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April 7 announcements

See the Eastern District & Franconia Conference website for the latest on cancellations and scheduling changes within our congregations and CRMs, due to the COVID-19 virus. We will update this page as information comes in. 


This week all congregations in Eastern District & Franconia Conference are praying for essential workers, including grocery store workers, pharmacists, delivery persons, sanitation workers, police officers, utility workers, IT employees, plumbers, electricians, government officials, carry-out restaurant employees and more.  Pray that they have safe work environments and protection for their health and that we would be more aware of who they are and everything they do.


Living Branches is in need of homemade fabric face masks to be used by our staff and residents.  Masks can have either elastic ear bands or fabric ties.  Donations can be dropped off at the main entrance of any Living Branches campus.  Please place masks in a zip-lock bag, and include a note with the materials used in the masks and your contact information.

Whether We Live or Die, We are the Lord’s

by Gwen Groff, Bethany congregation

Gwen Groff

Lent begins with the reminder, “…to dust you shall return.” In this season we hear Jesus tell his followers, “I’m turning toward Jerusalem. I’m going to die there. Come with me.” It is a counter-cultural invitation. If much anxiety is rooted in our fear of death, we have to stop avoiding death. We are in the right season for this.

In the last sermon that I preached with a physically-present congregation, I quoted Julian of Norwich, using the familiar words in our hymnal. “All will be well, and all will be well, all manner of things will be well.”

At that time, I had no notion of the journey we were embarking on. I did not know we would not gather the following Sunday. I did not know COVID-19 had already arrived in our small, spaciously populated state.

Julian of Norwich

“All will be well” is not a glib platitude. Julian, born in 1342, lived through three rounds of the Black Plague, the Peasants’ Revolt, and part of the Hundred Years’ War. Before she heard God’s revelation that “all will be well,” she had been so severely ill that she was administered last rites. To say “all will be well” was not an optimistic claim that we will not experience suffering. It was a promise that in our suffering we are held within God’s being.

Since that Sunday, Paul’s assurance in Romans 14:8 has been repeating internally, as I walk, cook, and sit in silence: “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” That also is not a glib promise. It does not deny death or the pain of death. But it affirms that just as God holds us now as we live fully and love life, God holds us as we face death, as we move through death, and as we discover what follows after death.

Those words from Scripture first came alive for me when a friend described her midwest community’s response to the Palm Sunday tornadoes of 1965. She was a child in Indiana when 137 people died and 1200 people were injured on that one Sunday. She experienced, up close, the reality that people you love die, people grieve hard, and relationships with those people and with God continue.

I marveled at her attitude in the acceptance of death. She is a person in love with the world, life, and people. But she has a real sense that death is not the end, and that “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

I have at times thoughtlessly associated the acceptance of death with despair or purposelessness.  A neighbor said to me last week, “If COVID-19 would have happened the year after my husband died, I’d have been out there trying to catch it. But not now. I love life again. I want to live.”

Acceptance of the reality of death is not a death wish. And loving life doesn’t create a fear of death. We may fear death most when we sense we haven’t lived fully.

Another neighbor in the “high risk” category summed this up: “I want to live to be a hundred. But if I die now, boy—we’ve had a good run.”

I take Paul’s words in Romans to mean our life with God somehow continues through death and beyond. Can I hold that hope if my parents (in their 90s), quarantined in a nursing home, fall ill? Can I remember that promise if I am short of breath? And can I maintain that perspective if civilized society starts to disintegrate? How can we, as the body of Christ, behave as if we know that whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s?

COVID-19 News & Updates

Give to the
Shalom Mutual Aid Fund

  • “Keep loving each other like family.”
    (Hebrews 13:1, CEB)

    What is the Shalom Fund?

    Eastern District & Franconia Conference has started a Shalom Fund to support pastors, congregations, and ministries in direct response to the Coronavirus and the ensuing economic crisis.   We are seeking to raise $100,000 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.

    Who is being helped?

    Our first wave of resources are being shared with Eastern District & Franconia congregations who are already distributing food in their South Philadelphia neighborhoods, beginning with eggs and potatoes to supplement canned meat that has been provided by Mennonite Central Committee.  Shalom Fund distributions are also immediately going to Ripple Community Inc (a Conference Related Ministry (CRM) in Allentown that serves adults who are experiencing homelessness, living with mental illness, or have other conditions or experiences that can leave them isolated and alone), and Crossroad Community Center (a CRM which has been operating for nearly 60 years as a witness to Jesus by providing for the physical and spiritual needs of one of the most difficult neighborhoods in Philadelphia).

    Just today, we have received projected initial needs of $50,000 for our congregations and these two CRMs alone to assist pastoral incomes, building mortgages, and mutual aid within the congregation and neighborhoods.  These needs have been identified across our Conference and are immediate.

    Who Can Give?

    Everyone!  If you have wanted a way to help others during this difficult and confusing time but didn’t know how, this is the fund for you.  Whether you are an individual or family, a business owner, a youth group, someone who likes to run fundraisers, or a congregation with special or endowed funds, your contributions are vital.

  • During this time of responding to the public health emergency of COVID-19 (coronavirus), Conference leadership has encouraged localized decision-making that prioritizes both love of God and love of neighbor.

    Many of our congregations have chosen to experiment with new technologies (and many have successfully been using these technologies for a while now!). As you experience God in the challenges and inspiration of these creative worship spaces, please share your stories by emailing or posting on our Facebook page!


    (Updated as of March 31, 2020 at 9:00am EST)


    • Alpha (Alpha, NJ) – shared, at-home worship service
    • Ambler (Ambler, PA; Montgomery Co.) – worship service by Zoom (or join by phone at
    • Bally (Bally, PA; Berks Co.) – worship services canceled
    • Bethany (Bridgewater Corners, VT) – worship service by Zoom
    • Bethany Elevation (Queens, NYC) – online streaming
    • Blooming Glen (Blooming Glen, PA; Bucks Co.) – worship service recorded and posted on website
    • Boyertown (Boyertown, PA; Berks Co) – worship services canceled
    • Centro de Alabanza (Philadelphia, PA) – live streaming worship service
    • Christ Fellowship (Allentown, PA; Lehigh Co.) – worship services canceled
    • Church of the Good Samaritans (Holland, PA; Bucks Co.) – worship services canceled
    • Covenant Community Fellowship (Lansdale, PA; Montgomery Co.) – worship services canceled
    • Deep Run East (Perkasie, PA; Bucks Co.) – online worship service
    • Deep Run West (Perkasie, PA; Bucks Co.) – Facebook Live
    • Doylestown (Doylestown, PA; Bucks Co.) – March 29 service cancelled; 4/12 Easter breakfast cancelled
    • Ebenezer (Souderton, PA; Montgomery Co.) – worship services canceled
    • Fairfield (Fairfield, PA; Adams Co.) – worship services canceled
    • Finland (Pennsburg, PA; Montgomery Co.) – worship services canceled
    • Franconia (Telford, PA: Montgomery Co.) – Scriptures, prayers, & sermon posted online
    • Frederick (Frederick, PA; Montgomery Co.) – worship services canceled
    • Garden Chapel (Dover, NJ) – worship service by Zoom
    • Indonesian Community Christian Fellowship (Colton, CA) – worship services canceled
    • Indonesian Light Church (Philadelphia, Pa) – online streaming
    • International Worship Church (San Gabriel, CA) – worship services canceled
    • Jemaat Kristen Indonesia Anugerah (Sierra Madre, CA) – streaming sermon
    • Lakeview (Susquehanna, PA; Susquehanna Co.) – Zoom worship service
    • Line Lexington (Line Lexington, PA; Bucks Co.) – live streaming, via YouTube; all activities cancelled until further notice
    • Mennonite Bible Fellowship (Morris, PA; Tioga Co) – worship services canceled
    • Methacton (Norristown, PA; Montgomery Co.) – shared, at-home devotionals
    • Nations Worship Center (Philadelphia, PA) – Facebook Live
    • Nueva Vida Norristown New Life (Norristown, PA; Montgomery Co)
    • Perkasie (Perkasie, PA; Bucks Co.) – Zoom worship service
    • Perkiomenville (Perkiomenville, PA; Montgomery Co.) livestreaming services on Facebook at 10:15 am
    • Philadelphia Praise Center (Philadelphia, PA) – dispersed worship
    • Plains (Hatfield, PA; Montgomery Co.) – recording of worship service online
    • Providence (Collegeville, PA; Montgomery Co.) – Zoom worship service
    • Rocky Ridge (Quakertown, PA; Bucks Co.) – virtual worship with interactive blog
    • Salem (Quakertown, PA; Bucks Co.) – worship services canceled
    • Salford (Harleysville, PA; Montgomery Co.) – simulcasting online with children’s activities
    • San Francisco Chinese (San Francisco, CA) – YouTube sermon
    • Souderton (Souderton, PA; Montgomery Co.) – live streaming
    • Spring Mount (Spring Mount, PA: Montgomery Co.) – Facebook Live
    • Swamp (Quakertown, PA; Bucks Co.) – all activities canceled through May 3
    • Taftsville Chapel (Taftsville, VT) – Zoom worship service
    • Towamencin (Kulpsville, PA; Montgomery Co.) – live streaming on website
    • Upper Milford (Old Zionsville, PA; Lehigh Co) – Zoom worship service
    • Vietnamese Gospel (Allentown, Pa; Lehigh Co.) – worship services canceled
    • Vincent (Spring City, PA; Chester Co.) – worship service on Facebook Live (10:00am)
    • Wellspring Church of Skippack (Skippack, PA; Montgomery Co.) – Zoom worship
    • West Swamp (Quakertown, PA; Bucks Co.) – worship services canceled
    • Whitehall (Whitehall, PA; Lehigh Co.) – Facebook Live
    • Zion (Souderton, PA; Montgomery Co.) – live streaming (9:00am)

    Partners in Ministry:

    • 7 Ways Home Fellowship (Bowie, MD) – Zoom gatherings
    • Arise (Harleysville, PA; Montgomery Co.) – worship services canceled
    • Homestead Mennonite Church (Homestead, FL) – worship services canceled
    • Iglesia Evangelica Menonita Shalom (Tampa, FL) – gathering in small prayer groups
    • Iglesia Menonita Luz y Verdad (Lakeland, FL) – worship services canceled
    • Iglesia Menonita Seguidores de Cristo (Sarasota, FL) – YouTube worship service
    • Nueva Esperanza New Hope Fellowship (Alexandria, VA) – worship services canceled

    Conference Related Ministries:

    • Care & Share Thrift Shoppes (Souderton, PA) – closed
    • City School (Philadelphia, PA) – closed
    • Dock Mennonite Academy (Souderton & Lansdale, PA) – closed
    • MCC Material Resource Center (Harleysville, PA) – closed
    • Mennonite Heritage Center – closed
    • Penn Foundation see info here
    • Quakertown Christian School – closed
    • Retirement Communities – Almost all retirement communities are closed to visitors. Please call residents of the retirement communities to stay in contact with them during this time, if at all possible.
    • Spruce Lake/Pinebrook – closed

    We know that this list will continue to grow and change. We hope to keep you updated as much as possible–if you have updates or changes to this list, please send them to

  • UPDATED: April 2, 9:00am EST

    We are in a very different time. Join together with other leaders from across our Conference in Zoom conversations and feel free to pass this information on to youth leaders in your congregation.

    Are there other conversations that you would like to have? Or like to lead? Please let us know!

    Leading and Pastoring in a Time of Social Distancing

    Share, brainstorm, and support one another as we pastor during the Coronavirus epidemic. Potential topics for discussion include worship (planning and formats), pastoral care, communication, connection in isolation, self-care, partnership with congregations in the conference and in your community, supporting one another.

    • Every Wednesday, 10-11am EST – led by Mary Nitzsche and Josh Meyer (English) April 8 gathering will focus on end-of-life conversations/dying and death/funerals during a time of physical distancing
    • Every other Thursday night (April 2,16, 30 … ) 9pm EST/6pm PST – led by Aldo Siahaan and Hendy Matahelemual (Indonesian)
      The Zoom link to join this conversation is:
    • Every other Wednesday night (April 8, 22, May 6 … ) 7pm EST/4pm PST – led by Noel Santiago and Marco Guete (Spanish)
      The Zoom link to join this conversation is:

    Spiritual Formation for Youth in a Time of Social Distancing

    All youth leaders are welcome, we will be connecting, sharing, and praying for our ministry settings as we work with the Holy Spirit for creative community engagement. We can share ideas and practices and resource one another. We can also all just enjoy some time together.

    • Weekly – Thursday mornings, 9:30 am – led by Brooke Martin
      The Zoom link to join this conversation is:


    We will continue to look for opportunities and conversation together in new ways and formats over the next weeks.

  • Actualizado: Abril 2, 9:30am EST

    Estamos en un tiempo bastante diferente. Únanse junto a otros líderes de toda nuestra Conferencia por medio de conversaciones en Zoom esta semana. Siéntanse libres de pasar esta información a los líderes de jóvenes en su congregación.

    ¿Hay otras conversaciones que les gustaría tener? ¿Cómo líderes? Por favor, ¡háganos saber!

    Liderando y pastoreando en un tiempo de distancia social

    Compartir, lluvia de ideas, y apoyarse unos a otros mientras pastoreamos durante la epidemia de coronavirus. Potenciales temas para adoración incluyen adoración (planeación y formatos), cuidado pastoral, comunicación, conexión y aislamiento, cuidado propio, apoyo con congregaciones en la conferencia y en su comunidad, soportándonos unos a otros.

    • Todos los miércoles, 10:00-11:00 am EST – líderado por Mary Nitzsche and Josh Meyer (Inglés); el link de Zoom para unirnos a la conversación es:
    • Cada dos jueves en la noche (abril 2, 16, 30 …) 9 pm EST/6pm PST- líderado por Ando Siahaan y Hendy Matahelemual (Indonsia) El link de Zoom para unirnos a la conversación es:
    • Cada dos miércoles en la noche (abril 8,22, mayo 6…) 7pm EST/4pm PST – Líderado por Niel Santiago y Marco Guete (español). El link de Zoom para unirnos a la conversación es:


    Formación Espiritual para jóvenes en Tiempos de distancia social

    Todos los líderes juveniles están bienvenidos, estaremos conectados, compartiendo, y orando por nuestros entornos ministeriales mientras trabajamos con el Espíritu Santo por la participación creative de la comunidad. Podemos compartir ideas, practices y recursos entre nosotros. O también podemos compartir un tiempo divertido juntos.

    • Semanalmente – jueves en la mañana, 9:30 am – liderado por Brooke Martin. El link de Zoom para unirnos a la conversación es:

    Oración de intercesión

    Continuaremos buscando oportunidades y conversaciones juntos en nuevos caminos y formatos sobre la siguiente semana.


  • (Updated: April 6, 10:00 am EST)

    Need some personal assistance? Contact one of our staff persons below:
    For children:
    Worship and devotional resources from around MC USA:
    Online Support:

  • (Updated March 26, 2:00pm EST)

    If you know of other reputable sources for information of ways to help, please send them to

    Shalom Fund

    Eastern District & Franconia Conference has started a mutual aid fund to support 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.  Give now.

    Blood Donation

    Blood donations are seriously needed as many blood drives have been canceled. To find a blood drive near you follow the links below:

    1. Miller-Keystone Blood Center:  St. Lukes Hospital in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania is sponsoring a blood drive the first week of April (more information here).
    2. American Red Cross:  For those near Lansdale, PA, there is a drive being held this week (last week of March) at Towamencin congregation (Facebook Event Page).

    Food Banks

    From PBS NewsHour: “Due to panic surrounding the virus, donations to many local food banks are down significantly. This is the case in Washington state, where dozens have already died from the virus, and states like Ohio, where food banks have seen volunteers cancel shifts. Supermarket chain Harris Teeter on Friday said that key items in its stores may be out of stock due to high customer demand, and some food banks in Washington state have reported that people have come to their facilities for the first time because their regular grocery stores don’t have what they’re looking for….  Organizations like Feed America allow you to search for food banks in your area. Many food banks across the U.S. are now putting their resources toward dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak directly.”

    1. Feeding America Directory of Food Banks
    2. A list of organizations offering direct services related to COVID-19.
    3. Donate to Ripple Community, Inc, a Conference Related Ministry that is providing food and services to the homeless in Allentown, PA while other local organizations have closed.

    Medical Supply Donations

    The St. Lukes Hospital Network in Pennsylvania is one of many hospitals that is currently receiving donations of medical equipment and accepting homemade masks or the supplies to make them.  For the full list of what you can donate and drop-off locations, check out this page.  For instructions on how to sew the masks, download this pdf.




Arts Contest to Help Give Hope

By Maria Hart, Garden Chapel (Dover, NJ)

In times of darkness and crisis, Garden Chapel (Dover, NJ) desires to help and give to those in need.  The COVID-19 pandemic has left members of Garden Chapel feeling immobile, questioning their ability to fill needs because this situation is so new and unique.

One area of concern is the challenges children and youth face amidst this crisis.  It is a significant adjustment for them. Educational practices have changed. Daily news reports talk about healthy people nearby who are becoming very ill, even dying.  It has become the new norm, sadly. The pandemic is emotionally, mentally, and spiritually challenging for many young people.

Members of Garden Chapel have a special passion for the arts, as the arts serve as an outlet to express human emotions and our faith.

While so many are focused on the pandemic, Garden Chapel wants to redirect attention and resources to the arts with our “Delivering Hope Arts Contest.”  As most everyone is needing to stay at home these days, now is a good time to use the gift of music, fine arts, video, and literature to spread hope. Adults, too, are invited to participate, as many have lost jobs and are home, faced with great uncertainty and possible despair.

As news reports continually report on the growing rise of COVID-19, the body of Christ is called to spread an even larger dose of hope. This invitation to share the gifts of music and art is one way we can do that.

See the flyer for all the details (English & Spanish) and a registration form.

Prepared by God for Missional Work

By Jennifer Svetlik, Salford congregation

“I love questions,” shares Noel Santiago, Leadership Minister for Missional Transformation. In his work accompanying pastors and church leaders, Noel seeks to ask the kind of questions that invite exploration. “This can be challenging,” he continues, “because we each have our agenda. Through questions I invite church leaders to view things from another angle, pause, and potentially take a different approach to what they are already doing.”

Noel currently works with about ten congregations as a leadership minister, and he is the staff point person for missional transformation, one of the conference’s three priorities. At the center of Noel’s work is raising questions with pastors such as: “Who is our neighbor? Who is God working with in our communities? How can we participate in that work?”

The most rewarding part of Noel’s work is “when people have some kind of encounter with God—feeling strengthened, encouraged, a sense of a load being lightened, or seeing from another perspective.” Noel also finds ordinations and installations of pastors to be very meaningful. “Holiness means to be set apart, and these are sacred moments where someone is being set apart,” he reflects.

This year, Noel has formed a missional priority team, which will be a more structured yet flexible way for church leaders to engage this conference priority. Additionally, Noel spends time teaching, preparing sermons, and preparing for events. Recently he was a part of three retreats with congregations. Praying for and with pastors, leaders, and groups is a large part of Noel’s work. “It’s not in my job description, but it’s a personal value I bring to my work,” reflects Noel. “I keep prayer front and center in all that I do.”

In 2019, Noel had a sabbatical from his conference role, and he focused on the larger framework of Jesus’ mission. “Jesus’ mission is about the world, and at its center is God’s image bearers, that is, humans,” shares Noel. “People don’t usually see themselves that way. So how do we encourage people to see themselves as in God’s image?”

Noel and his family moved to southeastern Pennsylvania from Indiana in 1996 to work for Franconia Conference.  He previously served as executive minister of the conference. He has been in his current role for about six years.

Noel was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in New Holland, PA. As a child, he went back to the island frequently and grew up speaking Spanish and English. He calls himself a “Puerto Rican Dutchman” who grew up with rice and beans and shoofly pie. “It’s one big case of indigestion,” he jokes, pointing to the fact that he grew up in between two cultures, learning to navigate being formed by both of them.

“As a kid I wondered, ‘Why is my family so weird?’ but later I realized that God has been preparing me for missional, intercultural ways of being.” Growing up, his home congregation was more conservative. But on Sunday evenings his family had a more Pentecostal worship experience in Lancaster. He refers to these intersections as “Mennocostal” (Mennonite-Pentecostal) or Anamatic (Anabaptist-Charismatic) and reflects that there is an opportunity to learn from how these streams are coming together and integrating.

In his free time, being with family is Noel’s priority. He enjoys going for walks, being in the park, and having BBQs with his family. He and his wife, Juanita, have four young adult children.

Listening for God’s Purpose

by Michael A. Howes, pastor, West Swamp congregation

I grew up in southern Louisiana, attending church every time the doors were open. Sometimes my family were the ones who opened them.

I chose to become a follower of Jesus Christ at a young age and was baptized. My congregation had a very active youth program, and I was immersed in Bible study, worship, prayer, and mission projects all through junior high and high school. My youth group did everything from putting on musicals to visiting the state women’s prison to stage puppet shows. And I was in the thick of it all.

In eighth grade, my Sunday School teachers challenged us to read through the Bible, week by week. If you did the readings for the week, you got a gold star on a chart in our Sunday School room. For some reason, the idea of accumulating those gold stars was powerfully motivating to me; I read through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that year.

At the same time, I was absorbing from my youth pastor a life-changing truth: being a follower of Jesus didn’t only mean attending church and being a good person. Instead, Jesus wanted me to surrender my whole self to him so he could express his life through me. The inward spiritual disciplines of Bible study, prayer. and worship, combined with the outward discipline of service, worked together to deepen and broaden my life with God and prepare me to hear God’s call.

As my senior year of high school began, I tried to figure out what I was going to do when I grew up. As I had always been instructed, I prayed about it.  All that came to me was that I really liked my youth group, so I decided that I would become a youth pastor.

Members of West Swamp congregation surround Michael Howes in prayer at his installation service in November 2019. (photo credit: Sue C. Howes)

That fall, at my youth group’s fall retreat,  we were sent out into a field to listen in quietness for the voice of God. I didn’t have any patience with this. I sat down barely long enough for the dew to moisten my jeans, and then I bounced up and sought out my youth pastor. I was certain I had exciting news for him.

“Ken, guess what!?! I’m going to be a youth pastor, just like you!”

I expected him to say something along the lines of this validating his life’s work and about how excited he was.

Instead, Ken told me something I will never forget: “Michael, until you stop telling God what you’re going to do and start listening for God to tell you what to do, you’re never going to understand God’s purpose for your life.”

Umph! Not the response I had been hoping for.

But by God’s kindness, it was a teachable—if humbling—moment for me. I began to honestly seek God’s direction for my life, with no preconceived endpoint.

Six months later, my youth group was back in the same place, on our spring retreat. One evening, while watching a video about evangelism, I had an experience of hearing God speak to me. It wasn’t an audible voice, but I heard God call me to be a minister.

When I shared what I had heard with my congregation, they affirmed that they saw these signs of God’s gifts and call in my life. That was more than 30 years ago, and that experience of call has been what the Spirit of God has used to sustain me through the ups and downs of ministry.



March 31 announcements

See the Eastern District & Franconia Conference website for the latest on cancellations and scheduling changes within our congregations and CRMs, due to the COVID-19 virus. We will update this page as information comes in. 


This week all congregations in Eastern District & Franconia Conference are praying for teachers, students, school administrators, and parents of school-aged children. So much has changed in the educational system over the past few weeks and the learning curve is very steep for everyone.

Please pray for:

  • The knowledge and perseverance to correctly use technology for online learning.
  • Self-motivation for students to do their work outside of a classroom.
  • Creative ways for teachers and students to give and receive emotional support.
  • Those grieving the losses of important milestones: graduation, prom, extracurricular activities, and other celebrations.
  • Teachers who have children at home as they manage their teaching schedule while trying to help their own children.


Garden Chapel is holding a “Delivering Hope” Arts Contest for ages 6 and older.  They will be accepting entries for various forms of artistic expressions – music, drawing, painting, photography, poetry/essay writing, songwriting and video – and prizes will be awarded.  Entries must be submitted by April 22; see the flyer for all the details (English & Spanish) and a registration form.

A Note from Conrad Martin, Director of Finance

Many of us feel incredibly helpless as we watch the news. We want to help. We want to find medical supplies for the health workers who are caring for patients. We know of so many who are unemployed or struggling financially due to COVID-19. There are so many requests these days for financial assistance as charities across the nation face a decline in giving. Where to begin? Should we start with those with which we have a personal connection?  Some of the charities in need are just down the street; our congregations have a personal connection with many of these and have even already supported them financially.

One thing that has become very evident over the past two weeks is that our churches are more than bricks and mortar.  Our churches are people; they are us. As I read and watch what local congregations are doing during this “crisis”, it is apparent that the church staff are putting in overtime to serve isolated congregations. In many churches, staffing is the largest percentage of a church’s budget. Given that staff are working extra hard during this pandemic, we as an isolated community should put in a little extra effort to support our congregations financially, even if we aren’t meeting in a building. Not only will our church staff be supported financially, but the broader ministry of the church will be enabled to continue as many others need the church now, more than ever.

Welcome Asher Jermaine Matahelemual

Asher was born Monday, March 23 to Marina and Hendy Matahelemual. (Hendy is our conference Pastor of Formation & Communication.)  All are doing well.  Asher will join big brothers Judah and Levi at home in Philadelphia. We celebrate new life in the midst of a time of turmoil. Grace, peace, joy and strength to Hendy, Marina, and the boys in these days ahead.

Telah lahir Asher Jermaine Matehelemual pada hari Senin 23 Maret,bayi dari Marina dan Hendy Matehelemual. (Hendy adalah Pastor di conference untuk bagian Formation & Communication ). Mereka semua sehat dan baik. Asher menjadi adik bagi Judah dan Levi di dalam rumah mereka di Philadelphia. Di tengah situasi sulit seperti sekarang ini, kita tetap bersyukur akan kehidupan baru ini. Damai, sukacita dan sejahtera menyertai Hendy, Marina dan anak anak mereka di masa mendatang.

Asher Jermaine Matahelemual được sinh ra vào thứ Hai, ngày 23 tháng 3 năm 2020 đến Marina và Hendy Matahelemual.  (Hendy là mục sư trong giáo hội của chúng ta Mục sư thành lập và truyền thông.) Tất cả đều khỏe mạnh. Asher sẽ gặp mặt hai anh lớn Judah và Levi tại nhà ở Philadelphia. Chúng tôi chúc mừng cuộc sống mới ở trong một thời kỳ hỗn loạn này. Ân điển, bình an, niềm vui và sức mạnh ở cùng Hendy, Marina và các chàng trai trong những ngày sắp tới.

Asher Jermaine Matahelemual nació el lunes 23 de marzo, hijo de Marina y Hendy Matahelemual. (Hendy es pastor de formación y comunicación en nuestra conferencia). A todos les está yendo bien. Asher se unirá a sus hermanos mayores Judah y Levi en su casa en Filadelfia. Celebramos una nueva vida en medio de una época de agitación. Gracia, paz, alegría y fortaleza para Hendy, Marina y los niños en estos días por venir.

Walking Alongside with Passion

by Jennifer Svetlik, Salford congregation

“The most rewarding part of my job is helping pastors and leaders navigate the broken, complicated, exhausting, infuriating times and reminding them of the beautiful, glorious, exhilarating, holy nature of the work we’ve been called to,” says Josh Meyer, Leadership Minister. “That’s a difficult and never-ending process, but it’s also incredibly fulfilling.”

Josh and family: wife Kim, daughters Selah and Eve, son Paxton

Josh sees his role primarily in terms of accompaniment rather than authority. He walks alongside church leaders to encourage, listen, prompt, and pay attention to the movement of the Spirit. “That’s where I’m passionate; that’s what drew me to this role,” Josh reflects.

In addition to serving as a Leadership Minister, Josh is a pastor at Franconia congregation (Telford, PA), an adjunct professor at Eastern University, a husband, and father of three young children.

About a year ago, Josh accepted the invitation to serve as a Leadership Minister but did so with hesitancy, because he wasn’t sure he had the bandwidth to take on another responsibility. But he gave the invitation serious consideration. “After discernment, I began feeling peace and excitement about the possibility of serving as a Leadership Minister,” says Josh.

Josh is energized by helping congregations connect with younger people and those without a faith background. “Our call is to be fishers of people, not merely keepers of the aquarium. In other words, our focus shouldn’t just be on those who are already here,” Josh describes. “Many churches care for their own pretty well, but unconsciously base the bulk of their decisions on who they’re trying to keep rather than who they’re trying to reach.”

Josh’s passions are evident in his desire to push congregations beyond their comfort zones. “Becoming places where young people and unchurched people can feel at home and grow in Jesus is an important, challenging, urgent concern for our faith communities,” explains Josh. “It requires change and sacrifice and letting go. But it’s worthwhile.”

Josh grew up in Souderton, PA. Although he was not raised Mennonite, he was influenced by the vibrant Mennonite community in the area. “Having roots in the area where I now serve has been beneficial, helping me understand some of the cultural nuances of this place. As our conference continues to grow, however, I recognize that my experiences in this particular place are not the norm for an increasing number of our churches,” shares Josh.

Preaching at Franconia Mennonite Church

Josh brings ecumenical experiences and perspectives to his work as a Mennonite pastor and leader. He was born and dedicated at a Baptist church, spent his formative teenage years in a Lutheran congregation, attended a charismatic Vineyard fellowship in college, and pastored his first five years in a United Methodist context.

“This diverse background formed in me an appreciation for various expressions of faith and a deeply ecumenical understanding of the Body of Christ,” shares Josh. “There is beauty in our diversity, and what unites us and makes us one isn’t that we’re identical, but that we share a common commitment to Christ.” He was drawn to an Anabaptist expression of faith because of the emphasis on the centrality of Jesus, the commitment to peace, discipleship, community, and the understanding of mission.

For their 10-year wedding anniversary in October, Josh and his wife, Kim,  are planning a trip to the Grand Canyon, including a rim-to-rim single day hike of the canyon. Josh’s love of travel has taken him around the world, including five continents;  by his 50th birthday, Josh hopes to have visited all seven.