NMC Blog

Experience with Mosaic Institute’s Class

Intro Mosaic Conf

On April 6th I began my first course with Mosaic Mennonite Conference, titled “Introduction to Mosaic Conference,” taught by Steve Kriss and Rose Bender Cook. Though I am currently licensed as a pastor, I am not yet officially ordained as a Mennonite pastor. The licensing process is a time of learning and discernment to make sure I am ready to be ordained when the time comes. Mosaic’s process towards ordination is a bit more involved than Atlantic Coast Conference’s, so upon transferring conferences, my ordination timeline and requirements changed as well. One of these requirements is taking four classes from the Mosaic Institute. The first class focused on the origins of Anabaptism, the evolution of the Mosaic Conference, and what Mosaic, as well as Mennonites, look like today.
Though we have several assignments in this course, some of which are still to come as the course progresses, one of the main elements was hearing each other‘s “path towards Anabaptism,” encapsulated in our life stories. As I heard each of my classmate’s “pathway” stories throughout this class, I was struck by the way that God moves in every person‘s life. Many of these stories were heartbreaking, some even funny, but all unique - in fact, with just 8 people in our group, we still represented every race, gender, and many different cultures and ethnicities. Yet, there is one thing that brought us all together: the way that Jesus has moved in each and every one of our lives.
We began sharing these stories in our first class over Zoom and continued to share them throughout our intensive in-person classes in Souderton and Philadelphia, from April 17th to 21st. These classes, outlined below, were held in multiple different Mennonite historical sites, as well as current Mosaic churches. In conjunction with learning a lot about Mennonites past and present, we also continued to listen to one another's stories. This provided an opportunity to continue thinking about the individual believer as well as our personal relationships with Christ, as we learned so much about the collective church and broader history.

Intensive Course - April 17th to 21st
Dinner and Conversation at Zion Mennonite Church
We began the intensive part of our course by meeting at Zion Mennonite Church in Souderton, PA for dinner. This was our first time meeting altogether in person. We continued getting to know one another, hearing each other's stories, and began learning about Anabaptist history through Zion’s long history in that community. It was exciting to see where Hunter pastored for so long and to begin getting to know these other incredible pastors and leaders in my cohort.

Mennonite Heritage Center
The first full day began at the Mennonite Heritage Center, led by Joel Alderfer and Regina Wenger, in Harleysville, PA. This is a phenomenal museum that outlines the history of the Anabaptist movement and Mennonite people with preserved artifacts, alongside a glimpse of where Mennonites are today. Careful attention was paid to not only how Anabaptism originated, but also the many twists, turns, and difficulties they faced as a people, as well as the influence they had on the world around them, influences which we can still see today.

Penn Foundation with Sue Howes
After a quick lunch at an authentic Vietnamese restaurant in Souderton, we went to the Penn Foundation and met with Chaplain Sue Howes, our very own Anne Schloneger’s sister! There we learned about the fascinating story that led to the foundation of this institution: once Anabaptists successfully got the Selective Service Program started for conscientious objectors, many drafted Mennonites worked in sanitariums, the mental hospitals of that time, in lieu of active military duty. When they saw the deplorable conditions of these “hospitals,” they bravely exposed what was going on. The outcry in response allowed the establishment of the Penn Foundation, which was one of the first institutions to treat people as humans, regardless of their mental health conditions. This was revolutionary at the time, and I am proud to know that I am descended from people who cared about mental health just as much as I do today.

Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust
The following day began in Germantown, right outside of Philadelphia, at the site of the first permanent Mennonite Meeting House in the United States. I learned that some of the first Mennonites from Germany settled in that area in 1683, hence the name. Within just five years, this community was fighting for justice and loving its neighbor, even as people seeking refuge in a foreign land. This community created the first formal written petition against slavery, as they believed owning humans as property went against everything the Bible taught. Though the petition never gained enough traction in the communities around them to have any effect, I was encouraged to learn that Mennonites have been standing up for the oppressed from their origins.

Rittenhouse Town
Following this, we journeyed to Rittenhouse Town, a small village created around one of the first independent paper mills in the area. This was started by some Mennonites in order to be able to print their own literature, their own Bibles, without being taxed by Britain for the paper. The paper mill, and the community that formed around it, helped that area prosper and slowly become what the Philadelphia area is today, all owed to the Rittenhouse Mennonites.

Philadelphia Praise Center
Friday afternoon, after Rittenhouse, we went to South Philadelphia to one of Mosaic’s Indonesian churches, the Philadelphia Praise Center, pastored by Aldo Siahaan. There we were blessed by a delicious homemade Indonesian lunch while we heard from a couple of Everence representatives about all of the financial resources available to Mosaic pastors. Following, we heard all about this church’s miraculous history from Pastor Aldo and the amazing way that God brought Aldo and many other Indonesian Christians to this church, and eventually to Mosaic Conference. Learning about PPC provided a glimpse of the type of conference Mosaic strives to be: truly intercultural, passionate about God’s people and His Word, and a conference that desires to work together across so many different types of churches. This would be confirmed as I continued to learn about Mosaic throughout the weekend.
Following our time at PPC, we had dinner at an authentic Mexican restaurant with the pastor of Centro de Alabanza de Filadelfia, a Spanish-speaking church that originally began with PPC, and eventually broke off because the church got too big. I tried huitlacoche (corn fungus) tacos for the first time!

Mosaic Offices
Saturday morning was spent at the Mosaic Offices in Landsdale, on the grounds of Christopher Dock Mennonite Schools. There we continued to learn about Anabaptist history and the “polygenesis” theory of their origination. Steve Kriss taught us about the multiple originations of the Mennonite theology and people, and how it has evolved over time, along with the central theological values that have stayed consistent.
Then, over a lunch of phenomenal Indian food, we heard from Ertell Wigham, the former pastor of Norristown Nueva Vida, a bilingual, tri-racial church. He told us about God’s instruction for him and other pastors in the area to combine a white church, a black community, and a Hispanic church. Through lots of prayer and struggle, the church community was established and continues to this day. Despite their many differences, this community continued to work towards unity and interculturalism; their church is such a powerful example of the body of Christ!

FernRock Retreat
From the Mosaic offices, we made our way to FernRock Retreat, a beautiful place set apart from the busy-ness of this world, surrounded by nature and intentional opportunities for connecting with God, created and operated by another Mosaic Pastor, Sandy Drescher-Lehman and her husband, John. We read a brief devotional about Sabbath and then were instructed to go off by ourselves, not speak to one another, and just spend sabbath time in God’s presence. After going, learning, thinking, and discussing almost non-stop for 3 days at that point, this was a welcome breath of air. I got to spend over an hour of uninterrupted time just walking, observing God’s beautiful creation, and talking to Him out loud, without any expectations or fear. I got the chance to process the many things I had learned and listen to God. I am so grateful that Mosaic values sabbath time and understands how important quiet and rest are, not just learning. What a gift!

Sunday Worship at Salford Mennonite Church
The last part of these intensive classes was attending church on Sunday morning. I attended Salford Mennonite Church so that I could witness and celebrate the ordination of Pastor Brooke Martin, Mosaic’s Youth Director. Though I missed Neffsville, I appreciated the opportunity to worship without serving or leading and to experience a different type of church. Salford is theologically more progressive than Neffsville, yet more traditional in its worship styles. I found this fascinating! Brooke invited pastor and professor Michelle Hershberger to preach at her ordination service, and it was an honor to hear someone like her preach about this call to ministry. It made me look forward to my own ordination in a few years!

I confess that I was not looking forward to this course when it was first presented to me. I had already taken Anabaptist history in seminary (albeit taught by a Lutheran) and I did not see the usefulness in taking time out of everything that I do to hear things I already knew. Yes, I was told that this class is also to get to know other pastors and to build community, but I did not see the point of building relationships with pastors I would not likely see again, as they were from all over the country. However, I trusted that God led us to Mosaic and that He was leading me into this course, so I knew I would be humbled out of this attitude - God humbled me very quickly. I was so quickly moved by learning everyone’s stories. These stories, mixed with learning about the history of my ancestors from a Mennonite perspective this time, made it all come to life in a deeply personal and impactful way that I had never experienced before.
I got to see the way my story as a Christian, as a woman, as a Mennonite, and as a member of Neffsville Mennonite Church, fits into the larger story of God’s people and my Anabaptist ancestors who came to Lancaster County so long ago. Experiencing all of this, in conjunction with the status of the Mennonite church today and all that Mosaic is doing to live into being a Christ-like church, I was struck with a deep sense of God moving and speaking within me about my future and the future of Neffsville Mennonite Church. I spent most of my sabbath time, and much time afterward, trying to discern what God was trying to say and what He wanted me to do. I became frustrated when God fell silent the more I kept asking, the more I kept saying “Okay God, I’m here, what do you want me to do?” and heard no response. It was only when I was about to give up and join the rest of the group that I felt God chuckle and softly say “My child, it’s not time for you to know yet.” I knew God was moving in me: I sensed Him tell me that He is moving in Neffsville and that an exciting future awaits us, but that was all that I needed to know for the moment. I am now working on trusting God in His timing and His plans, not my own, impatient, excited self.
Coming to the end of this course, I still have much to learn, and the future of Neffsville is uncertain, as is anything in the future. In the meantime, I am confident in God’s hand in bringing us to Mosaic for a reason, I am certain that I am exactly where God wants me to be, and I eagerly, yet patiently (trying!) await whatever God has for us at Neffsville, in partnership with Mosaic Mennonite Conference.

Editor's Note: As part of their experience in this introductory class, participants were asked to research one of the Great Cloud of Witnesses within Mennonite history. Eszter chose to write about Annie C. Funk, a Mennonite missionary in India over 100 years ago. Her research, presented as a prayer of lament, may be found in an additional blog post


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