by Rose Bender, pastor
Whitehall Mennonite Church began in the early 1990s when retired pastor, Bob Walter, was out sailing and felt the call to plant a new church in the Lehigh Valley. He had a dream to create a place for those who were weary from life, giving them a place to belong and to share the good news of the gospel. Despite support from other Franconia Conference churches, forming this new fellowship was a challenge. There were many times that they almost gave up. But the community people who came found a welcoming home and received lots of practical support.
Today, WMC carries that same spirit of hospitality and care for the community. In 2009, the congregation supported a refugee family from Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). This experience has changed the face and enlarged the heart of the congregation. Half of the congregation is now Karen-speaking. Karen songs, scripture, and greetings are a part of our common life. Each Sunday we gather after worship to eat together. The variety in food reflects the variety in our congregational culture. We often say that this eclectic group of people would not be together if it were not for Jesus.
Born out of a missional experiment, our congregation has always been willing to experiment with new ways of being church together. We have frequently invited young leaders like Samantha Lioi, Danilo Sanchez, and many summer interns to join our work.
Most recently we called Melky Tirtasaputra, a newly-credentialled leader from Nation’s Worship Center (Philadelphia), to be our associate pastor. This is the first time that an Indonesian pastor will be leading a non-Indonesian congregation in our conference. Melky and his wife, Vina, bring spiritual maturity, hospitality, stability, and an entrepreneurial vision that the congregation needs. The congregation will provide an opportunity for them to test out their gifts as they prepare to do church planting in the future.
The congregational focus for 2020 is “Leadership as Discipleship.” We have restructured our leadership team to create more opportunities for growth. We also continue to work at increasing our intercultural capacity. Ah Paung, one of our servant leaders, said, “We practice here for what is already happening around the throne room: many nations, many languages, many tribes praising the living God.”
- Discipleship training and maturity
- Creativity and stability
- Openness to the leading of the Spirit