Tag Archives: Zion Mennonite Church

Dios está presente: Presentando la Iglesia Menonita Ebenezer / God is Present: Introducing Ebenezer Mennonite Church

(scroll for English)

por Jennifer Svetlik, congregación de Salford

La Iglesia Menonita Ebenezer comenzó en junio de 1958 como parte del ministerio hispano de la Iglesia Menonita Grace en Lansdale. Se inició como una comunidad para puertorriqueños que vinieron al área a trabajar en la agricultura de verano. El Rev. Guillermo Chewing fue el primer pastor y el hermano Earl Stover también tuvo un papel vital en la obra. En 2005, la iglesia se independizó de Grace, se mudó a la Ruta 113 en Souderton con un nuevo pastor y cambió su nombre a Iglesia Menonita Ebenezer. En noviembre de 2009, la iglesia se mudó al edificio de la Iglesia Menonita de Zion donde continúan reuniéndose, con la Escuela Bíblica a las 11:00 am y adoración a al medio día los domingos.

“Dios en su misericordia ha estado presente en nuestra congregación, manifestándose con su poder y su soberanía, en medio de las pruebas en el proceso de cambios en nuestra iglesia” dice Hilda Vince’s, una líder de la iglesia, “ Hemos tenido hermanos enfermos en los cuales Dios ha manifestado su poder al darles sanación, y sentimos su Santo Espíritu en medio nuestro porque nos ha fortalecido en momentos de ver la partida de hermanos a la morada con Dios”.

Sumado, Hilda añade que gracias a la teología  “Ebenezer ha podido llegar a otras personas a nivel internacional. A pesar que la iglesia ha menguado en número de miembros por diferentes razones, el Señor ha traído nuevos miembros. Dios nos ha bendecido por estar firmes en nuestra fe en Cristo”, Hilda comparte.

La Iglesia Ebenezer había sido parte de la Conferencia del Distrito Este anteriormente, pero se fue cuando la iglesia se independizó. Ahora la iglesia desea unirse a la Conferencia de Franconia porque reconocen el valor de relacionarse y estar unidos con otras iglesias Menonitas locales.

“A través de la Conferencia podemos… adquirir recursos que nos ayudarán a crecer como iglesia y aprender de otros y sus ministerios, y aplicar estas ideas, guiadas por el Espíritu Santo, a nuestra propia iglesia”, agrega Hilda.

La Iglesia Ebenezer representa parte del trabajo ministerial inicial en la Conferencia del Distrito Este realizados con hispanohablantes. Nos complace darles la bienvenida como congregación de la Conferencia de Franconia al mismo tiempo que estamos en el proceso de reconciliación con el Distrito Este” reflexiona el ministro ejecutivo Strive Kriss y añade “Todo esto es trabajo de reconciliación, aprender de nuestra historia, honrar nuestra historia compartida y creer que Dios está llevando la congregación y las dos conferencias a realizar algo nuevo juntas haciendo algo nuevo con nosotros juntos .

“La comunidad Latinx continúa creciendo en los condados de Bucks y Montgomery, donde muchas de nuestras congregaciones han estado arraigadas por generaciones. Esperamos que con las hermanas y hermanos en Ebenezer seguiremos cultivando un vibrante testimonio anabautista y una vibrante comunidad juntos ”.


by Jennifer Svetlik, Salford congregation

Ebenezer Mennonite Church began in June 1958 as part of the Hispanic ministry of Grace Mennonite Church in Lansdale, PA. It started as a community for Puerto Ricans who came to the area to work in summer agriculture. Rev. Guillermo Chewing was the first pastor and Earl Stover also played a vital role in the church. In 2005, the church became independent from Grace, moved to Route 113 in Souderton with a new pastor, and changed its name to Ebenezer Mennonite Church. In November 2009 the church moved to the Zion Mennonite Church building in Souderton, PA, where they continue to meet, with Bible study at 11:00 am and worship at noon on Sundays. 

“God in his mercy has been present in our congregation, manifesting his power and sovereignty in the midst of trials, in the process of changes in our church,” says Hilda Vinces, a leader in the church.  “We have had sick members in which God has manifested his power by giving them healing, and we feel his Holy Spirit in our midst because he has strengthened us when church members have passed away.” 

In addition, Hilda shares, through technology, “Ebenezer has been able to reach other people internationally. Although the church has diminished in number of members for different reasons, the Lord has brought new members. God has blessed us for being firm in our faith in Christ.”

Iglesia Ebenezer had previously been a part of Eastern District but left when Grace congregation became independent. Now the church seeks to join Franconia Conference because they recognize the value of relating to and uniting with other local Mennonite Churches. 

“Through the Conference we can … acquire resources that will help us grow as a church and to learn from others and their ministries, and apply these ideas, led by the Holy Spirit, to our own church,” Hilda adds. 

Iglesia Ebenezer represents some of the initial work in Eastern District Conference ministering alongside Spanish speakers. We are glad to welcome Ebenezer as a congregation of Franconia Conference at the same time as we are in the process of reconciling with Eastern District,” Franconia’s Executive Minister Steve Kriss reflects. This is all reconciliation work, he points out—learning from shared history, honoring a shared story, and believing that God is bringing the congregation and the two conferences together to do a new thing.

The Latinx community continues to grow in Bucks and Montgomery counties where many of our congregations have been rooted for generations. We hope that with the sisters and brothers at Ebenezer, we will continue to cultivate a vibrant Anabaptist witness and community together.

A Community of Sisters for the Journey/Una Comunidad de Hermanas en el Camino

By Marta Castillo, Leadership Minister of Intercultural Formation

She thought for a moment then pulled off her bright pink scarf and laid it down in the rough form of a cross on the narrow space between the beds.  Then she instructed one of us to go outside and get some dirt to place by the cross.  The two symbols, the bright pink cross and the dirt lay there together as a powerful visual of life, death, salvation, and freedom.  We began to pray, attentive to the Spirit and to our sister, as she talked, wept, and prayed through a process letting go of the crippling guilt she carried after her father’s death five years before.  We anointed her with oil and with our prayers of blessings, believing that the power of Jesus would bring transformation and freedom in her life and walk with God.  I suppose we could have listened to her story and prayed for her without the symbols but there was power in the visual and physical additions to the accompaniment of her sisters. This is one story of many from a powerful weekend of sisters walking alongside one another. 

During the weekend of the Cuidandonos Entre Mujeres (Sister Care) Retreat attended by 72 women from 15 congregations, Pastor Ofelia Garcia filled our hearts and minds with powerful teaching through shared activities and symbols.  We walked in each other’s’ shoes, determined the boundaries of our personal space, and committed ourselves to caring for each other in the safety, wisdom and confidentiality of the red tent (a symbolic place of sisterhood and caring for each other we used throughout the weekend).  On Saturday night, we dressed up, celebrated our beauty as women, decorated crowns, and then gave our uniquely created crown to a sister in Christ with words of affirmation and blessing.  Then on Sunday morning, we celebrated communion together and in a ceremony of blessing we blessed one another.  I was reminded of how Jesus used parables, symbols, and ceremony to deeply root the truth in people’s hearts and minds.  The holistic ministry of teaching and practice using our spirit, mind, and body will leave an impact greater than teaching alone. 

This was the first all-Spanish SisterCare Retreat held in the United States. It was more than we had hoped for, a true experience of the joy of seeing God’s Spirit going above and beyond what we could have hoped for or imagined.  Since our own training in Sister Care (in Spanish) with Mennonite Women USA last year, Pastor Letty Castro of Centro de Alabanza de Filadelfia, and I had dreamed of an event where Spanish-speaking women in Franconia and Eastern District could come, relax, share their stories, pray together, and receive teaching about healing and self-care.  It was truly a team effort.  Pastor Ofelia Garcia agreed to come from Mexico City to be the speaker since she helped develop and present Sister Care materials in many places. Franconia Conference agreed to support our efforts to reach women within the churches of the conference and Eastern District.  Congregations like Zion, Salford, Doylestown, Centro de Alabanza, and Nueva Vida Norristown New Life supported us with scholarships for women to attend.  Pastors helped to get the word out to their Spanish speaking members.  A group from Centro de Alabanza worked hard to bring the program and details together.  Staff from Spruce Lake Retreat Center supported us through the registration process and retreat planning. 

Within hours of being together, women from over fifteen different churches and at least ten different countries were sharing with a depth that took us by surprise.  When we shared in small groups, we heard stories of parental and spousal abandonment, verbal, physical, sexual abuse, marriage difficulties, un-forgiveness, anger, loss of a child, and so much more.  We heard faith stories of God’s grace and love reaching down to bring forgiveness, freedom, healing, hope, love, and a future.   We cried, we smiled, we laughed, we hugged, and we listened.  We were encouraged not to give counsel or advice unless it was asked for specifically so we listened some more and we prayed for ourselves and for each other.  The space felt safe and we surrendered ourselves to the experience and the community.

The invitation was extended and the women came.  We enjoyed the beauty of the mountains, trees, and God’s creation.  We stepped away from our work, homes, families, and responsibilities to care for ourselves and others women like us.  We shared deeply and encouraged each other.  As we left and went home, we will continue to invite each other to “Come, walk with us. The journey is long.” 

Luke 10:27 (NIV)  He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Por Marta Castillo, Ministro de Liderazgo en Formacion Intercultural

La pastora pensó por un momento, luego se quitó la bufanda rosada brillante y la tendió en forma de una cruz en el espacio estrecho entre las camas. Luego, ella nos pidió a una de nosotras que saliera y consiguiera algo de tierra para colocar junto a la cruz. Los dos símbolos, la cruz de color rosada brillante y la tierra yacen juntos como una poderosa imagen de la vida, la muerte, la salvación y la libertad. Comenzamos a orar, atentas al Espíritu y a nuestra hermana, mientras ella hablaba, lloraba y oraba para dejar ir la culpa paralizante que llevaba después de la muerte de su padre cinco años antes. La ungimos con aceite y con nuestras oraciones de bendición, creyendo que el poder de Jesús traería transformación y libertad en su vida y caminaría con Dios. Supongo que podríamos haber escuchado su historia y haber orado por ella sin los símbolos, pero había poder en las adiciones físicas y visuales al acompañamiento de las hermanas.  Esta es una historia entre muchas historias de un fin de semana poderoso de hermanas acompañando una a la otra. 

Durante el primer retiro (solamente en español) de Cuidándonos Entre Mujeres asistieron 72 mujeres de 15 congregaciones, la Pastora Ofelia García llenó nuestros corazones y mentes con una enseñanza poderosa a través de actividades y símbolos compartidos. Caminamos en los zapatos de los demás, determinamos los límites de nuestro espacio personal y nos comprometimos a cuidarnos mutuamente en la seguridad, la sabiduría y la confidencialidad de la tienda roja (un lugar simbólico de hermandad y cuidando una a la otra que usamos durante el fin de semana).  El sábado por la noche, nos vestimos, celebramos nuestra belleza como mujeres, decoramos coronas y luego entregamos nuestra corona de creación única a una hermana en Cristo con palabras de afirmación y bendición. Luego, el domingo por la mañana, celebramos juntas la comunión y nos bendijimos mutuamente con una ceremonia de bendición. Recordé cómo Jesús usó parábolas, símbolos y ceremonias para enraizar profundamente la verdad en los corazones y las mentes de las personas. El ministerio holístico de enseñanza y práctica que usa nuestro espíritu, mente y cuerpo dejará un impacto mayor que la enseñanza sola.

Fue más de lo que esperábamos, una verdadera experiencia de la alegría de ver al Espíritu de Dios ir más allá de lo que podríamos haber esperado o imaginado. Desde nuestro taller de Cuidándonos Entre Mujeres (Sister Care) con las Mujeres Menonitas EEUU el año pasado, la pastora Letty Castro de Centro de Alabanza, Filadelfia y yo habíamos soñado con un evento en que las mujeres de habla hispana en Franconia y el Distrito Este pudieran venir, relajarse, compartir sus historias, orar juntas y recibir enseñanza sobre la curación y el cuidado personal. Fue realmente un esfuerzo de equipo. La pastora Ofelia García aceptó venir de la ciudad de México para ser la presentadora porque ella había apoyado el desarrollo de los materiales de Cuidándonos Entre Mujeres y tenía mucha experiencia en presentarlos en diferentes países. La Conferencia de Franconia acordó apoyar nuestros esfuerzos para alcanzar a las mujeres dentro de las iglesias de la conferencia y el Distrito Este. Congregaciones como Zion, Salford, Doylestown, Centro de Alabanza y Nueva Vida Norristown New Life nos apoyaron con becas. Los pastores ayudaron a correr la voz a sus miembros que hablan español. Un grupo del Centro de Alabanza trabajó duro para reunir el programa y los detalles. El personal del Spruce Lake Retreat Center nos apoyó a través del proceso de registro y la planificación del retiro.

A las pocas horas de estar juntas, setenta y dos mujeres de más de quince iglesias diferentes y al menos diez países diferentes compartían con una profundidad que nos sorprendió. Cuando compartimos en pequeños grupos, escuchamos historias de abandono de padres y cónyugues, abuso verbal, físico, sexual, dificultades matrimoniales, falta de perdón, enojo, pérdida de un hijo y mucho más. Escuchamos historias de fe de la gracia y el amor de Dios que se acercan para traer perdón, libertad, sanidad, esperanza, amor y un futuro. Lloramos, sonreímos, reímos, nos abrazamos y escuchamos. Nos animaron a no dar consejos ni sugerencias a menos que se pidiera específicamente, así que escuchamos un poco más y oramos por nosotras mismas y por los demás. El espacio se sintió seguro y nos entregamos a la experiencia y la comunidad.

Se extendió la invitación y llegaron las mujeres. Disfrutamos de la belleza de las montañas, los árboles y la creación de Dios. Nos alejamos de nuestro trabajo, hogares, familias y responsabilidades para cuidarnos a nosotras mismas y a otras mujeres iguales que nosotras. Compartimos profundamente y nos animamos mutuamente. Cuando nos fuimos y regresamos a casa, continuaremos invitándonos mutuamente a “Ven, camina con nosotros. El viaje es largo.”

Lucas 10:27 (NVI) ….“Ama al Señor tu Dios con todo tu corazón, con todo tu ser, con todas tus fuerzas y con toda tu mente”, y: “Ama a tu prójimo como a ti mismo”

Hot, Humid and Hope Building

Despite temperatures in the high 90’s and extreme humidity volunteers from the Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey MDS Unit began a Partnership Housing Project (PHP) on June 30 and continued working on the home through one of the hottest weeks of the year.  Read the full article printed on the MDS website HERE

A Glimpse Inside Eastern District’s Annual Family Reunion

by Scott Roth, Interim Executive Conference Minister of Eastern District Conference

When spring is in full swing,  Eastern District Conference (EDC) annually gathers to celebrate being family. Many times, congregations lose sight of the fact that they are not alone. In the hustle and bustle of our churches’ weekly gatherings, engaging in each other’s lives, and trying to make the world a better place by showing people the beauty of a relationship with God, we get bombarded with the concept of our local church. Many times, our local church becomes our focus and Conference turns into this “thing we do” versus this “thing we belong to”.  We even go as far as calling it family.

The Spring Assembly for EDC is not a gathering to do business, but to be family. The 10 churches of EDC have an opportunity to embrace the beauty of God’s family through the expression of the Mennonite lense. Our churches all have their local context, but this bond we have through our Mennonite Anabaptist heritage draws us together. Whether you are a congregation that is 300 or 10 years old, you are family in EDC.

Many wonder, what does this Spring Assembly look like? Over the years it has been a time of workshops, conference related ministries sharing their passions, and story-telling of God’s movement within our own contexts as congregations. Over the years we have found that Spring Assembly is a moment to pause and have a family reunion. Each year it is a time to refresh and see what God is doing amidst us!

This year the agenda was simple and interactive. 32 people gathered at Zion Mennonite Church and sat at round tables and began to engage each other. The morning was a time of reporting from Jim Musselman, Conference Moderator, and Pastor Scott Roth, Interim Executive Conference Minister. These reports talked of what is happening in the denomination, specifically in relation to the Journey Forward process and Constituency Leadership Council (CLC). We were reminded that the Journey Forward is a chance for churches to engage at a local level around what it means to be Mennonite Church USA. The hope is that every church will engage the Journey Forward study material that is being provided by Mennonite Church USA, so that when we go through the Journey Forward process in 2019 we’ll be equipped and ready to engage on how to move forward as a denomination. We, as local congregations, have this chance to interact around the materials that will shape our future denomination.

Time was then spent in circle tables reflecting and discussing the hopes and fears of joining with Franconia Conference and becoming one. This created dialogue to open up our hearts and minds to what it means to be conferences within the Mennonite context as well as being part of the Kingdom of God. Realizing that our two systems (Eastern District and Franconia) have a good working relationship, we know that at a local level, there are hurts that lie in more personal engagement stories. This being said, the hope is that we can both look at each other as conferences and view each other well when this process is all said and done, regardless of how a vote comes out.

To end the day, each church had time to share their stories of how God is working in their midst. Testimony was given to the presence that God has with us. God was seen in missions trips, community interactions, and new ways of discipling within our congregations.

When it was all said and done, EDC gathered together and had communion. They broke bread and gave witness to the daily work God is doing through us, remembering what God has done for us and continues to do with us. The Spring Assembly continues its tradition as a space for renewal, marking a moment of who we are as family in the Kingdom of God.