided that now was the time to act, while the purchase could still be considered an investment in the rapidly growing housing market.

In December, upon the review and recommendation of the Properties and Finances Committees, Franconia Conference purchased the house on Emily Street to be used as a conference-owned parsonage.  This home will be available for conference congregations in South Philadelphia to use when, and for as long as, needed.

Bethany House’s first residents will be Leticia Cortes and Fernando Loyola.  The pastoral couple of Centro de Alabanza de Filadelfia, Cortes and Loyola have been struggling to find a safe and stable living arrangement for their family for eleven years.  Because Bethany House is close to their congregation’s building, Cortes and Loyola anticipate that living there will open up new possibilities for outreach in their community as they get to know their neighbors better.

This dream is shared by the South Philly congregations.  “My hope is that this house can be a blessing for the neighborhood,” said Melky Tirtasaputra, associate pastor at Nations Worship Center, who also served as an advisor during the search.  “We pray that the people of this house will bring change and peace to the people in that area.”

The purchase of this property not only shows conference support of Philadelphia churches, explained conference moderator John Goshow, but also provides an opportunity for the rest of the conference to partner with our South Philly congregations in building God’s kingdom, as “the entire Franconia Conference community works together to point people to Christ.”

The move will also put Cortes and Loyola closer to their church community—this was one of the appeals of the house, Tirtasaputra explained.  Members of Centro de Alabanza are excited about the move and have already been busily at work on the house, making repairs and painting.

Ten percent of Franconia Conference members live and worship in South Philadelphia, which makes it important to start investing in the neighborhood, suggested executive minister Steve Kriss.  While Centro de Alabanza is currently using the parsonage, Tirtasaputra reflected, it’s a gift to all of the South Philly congregations since, in the future, pastors from other congregations may also find themselves in need of a home.

“The Bethany House continues Franconia Conference’s tradition of mutual care for our pastors,” described Kriss.  “It will ensure healthy leadership for what has been a rapidly growing part of our conference community.”  The house was named after the village where Jesus went for rest, care, and friendship (John 12:1-8), Kriss said, “a place of gracious hospitality.”

The Conference’s decision to purchase a Philadelphia parsonage is more than just a financial gift, according to Cortes and Loyola; it also says something about the relationship that the wider conference has with its South Philadelphia brothers and sisters: “We feel like this investment is an affirmation of Franconia Conference’s confidence in our church ministry and in us.”

The pastoral couple’s hope is to move in by the end of the year and, it’s quite possible, they may even be home for Christmas.

Bethany House has been partially funded by estate gifts and individual contributions, but we still have funds to raise!  You or your congregation are invited to participate in this ministry by making a designated contribution to Franconia Conference online or by sending a check with “Bethany House” in the memo line to Franconia Mennonite Conference, 1000 Forty Foot Rd., Lansdale, PA 19446.

We Gather Together

by Steve Kriss, Executive Minister

The process of gathering started last night with persons coming from California, Indiana and Mexico.  Partners and leaders began to stream toward Souderton Mennonite Church for our historic Assembly that begins tomorrow.  We have gathered together for generations each autumn as the community now known as Franconia Mennonite Conference.  It’s a massive incarnational effort involving lots of details and logistics—name tags, seating assignments, worship practice, PowerPoint slides in multiple languages and thankfully, Longacre’s Ice Cream and lunch from Landis Supermarket. 

These events have certainly changed over the years from intensive discernment among credentialed leaders on the difficult topics of the day, to equipping and celebration inter-culturally and inter-generationally with a sense of family gathering, face to face listening and conversation.  We’ve switched from Pennsylvania Dutch to English to quad-lingual with videos.  It’s a representation of who the 7,000 of us are in less than a 24-hour timeline. 

It’s hard work and it takes resources.  Yet, by gathering together we underscore the importance of the Incarnation, the love of God made manifest in real time and places.  We listen across our differences in culture, practice and even varied Anabaptist theological perspectives.  It’s ultimately a celebration of the holy tie that binds, of commitment centered in Christ that now span the globe and yet have been rooted deeply in the soil of what has become Southeastern Pennsylvania. 

We gather because we say it matters that we hear each other, that we hear the Spirit together:

That we celebrate and pray. 
That we mark the passing of another year of witness, mission, and ministry. 
That God continues to call and we continue to follow.
That God’s dream for us though yet unfulfilled is still unfolding.
Hasta pronto.  Sampai ketemu lagi.  Hẹn sớm gặp lại.  很快见到你

See you soon! 

God Makes All Things New

by Stephen Kriss, Executive Minister

Jesus is the center of our faith.  Community is the center of our life.  Reconciliation is the center of our work.—Palmer Becker from Anabaptist Essentials

 “Your people shall become my people.”—Ruth  1:15

Photo credit: MHEP

The Facebook post from retired Lancaster Conference Bishop Freeman Miller showed a photo of the former First Mennonite Church in Philadelphia with missing windows, a high wire fence and a notice of building violations and possible demolition.  While this building hasn’t been inhabited by the First Mennonite Church of Philadelphia for generations, I felt the pain of the possible loss.  This building had been the meetinghouse of what had been one of the largest Mennonite congregations on the East Coast, though they had relocated to the suburbs long ago.  It was the home church of Ann Allebach, the first Mennonite woman ordained for ministry in the country.  The Mennonite Historians of Eastern Pennsylvania worked to add the building to the city’s historic register.  For Eastern District, it represents a key historic spot and story.

When I came to Franconia Conference from the western half of the state over a decade ago, I learned quickly that to lead in our community meant learning our history.  I have also learned that it means learning to listen to those who are sometimes just outside of the narrative, as well as those whose stories we have not told.  For over 150 years, the stories of Franconia Conference and Eastern District Conference have been stories told in contrast:  General Conference/Mennonite Church (GC/MC) across the street, down the road, more worldly, more conservative.  The challenge for us in reconciliation will be to learn to tell our stories together in a fragmenting time.

As we move this fall toward the possibilities of reconciliation, I believe we are moving toward what is the essence of the Spirit’s work of healing and hope in our time.  The project of honestly assessing the wounds of the past and recognizing the possibilities that are unleashed through reconciliation and forgiveness gives us a strong posture for the future. 

How do we honor our experiences learned through our years alongside each other but apart?  How we do hear the stories told and untold?  How do we let our brokenness heal so that we are stronger and postured uniquely for the work and witness of God for our time?

For me, this means learning the stories of Eastern District Conference and honoring those places and spaces that are significant in their history, as well as the history of Franconia Conference.   It means emphasizing the role of God as is often de-emphasized in the story of the Prodigal Son, the one who welcomes home, who celebrates a return to family, who welcomes repentance and challenges arrogance even in faithfulness.  In the history of our story together as Conferences, at times we have both squandered our inheritance, distracted by the things of this world rather than the way of Christ’s peace.

I believe that reconciliation will make us stronger as a community.  Not because this bolsters numbers or helps with efficiencies, but because reconciliation further transforms us into the image of God revealed in Christ, who lays down privilege, who embraces incarnation, who recognizes the God who creates all things new — even 300-year-old communities of Mennonites separated for over a century.

Up For The Task

When current Franconia Conference Board member Jim King invited him over for dinner, the idea of filling a seat on the Board was not on Kiron Mateti’s radar in the least bit.  Being new to the Conference, it wasn’t a proposition he was expecting or a position that he was seeking out. With a life journey that started – figuratively speaking – quite far from Anabaptism, Kiron brings a perspective and insight that will be a welcomed addition to Conference leadership should he be affirmed as a board member. Kiron Mateti is being presented to the delegates at the fall Assembly as a nominee by the Conference Board for affirmation to join them as a first term Conference Board Member-at-Large.

Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Kiron’s early faith life was shaped by varying degrees of Hindu belief and practice by his parents, who immigrated from India.  However, through the influence of Christian neighbors and a job in a Presbyterian church nursery, Kiron’s mother learned about the Christian faith, cleared the house of Hindu statues and began to talk to her sons about Jesus.  As a result, Kiron and his brother felt caught in the middle between their parents. 

“My brother and my dad had a pretty terrible relationship, and [my brother] got into drugs and alcohol really early on in life, and then I followed in his footsteps.” The brothers were able to sustain that lifestyle and still do well in high school and college, but eventually, tragically, the substance abuse caught up with them.  “In my 2nd semester (of grad school at Penn State), my brother died drinking and driving. That was a turning point in my life,” Kiron says. He took a semester off, returned home to Ohio … and for some reason, picked up a nice, leather-bound Bible from his mom’s shelf.  “I started reading the New Testament, and read it rather quickly.  I had so many questions.” 

When the day came to empty out his brother’s apartment, Kiron was expecting a group of his mom’s church friends to come help out. “I show up and it was just me and another guy!”, Kiron laughs. “I think he planned it, because he and I talked the whole day!  He was really strong in his faith, and we went through Genesis to Revelation.  I asked him all kinds of questions.” 

With the planted seeds of faith taking root, Kiron returned to Penn State, sought out a friend who was a Christian, and began tagging along to the Christian Student Fellowship (CSF) gatherings, various campus ministry functions and to Sunday church services.  On his first day visiting Christ Community Church in State College, he caught the eye of a fellow Indian man.  “He was really easy to talk to, and wanted to know more about me,” Kiron recalls.  “We met up, and then we started meeting up weekly and doing one-on-one Bible studies.” Kiron remembers this as an intense time of formation and growth in his faith. “It was just me and him, and we were going through some of the same tough questions, and we’d dig in.  We’d have four- or five-hour Bible studies!” Eventually friends started coming along, and by the time Kiron left Penn State, there were around 40 people attending!

Kiron’s involvement with CSF introduced him to more than just Jesus; one of the first people he met at a CSF gathering was his future wife, Rachel, originally from the Reading, PA. area.  After getting married, they began attending University Mennonite Church, where various Anabaptist values resonated with Kiron.  “I saw a contrast … it’s not ‘American Christianity’; it’s just following Jesus, it’s outside of nationalities or allegiance to a country.  That is something that I respected.”

In 2016, Kiron and Rachel committed to moving their family closer to Rachel’s extended family, and Kiron took a position at JBT Automated Guided Vehicles in Chalfont, PA., as a Research and Development Engineer.  Settling in Telford, they visited most of the area Mennonite churches, but were invited to Plains Mennonite Church by Anya Williamson, a friend from Penn State. Kiron’s mom, who now lived with them, immediately connected with the Thalathodi and Rampogu families, who also spoke her native Telugu language.  Kiron and Rachel also made connections, particularly with other families with small children, and got involved with the worship team, teaching Sunday School and leading adult classes.

As an unofficial mentor to Kiron and Rachel, Jim King connected with them through Sunday School, men’s breakfasts, and together spearheading an intercultural, multi-church picnic this past Fourth of July, and saw something in Kiron that he felt would be an asset to the Board, and approached him with the idea. “Kiron’s presence radiates joy, curiosity and openness wherever I have been with him,” Jim says. “I just have to smile when I think of how the rest of the board will receive him.”  

Those who know him tend to agree. “Kiron is a thoughtful, independent thinker with a deep commitment to the church, his family, and the way of Jesus,” says Plains’ Pastor Mike Derstine.  “While new to our congregation and conference, he is eager to learn, meet new people, and further the mission of God in our community and world.”  Executive Minister Steve Kriss also anticipates the contributions Kiron will bring. “He’s bright, engaged, will ask good questions and help us find our way into new spaces, places, possibilities,” says Steve.

Kiron feels up for the task.  He anticipates hard work, a lot of listening and learning, and hopefully the ability to contribute as one who didn’t grow up in the church. “I feel empathetic towards people who are ‘different’,” he says. “Maybe that can provide a perspective that’s needed on the board.” 

Kiron and his wife Rachel (Zimmerman) are the parents of 5-year-old Asha and almost-3-year-old Jaya, and as a family, they enjoy music, the beach, camping and are a self-proclaimed “nerdy family” who like to visit libraries when they travel. 

Encouragement in the Bay

by Jerrell Williams, Associate for Leadership Cultivation

Joshua So, pastor of San Francisco Chinese Mennonite Church, second from left, along with his wife, Anita So, with Steve Kriss, Leadership Minister Jeff Wright, and Jerrell Williams. 

(Reprinted with permission from The Mennonite)

This past week I got the chance to accompany Steve Kriss, Franconia Mennonite Conference executive minister, and Jeff Wright, Franconia Conference Leadership minister, on a trip to San Francisco to visit San Francisco Chinese Mennonite Church (SFCMC). This is a Cantonese-speaking congregation of around 35 members that is considering joining Franconia Mennonite Conference.

After worship, we talked with Pastor Joshua about his expectations of Franconia Conference and how he envisioned the relationship. The theme of encouragement came up repeatedly. Pastor Joshua wanted encouragement and support from Franconia Conference. He wanted to know if Franconia Conference would be in relationship with his church and continue to encourage the members, even though they are far away. If it joins Franconia Conference, SFCMC would be the only Cantonese-speaking congregation in the conference. We attended worship with the congregation and spent a day with Pastor Joshua and Anita, his wife, in the Bay area. The congregation was lively and hospitable; everyone greeted us when we came. We met several members of the congregation during lunch and heard their stories and experiences in the United States.

This experience showed me the importance of encouragement for churches. SFCMC has felt alone for a long time. Its biggest request from us on this trip was that we check in with them and encourage them. Whether we’re there physically or we send them a text on a Sunday morning, they want to know we are praying for them and thinking of them.

Worship at San Francisco Chinese Mennonite Church.

 

Hearing of the needs of this congregation made me think of Paul and how he wrote letters to different churches. These letters sometimes were ones of correction for when the church lost its way, but many of them included words of encouragement to congregations. Paul saw it as important to send encouragement to the church whenever he got the chance.

All churches at times need support and encouragement from other churches. Franconia Conference can play a huge role in encouraging and connecting its congregations. Being a conference isn’t only about keeping churches in order or in line. Most of the work is being willing to be present with them. Churches need to know they are being prayed for, thought of and loved. Sometimes a reminder is all we need.

Angela Moyer Named Interim Assistant Moderator

On July 16, the Franconia Conference Board appointed Angela Moyer as interim assistant moderator. This position is interim pending affirmation by the Conference delegates at the November 2-3 assembly. With this new role Angela will sit on the Conference Board Executive Committee as vice-chair and be vice-chair of the Conference Board.

Angela grew up in Franconia Conference and served as youth pastor at Rockhill Mennonite Church from 2005 to 2011. During that time, she sensed God calling her deeper into ministry and enrolled at Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS), Lancaster, PA to pursue her Master of Divinity which she acquired in 2012.  Angela then went on to serve at Ripple in Allentown where she is currently one of five co-pastors. Throughout her career she has been bi-vocational, working as pastor and also as an occupational therapist. Currently, while serving the Ripple community she also works in Early Intervention at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation.

“Franconia Conference shaped me significantly as a child and youth at Penn View, Christopher Dock, and Rockhill Mennonite Church,” Angela said. “Then the Conference invested in me further when I attended seminary at Eastern Mennonite Seminary and through mentoring when I was a new pastor. I am humbled to be invited to share my gifts through this role. I serve with gratitude for the encouragement and nurture that the Conference has offered to me throughout my life.  I am encouraged by the ways in which the Conference continues to bear witness to the upside down kingdom of God as taught to us by Jesus.”  

Conference moderator John Goshow noted Angela’s involvement and outstanding service as a member of the Conference board since 2015 and on the executive minister search committee in 2016.

“Angela is deeply rooted in our Conference community with broad relationships in our urban and historic congregations.  She knows our story, our ministries and our global partners.  She’s a measured and thoughtful next generation leader who will bring wisdom, insight and hope to our work and witness together,” said Executive Minister, Steve Kriss.

Executive committee member, Jim King added, “Angela has a keen awareness and passion for the margins in our faith communities.  She holds her core values with the ability to communicate across generational and ethnic lines.  I think she will do well in facilitating our group process.”

With her roots in Telford and as an urban and bi-vocational pastor, her gifts and background are well-suited for this new role on the board.  For more about Angela, check out the article that welcomed her to the board in 2015.

 

Seminary student joins Franconia Mennonite Conference and The Mennonite, Inc.

A joint release of Franconia Mennonite Conference and The Mennonite, Inc.

Franconia Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA and The Mennonite, Inc., have jointly appointed Jerrell Williams as staff for this summer. Based in Philadelphia, Williams will work part time for Franconia Mennonite Conference as associate for leadership cultivation and part time for The Mennonite, Inc., as editorial assistant.

Williams is a third-year Master of Divinity student at Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Theological Seminary. He attends Pittsburgh Mennonite Church, where he previously interned as student assistant pastor.

Over 10 weeks, Williams will guest preach, build relationships and further explore urban ministry among Franconia Conference congregations and ministries, mostly in eastern Pennsylvania.

“Jerrell is an impressive, thoughtful emerging Anabaptist leader,” says Steve Kriss, executive minister for Franconia Mennonite Conference. “I look forward to learning from him through his engagement with our conference community this summer. Our invitation to Jerrell is part of an ongoing commitment to next-generation leadership formation with gifted young leaders who serve and lead both within and beyond our historic conference community in extending the way of Christ’s peace.”

Williams will produce a weekly blog post for TheMennonite.org in which he will reflect on the people and ministries he encounters, in addition to several other content production and editing assignments.

“Jerrell’s passion for exploring how Mennonites are engaging their local contexts and his interest in developing his skills as a communicator makes him a great fit for The Mennonite,” says Sheldon C. Good, executive director of The Mennonite, Inc. “We can all benefit from engaging the stories he shares with us this summer.”

In the June 2016 issue of The Mennonite, Williams was selected as one of “20 under 40.” Readers nominated people in their congregations under age 40 who are committed to following Jesus, attend church and find value in Christian faith and community. Nearly 90 individuals were nominated.

A 2015 alum of Bethel College (North Newton, Kansas), Williams worked as director of prison ministries at Offender Victim Ministries in Newton, Kansas, from January 2015 to August 2016. He completed an undergraduate internship in youth ministry at Bethel College Mennonite Church (North Newton, Kansas) from September 2014 to May 2015.

Williams grew up in Garland, Texas, where he attended a large Southern Baptist congregation. As a student at Bethel College, Williams says he became interested in Mennonite theology and tradition.