Tag Archives: West Philadelphia

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Brooke Bloughby Brooke Natalie Blough, West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship

As a white woman who somewhat recently moved into an area that is considered to be “gentrifying,” I try to be acutely aware of my impact on my community. Dannette Lambert’s article on “how not to be a gentrifier” was exactly what I needed. I absolutely love my neighborhood and its diversity, so a practical guide on being a positive force in your community for everyone gave me so much to think about and put in action.

The one piece of advice this article gives that I find the most powerful is her recommendation to view everyone you see in your neighborhood as your neighbor. This seems obvious, but it’s so easy to look at people who are different from you or even distasteful to you as not really being a part of your community. The homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks, the women selling their bodies, the young men who look like someone who might rob you: They are all your neighbor.

That word is so heavy. Neighbor. It shows up all over the Bible. Old Testament laws command us to show our neighbors dignity and justice. When Jesus is asked, “What’s the most important commandment?” he answers that we must love God with everything we’ve got and to love our neighbor as ourselves. And when asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells us the parable of the Good Samaritan, teaching us that anyone could be our neighbor, we just have to accept them as part of our community and our lives.

Since I walk about half an hour to work every day, I see a lot of people. And Philadelphia is not New York — you are not just an anonymous and ignored person, invisibly walking down the sidewalk. In Philadelphia (and especially West Philly) you see and are seen by most everyone who walks past. Over the last few weeks, I have been intentionally thinking to myself as I approach each new person, “This is my neighbor.” Often, this has no effect on the way I treat that person; but sometimes when I see someone who is different from me or even distasteful to me, I can feel something in my attitude change when I think “This is my neighbor.”

That teenager who just dropped their trash on the ground is my neighbor.
That man who leered at me is my neighbor.
That mother who just screamed at her child is my neighbor.
That homeless person who just asked me for money is my neighbor.
That angry-looking person who didn’t return my smile is my neighbor.

Jesus didn’t tell us what set number of people we are to consider our neighbors, but showed us that anyone we encounter can be our neighbor if we open ourselves up to the responsibility of claiming them as part of our community. If I have a right to be a part of this community, so do they. If I am deserving of grace, so are they.

Jesus didn’t just ask us to love our neighbor, he asked us to love our neighbor as ourselves. That change in attitude can best be summed up as me asking myself, “How would I want to be treated if I were them?” Looking at my daily interactions through this lens has helped me tap into a well of compassion and empathy I didn’t know I had. The practice of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is humbling.

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” — Gal. 5:14

Brooke Natalie Blough lives in Philadelphia, Pa., and works at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a regular attender of West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship and writes at Now Faith, where this blog first appeared.

Gun to garden tool

RAWtools Phila
Cherie Ryans of Philadelphia forges metal from a gun to be made into a garden tool with Mike Martin of RAWtools from Colorado Springs, CO. (The Simple Way photo/Dan Brearley)

by Mimi Copp Johnson, Mennonite Central Committee East Coast

Gary Lebo was on his cell phone 117 miles away in Dillsburg, Pa. Item number 104, a cultivator mattock (hand tool used to break up the soil), was up next at the Philadelphia Festival & Auction, which benefits Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

Lebo was determined to bid on this garden tool even though he could not be there in person.   On the other end of the line, was an auction volunteer standing at the back of the room at West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship ready to place bids for Lebo.

Not just any old garden tool, this cultivator was constructed, in part, from a handgun, at a Philadelphia blacksmith workshop devoted to turning “swords into plowshares” and “spears into pruning hooks.” These visionary words are from the Biblical prophet, Isaiah.

Cherie Ryans, a mother whose child had been killed with a handgun in Philadelphia, helped make the tool.  She forged the metal from a gun on anvils loaned by conservative Mennonite farmers.  Fred Kauffman, former MCC staff person, shared with the auction audience that with each strike of the hammer on the red-hot iron, Ryans said a word, “This….is….for….my…son.”

With the tone set from this story, the bidding began at $300. It climbed to $500, $600, $700.

“I am sick and tired of hearing on the news almost every evening about someone else expressing violence by using a handgun,” said Lebo explaining why he kept bidding. “The idea of pouring energy into gardening rather than violence is exhilarating for us!”

The final bid was for $850 by Gary and Gloria Lebo of Dillsburg Brethren in Christ Church. Another person added a $150 donation to make the total $1,000.

“I thought it was all over,” Lebo recounts, until he received a call from Kimberly Tucker, a friend from Dillsburg Brethren in Christ Church, who was at the auction. “She was scolding me for buying it out from under her, and then she kindly offered to bring it home for me and charge me mileage!”

Tucker said she had her eye on the tool because she “wanted to purchase it to use throughout the year at church as a symbol of peace—turning swords into plowshares.”

The blacksmith workshop was done by RAWtools and was sponsored by Shane Claiborne, Heeding God’s Call, Kingdom Builders Network and MCC East Coast.  RAWtools Inc.’s mission is to repurpose weapons into hand tools to be used in the creation of something new and to prevent the weapon’s use for violence.

A similar tool had been donated by RAWtools to the Rocky Mountain Mennonite Relief Sale the weekend before in Colorado that went for $675.

Now the tool is also a storytelling piece.  The Lebos have had several opportunities to share the story and hope to have more.

“Another dream I have,” Lebo says, “is to return it to the auction next year to be sold again so someone else can enjoy the experience, share with others and raise more money for MCC.” 

Mennonite Central Committee: Relief, development and peace in the name of Christ

Beauty for Brokenness: Growth toward Wholeness

Womens Gathering 2013
Women from Franconia and Eastern District conferences attach symbols of healing to an oak tree at this year’s Beauty for Brokenness seminar. Photo by Anne Yoder.

by Lynne McMullan Allebach, Arise

On the morning of Saturday, June1st, thirty women came together at Salford Mennonite Church in Harleysville (Pa.) for the first women’s equipping event sponsored by the new Eastern District & Franconia Mennonite Conferences Women’s Committee.

Angela Moyer, co-pastor of Ripple congregation (Allentown, Pa.) and occupational therapist at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation, spoke about melding a clinical model for recovery from trauma with the story of Christ to bring healing for hurts, whether small or truly traumatic. She explained how we can choose to “act in” by doing things destructive to ourselves or “act out” by doing things that are destructive to others, or we can choose to heal by taking positive steps toward forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace.  Sister Mary Julia McKenzie, chaplain at Penn Foundation’s Recovery Center (Sellersville, Pa.), spoke about the work of recovery, especially as it relates to drug and alcohol addictions. She shared a poem about an oak tree as a symbol of resilience in the face of trials, then invited the participants to decorate items to be placed on a drawn oak tree as a part of the closing worship time.

Phyllis Chami shared a devotion she had written about Eve and Mary, two women of God. The devotion came out of her own personal trauma and how God has played a part in her growth toward wholeness. Lynne Allebach also shared the story of the loss of her son and how the care of others aided in overcoming her grief. Participants met in small groups to discuss their own trauma experiences and their need for recovery. The morning ended with a time of worship that included a version of “Beauty for Brokenness” with words written specifically for the gathering.

Franconia and Eastern District Conferences sponsored a seminar last year on training women for relationships of mutual care.  Responses to a survey taken after the training indicated an interest in continued equipping gatherings that address the needs of women. Anne Yoder, West Philadelphia congregation, answered the call for ongoing ministry and assembled a committee to begin brainstorming ideas. The theme of Beauty for Brokenness was chosen as a motif for the June event as a way of examining trauma and seeing how people may grow toward wholeness from places of brokenness.

Beauty for Brokenness was well received and there was support expressed for continuing to meet, probably twice a year.  “There were women from eighteen churches here, most from smaller congregations that do not have established women’s programs,” observed Yoder. “It is a joy to be able to provide a forum for so many who are looking for spiritual and emotional encouragement and for friendships with other women of faith. . . .  I am so grateful to see the Spirit moving among us, empowering us to sister each other through our life journeys.”

To join the planning team or to receive information about future gatherings, please e-mail Anne Yoder at ayoder1@swarthmore.edu.

Philadelphia Festival raises support and community

by J. Fred Kauffman, West Philadelphia congregation

The MCC Philly Festival featured a rich variety of foods including Chinese egg rolls, Haitian rice, Indonesian snack foods, Mexican tamales, Vietnamese pho, and traditional PA Dutch fare. Photo by Grant Rissler.

“Good food. Good cause. Nice quilts!” observed Rosalie Rolón Dow, describing the October 27th Festival & Auction to support the work of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Over 300 people attended Philadelphia’s second “MCC Relief Sale,” bidding on 200 items that raised $19,000 for MCC. With over $5,000 spent on foods and small items plus direct project donations, total receipts exceeded $27,000.

The Pennsylvania Relief Sale and Kingdom Builders Anabaptist Network of Greater Philadelphia (KBN) sponsored the festival.  Seven KBN congregations brought a rich variety of food: Chinese egg rolls, Haitian rice and delicacies, Indonesian snack foods, Mexican tamales, Soul Food, Vietnamese pho/soup, fresh fruit, baked yams, and the traditional PA Dutch fare of soups, cookies, pies, and cakes.

When asked, “Why did you come today?” most people began with, “Because I support MCC’s mission.” This mission involves working in disaster relief, sustainable community development and justice & peace building in Philadelphia and around the world.  (See www.mcc.org)

Having voiced support for MCC, further comments varied widely. “We wanted to reconnect with old friends and connect with new friends,” said Cynthia and Loren Snavely from the Fox Hill (NY) Bruderhof community. Dana Espinosa from North Philly smiled and said, “You have good food, and it’s a great Saturday outing for my active children.”

A participant from the Lancaster County Amish community said, “My neighbor helped organize the first MCC Relief Sale in 1948 in Gap, Pa. I’ve been attending the Gap sale for years, but wanted to see this one in Philly.”

MCC Philly Festival 2012
West Philadelphia congregation hosted the festival and quilt auction.  Photo by Grant Rissler.

West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship hosted the festival in the beautiful 107-year-old domed chapel of Calvary United Methodist Church where it worships. Bidders, volunteers, food, and auction items came from international, urban, and rural contexts.

Sale items included: a meal for ten hosted by an Amish family in rural PA; an original etching of the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies; a deep sea fishing trip in NJ; a house concert with viola, harp and flute; handmade corn brooms; an Eric Kratz signed baseball; tickets to the Philadelphia Orchestra; exquisite wood crafts; silk quilts made in a Vietnamese village; and over 20 other quilts and wall hangings.

Bidders also donated $2,730 directly to MCC church-based community development projects in Colombia and Philadelphia.  In Colombia, MCC works with Anabaptist churches in food security and sustainable livelihoods, and in Philadelphia, MCC supports Kingdom Builders Construction to serve among KBN churches.

Recognition is due to the more than 50 volunteers who assisted at the Festival.  Special thanks to Vernon Martin, the primary auctioneer, and to 89-year-old Sanford Alderfer from Alderfer Auction & Appraisal who stepped out of retirement to give Martin a lunch break!

At the Second Mennonite (Philadelphia) food booth, Brenda Holmes said, “This is a time of fellowship and of service.  It’s special that people from outside of Philly come here to join us: usually we go to their home areas.”  Geraldine Abraham agreed. “This festival is a ‘grand affair,’” she said, “and it is a blessing to give back.”

Mennonite community … and community that Mennonites

To Mennonite Blog #8Alex Bouwman

by Alex Bouwman, West Philadelphia Mennonite Church

It is not easy separating the noun “Mennonite” and the verb “to Mennonite.”  I think it is because the terms are not mutually exclusive.  Those of us who identify as Mennonite, ethnically or culturally, and practice a Mennonite faith are likely already Mennoniting.  Here are a few examples that come to mind that demonstrate the close relationship between our beliefs (as Mennonites, the noun) and our practices (as we Mennonite, the verb):

  • We have taken to heart Jesus’ call from the Sermon on the Mount to be peacemakers.  Much of our identity involves nonviolence, yet peacemaking is a verb.
  • We believe in maintaining a close relationship with God, praying, and striving to do God’s will.  But what does the Lord require of us?  I read about the verbs acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God.
  • We believe in living in right relationships, not as individuals on our own, but remaining connected to one another.  We follow the practical Ten Commandments as well as Jesus’ explanation of the greatest commandments.  Here we are told to love God wholly and our neighbors as ourselves.  Love is a verb.

I am proud (wait, can I say that?) of the ways we lovingly Mennonite all over this world for peace and justice.  Any of the verbs mentioned above are worth their own blog entries.  I would like to share just two simple examples from our church of Mennoniting, or doing community, together.

Last fall our youth group hosted another Mennonite youth group from Lancaster County for a day.  They rode the train into Philadelphia and transferred to the trolley, which dropped them off right at our church’s doors.  We cleaned up trash at one of our parks, enjoyed lunch together, and did a long two or three mile scavenger hunt walking tour of our neighborhood.  This fall we plan to make a trip to their church to enjoy the neat aspects of their rural community, something we city-folk don’t often experience.  I sense the Holy Spirit moving as we intentionally get together with those we otherwise might not, finding points of commonality, and learning about the benefits of both city and rural living.

A few years back our church had a meeting to discuss various possibilities for new small groups.  Out of that meeting came the desire for more frequent potlucks.  We enjoy our monthly church fellowship meals, but this would be a casual weekly meal.  There were other small groups that involved bible studies, book clubs, or discussion topics. That involves preparation and a necessary commitment.  We wanted something a little different.

Thus our Togethering small group was formed.  We meet every Tuesday evening for a potluck meal and fellowship in one of our homes.  In the beginning a core of us (probably 8 or so) met weekly with various families joining for a week to check us out.  At one point we had over 20 coming!  We now consistently have about 10-12 each week.  It’s a great way for someone who is visiting for the first time to get connected with a smaller group of people without the pressure of long-term commitment.  It is a wonderful gift to share with each other about what is going on with our lives and in the world.

I don’t believe I’m going out on a limb when I say every Mennonite church has ways of doing community, loving God and neighbors as themselves, and working for peace and justice.  The way I see it, whether we do them as part of our identity as Mennonites or the way we put our faith into action—or some engrained combination of the two—what matters is that we are living our faith in the real world with love, justice, mercy, and humility.

Next week, Ervin Stutzman, executive director of Mennonite Church USA, will share his experience of Mennoniting through community discernment.  How do you “Mennonite”?  Join the conversation on Facebook & Twitter (#fmclife) or by email.

Who am I?  (To Mennonite Blog #1)
Serving Christ with our heads and hands (To Mennonite Blog #2)
Quiet rebellion against the status quo (To Mennonite Blog #3)
Mennoniting my way (To Mennonite Blog #4)
Generations Mennoniting together (To Mennonite Blog #5)
Body, mind, heart … and feet (To Mennonite Blog #6)
We have much more to offer (To Mennonite Blog #7)

Gathering of “sisters” provides training and care

by Emily Ralph, eralph@franconiaconference.org

Sister Care seminar
Over a hundred women gathered at Souderton Mennonite Church for the Sister Care seminar. Photo by Emily Ralph

One hundred and thirty women gathered for training and fellowship at Souderton Mennonite Church on March 23-24.  The Sister Care seminar, developed by Mennonite Women USA, was sponsored by Eastern District and Franconia Conferences as part of their continuing work to equip and train congregational leaders.

“The depth of the sharing and the tears move, inspire, and teach us that the female characteristics are God-given and that we, as God’s women, have much honesty and healing to bring to the world,” said event planner Anne Yoder, West Philadelphia congregation.  “I was most thrilled about the number of women who came from smaller churches and were able to connect with the larger church body.”

Sister Care was born out of a 2006 question to Mennonite women: How can congregations provide better care for women’s needs?  After two years of meeting with a focus group, Sister Care materials were developed.  Since 2008, Mennonite Women USA has been offering the seminar through conferences all over the country.

“Pastors are overwhelmed.  They don’t have time to do one-on-one counseling with individual parishioners,” said Sister Care co-presenter Carolyn Heggan.  “Women often have natural gifts of compassion and caregiving.  Sister Care, we hope, affirms the gifts they have and have been using and gives them some insights and confidence to see their caring relationships with others as important ministry.”

This empowerment and equipping becomes an important tool for church leaders, Heggan added.  “Pastors are thrilled if they are not the only one that people can turn to in the congregation.”

Vicki Cook “collapses” in frustration after Rhoda Keener fails to follow the principles of active listening. Photo by Gay Brunt Miller.

The two-day seminar included times of teaching, dramatic readings, singing, table conversation, individual reflection, congregational brainstorming, and symbolic action.  A highlight for many was co-presenter Rhoda Keener’s illustration of active listening by play-acting a conversation with friend Vicki Clark in which she repeatedly got distracted; Clark ended up falling to the ground in frustration.

In addition to teaching skills for listening and offering a healing presence, the seminar emphasized the need for self-care.  Without caring for self, people in ministry become run down and unable to help others.  “We, as Mennonites, may be more susceptible than others,” said Heggan.  “We equate being busy and doing good things with Christian virtue.  Sometimes we carry our busy schedules and being harassed with too much to do almost as a badge of courage.”

Souderton’s Sister Care seminar was groundbreaking for Mennonite Women USA—it was the first time they have used materials translated into Spanish; Spanish-speaking participants were also equipped with translation headsets.  As a result, the seminar was well-attended by Spanish-speaking members of Philadelphia Praise Center and Nueva Vida Norristown New Life.

Sister Care
Leti Cortes (left) shares with her table during group conversation. Photo by Emily Ralph.

“Mi grupo de mujeres quedaron muy contentas en su primera experiencia y ya estamos planeando como pober en practica las herramientas que se nis dio en el taller [My group of women were very happy with their first experience and we are already planning how to put into practice the tools that we were given at the seminar],” said Leti Cortes, a pastor at Philadelphia Praise Center. “Estan tan animadas que estamos pensando en un retiro de mujeres y usar algunas dinamicas que nos ayudaron a poder expresar lo que hemos vivido,espero le sirva este mensaje [We were so encouraged that we are thinking about having a women’s retreat and using some of the group activities that help us to express what we have lived].”

For more information on Sister Care, visit Mennonite Women USA’s website.

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Philly Churches plan festival to benefit MCC

Ken Beidler, West Philadelphia, kenbeidler@yahoo.com

Philadelphia Anabaptist churches are planning the first ever Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Benefit Festival in Philadelphia. This inaugural event is scheduled for Saturday, October 29, 2011, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship, 4740 Baltimore Avenue, Philadelphia, PA19143.

Like other MCC Relief Sales, the Philly event will feature an auction, international food booths and children’s activities. With MCC East Coast offices headquartered inPhiladelphia, it made sense for there to be a relief sale in the city. Grant Rissler, MCC Financial Resource Development Coordinator, says, “Many relief sales take place at fairgrounds that have a rural feel. . . It’s exciting to see this Festival in Philadelphia working to innovate in the urban setting. That type of innovation is really one of the growing edges that will keep support for MCC strong and growing into newer generations.”

In addition to supporting MCC’s programs around the world, half of proceeds of the sale will benefit MCC Philadelphia’s work with prison ministry, alternatives to youth violence, gun violence prevention and a low-income housing ministry.

Fred Kauffman, MCC East Coast program coordinator, says, “The MCC Benefit Festival promises to be an occasion where the Philly churches can work together and bring the diversity of our gifts and cultures into the process. We look forward to connecting with neighbors, MCC supporters, churches outside of Philly, and with each other to create a public witness for Christ and the kingdom which he proclaimed.”

For more information about the festival or to coordinate donating an item for the auction, visit eastcoast.mcc.org/phillyfestival, e-mail PhillyBenefitFestival@gmail.com or call (215) 535-3624.

A variety of ethnic foods will be available at the MCC Benefit Festival in Philadelphia. Photo by Anna Ralph

Participating in the movement of God’s spirit:Invited into the ‘dance of cooperation’

Ken Beidler, West Philadelphia

lori-ordination.jpgOn Sunday, March 14 amid joyful music and dancing, West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship (WPMF) celebrated the ordination of Lorie Hershey. The afternoon service welcomed participants from the many diverse communities that have shaped Hershey’s call to ministry, culminating in a litany of blessings and a liturgical dance that had everyone out of their seats and dancing in the sanctuary.

Focusing on Paul’s words in Galations 5:25 “since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”, Leonard Dow, pastor of Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, invited Hershey and WPMF to the “dance of cooperation” in which pastor and congregation participate in the movement of God’s Spirit.
Tracing the theme of dancing through the Scriptures from the prophetess Miriam to King David and into the early church, Pastor Dow, exhorted the congregation to trust that God will help us learn the right steps to move into faithful service in the world.

Three years ago, WPMF, an urban Anabaptist congregation extended the call to Hershey to be their pastor. Hershey, a 2005 graduate of Eastern Mennonite Seminary M.Div, moved to Philadelphia with her husband, Brent and two children, Dillon and Eden.

Sylvia Horst, chair of the WPMF Human Resources Committee shared the affirmations of numerous leaders and others in the congregation. Addressing Lorie on behalf of the congregation, Horst said, “Lorie, you have indeed shown strong and clear gifts in working with WPMF. As a leader you are steady and reliable, exemplifying integrity and a Christ-like spirit. You coordinate well, with appropriate attention to detail. At the same time, you are able to let go of plans when necessary to allow the Holy Spirit to work. You listen with insight for what God might be saying to us.”

Invited guests representing the varied congregations and church institutions that have helped to shape Hershey’s call to ministry offered blessings as she enters a new chapter of ministry. After each blessing, a bright colored strand of cloth was woven into a tapestry which was given to Hershey. During the reception that followed the service, attenders were invited to write a personal message and include it in the tapestry.
Franconia Conference Representatives, Noah Kolb, Pastor of Ministerial Leadership and Marlene Frankenfield, Conference Youth Minister, offered prayers and words of challenge to Hershey as she stepped into ordained ministry.

Julie Prey-Harbaugh, the worship leader, led the congregation in responding with the words, “Together as one body, we pledge to you our support that you might freely exercise the ministries of leadership committed to you. Our material gifts, our prayers, our counsel, and our encouragement support you. We pray that you may be given a deep love for those whom you serve and that Christ might be expressed through you in word and deed.”

John Pritchard, pastor of Calvary United Methodist, which owns the building in which WPMF worships and Rabbi Lauren Herrmann of Kol Tzedek Synagogue, read Psalm 150 in English and Hebrew.

A deep sense of gratitude to God permeated the service of ordination, heard in the joyful music, strong drumming and WPMF’s intergenerational choir’s singing of the African-American spiritual, “Guide my feet.” From the opening song, which celebrated God’s presence “Here in this Place”, the congregation, which is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary of ministry in Philadelphia, was led in a celebration of how God calls and raises up leaders to build up the church and extend God’s Kingdom.

In her response to the service, Hershey utilized the metaphor of the dance to describe her calling to WPMF. She said, “Ten years ago I couldn’t have imagined that I would be standing here being ordained. If I were to use one word for my journey to this point today it would be “movement”. Movement towards God, with God and movement in myself: towards wholeness in my understanding of God and myself. This congregation has been dancing for 25 years now. While some of the dance steps may have changed over the years, the DJ has remained the same.”

photos provided by WPMF

Following the call to “dance”: Stepping out in faith to God’s leading

Lorie Hershey, West Philadelphia

I enjoyed dancing in my youth and now with my children, but it is not something I do in the presence of many. And yet the image of dancing intersects my relationship with God and experience of call; the harmonizing of movements with an overarching melody and rhythm. The draw of music connects deeply, awakening God’s spirit within. The desire to express the motion stirred by a song; the give and take required for partner dancing. There is something about the image and act of dancing that describes our relationships, both divine and human.

I’ve heard professional ballet dancers describe dance as always being a part of them. They were always twirling, skipping, moving to music that others could not hear. Similarly, I too have felt like God has always been a part of life even when I did not recognize the Spirit’s presence.

There was music stirring inside me moving me to twirl, skip: to dance. Many times that music got distorted, muted, or misplaced as the events of life overpowered it. There were times that I tuned out the music, but it remained. I now realize the music was God’s Spirit, inviting me to dance, calling me to ministry.

I felt an affinity for the church early in life as I witnessed my mother’s volunteer leadership work within my home congregation. I began active involvement in the church and found energy for church leadership and outward confirmation of my gifts. I felt the inner nudging of God. Yet it took me until my early thirties to recognize this as a call to ministry, let alone pastoral ministry. I accepted God’s invitation without fully knowing where the dance would lead. I tentatively stepped out and went to Eastern Mennonite Seminary.

In seminary, I began to find God’s deep grace and healing through spiritual direction and the writing of music. My husband, Brent, and I began providing music for liturgical dances during worship times and I found another step in my faith journey. While not being the one upfront dancing, I found that I was dancing through the music and it became a life-changing experience for me.

I found my relationship with God becoming more free and life-giving; while my call to pastoral ministry deepened and was affirmed. I was beginning to truly dance. Sure, there are still times of hesitancy and clumsiness–I’m sure I’ve stepped on God’s toes many a time–but I experience grace, courage, and coordination that could only come from God.

lhershey.jpgAs I discerned my call to West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship, I clearly heard God say: “Dance, Lorie, just dance.” And so again, I step out in faith not knowing exactly what the dance will look like; although one that will include some hip-hop for sure.

I continue to be energized by God’s calling to find our song, recognize Christ throughout our days, and be transformed by the Holy Spirit. It is exciting as we work together to create a life-giving dance, rooted in Christ, welcoming toward our neighbors, and working towards the Shalom of the city.