Tag Archives: Worship

Let’s Worship Together!

by Marta Castillo, Leadership Minister of Intercultural Formation

All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.   Psalm 86:9

Friday Night worship – Conference Assembly 2019. Photo by Javier Marquez

At our annual assembly we worshipped the Lord in song in several different languages and styles.  I wonder if anyone whispered to the person beside them like someone whispered behind me many years ago, “Why do we have to sing in these different languages?  Why can’t we just sing in English?”  I wonder if those at the assembly worship felt comfortable and engaged in the worship songs.  Were they able to enter into the intercultural space of worshipping God in ways and styles and languages that were not their own?  Did it fill them with joy to worship the Lord and bring glory to God’s name with other nations that God has made, even if it was different than what they were used to? 

In an intercultural community, all are transformed because everyone learns from one another and grows together.  In intercultural worship, we learn to choose to continue to worship God in the styles and languages of others.  For me, what began as a discipline and continues to be a choice is now also a joy as I have incorporated intercultural worship as part of who I am with the help of the Holy Spirit. John 4:23 –  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

Several weeks ago, I attended a service at Nations Worship Center where we sang songs that had repeating lines.  I appreciated the repetition while singing in a language in which I am not fluent.  The repetition helped me to better understand the song and enter deeply into the spirit of worship.  However, I must admit that I have not always appreciated songs with a lot of repetition.  What I have learned to do is to go with the repetition rather than fight it. I can worship God in song as I repeat the same phrase over and over and meditate on the truth, just like I can pray or meditate on a phrase of Scripture. 

Lynne Rush (West Swamp congregation) leads a hymn at Conference Assembly 2019. Photo by Javier Marquez

Last weekend I attended a women’s retreat where we had a hymn sing.  We sang hymn after hymn in a group of talented and passionate singers.  It was beautiful.  I was struck by the multitude of beautiful thoughts and word pictures that hymns contain and express in worship to God.  But I had to choose to engage my mind and process the thoughts in worship to God as I sang complex music.  I enjoyed the repetition of the choruses.

Matthew Westerholm, on the Desiring God website, suggests that often “our discomfort also comes from where we live, if you live in the Western world. Western culture treasures the novelty of words. It might feel like singing many words per minute is a worldwide Christian preference. But it’s not. It’s a Western oddity. If you were to listen to indigenous music from almost anywhere else in the world, you might describe it as “rhythmic, danceable, and repetitive. It may feel strange to discover that our personal preferences are a cultural anomaly. It is humbling to discover that we have something to learn from others, but not surprising. And it is the sort of humbling that, if we are willing to accept it, will bless us greatly in worship.”

Let us worship the Lord in unity, seeking to honor the worship of the nations as our own!

Together Despite Differences: Youth Worship Event Report

By Madison Smith, Deep Run East

In order to bring teens “together despite differences”, Eastern District and Franconia Mennonite Conference held their annual Youth Worship Gathering on June 4, 2016. The theme of the event was “Built together in Christ”, and was led by Chantelle Todman Moore, Philadelphia Program Coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee.

Youth gathering 3According to Christian Zeo, Doylestown Mennonite Church, the theme helped to “bring us all together under Jesus.”

The message that Todman Moore delivered also resulted in a positive responses.  “It put flesh and blood on the idea of Christ,” said Doylestown Youth Leader Brandon Landis.

As well as a message, the gathering also had many times of worship throughout the event, which were led by Nathan Good, Associate Pastor at Swamp Mennonite Church, and Danilo Sanchez, Leigh Valley Youth Pastor for Ripple, Whitehall and Vietnamese Gospel.

According to Zeo, the songs get people to express what they normally can’t. “Besides the messages, the songs had an upbeat feel,” said Zeo. “Most songs are too solemn.”

Youth gathering 4This event is held biannually, the first weekend of June following the Mennonite Historians Whack and Roll event. Usually the youth enjoy time outdoors under a big tent on the Mennonite Historians’ land in Harleysville. Due to the rain, the event was moved indoors to Christopher Dock Mennonite High School. Yet, the rain did not keep the people away; over 12 youth groups participated, including those from Doylestown, Ripple, Whitehall, Blooming Glen, Deep Run East and Deep Run West and many more.

Celebrations kick off 2015 Mennonite World Conference assembly

by Phyllis Pellman Good, Mennonite World Conference

Mennonites and Brethren in Christ in eastern Pennsylvania enthusiastically welcomed Mennonite World Conference leaders on Sunday, July 20 at two kick-off celebrations, exactly one year in advance of the opening of the July 2015 Mennonite World Conference assembly. The 2015 assembly will be held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

One of the kick-off events was held on the morning of July 20 at Harrisburg Brethren in Christ Church. The afternoon event, held on the same day, took place at Mount Joy Mennonite Church.

MWC leaders join in the kick-off celebration. Left to right: Vikal P. Rao of India, assembly program committee; Liesa Unger of Germany, MWC chief international events officer; and César García of Colombia, MWC general secretary. Photo by Merle Good
MWC leaders join in the kick-off celebration. Left to right: Vikal P. Rao of India, assembly program committee; Liesa Unger of Germany, MWC chief international events officer; and César García of Colombia, MWC general secretary. Photo by Merle Good.

At both events, MWC General Secretary César García introduced the assembly theme, “Walking with God.” He noted it is drawn from the story of the disciples walking the road to Emmaus, in Luke 24. The disciples seem to be in a contentious discussion, but they still walk side by side.

“Only when they were seated at the table, communing together, did they discover who Jesus was,” said García. “When we are together in communion, we see with different eyes. And we discover Jesus in a new way.”

Songwriters Frances Crowhill Miller and Daryl Snider and song leader Marcy Hostetler led the afternoon audience of some 300 in rousing international singing.

Vikal P. Rao of India, a member of the assembly program committee, gave the audience a glimpse of the Global Church Village. The village will be a performance area within the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, where assembly will be held.

“Every afternoon during the assembly, our stage will be filled with storytelling, drama, and music. We will celebrate our diversity within the unity of MWC,” he told the crowd.

Joanne Dietzel introduced the prayer network.

“We face two pressing concerns as hosts of Pennsylvania 2015,” she said. “Will all of our sisters and brothers from the Global South who want to join the assembly be able to get visas to enter the U.S.? And will those of us who live in North America be willing to offer hospitality of the heart to our guests? Will we step out of our overly-busy lives and fully join the week of worship, fellowship, and service, from July 21-26 next year?”

For more information about the 2015 MWC Assembly, go to mwc-cmm.org/pa2015.  Franconia Conference provides communication support for Pennsylvania 2015.

Youth Gather for Outdoor Worship

by Lora Steiner, managing editor

Youth from Franconia Conference and Eastern District gathered on Sunday, June 1, for an afternoon of worship, celebration, and inspiration.

The event, held under tents that had hosted the Mennonite Heritage Center’s Whack & Roll croquet tourney the day before, was the first of what planners hope will become an annual event.

The speaker, Luke Hartman, reflected on John 17 and Jesus’ prayer that believers would recognize their unity with each other and with God. Hartman encouraged those present to make the tent larger, for all God’s people to be a part of the kingdom. He challenged youth to be change agents in the world, and to discover their own sense of worth and calling.

A joyous, embodied worship was led by Peder Eide, a singer-songwriter from the Lutheran tradition who had the group dancing in short order.

John Stoltzfus, Franconia Conference youth minister, says that in the past, there hasn’t been an event for youth from both Franconia and Eastern District to draw together; delegates from both conferences had expressed desire to explore how members of the conferences were relating to one another and building a foundation of trust and intimacy between churches.

The event was planned by conference staff, pastors, youth workers and youth. Mennonite Church USA contributed funding. About 175 youth and adults attended the gathering.

Check out the Facebook photo album!

Youth worship event – June 1, 2014 from Franconia Conference on Vimeo.

Worshiping our way into God’s future

James KrabillJames Krabill from Mennonite Mission Network stopped by our Pastors and CRM Leaders Breakfast on September 26 to guide our leaders in imagining an intercultural future, beginning with the way we worship.  You can pick up a copy of his book at the Conference Center and listen to the podcast below–he used these handouts.


Download the podcast

Conversation about worshiping into God's future

James Krabill breakfast

Philadelphia partnership sings a new song

Kingdom Builders Music
Back row, l – r: Curtis Wright (Philadelphia Mennonite High School), Karlton Glick (Nueva Vida Norristown New Life), Fred Kauffman (Mennonite Central Committee East Coast, Philadelphia Program), Lam Nguyen (Vietnamese Mennonite Church), Bernard Sejour (Solidarity & Harmony Evangelical Church), Ray Bergey (Rock Hill Mennonite Church), Wendell Holmes (Second Mennonite Church), Sharon Williams (NVNNL).
Middle Row: Iwan Susanto (Nations Worship Center), Beny Krisbianto (NWC), Teng Hou (Philadelphia Cambodian Mennonite Church), Anita Nguyen (VMC), Crystal Nguyen (VMC), Minh Kauffman (VMC), Barbara Wallace (Second Menno), Anne Hess (Oxford Circle Mennonite Church).  Front row: Tam Tran (VMC), Tony Kauffman (West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship), Aldo Siahaan (Philadelphia Praise Center), Pete Prunes (OCMC), and James Krabill (Mennonite Mission Network). Photo by Nereida Babilonia.

by J. Fred Kauffman, MCC East Coast, Philadelphia Program Coordinator

On Saturday, May 4, 2013, at Philadelphia Mennonite High School, twenty musicians exercised their creative talents at the Sing a New Song workshop.  Kingdom Builders Anabaptist Network of Greater Philadelphia (KB) organized the event, and James Krabill of the Mennonite Mission Network provided leadership.

Krabill engaged participants with an interactive style of teaching as he reviewed the Biblical roots of worship and the shift from “place-centered worship” (Jerusalem) in the Old Testament to “person-centered worship” (Jesus) in the New Testament.  He then led the group in reflections on Biblical texts related to Pentecost.

The group then divided into five small groups that spent two hours composing new songs based on the Pentecost texts.  It was a wonderful challenge, full of interesting conversations, creative brainstorming, tentative suggestions, and lots of laughter.

Near the end of the workshop, the groups performed their new songs for each other and talked about how they approached the challenge.  Some worked out lyrics first, while others started humming tunes and supplied the words later.

As people gathered for a final prayer there was a sense that new ground had been ploughed and new seeds planted—both in the music written and the relationships formed.

Musicians from a variety of ethnicities participated: Vietnamese, Indonesian, African American, Hispanic, European American, Haitian, Taiwanese and Cambodian.  Ten churches were represented, five from Franconia Conference, two from Lancaster Conference, and one each from Eastern District, Alliance of Mennonite Evangelical Congregations, and Harvest Fellowship of Churches.

The musicians will perform/lead these new songs at KB’s joint Pentecost worship service on Saturday, May 18th at Philadelphia Praise Center, 1701 McKean St in South Philly.  Want to join the celebration?  There’s a 5:30 PM potluck, and worship begins at 6:30.

Worshiping around the table

Table Church 4by Chris Nickels, Spring Mount

Last summer the members of our worship commission, led by Eileen Viau, were planning for the fall and doing some reflection together. It was less about the monthly details and more of a “big picture” conversation about our identity as a worshiping congregation.

Worship is an expression, and the style of a congregation’s corporate worship can reflect the gifts and talents of the group. Among other things, we asked ourselves, “What are some of the gifts present within the Spring Mount congregation that God might want to use at this time?” And fairly quickly an experiment in doing church began to take shape.

In listening to church members, a sentiment that I heard voiced a number of times was “We should have more fellowship meals.” Those meals have always been a popular event–an atmosphere of comfort and fun. And our congregation is particularly good at facilitating ministry with meals. In the past we created worship and Bible study experiences that included a food element, such as an Anabaptist meal liturgy (with resources from our friend Stuart Murray Williams) and Saturday morning breakfast Bible studies. Every Sunday morning we enjoy an abundance of refreshments for fellowship time, coordinated by our dedicated hospitality team. Stacey Hallahan’s chocolate cake, Lorene Nyce’s monkey bread, and Ruth Reinford’s mango salsa are some of the best culinary treats you can find in the Perkiomen Valley (or anywhere else for that matter). If we were going to experiment with a new kind of ministry, it seemed natural to move in a direction involving food and hospitality.

Our conversation landed on the idea of creating a monthly Sunday morning meal liturgy. I believe Gay Brunt Miller first mentioned the name “Table Church,” which we liked and which certainly fit because this would be “church happening around tables.” Table Church is modeled after Jesus’ table practices and the gatherings of early Christians that we noticed in the New Testament (Acts 2:42). It is a potluck meal (everyone brings a brunch-type food) reminding us that we all participate in the church and each has something of value to share–no matter how big or small the contribution. We sit at round tables, facing one another, in an environment intended for conversation. A simple liturgy was created for this time to guide us as we eat, pray, share, laugh, and reflect on a Bible story together.

There is no sermon at Table Church. Instead, we listen as someone reads the Bible passage aloud and then each table group reflects on it by asking missional questions (adapted from Darrell Guder): What does the passage say about God? About us? What is the Good News in this passage? How does this passage send us out to help in God’s Mission? We may not have a typical sermon at Table Church, but the potential exists for a collective one to emerge as we respond to the Story, to each other, and to the voice of the Spirit. Various people of different ages participate in leading elements of the liturgy, through praying, reading the scripture, and offering a blessing to the group before we depart.

Table Church 5For each Table Church, we print a Spring Mount trivia question in the bulletin as a conversation starter (Example: Name the famous music act that wrote a song about the Perkiomen Creek.*). The questions are a fun way to delve into some of the history of our town. For some of us the answers are new information, while for others they recall memories from the past. It was great to observe one question–about a local park–inspire some reminiscing about the person the park was named for, a friend of a few church members.

It feels like God is doing something among us through Table Church. I think we are continuing to discover the vital ministry of hospitality. We are learning about the place where we meet, the place on whose behalf we are “seeking the peace” (Jer. 29:7). We are further experiencing the value of multi-voiced worship, and how God is present and shapes us as we listen to each other and to God’s Story. We are trying out new recipes and sharing new foods; one table group recently proposed the idea of creating a Table Church cookbook. So far, I think we are discovering that the table can be a fun, meaningful, and even holy place. No wonder Jesus spent so much time there.

*Trivia answer: Hall & Oates

Former missionaries encourage missional imagination

Alan and Eleanor Kreider
Eleanor and Alan Kreider: "We become what we worship." Photo by Emily Ralph.

Authors Eleanor and Alan Kreider, longtime missionaries to the United Kingdom, encouraged leaders toward missional imagination at a monthly pastors’ breakfast on February 10.

It is only by worshiping a God who is missional that God’s people can become missional, according to the Kreiders.  We become like the God we worship, Alan said, “What kind of God are we worshiping? The deeper we get into God, the deeper we get into mission.”

They pointed to Herm and Cindy Weaver, parents of a young mission worker who was killed by a 16-year-old boy who was texting while driving.  The parents forgave the boy–and it made headlines.  “They are shaped by their worship of a God who forgives them to be people who are forgiving in their world,” said Alan.

The Kreiders, who published Worship and Mission After Christendom in 2011, believe that worship fans mission.

The Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program, which started in Canada in 1974 and is now an international agency, began because one person asked “Wouldn’t it be neat?” said Eleanor.

“‘Wouldn’t it be neat?'” Alan added. “There is the missional imagination coming into play!”

Handouts from the Kreiders

The Krieders’ PowerPoint presentation

Conferences initiate intercultural worship and songwriting cohort

By Ben Sutter, benjamins5@goshen.edu, Franconia Conference Communications

As a conference embracing formational, intercultural, and missional values, Franconia Conference will join with the Eastern District Conference to offer a series of experiences exploring intercultural worship. In preparation for this year’s joint Conference Assembly, the conferences are initiating a worship and songwriting cohort open to anyone interested in playing and creating music together. Leaders hope this time of joint worship will encourage musicians in both conferences to offer their skills and creativity to the Conference Assembly in a new way.

The “jam sessions” will take place on four separate Fridays throughout the summer in the second floor of the Mennonite Conference Center in Harleysville, PA. The sessions will be held July 15, August 5, August 26, and September 16 from 7pm until 9pm.

Coordinator Emily Ralph, Associate Director of Communication for Franconia Conference, is excited about the possibilities that might emerge from this event.

“The purpose of these ‘jam sessions’ is to create a diverse community of musicians that can work out together what it means to be an intercultural worshiping community,” says Ralph. “I look forward to this being an experience that will unite musicians and songwriters across geographic, cultural, and ethnic boundaries.”

Musicians and songwriters of all instruments and ability levels are encouraged to attend. Prayer intercessors are also invited to pray during meetings, either onsite or from their homes. The cohort will join in study, worship, jamming, and songwriting to inspire times of corporate worship that are formational, intercultural and missional.

Ralph asks participants to come with an open heart and a willingness to make friends and allow the Holy Spirit to move through their musical gifts.

“I hope that we will form friendships that will allow us to minister together in the future, build relationships that will lead the way in church unity, and create a new expression ofworship that will reflect who we are as a diverse community of worshipers.”

Ralph cautions participants to release their own definitions of success for this event.

“This is an experiment,” she says. “We don’t know how it will turn out or if it will even be a ‘success’ by human standards. My definition of success is that we’re going to try and see what happens. We’re going to be finding our way, so it could get really messy.”

Defining the process as messy doesn’t scare Ralph. She is excited about the opportunities that this cohort could generate.

“Messy isn’t bad,” says Ralph. “Sometimes it takes messiness to create something new!”

Those interested should RSVP to Ralph at eralph@franconiaconference.org.