SOUDERTON, Pa. — A historic worship service marked a step toward the possible reconciliation of Eastern District and Franconia Mennonite conferences in 2020.
The service at Souderton Mennonite Church was part of a Nov. 2-3 joint assembly of the two Mennonite Church USA conferences, which overlap in Pennsylvania.
With shared roots in the Philadelphia area Mennonite settlement, Eastern District and Franconia separated in 1847 over differences in practice.
More than 300 people gathered for the reconciliation worship service, where singing in Indonesian, Spanish and English highlighted the conferences’ linguistic diversity.
“Leading a multicultural team gave me a small glimpse of heaven,” said worship leader Tami Good of Swamp Mennonite Church in Quakertown. “Hearing people lift their voices in their own native tongue reminded me of the beauty of God’s creation and the complexity of his colorful design.”
A reconciliatory action led by Eastern District moderator Jim Musselman and Franconia moderator John Goshow offered words of apology and forgiveness, expressing hope that the two conferences might “look well upon each other.”
On Saturday, conversation around tables focused on eight areas in which each conference operates somewhat differently.
Structure teams received feedback to form a proposal for a reconciled conference structure at a joint assembly, to be held May 4.
Each conference met in separate business sessions. Franconia’s included recognizing new and re-emerging partners in ministry with a greeting from Carlos Martinez Garcia of Mexico City, moderator of the Counsel of Evangelical Anabaptist Mennonite Churches of Mexico. This association was begun by mission workers from Franconia Conference and will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year.
San Francisco Chinese Mennonite Church was welcomed as a member after a year of exploring the meaning of a California congregation’s membership in a Pennsylvania-based conference.
Pastor Joshua So and his wife, Anita, attended the assembly.
San Francisco Chinese joins three other communities from Southern California who joined last year and will be served by Jeff Wright as the California-based leadership minister.