by Danilo Sanchez, Ripple congregation
From its origins, Ripple church has been “Christ-centered, Community-focused.” The founding pastors, Tom and Carolyn Albright, sought to have a ripple-effect in our neighborhoods and beyond. The ripple starts with the love of God and loving ourselves and then moves out toward our neighbors and community as we work toward peace and justice in Allentown. Our worshipping community is made up of people from various racial, economic, and educational backgrounds; yet our desire is to be one body that reflects the beautiful kingdom of God. As 5 co-pastors, we are each committed to this work of reconciliation, empowerment, and rippling out into the community.
Anyone who comes through the doors at Ripple knows they are welcome, safe, and can experience the love of Christ. Everyone is invited to participate in the service and use their gifts in different ways. Many Ripple members find themselves living on the margins and carry the mentality: “I’m broken. I’m always the person in need. I don’t have anything to offer.” As a church, we work to change that mentality and do ministry “with” the people. Doing ministry “with” people focuses on relationships and empowering others, rather than doing things “to” or “for” others. As pastors, we do our best to have reasonable expectations and provide enough support so that our members can thrive. Over the years, this model of doing church has proven successful.
Each Sunday we share “ripples,” which are instances over the course of the previous week when we’ve seen God’s Spirit at work in, around, or through us. At Ripple we value the input and voices of our members so the fourth Sunday of every month we have what’s called “Prayer, Praise, and Planning” (PPP) to make decisions as a community, resolve any conflicts, and dream together. Just the other week a new person came on a PPP Sunday and said, “I’ve never seen a church do this before. It’s so cool.”
It is a blessing and a joy to see the transformation of those who, at first, were hesitant to be part of our group, eventually participate fully. They find a sense of belonging and the love of Jesus which invites them to make changes in their life. This is one of the benefits of being “Christ-centered.” We don’t have rigid boundaries about who is in or who is out, but rather point toward Christ. As a pastoral staff, we proclaim Jesus and allow each individual to decide for themselves if they are going to follow him. We know that spiritual formation is not a linear process but rather a spiral or even zig-zag. People may move toward Jesus, but then make decisions that are contrary to being a disciple. So, we focus on working “with” people, offering grace when they stumble and celebrating spiritual or life achievements when they succeed. Through this way of doing church we have found the difference it makes when as pastors we are present with people as we seek for form a more stable, healthy community.
A difficult part about pastoring at Ripple, however, is the fact that many of those who attend live very transient lives. We may invest a large amount of time, love, and trust, only for that person or family to move away unexpectedly. So we do our best to hold things loosely and invest in the people that God has placed before us.
One exciting thing that has been happening at Ripple is our Mime Ministry. A group of young men have been expressing their worship and love of God through dance. Even the young kids have been getting involved now. I don’t know many Mennonite churches that have a dance time, but that’s what happens when you make space for different cultures and ways of doing church.
- for Ripple members who are seeking freedom from destructive behaviors
- for more volunteers to help with our growing kid’s ministry
- for our community center to help those in need