PHILADELPHIA (Mennonite Mission Network) — A new partnership is emerging among Anabaptist churches, related conferences and agencies in Philadelphia. Recently, Philadelphia Ministry Partnership’s facilitator team reflected on some of the vision and accomplishments so far. The partnership is a catalytic effort at improving the health, outreach and leadership development of all the partners and includes: Freeman Miller, Philadelphia District bishop, Lancaster Mennonite Conference; Sharon Williams, consultant, Nueva Vida Norristown New Life Church; Ertell Whigham, conference minister, Franconia Mennonite Conference; Juan Marrero, associate pastor of Second Mennonite Church, Philadephia; Yvonne Platts, partnership administrative coordinator.
1. In the area of community development in Philadelphia, what is happening, both positive and negative?
Ertell Whigam: I see evidence that churches are starting to work together in an ecumenical way. But there’s always the temptation for power and recognition. On the positive side, pastors are realizing God’s provision for the work they are called to do.
Juan Marrero: Property values are going up where people are taking better care of their homes. But it’s hard to get folks to take care of the whole community. Mayor John Street’s administration and other city leaders are also taking initiative to reduce urban blight and the churches are working with them. I credit this to the prayers of the saints for their communities.
Yvonne Platts: YouthNet, a vibrant after school program for high school youth, is a positive partnership between schools, churches and the communities. But where are the Mennonites? We are not involved. We need to be at the table representing the peace position and opposing military recruitment in underserved communities. Where is our voice in addressing street violence?
2. What do you think should be happening? Where can the church grow and/or change in the coming years?
Whigham: Leaders must be open to change and always growing in our understanding of what God wants to do.
Sharon Wiliams: As we go deeper in our congregational and cross-cultural relationships, we realize the need to work with issues of cultural bias and racism. We believe this will strengthen our unity in Christ and our ability to work together towards God’s shalom for the city.
Platts: The Anabaptists need to be involved in urban change. Where is our impact?
Freeman Miller: (Mennonite agencies) do wonderful relief/development/mission work around the world and we are trying to find ways to do the same kind of work locally, with the help of our partners. Our goal is to find brand new ways for our congregations, Philadelphia Mennonite High School, community centers, conferences and agencies to partner together in spiritual and social transformation that will impact life in the city.
Whigham: One of the things we’re working on is to start businesses that will generate income for ministry. This is another way all our entities can work together. Pastors must develop a business ministry mindset.