Tag Archives: mutual aid

Through the Valley of Shadows

(Đọc tiếng việt, Baca dalam bahasa Indonesia, Leer en español)

Give to the
Shalom Mutual Aid Fund*

Steve Kriss

by Steve Kriss, Executive Minister

My last article was about 10 days ago. We were beginning to glimpse the seriousness of the coronavirus.  We slowly began to reconsider and reschedule events.

To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for the rapid change in the situation that would mean that nearly all our member congregations, from California to Vermont, wouldn’t physically gather. Then, I wrote that I’d still get tacos and pho and go to the gym.  For now, those of us who live in Philadelphia can still get take-out, but, with non-essential businesses closed, I’m doing my workouts in the basement at home.

Leadership is tested in changing situations.  We continue to prioritize localized decision-making across our Conference that is responsive to the needs of the community, emphasizing love of God and love of neighbor.  Pennsylvania Governor Wolf said that our commonwealth has not seen this kind of disruption since the Civil War.  Yet God is with us and the Spirit empowers us to be and share the Good News, even when the best thing we can do is to remain in our homes as much as possible.

In the meantime, nearly all our energy is going into bracing for what might come, honoring our government’s suggestions on best practices around gathering and distancing.  Financial needs have emerged quickly among vulnerable individuals and communities in our Conference.  We will need to act together to share our resources well in the weeks and months ahead.

Across our Conference, we are still meeting.  Many congregations are finding ways to use new technology (like Zoom and Facebook) as well as renewing older technology (like phone calls) to stay connected.  We really do need each other in this time, both to make it through and to maintain hope that there will be life after the crisis.  Conference staff are gathering pastors virtually to dialogue together in English, Spanish, and Indonesian.  We are gathering for prayer weekly and are offering online equipping as well.  We are in this struggle together.

Yet Asian American neighbors are experiencing acts of aggression and racism in this time.  We cannot be people of fear but rather people of love who speak and act in ways that don’t allow racism to flourish in our midst.  I am committed to ongoing accompaniment and advocacy for the Asian American members and communities across our Conference: the peace of our land is dependent on the recognition of God’s imprint on each person.    I encourage all of us to choose our words and actions wisely and sensitively so that we are people of healing and hope.

While many of our Conference Related Ministries have shut down, our human service providers are experiencing higher degrees of need.  Our retirement communities are especially vulnerable and operating at high levels of vigilance.  We will do well to remember Frederick Living, Living Branches, and the Community at Rockhill in prayer.   Ripple Community Inc in Allentown has committed to remaining open and accessible to those people who need food and accompaniment; they’re looking for partners to prepare sandwiches and to help supplement the sudden influx of needs in the community center there.  Crossroads Community Center in Philadelphia has also seen an increase in needs, particularly for food.  As a long-term ministry presence in the Fairhill neighborhood, Crossroads has credibility to provide resources during this time. Together as a conference community, we’ll look for ways to support both of these urban ministries in the coming weeks.

The familiar words of Psalm 23 have become a guide for me in these days: “Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil …. Surely goodness and love will follow us all the days of our lives, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  We trust in God’s care, even in this overwhelming time, and we look for ways to express our trust in God while extending God’s love and care for our neighbors.

Watch the video of Executive Minister Steve Kriss on Facebook Live Tuesday, March 24, talking about living our formational, missional, and intercultural priorities in a time of crisis.

*The Shalom Fund supports pastors, congregations and ministries in direct response to the Coronavirus and the ensuing economic crisis.   We will seek to respond to the most vulnerable within our membership and neighborhoods by empowering local ministries to meet real needs with Christ’s love and generosity in a time of fear and anxiety.

Partnership solution developed to make PA 2015 attendance possible

by Phyllis Pellman Good, Mennonite World Conference

MWC see youHarrisburg, PA – “What a sad irony it would be if we welcomed the world to PA 2015 but we failed to find a way for our U.S. and Canadian sisters and brothers who belong to immigrant congregations, and to congregations who need financial support, to attend MWC’s Assembly next summer,” reflects Lynn Roth, Mennonite World Conference’s lead North American staff person.

“We have a rich diversity of nationalities within our 1400-plus congregations in the U.S. We worship in at least 20 languages – Indonesian, Amharic, and Karen, to name just a few. Many of the members of these congregations are fairly recent immigrants. Many of them have limited incomes. They want very much to attend PA 2015. But many cannot afford the registration fee, nor can they afford to take time off from work to attend.

“Yet we believe it is essential for people from these congregations to experience the global church and to be strongly represented at the Assembly to be held July 21-26, 2015 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

“Their presence at PA 2015 will help all of us more fully grasp the wonderful variety within the North American church,” says Roth.  “And having had this experience, we won’t be content to live so separately in the future.”

A partnership solution

“We’ve put together a plan that shares responsibility for solving this dilemma,” explains Roth. “Regional and area conferences, together with local congregations and church organizations with resources to share, are invited to partner with Mennonite World Conference, and with these congregations with limited financial resources.” (See below for details.)

“We urge all congregations and area conferences across North America to join us in this effort – both those who need financial support and those who have funds to share. Please keep this opportunity to ‘care for those in our household of faith’ in mind as you plan your 2015 budget,” suggests Roth.

“Email registrations@mwc-cmm.org for instructions about how a conference or congregation can become a partner by sending funds to MWC for their portion of the registration, and how the persons receiving the subsidy should register.”

A gift that keeps on giving

“Think of this as an investment in our ongoing life together as a North American church,” says Roth. “PA 2015 gives us a rare chance to learn to know our neighbouring churches – our sisters and brothers from other cultures and language groups, and with different economic status – as partners.

“We want to continue our shared life together when the last guest has gone home from PA 2015,” reflects Roth. “As a North American church, we want to more fully experience being part of a global faith family as a result of preparing for and hosting the Assembly.”

Here’s how the partnership solution will work:

The registration fee for a North American adult for PA 2015 (including the full meal plan) is $575.

  • Mennonite World Conference will subsidize $150 of that cost.
  • MWC invites the congregation’s regional conference or a partnering congregation to donate $150.
  • The participating individual (or his/her congregation) pays the balance of $275.
  • In addition, these persons will be given priority to stay in private homes for $25 per night (totaling $125 to $150).
  • An additional cost for which creative funding must be found is transportation to and from PA 2015.

Hurricane Sandy leaves destruction and opportunity

by Emily Ralph, eralph@franconiaconference.org

Three days after Hurricane Sandy swept through south-eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, members of Franconia Conference are still cleaning up from massive flooding, downed trees and power lines, and extensive power outages.

Communication has been challenging and reports are trickling in–entire communities are still without power, dealing with road closures, and running short on supplies as gas stations and grocery stores are also without electricity.

Some of the reports we have heard:

  • Power is still out at Deep Run East (Perkasie, Pa.), Doylestown (Pa.), Swamp (Quakertown, Pa.), Methacton (Norristown, Pa.) and Garden Chapel (Dover, NJ) facilities.
  • Most of the Garden Chapel congregation is without power, although there have been no reports of damage to homes or the church building.
  • Methacton had and continues to have flooding in their basement/fellowship hall.  Without electricity, they are unable to pump the water out.
  • Many members of congregations along the Rte. 113 corridor around Souderton, Pa., are without power, as are the Conference Center offices and the Souderton Center, which is owned by Franconia Conference.  Penn View Christian School—the site of next weekend’s Conference Assembly—is also without electricity.   These power outages extend as far north as Allentown and as far east as the Delaware River.
  • Despite reports of wider damage in Philadelphia, Franconia congregations in the city survived the hurricane mostly unscathed.
Zume after Hurricane Sandy
Ben Walter, Ripple (right), and his housemates at the Zume House intentional community in Allentown, hosted their “power-less” neighbors for dinner the night after the hurricane. Luke Martin, Vietnamese Gospel, was among the guests.

In the midst of such wide-spread destruction, conference congregations are finding opportunities to minister to one another and their communities:

  • A young mother at Doylestown congregation made meals and delivered them to members of her congregation who were without power.
  • Salford (Harleysville, Pa.) congregation, once their own electricity was restored, opened their facilities to anyone in the community who needed heat, bathrooms, clean water, or a place to plug in their electronic devices.  They also expanded their weekly Community Meal to include those who needed a hot dinner.
  • Individuals throughout the region have opened their homes to friends and neighbors without power, delivered supplies to those who are stuck at home because of blocked roads, and brought their chainsaws to aid in the cleanup.
  • Members of Ripple Allentown (Pa.) who were without power met at their pastors’ home for a meal and to “warm up a bit,” reported Carolyn Albright. “It was a holy, blessed time together.”

Noah Kolb, Pastor of Ministerial Leadership for Franconia Conference, received two emails from conference congregations encouraging members to share their resources with others in their congregation and neighborhoods.  “Often we try to get beyond these things to get to the work of church,” Kolb reflected, “but this IS church.  This is really the stuff of church.”

Because of the challenges of communication, conference staff has not been able to contact all conference congregations to learn of current conditions, needs, and relief efforts.  If you have any information, please report it to your LEADership Minister or any member of conference staff—don’t assume that the staff already know about it.

If your congregation and neighborhood has made it through relatively unscathed, please check in with other congregations in your region to see how you can help; also consider how your congregation’s facility or aid can help the greater community.

If you are aware of relief efforts or needs, please report these to conference staff so that they can connect needs with resources.  The conference email and phones are up and running.

On Monday, as the hurricane was approaching, Michael King, a member of Salford and the dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary (Harrisonburg, Va.), sent out an email to seminary students and staff.  “I don’t know precisely how we theologize at a time like this,” King wrote.  “Jesus teaches that the rain falls on the just and the unjust and that tragedies are not signs that we’re out of God’s favor. The Bible is also rich with images of God’s care, of God as the mother who shelters us under tender wings.  My loved ones, your loved ones, and all of us are in my heart and prayers amid the yearnings for God’s shelter.”

Construction projects build kingdom in Philadelphia

by Sheldon C. Good
Mennonite World Review

PHILADELPHIA — Nearly two dozen adults and youth from Franconia Mennonite Church served here recently as part of an effort to literally build the kingdom of God.

The volunteers ventured from suburban Telford to work with Kingdom Builders Construction, an Anabaptist-related nonprofit, on July 21. They nailed, drilled and hauled materials to help convert a 6,000-square-foot section of a large warehouse.

Kingdom Builders Construction, or KBC, is turning the old warehouse into a multipurpose space that will include a workshop, offices, material storage and rooms to host volunteers.

Also, a new congregation, Christ-Centered Church, will eventually worship there in a makeshift sanctuary.

Read the full story at Mennonite World Review

Kingdom Builders Construction
Bekah Ford, Issac Moyer and Derek Cassel, volunteers from Franconia Mennonite Church in Telford, Pa., place a chalk line on a tool storage structure being erected in Kingdom Builders Construction’s future headquarters in a North Philadelphia warehouse. — Photo by Sheldon C. Good/MWR