Unexpected mutual aid helps save church building

Why did we do this?

Plains has a history of assisting members in time of need and this was an opportunity to extend assistance at a conference level. This action helps us to realize we are part of a larger body, and when one member of the larger body hurts, we also feel the pain.

—Merlin Grieser, Council Chair, Plains

Not only do we have a responsibility as brothers and sisters in Christ, but PPC and Norristown are also similar: both have mostly people of color in the congregation; both are serving in urban settings; both face similar challenges.

—Aldo Siahaan, Pastor, Philadelphia Praise Center

Whitehall made the decision to give a certain amount from our benevolence fund and then presented the story to the congregation in case individuals wanted to give. In three weeks, the congregation’s giving matched what we gave from our budget. Why did we do this? We wanted to be a part of God’s Kingdom work continuing in Norristown.

—Rose Bender, Pastor, Whitehall

New Life is a treasured part of our Conference family and they are meeting many needs in their community. We want to learn from them how to more effectively reach out to our community, sharing the love of Christ.

—Steve Landis, Pastor, Franconia

We wanted to partner with other congregations so that Norristown could continue its significant ministry in the Norristown community. An application was submitted to a congregational fund for “above-budget” requests, which provides support for ministries that are an extension of Deep Run East. The members “caught the vision” and supported this funding opportunity.

—Ken Burkholder, Pastor, Deep Run East

I can’t help but see the many faces of the local Mennonite Church and wonder what stories may be told of congregations finding themselves in unexpected hard places, stories of congregations finding safe places to process their struggle, and stories of congregations reaching out across our differences to share in these struggles. Unexpected hard places will always be with us—may the reaching out stories abound.

—Jeff Knightly, Deacon, West Philadelphia

Sheldon C. Good, Salford
Excerpted from Mennonite Weekly Review (read full article)

When Nueva Vida Norristown (Pa.) New Life (NVNNL) acquired a 9,000-square-foot office building adjacent its meetinghouse in 2007, a local realtor projected it would only take six months to fill it with tenants. Then the Great Recession hit.

By last summer the congregation was on the brink of foreclosure of its 104-year-old meetinghouse, listed as collateral for the new building’s mortgage.

From the beginning, the building purchase has been part of a larger congregational vision. In 2007, NVNNL launched “Enlarging Our Place in God’s World,” a $2 million capital campaign. The campaign seeks finances for the office building and meetinghouse renovations to create a base for intercultural ministries of racial justice and reconciliation, economic access and opportunity for disadvantaged people, and income generation to support the ministries.

“People will go into an office building, but they might never go into a church,”  said church member Jim Williams. “If you can expose people to the gospel, there’s a chance they will begin to connect with the congregation.”

Several pastors and leaders in Franconia Conference learned of the plight. Conference moderator John Goshow met with leaders from seven sister congregations to propose a mutual aid effort.

In September, they initiated a conference-wide appeal for $95,000 to satisfy the mortgage’s needs for a year. To date, more than 20 churches, businesses, and individuals have committed over $100,000.

Williams said he never expected the conference to initiate a mutual aid appeal.

“We still believe we’re doing God’s will in this,” he said. “We can fill a huge void in the Norristown area. We are prayerful and hopeful that we’ll be able to meet our obligations and move God’s vision forward.”

Nueva Vida Norristown New Life
Worship in the parking lot of the Nueva Vida Plaza to celebrate the congregation’s 20th anniversary. Photo by Tim Moyer.