by Mark Wenger, Franconia congregation
Timothy and Toni Lynn Brown both grew up in devout and close-knit Roman Catholic families. About three years ago they developed a strong desire to renew their commitment to the Christian faith, for themselves and their teenage children, Rebecca and Tim.
The children enrolled at Dock Academy; the family began coming to Franconia. “It was a truly beautiful experience for all of us. Our children enjoyed church again for the first time in years,” comments Timothy. “I refer to it as my ‘charismatic renewal.’”
Toni echoes this: “The pastors give their sermons and speak to the congregation like we are equals, not below them. To be able to take away something from the worship service and incorporate it into my daily life is something I never had before, and I truly enjoy it.”
Timothy and Toni were baptized into the Franconia congregation on November 26, 2017. They are literally Anabaptists – “rebaptized” – in the original definition of the word. Newcomers, they are sharing their gifts in a congregation that’s been meeting at the same location for almost 300 years.
Franconia congregation is currently led by a team of four pastors, Larry Diener, Josh Meyer, Kyle Rodgers, and Mark Wenger. Attendance for Sunday morning worship in 2019 has averaged 350. The Sunday School program is vibrant with about 265 children, youth and adults participating each week.
Franconia is blessed with strong multi-generational family networks. This feature lends itself to a sense of identity and a culture that is purposely Anabaptist-Mennonite. About 85% of Franconia adults grew up in Mennonite homes. Tradition and faithfulness are important. The roots are deep.
A vision the pastors believe that God has brought into focus for Franconia, however, speaks of going deep and wide: “A rooted Anabaptist congregation willing to do whatever it takes to connect with our neighbors so they feel at home and grow in Jesus.” Timothy and Toni Brown and their family are a good example.
Franconia has a strong commitment to mission: Curtis and Eva Kratz visiting inmates; the Women’s Sewing Circle knotting and quilting covers for refugees; partnering with congregations in Liberia for education and development work; supporting mission workers at Christian camps.
But a calling for being sent into our local community and connecting with next-door neighbors is coming into sharper focus. Like through Celebrate Recovery (a Christ- centered, 12-step recovery program) that meets on Mondays; like serving supper monthly to homeless neighbors in Pottstown; like hosting a live-nativity at Christmas.
The pastors have recently formed a “2020 Vision Team” to join them in giving creative energy for investing in this community-connecting vision for the next year. Timothy Brown was invited to be a member of the Vision Team and he agreed!
What will it take to hear God’s call and adopt a new mindset that shifts from trying to keep each other happy, toward equipping each other to pray for and connect with our neighbors?
A vision-grounding Scripture text that has emerged prayerfully is 1 Corinthians 9:19-22:
“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible…”
FMC stands for Franconia Mennonite Church. What else could FMC stand for in 2020 and beyond?
- Finding Meaning in Christ?
- Friends Meeting Christ?
- Families Magnifying Christ?
- for wisdom on follow-up connections resulting from the recent Necessary Conversations series.
- for the Search process to call a Director of Music & Worship, and a Director of Children’s Ministries.
- for God’s anointing upon the 2020 Vision Team and initiative