Tag Archives: Wellspring Church of Skippack

Churches of Misfit Toys

by Marta Castillo, Leadership Minister of Intercultural Formation

“At this church, we are like the island of misfit toys.”

Since I started attending at Wellspring Church of Skippack, I have heard this comment several times.  I smile when I hear it because a picture forms in my imagination of the rich yet strange collection of people, backgrounds, and personalities that we find at Wellspring—and at most churches, really.  I sigh because I also hear people acknowledging their brokenness and doubting their adequacy and suitability to be together as the body of Christ. 

I had to do a little research on this cultural reference to “misfit toys.”  What I found is that the story of the Island of the Misfit Toys is a tale of a young red-nosed reindeer (Rudolph) who is bullied for being different. He and an elf, Hermey (who wants to be a dentist), set out on an adventure to find a place that will accept them. They discover an island filled with misfit toys that have been tossed aside due to the slight ‘defects’ they possess, including Charlie, who was discarded because, instead of being a Jack-in-the-Box, he is Charlie-in-the-Box and Dolly Sue, a doll who wants to be loved.  In the end, Rudolph saves the day by finding a home for each misfit toy. 

Is there a parallel between the Island of Misfit Toys and churches?  Well, surely your church has people who have been tossed aside by the world because of the defects they possess.  Surely your church has people who have been made to feel inadequate or mislabeled.  Surely your church has people who are lost in this world and feel unsuccessful and unloved.   

In the time that Jesus spent here on earth, he took special interest in the misfits.  In Mark 2, his disciples are asked, “Why does he eat with the tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Abigail Van Buren once said, “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” 

In 1 Corinthians 12 we are reminded, “Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together … that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

In the story, Rudolph saves the day by finding homes for the misfit toys.  As churches, we become “home” for all sorts of misfits (ourselves included), treating those who are weaker as indispensable and those who have experienced little honor with special honor.  We cover those who are unpresentable with special modesty and our presentable parts with clarity and honesty.  We can save the day because all misfits fit in the body of Christ. 

In the body of Christ, together, we can experience belonging, healing, reconciliation, transformation, shalom, and love.  We may continue to be misfits in this world, but in Christ, we are home, accepted, and beloved.

This is My Father

by Holly Meneses Smith

This is my father. Pounding everywhere he goes, his feet to the ground with purpose. As if shaking a fist at the demons underground, “I will defeat you!”  Make no mistake, Michael Meneses is here. I knew it when he would walk across the wooden floorboards upstairs; from bedroom, to bathroom, to office. From office, to bathroom, to kitchen. 

Pastor Mike Meneses serving communion at Wellspring Church of Skippack.

My father is home.  Most of the curls on his head are combed back into greying waves. Quick, forceful combing in the bathroom mirror.  All movement aims towards his purpose.  He keeps his comb in that mirror.  The same mirror on which he would draw secret steamed messages to his children between showers; surprise love notes that would appear and disappear just as quickly.

This is my father. Jam and peanut butter on toast, cream of wheat, cheese and crackers. Simple cravings, really. Simple and unapologetic, like his convictions.  Straightforward, like his certainty.  Clear and sharp edged, like his reasoning.  Our pallets are the same. 

This is my father.  Spontaneous dancing with his children in his office, as if on some Latin dancing show.  If we got too clumsy, stumbling underfoot, he would simply lift us atop them, where we would glide effortlessly across the carpet with his movements. Movements that revealed a spirit of celebration, hidden, often, amidst an all too demanding and, unbeknownst to many, a profoundly wounded life.  When it came to finding light in the darkness, this man taught me how to pray, and how to samba. 

This is my father.  The man who pastors his church with vigor, and grace.  Whose words can be soft while his voice is strong.  The man who calls troops into spiritual battle, while in the same moment inviting his people into eternal peace.  His is a faith to move mountains, and a heart that never doubted that God could. 

This is my father.  Unmatched is the delight that lights up his face in the presence of his grandchildren.  Children, who reminded him of a time in his own innocence, when he could run carefree through the world, the wind at his back, his feet light on the ground.  A time when the smile that cracked upon his face was boundless, when laughter bubbled up from his little belly and split open his little lips.  A time when the elation he felt while chasing a friend or biking down a street had the potential to fill the world.  And it would fill the world, he knew, for God’s unconditional love is evident in the joy of little children.  It was this love that he pointed to every day until the very end.

This is my father.   This determined, faithful, convicted, impassioned, life-loving child of God.  I imagine that his heart pounds in his chest once again; that his laughter fills the chambers of that great kingdom, as he races through the streets and dances on the feet of his Father. In that place where the love notes never disappear from the mirrors and where the demons are utterly defeated.  There, where he is fully known and eternally celebrated.  This is my father.  My father is home.

All Together in One Place

by Chris Nickels, Pastor at Spring Mount Mennonite Church

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

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

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

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

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

Unity in Thanksgiving

By Sandy Drescher-Lehman, Pastor of Methacton Mennonite Church

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

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

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

Waiting for the pain to end

by Michael A. Meneses, Wellspring Church of SkippackMichael Meneses

It was a cold Sunday morning. It had snowed the day before, and though the church parking lot had been plowed, there were ice puddles everywhere. I was walking across the lot in a no-nonsense, got-business-to-take-care-of way when it happened: my right foot landed on a patch of ice. My foot twisted backward, facing the opposite direction as the rest of my body.

It was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever experienced. I laid there on the icy ground until someone found me and an ambulance took me away.

Yet that’s nothing compared to the pain I experienced when my brother died in January 1984. He would have turned 30 that March; I was nearly 28. How does one explain that kind of pain, the pain of a heart cut through by great loss?

Call it soul pain, a shattered heart: pitch-dark, deeply penetrating waves of grief that leave you raw and exposed. Your heart spasms and you can’t breathe. Dizzy with disbelief, you want to shout and cry out: “It can’t be! Can it? How could it? This is not real! Is it?” It’s as if your soul has swallowed some horrible, ugly truth that you want to vomit out, but you can’t.

There are other hurts: the pain of scorn or rejection. The hurt of ridicule and shame. And you, too, have been hurt in one way or another; all of us have. Indeed, many are hurting even now, as I write these words.

Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” I might have said, “I hurt, therefore I am.” For some, it hurts just to live. And without hope, a Comforter, something better to look forward to, how can anyone bear the pain of it all?

Yet, when it comes to suffering, the Apostle Paul, who was no stranger to the pangs of suffering, said that the sufferings of this present time are not even worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us in the end. Indeed, all of creation, which suffers along with us, eagerly awaits its freedom “from its bondage to decay” when we come into the fullness of our redemption (Romans 8:18-25).

The interesting thing about suffering, and perhaps most frustrating, is this: God does not promise to prevent pain and suffering in our lives. No matter how faithful we are, or how spiritually deep we become, God gives us no guarantee that he will relieve us from suffering in this life. In fact, the very opposite may be true: growing deeper and more faithful with God may actually result in more earthly suffering. Nevertheless, God does promise to be with us as we endure suffering.

Perhaps our hurts and our ever-present sufferings fall under the category of Christ’s command to pick up the cross and follow Him. Jesus Himself was no stranger to extreme pain and suffering, having endured the sufferings of the cross. Thus, Jesus is no alien to what we feel and experience in our own earthly sufferings (Hebrews 2:18; 1 Peter 3:18). Perhaps Jesus knows more about the depths of our sufferings than we do ourselves.

Therefore, we are not to live life avoiding suffering at all cost, running from suffering at every turn, or numbing ourselves from suffering by any means, such as the use of drugs and alcohol. In many ways, we are expected to readily face the painful experiences of our lives head-on, especially the inner, emotional pain of spirit and soul, heart and mind. And while we do, we are to allow the Lord to do his work within us, to change, renew, and transform us by its means.

And so, even as we hurt and carry what seems to be unbearable pain in our lives, we remain steadfast with great expectancy. We look forward to something better. Even as we deal with what may appear to be unendurable agony, our trust, our faith, our hope, and our promise is that it will end in due time. And it will have been worth it, once we find ourselves on the other side of it.

Like Paul, Peter also encourages us with the promise and eager anticipation of final relief in the face of suffering: “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Peter 5:10-11).

Our theme for this year’s joint Conference Assembly with Eastern District Conference is “Esperando: Waiting & Hoping.”  Conference Assembly will be held November 14-15 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa.  

Why “walking in the way of peace” requires grace

Last spring, the Eastern District and Franconia Conference Peace and Justice Committee sent invitations to our congregations for any member, young or old, to write reflections on “Walking in the Way of Peace.” We weren’t sure what response we would receive, but we offered this as one way for people to consider and express how their experience of following Jesus in everyday life led them to reconciling conversations, or choices supporting justice for vulnerable people, or perhaps what tensions they felt in trying to live Christ’s peace. As it turned out, the best submissions did speak of struggle and uneasiness – especially the conflicted feeling of desiring the well-being and fullness of life God intends for us and all creation, and cringing in our awareness of our own part in continuing the gap between God’s dream and our present reality. Thanks be to God that we are not left alone in acknowledging the gap, but live with the Spirit within us, moving among us to create peace that eclipses human understanding! May these two honest reflections feed our common hope in the Prince of Peace, who comes to us in weakness and poverty–that the glory of the Lord would be revealed, and all people would see it together.

Michael Meneses

Why “walking in the way of peace” requires grace

by Michael A. Meneses, Wellspring Church of Skippack

People hurt people.  There is no exception.  There are a thousand and one ways in which we hurt one another.  And we’re all guilty.  We alienate and exclude, and distance ourselves; we give them the silent treatment or rudely dismiss them as inadequate and unimportant; we label and ridicule or nurture distain in our hearts for them; we assume superiority over them, we indulge in profiling and pre-judgment, we take advantage of them, manipulate, cheat, lie, and steal from them, and so-on and so-forth.  And so, many become wary, careful in relationships, afraid to get too close, fearful of vulnerability, quietly building invisible protective walls against others.

As such, given our present human condition, walking in the way of peace is contrary to our nature.  Why?  Upon eating the forbidden fruit, the human race declared war against God, as well as against each other.  Each of us in one form or another has declared ourselves a god in our own right in defiance of our Creator.  This is reflected in our power struggles with one another.  We want our own way.  When we don’t get it?  It’s fight or flight.  That’s our real human nature.

Because of this, walking in the way of peace actually begins with the honest acknowledgement that relationships are dangerous.  Conflict, disagreements and hurt, offenses-given and offenses-taken, are a regular occurrence in our day-to-day relations with others.  When relationships go awry, many find it much easier to drop the relationship (fight or flight) rather than stay committed to the way of love and its hard work of constructive engagement for peace building.  Thus, walking in the way of peace can be quite a challenge.

Furthermore, genuine peace is not merely the absence of open conflict between two parties.  For example, there can be much pain and agony between people even where there is no apparent conflict: silent hurt feelings, quiet misunderstandings, and self-righteous accusatory judgment, for example.  Real Biblical peace, Shalom, is actively concerned for one’s neighbor, for his or her fulfillment and completion, soundness and wholeness, serenity and tranquility, success and prosperity.  If two neighbors passively live side-by-side in distrust and with silent resentment toward each other, and never speak a word to each other unless necessary, there is no real shalom in that neighborhood.

Neither is walking in the way of peace a matter of becoming a doormat to avoid conflict.  Seeking wholeness, one-ness, and completeness for all, including one’s self, is a deliberate choice to stay connected and negotiate in and through conflict in order to find a harmonious solution as much as is humanly possible (Romans 12:18).  Being a deliberate intent to respect, care for, and consider the needs and interests of “the other,” while at the same time respecting one’s own needs and interests, walking in the way of peace maintains a self-integrity without fabricated self-effacement, a kind of false humility.  Avoiding conflict through disingenuous self-denial is motivated out of fear or cowardliness rather than genuine strength of character that is willing to stand for what is true, right, or good.  Such avoidance has little integrity and does little to address the actual source of conflict.

All this is not only difficult, it is next to impossible.  It takes super human strength.  It’s beyond human nature.  It therefore requires God’s grace, the work of the Holy Spirit within us, and a ready submission to Christ’s Lordship and Authority in our lives.  It requires God’s unconditional love working its way in and through us, toward others.  And though we don’t always get it right, we must always keep trying.  For it is the way God expands His Kingdom-Rule among us.