By Stephen Kriss
This week I attended the funeral of David G Landis at Blooming Glen (PA) Mennonite Church. David helped steer a small neighborhood market in Telford, PA to become a family-owned regional chain, committed to essentially operating the business on the Golden Rule. The meetinghouse was packed. We celebrated David’s entrepreneurial spirit and his capacity to do good business while remaining committed and engaged with the church, all while shaping his own family with those same commitments. Dave and his wife, Carolyn, welcomed me as a Western Pennsylvania interloper, to feel appreciated, challenged, and loved in the community of Mennonites of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
A few pews in front of me was Cory Longacre, our Conference treasurer. Cory’s dad, Henry Longacre, died last summer. I also attended his funeral at Swamp Mennonite Church in Quakertown, PA. Henry had served on our Conference properties committee till his death. Henry’s life was also deeply shaped by the church and his own entrepreneurial capacities. Henry, too, included me in ways I never expected with respect, care, and challenge. I’m grateful for his questions, guidance, and family legacy.
In the 1980s, both men helped shape a critical part of our Conference with the idea of purchasing commercial property in Souderton, PA that could help sustain and extend our ministry. Along with Wayne Clemens (Perkasie congregation), Henry Rosenberger (Plains congregation), and Bryan Hunsberger (Souderton congregation), these men dreamed of a time and place when we might need the capacity of secondary incomes to extend what historian John Ruth has called “the right fellowship.”
As a result of their foresight, that commercial property now helps match every donor dollar that Mosaic Conference receives. It also helps support our Missional Operational Grants that support new initiatives. And, it provides space for the thriving ministry of Care and Share Shoppes, a Conference Related Ministry that generates nearly a million dollars annually to the work of Mennonite Central Committee. It’s also the home to a branch of Ten Thousand Villages and to medical practices.
We have been blessed by businesspersons who combined their deep love for the church with their risk-taking and financial skills to help sustain our ministries long term. Their collaboration and charisma mean that we are a different kind of Anabaptist community. I am committed to honoring their legacy through our work and ministry. The Gospel means treating our neighbors well no matter who they are nor how close they live to us. I see this entrepreneurial spirit thrive in both our traditional and emerging communities of Mosaic.
As we look at 2023, we would be irresponsible to not admit the challenges ahead of us, but we also need to acknowledge our faith in Jesus and the legacy of pastors and leaders who have gone before us. We are called to be both faithful and entrepreneurial, pastoral and apostolic.
I begin this year anew committed to our work, building on our faithful foundations and the capacities of our marketplace and ministry worlds. We know that Jesus is Lord of it all. Though it is challenging, it is also essential to carry this faith into the future together, from our newest church plants that stretch from Tijuana, Mexico to Baltimore, our past missional endeavors that have taken root in Vermont and North Jersey, our newest Mosaic communities in Florida, and our communities with 300-year-old cloud of witness cemeteries like West Swamp and Towamencin. The steadiness and entrepreneurial impulse of the Spirit will not only sustain us but take us to places we haven’t even yet imagined.
May the new year be full of possibility and hope. May we work with faith and steadfast love. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Stephen Kriss is the Executive Minister of Mosaic Conference.
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