Work in Progress Gospel Band singers, from left, Rebeka Moeljono, Grace Eidmann, Sandy Miller, Ann Jacobs, Lefuarn Harvey and John Lapp, at the ground-blessing ceremony for a new Mennonite Church USA office building adjacent to Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary. (Photo by Ryan Miller)
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Jessica Herschberger and Annette Brill Bergstresser
Wednesday, June 30, 2010

ELKHART, Ind. (Mennonite Church USA) — On June 15, approximately 200 people gathered on the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) campus in Elkhart to bless the ground that is to be the site for the denomination’s new office building. The energy-efficient building, which will be located adjacent to the campus, will house offices for staff of Mennonite Church USA Executive Leadership, Mennonite Education Agency, Mennonite Mission Network and other organizations.

“Elkhart has always been a city of innovation, generosity, and resourcefulness,” said Dick Moore, mayor of Elkhart, during the ceremony, “and I trust that these attributes will provide a firm foundation as you share the message of reconciliation and service with others across the street and around the world.” 

Joining together, Investing in hope” campaign—and spoke about how the decision was made to maintain denominational offices in Newton, Kan., and Elkhart, Ind., along with dispersed staff in other parts of the country.  

“We believe that a new facility will enable us to strengthen our mission while practicing sound stewardship,” Stutzman said, noting that savings from the building will allow for additional funds to be redirected to the ministries of Mennonite Mission Network and other agencies of Mennonite Church USA. “We also hope that this location will help create synergies across the church by being located near the AMBS community.” 

During the ceremony, Stutzman expressed gratitude to the donors, who were able to give a total of $10.4 million during a time of economic hardships. Of the total amount raised, $5.8 million will help benefit and strengthen existing ministry programs, with a majority of that going to Mennonite Mission Network. The other $4.6 million will go towards the $7.2 million total building cost.  

The program included the symbolic planting of a tree on the AMBS campus. To break the ground, Wilbur Bontrager, campaign vice-chair, used a hoe that had belonged to Christian Zook Yoder, former president of Mennonite Board of Missions, to represent the pioneers of the faith “who have helped us get to where we are today.” Cora Brown, pastor of Church Without Walls in Elkhart, watered the tree, symbolizing the water of the Spirit blessing the new building.  

Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference. Prayers were given by Carlos Romero, executive director of Mennonite Education Agency; and Bill Hochstetler, chair of Mennonite Mission Network’s Board of Directors.

Stutzman also invited Hilary Scarsella of Spark Renewal, a group that has been expressing concerns about the decision-making processes regarding the building project, to speak during the event.  

“We stand here today, not in an effort to spoil the celebration, but because we believe that the body of Christ can hold the tension of divergent views, even if institutions must make choices that cannot,” Scarsella stated. 

Stutzman responded to concerns from Spark Renewal that the campaign did not fully engage as many representatives from Racial/Ethnic groups in decision-making processes as was desired, by noting that the denomination’s Executive Board has decided to give a 10-percent tithe of any new funds donated to the building project to various Racial/Ethnic ministries and needs. 

“We truly desire to be a church for all people, and we want this building to assist us in that task,” Stutzman said. “May God enable us to do so.”

The site contractor, DJ Construction, began construction on the new building June 16. DJ Construction is headquartered in Goshen, Ind., with a second location in Warsaw, Ind.

“They have been very accommodating of our sometimes unusual needs, including our plans to work with gifts of construction material and volunteer labor,” said Campaign Director Peter Graber regarding DJ Construction. Donors have offered materials—such as wood trim and interior doors—and labor to help construct the building.

Fundraising for the campaign continues; see the “Joining together, Investing in hope” website for more information:  www.mennoniteusa.org/JoiningTogether

Jessica Herschberger is an intern with Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Women USA. Annette Brill Bergstresser is news service coordinator for Mennonite Church USA.

 

 

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