by Pastor Bob Pirylis and Elder Charles Bergey
The Church of the Good Samaritans began like many churches, as a vision given by God. This vision was placed within the heart of Reverend J. J. Plenert, Pastor of First Mennonite Church of Philadelphia. He had an idea to plant a new church to minister to the spiritual needs of those living in the rural areas surrounding the city.
In 1957, many important things took place in the new church. On February 3, the name “Church Of The Good Samaritans” was chosen. The church’s constitution was drawn up and adopted by eighteen members on April 12, and later that month, the Sunday School was organized. In March 1959, a ten-and-a-half acre plot of property was purchased from William and Anne Fisher in Holland, PA (Northampton Township, Lower Bucks County). In 1960, ground was broken to build a parsonage on this property. All worship services, Sunday school classes, meetings, dinners and other events and gatherings were held there in the parsonage.
In 1961, construction started for the new church building to be located between the parsonage and Holland Road. The first worship service was held on the site of the new building at 6:30 a.m. on Easter Sunday 1962, without walls or a roof. The building was completed and dedicated on September 23, 1962. Over the next five years many new families began worshiping with us and thirteen people become official members of the congregation. God continued to be gracious to us throughout the years. Our mission verse is 1 John 1:1, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of Life.” This continues to be our passion to “Reach and Teach the World!”
Through God’s blessings and provision, we were able to add a playground to advance our outreach to the community and enhance our children’s ministry. Between Vacation Bible School and LEGO nights, we offer opportunities for children and young people to learn important Bible truths about Jesus and other skills to help them apply these lessons to their lives. We continue to seek God’s direction in how we should proceed in bolstering a youth ministry and using our puppet ministry to work outside the walls of the church.
Each month, a ministry team travels to the Helping Hand and Whosoever Gospel Missions to lead worship, bring an evangelical message, and serve a meal to the homeless. We partner with Crossroads Community Center through Easter egg hunts, campout & hayrides, movie nights, and children’s fun days. In addition, we work closely with Child Evangelism Fellowship and Ambassador Football in summer outreach events like Bible clubs and soccer camps.
Our Quilting Ministry has been meeting every Monday evening for the past 15 years. Approximately 25-30 ladies of all ages create beautiful quilts that are given to sick children in local hospitals to bring them comfort, warmth, and love as they struggle through their treatments and recovery. To date these women have completed 2769 quilts. They work with “Quilts For Kids,” a national organization that distributes these labors to troubled children all over the world.
Carrying the Word of Life to the world has always been a key component of the ministry of this congregation. Each year, in addition to our local and urban outreaches, we send a team to tend to the needs of the sick and elderly in several financially depressed communities located in Webster County, West Virginia. We combine our love, resources, and talents to build wheelchair ramps, steps, and porches to assist those with physical disabilities. We also fix leaky roofs and make desperately needed repairs to raise their quality of life, both spiritually and physically.
We are thankful to our Lord for constantly sending us and challenging us to be “Good Samaritans,” servants to His hurting world.
- That we continue to seek God’s direction on trying some new and different ways to impact the community and the world with the Gospel of Jesus.
- As we make adjustment to our AV capabilities the congregation would be flexible to adjust with these advances to bring into the technological era.
- Ask God to show us how we would allow people to see the full image of Christ through us in everything we do inside and outside the church.
- That God would guide us to the new missionary we are add to our missionary support group.
This week all congregations in Eastern District & Franconia Conference are praying for Church of the Good Samaritans. Please pray that they continue to seek God’s direction on trying new and different ways to impact the community, that God would show them how to allow people to see the full image of Christ through them, and that God would guide them to a new missionary to add to their missionary support group. To read more about Church of the Good Samaritans, go to franconiaconference.org/profiles.
The Eastern Mennonite University Chamber Singers will perform at Salford Mennonite Church at 7:00 pm on Sunday, March 1. The program features selections on the theme of “I Will Give You Rest,” an exploration of peace and rest through music. The select vocal group, directed by Professor Benjamin Bergey, performs choral arrangements from various periods, styles and cultures. A free will offering will be received to support the tour.
Bally Mennonite Church will be serving a pancake breakfast (including pancakes, French toast, eggs, sausage, scrapple, OJ, tea, & coffee) on Saturday, April 4 from 7:00 to 10:30 am. The cost is a donation, and proceeds will benefit the Bally Community Center. For more information, please call the church office at 610-845-7780 or visit www.ballymc.org.
On Saturday, April 18, 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, Salford Mennonite Church will be hosting a Red/Blue Workshop sponsored by Better Angels. This is a workshop intended to bring right-leaning citizens and left-leaning citizens for a day of structured conversations (and a free lunch!), with a focus on listening and reflecting rather than debating and persuading. If you are interested in participating, observing, or want to find out more, contact the Blue Organizer, Mark Heise (484-687-0840, firstname.lastname@example.org) or the Red Organizer, Tim Weaver (215-350-0758, email@example.com).
Towamencin Mennonite Church has an opening for a part-time Congregational Coordinator /Administrative Assistant (15-20 hours per week) beginning April 2020. Applicant should be a team player, friendly, well-organized, able to maintain confidentiality, have good communication skills, and be proficient in Word/Excel/Publisher/Quickbooks. Main responsibilities include reception, basic admin/office work, pastoral team support and maintaining membership files. Contact Lowell Bergey at 215-703-5281 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Peaceful Living is hiring Direct Support Professionals! Learn more about the position and the organization at their upcoming job fair on March 2, 4:00 to 7:00 pm at the Indian Valley Public Library. Questions about the position or the event? Contact Jane Rogers at email@example.com.
The Mennonite Heritage Center collects and preserves photos, documents and artifacts that tell the story of Mennonites in eastern Pennsylvania. Please contact archivist Forrest Moyer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-256-3020 ext.118 if you have documents from your family or records from your local congregation that should be preserved for future generations.
Eastern District and Franconia Conference, a historic and growing network of almost 80 Mennonite congregations and ministries, seeks a creative, committed, and collaborative person to serve in a leadership position focused on strengthening connections and relationships across the Conference community.
The full-time position, based at the offices in Lansdale, PA (north of Philadelphia), has two key components:
- Leader of the communication and development team.
- Team leader for community organizing, networking, and facilitation with the Conference’s network of Conference Related Ministries. These ministries include social service agencies, schools, camps, retirement communities, and international initiatives.
Alternatively, these components could be separated into two part-time roles.
Essential for this position is a commitment to the Anabaptist perspective of Christian faith and a willingness to join an Eastern District and Franconia Conference worshipping community. The role includes leadership within a diverse and dispersed staff with a priority of intercultural transformation. Member communities of the Conference stretch from Southern California to Vermont, although the majority of conference staff and members live in the Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley metro areas. The position includes up to 20% domestic and international travel beyond those metros.
Ideal candidates will have experience in non-profit organizational leadership and a graduate level degree. They will also have experience with supervision and capacities in community/public relations, as well as fundraising, with an understanding of changing technology and diverse constituencies. Candidates must have working capacities in Microsoft or equivalent software, diverse communication platforms, and social media. An understanding of Adobe Creative Suite and WordPress would be helpful.
As a multilingual community, an ability to speak and work in English as well as at least one other conference language—Bahasa Indonesian, Cantonese, French Creole, Spanish, or Vietnamese—would be preferred.
The position will begin in late spring or summer of 2020. To apply, send a resume or CV and intro email to info@FranconiaConference.org.
by Sue Conrad Howes, West Swamp congregation
“What excites and gives me hope is the endless possibilities,” says conference board member Yvonne Platts, Nueva Vida Norristown (PA) New Life congregation. “We don’t know what to really expect, which makes us more open to the leading of the Spirit to guide us in the future.”
Platts and the other members of the new Eastern District and Franconia Conference board are looking forward with anticipation as, effective February 1, 2020, Eastern District Conference and Franconia Conference began to operate as one, reconciled conference.
Last week, the board approved a budget of just over $1M. Although this combined total seems like a significant amount, one advantage of forming a joint conference is the gained efficiencies of a shared budget, which will stretch these dollars even further. The staff of both conferences have merged (with Eastern District’s former interim conference minister Scott Roth remaining as a Leadership Minister), while current Leadership Ministers are expanding their responsibilities to include more congregations, and new administrative, communication, and community engagement staff are coming on board in the coming months.
Other changes are on the way as well: there will be a new name sometime this year and, likely, new Conference offices by year’s end. The conference website is experiencing an ongoing facelift (MennoniteConferenceX.org) and new paper- and e-newsletters are in development.
The new conference is beginning to act and operate as one community, putting behind over 173 years of division and conflict.
“The most challenging part of the process is recognizing that it will take time,” reflects executive minister, Steve Kriss. “We won’t have everything done tomorrow or next week. The process of reconciling and taking two historic communities back into one organizational system will not be seamless.”
Assistant Moderator Angela Moyer, Ripple congregation (Allentown, PA), acknowledges that this will take ongoing work. “Can we stay engaged in the process of reconciliation or will we just split over the issues of the current day like we did in the 1800s, especially given our current cultural and secular polarities?” she asks.
“A significant challenge we face is to not allow the differences among us to overshadow the essentials that we hold in common,” says Moderator Ken Burkholder, Deep Run East congregation (Perkasie, PA); “mainly our shared Anabaptist faith in Jesus and our mutual commitment to God’s mission in this world.”
Growing pains are inevitable, acknowledges board member Jim Musselman, Zion congregation (Souderton, PA). He hopes, however, that we will continue to listen. “Reconciliation requires a lot of listening. Listening builds trust and community, which leads to renewal.”
Despite the hard work, conference leaders are amazed at the positive energy coming from so many people. “This has been emotional for both of our conferences,” says Kriss. “There have been tears, but I’ve seen more tears of joy than grief.”
New congregations in several states continue to express interest in joining the Eastern District and Franconia community. By the end of 2020, the new Conference will likely be 20% larger than it is currently. “This is a significant expansion in a year,” says Kriss. “We will need to cultivate a sense of togetherness in the midst of this exciting growth.”
Sue Conrad Howes is working as part of the communication team for Eastern District & Franconia Conference during this time of transition. Sue grew up attending Blooming Glen (PA) congregation. She is an ordained pastor in Mennonite Church USA and currently works as a hospital trauma chaplain. Sue recently moved from Lancaster to Quakertown, PA with her husband, Michael, who serves as pastor at West Swamp congregation, where they are both members.
by Noel Santiago
I’ve been reading and studying The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural World View of the Bible by Dr. Michael Heiser. I have found Dr. Heiser’s work immensely helpful in providing a framework for understanding the supernatural worldview of the Bible.
Beginning with the idea of a divine council, as noted in Psalms 82:1 where God takes “his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment…,” and unpacking what he calls the “Deuteronomy 32 world view” (especially verses 8-9), Heiser brings forth this framework.
The basic idea is that God has a “divine council” comprised of children of God that help administer the work of God. This motif carries through the Old Testament and into the New Testament. After the ministry of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit, humanity—as God’s image bearers—are invited back to a seat at his council.
Much of this framework resonates with my faith upbringing. From the time I can remember, I’ve always had a sense of a spirit realm that was active: one for God’s glory and purpose and the other for the purpose of darkness and corruption. Our church community would pray, preach, and share with and for people’s salvation to see them come to Christ. We would also pray for the sick and demon-possessed and regularly see persons healed and delivered. Regularly we would take food to a family in need, collect offerings for those who were lacking, serve and practice hospitality. All of these things were part of how we understood and practiced faith.
When I began studying and working in a different culture and context, I had to learn that others practice their faith differently. While I have valued and integrated much of these other expressions and learnings, I often noticed that the realm of the supernatural was underrepresented. It’s not necessarily that others didn’t believe it, but perhaps they focused on it less. Others acknowledged this sphere when it was discussed, but did very little to engage with it. I didn’t always know what to make of this.
When I discovered this book that highlights the ancient Hebrew and near-eastern worldview, I found myself identifying deeply with it. For me, this topic accounts for an unseen realm that is at work in interactive ways with the seen realm. We might not always be aware of this interaction but it is more present than we might imagine.
The challenge, of course, is not only seeking to know and/or understand this unseen realm and its interaction with what we see, touch, and engage; we also need to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2b).
by Jennifer Svetlik, Salford Congregation
Mary Nitzsche was surprised when she was called in 2017 to become Associate Executive Minister with Franconia Conference. She had been an associate pastor at Blooming Glen (PA) congregation for nine years and she expected she would stay there until retirement.
“After reflecting, praying, and listening for God’s call, an inner call began to emerge, coinciding with an external call, where I was affirmed for my work in the conference,” Mary reflects. “I had enjoyed congregational ministry. But my conference role feels like a culminating experience. My journey has not been traditional.”
This wasn’t the first time Mary was surprised by her vocational call; in fact, it has been a theme throughout her life. Near the end of seminary, Mary was preparing to seek a position as a pastoral counselor when Ohio Conference invited Mary to consider serving as a regional pastor. “I didn’t have the training or experience for this role,” Mary shares. “Mark Weidner, the Conference Minister, encouraged me, and he served as an advocate and mentor. I stepped out in faith believing that God would provide, without a guarantee that this calling would be well-suited for an extended period.”
Although she continued providing some counseling, she began feeling more of a call and love for conference work and realized she was using her counseling skills in unexpected ways. She continued in conference ministry for twelve years, before Blooming Glen surprised her with a call to serve as associate pastor.
As Associate Executive Minister, Mary gives oversight of the credentialing process and represents the conference at congregational and conference events. She also gives oversight to the conference’s leadership ministers, plans equipping events around conference priorities. and helps plan events for conference-wide ministries.
The most rewarding aspect of Mary’s job is the relationships with staff and pastors. She also enjoys interviewing credentialing candidates and hearing their call stories. She loves meeting with different groups such as female pastors, chaplains, and retired pastors.
Mary appreciates her opportunities to join different conference congregations for worship services. “I am in awe of the diversity of congregations in the conference. They are each trying to be true to their context and identifying God’s mission for them,” Mary explains. “To be a strong conference we need to celebrate and honor that diversity, and respect one another in the different kinds of calls we have.”
Mary grew up in the midwest and has been a part of many different kinds of congregations and conferences. “I appreciate whatever place or congregation I am in, and live in the ‘very now,’” reflects Mary.
Mary’s parents, who both served the church in a variety of roles, were an inspiration and model for Mary. They shaped her love for serving the church through their positive outlook, a willingness to serve, and openness to try new roles they didn’t feel prepared to take on.
Mary’s husband, Wayne, is one of the pastors at Perkasie (PA) congregation. They have two adult daughters and one grandchild. In her free time, Mary enjoys hiking, reading, knitting, and sewing. She also enjoys the creativity that comes with the process of cooking and baking. “I find cooking very relaxing at the end of the day, because it is something that has a beginning and an end. With ministry you don’t always see the results right away like you do in the kitchen.”