Reconciliation and Transformation
by Michael Shenk III and Aldine Musser
Northern District Ministers
As followers of Jesus in the Anabaptist tradition, Northern District is working toward reconciliation with God, each other, and the world.
We believe the Racial Justice Task Force is an important part of this work. Recently, Northern District funded a tour of the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center in Harrisonburg, VA. for District pastors and their families. The tour was a way of increasing awareness of the horrific history of enslaved Africans in the United States. Stan MacLin, from New Song Anabaptist Fellowship, pastored by Basil Marin, founded the center in 2010. Since Stan’s death in 2020 from Covid19 complications, his wife, Diana, guides the tours and manages the center.
In a recent racial awareness training, Glen Guyton reminded us that love involves commitment and sacrifice. We pray that God will transform our hearts and minds, so that we may truly love our neighbors as ourselves.
Transformation and reconciliation take shape in a variety of ways in Northern District faith communities.
One example is Lindale Mennonite Church. A common narrative of the past is complex. Opportunities to speak the truth of painful experiences helps to open the door for reconciliation. Pastor Robert Yutzy is a deep listener and cares about the healing of the past, even as he envisions the future.
A recent survey at Zion Mennonite Church affirmed a type of transformation and reconciliation in a new model of pastoral ministry.
Hannah Schrock Leaman, Congregational Leadership Chair, says,” Zion continues to encounter God through our new approach to pastoral leadership. Our pastoral team model has encouraged us to see God’s goodness in diversity of leadership styles and gifts that together with lay leadership draw us closer together and closer to God. We witness God’s faithfulness in our community during a challenging and divisive time for our country and our world.”
“God has used the challenges of the pandemic, says Lead Pastor Sarah Piper, and Zion’s desire for pastoral leadership to increase our faith in God and our love for one another.”
Pastoral transitions offer opportunities for transformation and restoration. After several pastoral transitions over the space of 2-3 years, Grace Mennonite Fellowship in Lacy Spring called Luann Yutzy as an intentional transitional interim pastor. Luann guided the church through a process designed to prepare the church for the calling of a new lead pastor.
Transformation and restoration are common themes in times of grief associated with significant loss.
In the space of about three months Valley View Mennonite Church, located in the small rural community of Bergton/Criders, experienced the death of a 16-year-old in a car crash and a fire that destroyed the Bergton Grocery, known as “Susan’s”. These losses were the latest in a series of losses through the years that began with the closing of the elementary school in 1987 and Green Valley Clinic in 2018 that served the residents since 1949.
As a way of providing care to the church and community Pr. Mike Shenk composed music to commemorate the most recent loss of life and livelihood. Transition and restoration are referenced in the refrain to “Susan’s Song”
Susan, can you hear us singing,
Singing a sad, sad song
Well, you know the morning’s coming
But the nights can get so long.