Category Archives: Currents

And you invited me in

By Amy Yoder McGloughlin

Every summer since 2015, I have been leading a delegation to the West Bank with Christian Peacemaker Teams. I value the opportunity to walk with people as they understand the occupation from the perspective of everyday folks. We stay in Palestinian communities, eat local cuisine, and hire Palestinian tour guides and bus drivers. Once we get to Hebron, we join in the work of Christian Peacemaker Teams, as we accompany children to school, and ensure that Palestinian rights are upheld in this occupied West Bank city.

One of the other reasons I go is because this place challenges my sense of hospitality. I always notice, after a trip like this, the limits I have placed on my hospitality. And it is humbling.

In the summer of 2018, on the first day of the delegation I was leading, I got the delegation lost on our way to our first appointment. We were on a public bus, and I asked the bus driver if we were going to Old Anata Road. He smiled and nodded, and dropped us off in Anata, the refugee camp.

When we got off the bus, I very quickly realized that I was in the wrong place. I asked the shopkeepers if they could speak English. No one could but a couple helpful shopkeepers called their cousins in the US and Canada and put them on the phone to help me out.

I asked the helpful cousins on the other side of the world–where is Old Anata road? And they said, “Just walk right up the hill and you’ll find it”. I started up the hill, and very quickly we found the separation wall. And I realized that we were on the wrong side of the wall from our destination. I started looking for anyone else that could help. I ran into a man doing construction and asked again, “Do you speak English?” He shook his head apologetically, but then lit up. He jumped in his beat up Toyota, and gestured for me and the team to follow him.

I wasn’t sure if I should follow this stranger. But I didn’t know what choice I had. It was painfully hot at 9 in the morning, and we needed help.

So I asked my delegation to follow me while I followed this stranger wherever he was leading us. The man began backing his car up the hill, stopping occasionally to gesture to us to follow him. He backed into the driveway of his home, and ran up the stairs to his house, turning to invite us in. We did not know what to expect.

We entered his home, and there sat his entire family in the living room–children, wife, and an aunt. They jumped up, and welcomed us to sit where they had been sitting. They brought us water, then tea, then coffee, then pomegranate and grapefruit juice. And THEN some sweets.

Still no one was speaking English. My delegates were looking at me, asking quietly, “What are we doing here? Are we going to get to our destination?” And I asked them to be patient.

That’s when Islam walked in. Islam Issa is 22, beautiful and spoke nearly perfect English, which she learned from watching Hollywood movies. She greeted us enthusiastically, and we got to know each other. Islam helped me to determine what I already knew–that we were nowhere near our destination. Her father called a taxi company and they sent a van to pick us up. But before we left for our next destination, the family insisted that we return the next night for dinner.

And we did. We came back the next night and the Issa family made us mokluba–a chicken, rice and vegetable dish that is a most delicious treat. They made stuffed grape leaves and baklava and treated us like royal guests. It was so generous; it felt like an embarrassing extravagance.

My Arabic is abysmal, and the only one of the Issa family to speak English was Islam, so our “conversations” with this family involved pictures on my phone, gestures and giggles about language barriers. But despite all the limitations, it was one of the best nights of fun I’ve had in quite some time. We made new friends that night. And these are friends that I still speak to on a regular basis. We “talk” via social media, mostly through emojis with the mom, and with more conversations with Islam.

This summer, I visited with the Issa family again, and we enjoyed another evening of hospitality. I brought them a gift from Frazer Mennonite–a quilted wall hanging. And they fed me nonstop for hours.

We’re already making plans for next summer–I’m going to work on my Arabic in preparation for our next visit, and they plan to teach me how to make mokluba.

The Issa family stops everything when I am in town. They welcome me into their home and make me feel so special. Their generous hospitality always challenges me to look at my own hospitality. What are my cultural limits? What are my personal limits? Why do we make sharing a meal and time with friends (and strangers) less of a priority than tasks and productivity?

I have deep gratitude for the care and hospitality I am shown in Palestine. Given our country’s policies, they could hate me. I wouldn’t blame them if they did. And yet, Palestinians like the Issa family have shared food, time, laughter and conversation with me. It reminds me of the time that Jesus, himself a Palestinian, shared with people. His agenda was a meal shared with friends. His last instruction to us was to eat, drink and remember him.

These yearly trips to Palestine are two weeks of communion. I bring that home, and use that to challenge the ways I spend my time. Is my time about busyness, or is it about conversation, a shared meal and deeper relationship?

Left: Amy with Islam Issa

Amy Yoder McGloughling is pastor at Frazer Mennonite Church. She will be leading a Christian Peacemaker Team delegation to Palestine August 3-17, 2020. To apply for the delegation, visit




Examining the legacy: Mennonites & Antisemitism

By Joel Horst Nofziger

On the last day of Passover this year, a gunman entered Chabad of Poway a synagogue in north of San Diego, and opened fire. One person was killed and two more were injured. Three days later, May 2, was Yom Ha-Shoah, Holocaust Memorial Day as observed by the Jewish people. Rabbi Paskoff of Shaarai Shomayim in Lancaster, Pennsylvania sent a request to churches of Lancaster to join the Jewish Community Alliance of Lancaster’s service of remembrance because we live in a time where Jews are once again being targeted.

This was a service of prayer and poetry, interspersed with candle lighting to give form to remembrance. Candles were lit by individuals with a direct personal connection to the Holocaust, such as Rosette Lboel who survived hiding with families in France and Richard Smiga, whose parents were in Buchenwald, Treblilnka, Bergen-Belsen, and Dachau. Following the service, Dean Kunkle gave a presentation on teaching the Holocaust and Holocaust denial today.

Delegates to the 2017 Mennonite Church USA convention in Orlando passed a resolution entitled, “Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine,” which calls us as a body of believers to, among other things, examin the legacy of antisemitism and its impact on Mennonites as well as building relationships with Jewish communities. One concrete outcome of this resolution was the 2018 conference on Mennonites and the Holocaust organized by Mennonite Church USA and Bethel College [Read more on Anabaptist Historians,]. To put it without fanfare, Mennonites were involved across the entire spectrum of possibilities when it comes to the Holocaust, as rescuers, yes, but as bystanders and active participants as well.

God, full of mercy, who dwells in the heights, provide a sure rest up on the Divine Presence’s wings, within the range of the holy and the pure, whose shining resemble the sky’s, all the souls of the six million Jews, victims of the European Holocaust, who were murdered, slaughtered, burnt and exterminated for the Sanctification of the Name, by the German Nazi assassins and their helpers from the rest of the peoples.

Zaporozhia, in Chortitza, the “Mennonite capital” of the Old Colony in Ukraine was occupied by German forces in October 1941. After the occupation, the invaders turned to the local German speaking Mennonite community to serve as administrators, notably Heinrich Jakob Wiebe and Isaac Johann Reimer. They recruitmented policemen to enforce the rules of occupation—such as the requirement that Jews wear an armband marked with the star of David—and drew heavily on communal and familial networks to fill those positions.

On the first day of Passover, in 1942, the Jews of Zaparozhia were ordered to assemble: men, women, and children. Local police, including Mennonite brothers Isaac and Jakob Fast, marched them to the outskirts where they were shot. The shooting began at 8 in the morning and continued until 5 at night the first day, the second day, and the third day. More than three thousand were massacred. A few days later, Mennonites celebrated the German occupation because they were able to reopen churches closed by Soviet decree and celebrate Easter for the first time in a decade. We know they opened worship by singing “Christ is risen, shout it to Zion,” and we know the murder of the Jews went unremarked. The ethnic cleansing continued in the region until the fall of 1943, with an eventual death count in excess of 44,000.

Therefore, the Master of Mercy will protect them forever, from behind the hiding of his wings, and will tie their souls with the hope of life.

There is a strong temptation for us, or maybe it is just me, to throw up my hands and say “wait, hold up, this has nothing to do with us, nothing to do with me.” But we are bound to our Mennonite brothers and sisters across space and time through the body of Christ as the Church. And that is uncomfortable. But it is important that we acknowledge that our past is not without spot or wrinkle, so that Truth might be served. How else can we confess, repent, and renew our efforts to work for the Kingdom of God?

As a final thought, perhaps there is a more pressing reason to consider how Mennonites were seduced by the State and by fear into going alongside horrors. How is it that we need to reinforce ourselves so that we do not fall into the same errors? Is there some matter of doctrine of which we need to be more mindful? Some areas of personal commitment to renew? Some sense of pride we need to abandon? Let us remember, and remember rightly.

The Everlasting is their heritage, the Garden of Eden shall be their resting room, and they shall rest peacefully upon their lying place, they will stand for their fate in the end of days, and let us say: Amen. (El Malei Rachamin, the Prayer of Mercy)

Holy Restoration

By Elizabeth G. Nissley

For the past eight years, my husband, Ken and I, have been volunteers with the Pennsylvania Victim Offender Dialogue Program, operated under the Pennsylvania Office of Victim Advocate. Victims of violent crimes may request to participate in a process that prepares them and the offender (if he/she is willing) to meet and talk about what happened between the victim, their loved one and the person who perpetrated a crime. Most of these face-to-face meetings take place in the prison where the offender is incarcerated and may occur years after the event, in one case, 50 years after the murder.

As volunteers, we always work in pairs completing multiple preparatory meetings with both the victim and the offender before bringing them together. Ken and I have been able to work together in many different situations.

Several years ago, we traveled to Florida to meet with and prepare the mother of a young woman who had been murdered by a young man who was a family friend. We then had several meetings in prison with the young man. Finally, we accompanied the mother to the prison for the meeting between both parties.

We gathered around a conference table – victim, offender and two volunteers, with prison guards periodically looking through the glass window during our four-hour conversation. The mother shared some pictures, told her story and asked her questions. The young man patiently told her what happened and apologized. As the meeting came to the end, the mother reached her hands across the table and asked to hold his hands. She said, “I cannot believe I am holding the hands of the man who pulled the trigger of the gun that killed my daughter!” And we all cried!

I reached in with my hands and covered their hands, saying, “You may not know that this is Holy Week (it was the Thursday before Good Friday and Easter) but we all know that this is a Holy moment!” And we continued to weep.

Now this is not a religious program and we do not talk about or promote faith. But that process and those hours changed all of us, as we discovered more completely in our follow-up conversations. The young man was released from guilt; a guard reached out to him in kindness the next day, and the mother told us that she finally slept through the night, something she had not been able to do for the previous eight years. And us? We were encouraged to continue with this kind of volunteer work where people are made whole, through careful preparation for powerful healing conversations!

Summer Reading List Ideas

Looking for your next read? These recommended books on the theme of reconciliation are perfect for last days of summer.

Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade by Thomas Norman DeWolf and Sharon Leslie Morgan

Two people—a black woman and a white man—confront the legacy of slavery and racism head-on. 
“We embarked on this journey because we believe America must overcome the racial barriers that divide us, the barriers that drive us to strike out at one another out of ignorance and fear. To do nothing is unacceptable.”
Sharon Leslie Morgan, a black woman from Chicago’s South Side avoids white people; they scare her. Despite her trepidation, Morgan, a descendent of slaves on both sides of her family, began a journey toward racial reconciliation with Thomas Norman DeWolf, a white man from rural Oregon who descends from the largest slave-trading dynasty in US history. Over a three-year period, the pair traveled thousands of miles, both overseas and through twenty-seven states, visiting ancestral towns, courthouses, cemeteries, plantations, antebellum mansions, and historic sites. They spent time with one another’s families and friends and engaged in deep conversations about how the lingering trauma of slavery shaped their lives.

Gather at the Table is the chronicle of DeWolf and Morgan’s journey. Arduous and at times uncomfortable, it lays bare the unhealed wounds of slavery. As DeWolf and Morgan demonstrate, before we can overcome racism we must first acknowledge and understand the damage inherited from the past—which invariably involves confronting painful truths. The result is a revelatory testament to the possibilities that open up when people commit to truth, justice, and reconciliation. DeWolf and Morgan offer readers an inspiring vision and a powerful model for healing individuals and communities. (less)


Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford

In the opening pages of Jamie Ford’s stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love–that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.


Learning from Henri Nouwen and Vincent van Gogh: A Portrait of the Compassionate Life by Carol A. Berry

Carol Berry and her husband met and befriended Henri Nouwen when she sat in his course on compassion at Yale Divinity School in the 1970s. At the request of Henri Nouwen’s literary estate, she has written this book, which includes unpublished material recorded from Nouwen’s lectures. As an art educator, Berry is uniquely situated to develop Nouwen’s work on Vincent van Gogh and to add her own research. She fills in background on the much misunderstood spiritual context of van Gogh’s work, and reinterprets van Gogh’s art (presented here in full color) in light of Nouwen’s lectures. Berry also brings in her own experience in ministry, sharing how Nouwen and van Gogh, each in his own way, led her to the richness and beauty of the compassionate life.


The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan

In 1967, Bashir Khairi, a twenty-five-year-old Palestinian, journeyed to Israel with the goal of seeing the beloved stone house with the lemon tree behind it that he and his family had fled nineteen years earlier. To his surprise, when he found the house he was greeted by Dalia Eshkenazi Landau, a nineteen-year-old Israeli college student, whose family left fled Europe for Israel following the Holocaust. On the stoop of their shared home, Dalia and Bashir began a rare friendship, forged in the aftermath of war and tested over the next half century in ways that neither could imagine on that summer day in 1967. Sandy Tolan brings the Israeli-Palestinian conflict down to its most human level, demonstrating that even amid the bleakest political realities there exist stories of hope and transformation.


No Future Without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu

The establishment of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a pioneering international event. Never had any country sought to move forward from despotism to democracy both by exposing the atrocities committed in the past and achieving reconciliation with its former oppressors. At the center of this unprecedented attempt at healing a nation has been Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whom President Nelson Mandela named as Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. With the final report of the Commission just published, Archbishop Tutu offers his reflections on the profound wisdom he has gained by helping usher South Africa through this painful experience.

In No Future Without Forgiveness, Tutu argues that true reconciliation cannot be achieved by denying the past.  But nor is it easy to reconcile when a nation “looks the beast in the eye.” Rather than repeat platitudes about forgiveness, he presents a bold spirituality that recognizes the horrors people can inflict upon one another, and yet retains a sense of idealism about reconciliation. With a clarity of pitch born out of decades of experience, Tutu shows readers how to move forward with honesty and compassion to build a newer and more humane world.


One Coin Found: How God’s Love Stretches to the Margins by Emmy Kegler

The stories of Scripture are for everyone. No exceptions.

Emmy Kegler has a complicated relationship with the Bible. As a queer woman who grew up in both conservative Evangelical and progressive Protestant churches, she knows too well how Scripture can be used to wound and exclude. And yet, the stories of Scripture continue to captivate and inspire her–both as a person of faith and as a pastor to a congregation. So she set out to fall in love with the Bible, wrestling with the stories inside, where she met a God who continues to seek us out–appearing again and again as a voice, a presence, and a promise.

Whenever we are pushed to the edges, our voices silenced, or our stories dismissed, God goes out after us–seeking us until we are found again. And God is seeking out those whose voices we too quickly silence and dismiss, too. Because God’s story is a story of welcome and acceptance for everyone–no exceptions.

Kegler shows us that even when we feel like lost and dusty coins–rusted from others’ indifference, misspent and misused–God picks up a broom and sweeps every corner of creation to find us.


Revenge: A Story of Hope by Laura Blumenfeld

Laura Blumenfeld’s father was shot in Jerusalem in 1986 by a member of a rebel faction of the PLO responsible for attacks on several tourists. Her father survived, but Blumenfeld’s desire for revenge haunted her. This is her story — and a fascinating study of the mechanics and psychology of vengeance. 

While plotting to infiltrate her father’s shooter’s life, Blumenfeld travels the globe gathering stories of other avengers. Through interviews with Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin; members of the Albanian Blood Feud Committee; the chief of the Iranian judiciary; the mayor of Palermo, Sicily; the Israeli prime minister; priests; sports fans; fifth-grade girls; prostitutes; and more, she explores the dynamics of hate — and the fine line that sometimes separates it from love. 

Ultimately, Blumenfeld’s target is more complex than the stereotypical terrorist she’d long imagined. In a surprising twist, she gets revenge, but not according to traditional expectations. She discovers a third way, a choice beyond “turn the other cheek” or “an eye for an eye.” And with it she answers the age-old question: what is the best revenge?

A long Journey of Reconciliation

By Abigail King

Though it’s been 28 years since tragedy struck Landisville Mennonite Church, current and former church members continue to embody the unconditional love of God.

In February of 1991, Clair and Anna May Weaver and their teenage daughter Kimberly were murdered by their son and brother, Keith.

In the months following the murders, members of Landisville Mennonite created the 70×7 Fund as a way to “help (the church) engage in practical expressions of God’s love for Keith.”

The 70×7 fund is based on Matthew 18, in which Jesus calls his disciples to forgive and restore offenders “70 times seven” times.

The fund pays for Keith’s monthly costs as he serves his 35-70 year sentence at Camp Hill Correctional Institution. Though Keith has a paying job at the prison, he only makes $0.42 an hour. With the 70×7 Fund, he is able to purchase basic care items not supplied by the prison. The donations also go to pay for Keith’s educational expenses.

While the fund supplies Keith with material needs, four current and former members of Landisville Mennonite Church have also developed personal relationships with him and personally choose to show compassion to him, despite his previous actions.

Sam Thomas, pastor of Landisville during the time of the murders, has visited Keith monthly since the tragedy. Leon and Nancy Stauffer, friends of Clair and Anna May, manage the 70×7 Fund and visit Keith several times a year. Ann Martin, Keith’s former Sunday school teacher, visits him four times a year and gives the church an annual update on his birthday.

For the four, choosing to invest in Keith was an obvious choice. Each felt called to show compassion and grace.

For instance, Martin said she felt the need to be there for Keith from the start. “He was so young,” she said. “My kids were the same age and so for me, it was just my mother’s heart.” Martin said that Keith now feels like a son to her.

For Thomas, he was spurred by the idea of acting as a conduit for what he has received.

“There’s something about truly finding love for Keith after quite a few years,” Thomas said. “I’m sort of surprised at how good it feels to feel God’s grace and love flow through me.”

Leon said he feels drawn to practice love within his own personal context. “This is a setting that we have been placed in,” he said. “We need to find a way to commit to love in the circle that’s touching our lives.”

“This is hopeful,” said Ron Adams, current pastor at Landisville, referring to the group’s choice to pursue compassion and empathy in a world where it feels “rare.”

While the Stauffers, Thomas and Martin have forgiven Keith, they realize forgiveness is a long — and often agonizing — journey. “I don’t have a whole lot to say about forgiveness to anyone,” Thomas said. “I don’t think it’s anything the church can demand or really ask people to do.”

The congregants of Landisville were told to take their time to forgive, Nancy said, and to use each other as support. “We were blessed to have each other and to be told that,” she said.

Since arriving in jail, Keith has worked on bettering himself. He is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in criminal justice. He works as a certified peer support specialist. He taught himself to play the guitar and now teaches others. He was even baptized several years after going to prison; he is a member of Landisville Mennonite Church.

Nancy said that watching Keith’s growth has been one of the most impactful parts of the past 28 years. He is more responsible, more mature, more aware of the impact of his actions than he was almost three decades ago.

Keith is able to do this because of the unconditional love and compassion that he is able to — as he wrote in a letter to his church in March — “enjoy each day, the happy and sad moments.”

Nickels for Neighbors Impacting Youth in Brooklyn

Ronnel is 10. He’s a 4th grader. He lives with his grandma and mom (who is several years clean from substance abuse). There’s no father in the picture. Ronnel walks the short distance to the program site every Saturday during the three-month summer program operated by Radical Living (with support from Nickels for Neighbors). At school he is identified as a “problem child.” And there are times during the summer program when he does pose certain challenges to Radical Living staff – for example, he can be very stubborn and refuse to participate in group activities and, at times, he takes a defiant tone.

But Ronnel is committed to the Radical Living community and to learning how to grow vegetables, herbs, and berries – and even how to cook healthy recipes from homegrown produce. He’s grown in his ability to communicate his feelings and frustrations, and has even learned some conflict transformation tools. Last summer, the Radical Living youth and staff took a one-week trip to a farm in Vermont. Ronnel had never left the city before. In fact, he has hardly left Brooklyn. He became very homesick and almost had to be driven the five hours back to NYC. The next day, after experiencing very real homesickness, he saw a baby calf be born. For some reason – perhaps simply seeing new life enter the world or witnessing the miracle of birth – Ronnel chose to stay and participate in the group activities.

With help from Nickels for Neighbors, Radical Living has been able to provide an extra layer of support to Ronnel and his family, and a couple dozen other families very similar to Ronnel. We are thankful for the ACC family and all the church support. Thank you! We are a small non-profit in the heart of Brooklyn serving our city’s most vulnerable. We are always in need of support. If you’d like to contribute to the important work of transforming the lives of young people in Brooklyn, please visit and click “donate.”

World Fellowship Sunday 2019

Several ACC congregations participated in Mennonite World Conference’s World Fellowship Sunday on January 20. This year, the theme for World Fellowship Sunday is “Justice on the Journey: Migration and the Anabaptist Story.” Anabaptist sisters and brothers in faith around the world joined in remembering that God is with all who have been uprooted and displaced from their homes.

The Scripture passages chosen by Mennonite World Conference were Leviticus 19:33-34 and Luke 4:18-21. In Leviticus, God reminds the people that 

they were once strangers in the land of Egypt, and so must treat the aliens among them as fellow citizens. In Luke’s Gospel, meanwhile, Jesus proclaims the Jubilee year, the arrival of the promised day of good news for prisoners, the poor, and the oppressed.

At Ridgeview MC, Mu Kaw was invited to share his journey as a Karen refugee from Thailand to the United States and about his life now. Pastor Audrey Kanagy interviewed Mu Kaw. One thing that stood out to the congregation was his courage to learn despite the challenges he has faced. He is the first of his people group in Lancaster to attend college. He is currently in his second year at Millersville University. He also talked about his community receiving blankets and school kits when they were in the refugee camp, not knowing where they came from. When they came to Lancaster and began attending Habbecker’s Mennonite Church, they were surprised and delighted to see the church making blankets and putting MCC kits together. They immediately and enthusiastically jumped into this ministry and now bless each project as it goes out, just as they received those blessings in Thailand.

Thanks to Pastors Audrey Kanagy and Todd Friesen for contributing to this story.

Sister Care seminar in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Pastor Wara Widuri (front left) and Anielle Santoso, MCC worker, were the primary planners for the Indonesian Sister Care seminar. They are pictured with Rhoda Keener (back left) and Carolyn Heggen.

After nearly four years of planning, Carolyn Heggen, psychotherapist specializing in trauma healing, and Rhoda Keener (Hebron MC), Sister Care director for Mennonite Women USA, led a Sister Care leadership training seminar January 28-30, 2019 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, the epicenter of the 2006 earthquake that left over 5,700 dead, tens of thousands injured, and hundreds of thousands homeless. It was a fitting location for the Sister Care seminar which helps women heal their own trauma and trains them to help others heal.

The 89 women who attended came from the islands of Java, northern and southern Sumatra, Bali, and Papua. They represented two of the three major Anabaptist groups in Indonesia – GKMI and GITJ – as well as 4 women from local evangelical congregations. They traveled by boat, plane, train, bus and car, some for days, to get to the retreat center.

Women were particularly touched by the exercise of writing their life timeline They said they have never been asked to think about the chapters of their lives and who was the face of Jesus for them at difficult or painful times.

Indonesia is the 17th country where Mennonite Women USA’s Sister Care seminar has been shared. The manual: Sister Care: Equipping Women for Healing Ministry by Carolyn Heggen with Rhoda Keener has been translated into 13 languages.

Guess Who’s Coming to Church

Karyn Nancarvis is a member of Akron Mennonite Church and is pursuing a Master of Divinity Degree from Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS). She has served as chair of the ACC Youth Committee since 2017.

Rounding the corner in my final year as a student at EMS, I’m aware of the liminal space in which I live, work, and cultivate my calling. I’m standing in the space between – a forming vision of what’s ahead in life and ministry after seminary and a rear view of my journey through the courses, formational experiences and growth spurts -some I’ve resisted and others I’ve readily embraced.

In a recent time of discernment, I began to flesh out a deep passion for faith-based corporate worship. I’m energized in community and curious about what motivates us and keeps us engaged in our weekly encounter with God. I’m drawn to the diversity of each congregation, context and practice, so I’ve decided to experience ALL of the church communities who are members of the Atlantic Coast Conference – an ACC Tour – yes, all 32 of them within a year’s time!

What will I intentionally explore once I’m there? Four things:

  • From the perspective of a member congregant / lay person(s): What does it mean for your church to be a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference? I ask to connect briefly with someone during coffee time, or have someone write up a sentence or two to post on the blog I’ve created to reflect my experience.
  • I’m interested in the possibility to introduce myself to the senior youth (9th-12th grades) in hopes of enriching my contribution as Chair of ACC Youth Ministry Team.
  • I want to learn more about whom each church is serving. What makes a church unique in its context? Do they have a strong community outreach? Perhaps a vital house church community?
  • I’ll humbly ask each church’s pastor for a selfie (see below) with
    my to remember my experience!

I’ll finish my tour with a “Letter to ACC” summarizing my learnings and experiences and a report at the ACC Spring Assembly.

It’s been an enriching journey having worshipped with three ACC churches so far. As I tour our family of churches, I’d welcome any who feel led to pray for each congregation and me as I experience welcome and worship, interact with members, and travel to some distant meeting spaces.

Follow Karyn’s ACC Tour and accompanying reflections and selfies at


A Church Alive


It is widely recognized that energy for organized religious activity is waning. People are seeking sources outside of the church to direct their energy and interest as well as looking for answers and community in new places. This reality impacts churches across the US, regardless of denomination.  The North American church is faced with what seems to be a new faith landscape and is therefore impacted by a changing culture with new needs.

Though we face a numerically declining faith community in the US, the future of God’s reign here on earth is not bleak! We see growth globally, fresh and vibrant vision in many local communities, and a Church that is alive and adapting to new challenges. 

Communities of faith must continue to adapt its means and methods to remain fresh and vibrant.  The New Testament directive of being counter cultural witnesses to “light in darkness” has not changed and remains a relevant vision for Christ’s disciples today.

Between 1905 and 2000, eventual and current ACC congregations were involved in planting at least 50 churches from North Carolina to Massachusetts. This era, particularly the 1940s-1980s, was a time of enormous motivation to have a Mennonite presence in the region’s rural and urban communities. Rural churches were often started by congregations with families willing to relocate.  Urban church plants tended to follow the clustering of Mennonite professionals. God’s Spirit was clearly on the move through that phase of our history and produced vibrant congregations — many that thrive today. However, the dynamics that motivated this movement are not as prevalent today; church planting, at least on much of the east coast, has not been a priority in recent years. Other methods of meeting present needs seem to have come and gone, each with its good fruit and perfect time, from the widespread sending of missionaries abroad to the apparent usefulness of church bulletins.

Today, congregations are finding new and different ways of living out their vision and mission. Congregations experiencing the cyclical nature of decline and revitalization have found new and inventive ways of adapting how they extend God’s love and welcome members into their faith community.

Conestoga Mennonite Church

CMC recently affirmed a core vision for existing “to benefit others” through which leaders evaluate each of the congregation’s ministries. This way of evaluation is paired with a change to their constitution.  Anyone with a vision for a new ministry, as well as the integrity to lead it, receives an automatic blessing and partnership from the congregation to pursue the proposed vision.

Violet Beam, member at Conestoga, prepares for the Twin Valley Food Pantry’s monthly food distribution night.

Reflecting on these changes, Pastor Bob Petersheim notes that “The above foci led to several dynamic ministries that has made CMC known in the community.  CMC is seen as a place deeply invested in meeting relevant needs such as our food pantry that feeds on average 140 households a month; a no-cost counseling center that brings persons through the doors that would not open a church door for any other reason — let alone a Mennonite church door; a network of safe houses that has rescued woman and children out of domestic violence, etc.”

Forest Hills Mennonite Church

At FHMC, leaders have been intentional about creating a safe and welcoming atmosphere for those without a “cradle Mennonite” pedigree. Pastor Jon Carlson notes his own lack of a “clean, lifelong Menno connection.” Even though he embraces Mennonite faith and identity for himself, he does not hide the fact that he had not heard the term “Mennonite” until age 14.  “By being there and being transparent about my lack of deep ethnic Menno heritage, I think I’m helping to create a space that says “being Mennonite does not require being ethnically Mennonite.” 

Becky Degan, pastor of worship and faith formation at Forest Hills, is another non-ethnic Mennonite. She leads worship for a congregation that still has a deep appreciation for Mennonite Hymnody along with various other genres and styles. Making space for the spectrum of worship preferences has taken work. “I think one of the most important ways we have navigated this as we’ve welcomed more families with preferences outside the ‘Menno hymns’ tradition is through conversation and relationship,” said Degan. A recent Sunday School elective series focused on inviting individuals to choose a song for the group to sing and then to share why it was important to them. “To hear someone share why a song or genre is important to them – to put a name and face to a song – went a long way in helping people to accept and participate more fully in different kinds of music during worship. Also, giving people a voice to express why Mennonite hymns (or contemporary music) are important to them helped them feel heard and valued.”

Blossom Hill Mennonite Church

Sharing God’s love by pursuing change in our world is a central aspect of the outward ministry of BHMC.  “Our work against injustice is based on the greatest commandment of loving God, self, neighbor and even our enemies,” says Michelle Dula, lead pastor at Blossom Hill. “It is this kind of love that Jesus emulated as he reached out to people on the margins.  The basis for what we do always has to be love.”

Imelda (right) with pastor Tina Schlabach of Shalom Mennonite in Tuscon, who learned Imelda’s story when she visited her in the detention center. This is Imelda after her release.

Recently, Blossom Hill shared this love through collaborating with a few other Mennonite communities around the country to raise an almost $12,500 bail fee to help release a Nicaraguan woman from a detention center so she can work on her asylum case.

There are many issues that remain for the Church to address including a fractured denomination and a decline in numbers in many congregations. Some aspects of how we “do church” will need to die or be remolded.  The good news, however, is that Christ promises that his body will do more than survive. We live in an era of (constant) change and must continue to adapt the “how” of loving our world, meeting its needs in dynamic ways, and making disciples. ACC congregations, each with its own unique identity and vision, continue to embrace and bring about the upside down Kingdom.