More than 180 pastors, lay leaders, and others interested in the worship arts gathered at Laurelville Mennonite Church Center for rich worship, resourcing, fellowship, and visioning at the 27th annual Music and Worship Leaders Retreat, January 10-12, 2014.
The theme, A (Re)New Covenant, challenged participants to notice what God might be speaking to the present and future church. Preachers from different streams of the Christian tradition were invited to answer the question: What is the word that the church in the 21st century most needs to hear? Amy Yoder McGloughlin, program planner and pastor of Germantown Mennonite Church noted, “We have three different preachers, from three different traditions, and three different ages and stages in life. This is not just a Mennonite conversation. This is an interdenominational conversation, an intergenerational conversation.”
Roy C. Nilsen, retired Lutheran pastor, Des Moines, Ia., opened with the question, “What do I think is the most important thing God is saying to the church today? At first glance, it seems a preposterous inquiry, doesn’t it?” Nilsen went on to suggest that uncertainty and humility are gifts of God that are particularly relevant to the church in this time.
Rev. Jarret Kerbel, pastor of St. Martin-in-the Fields, Philadelphia, called the church to embrace dying to ways of dominance, privilege and elitism. “Let’s get to the dying, because we know that in Christ the dying leads to new life.”
Megan Ramer, Pastor of Chicago Community Mennonite Church, Chicago, pointed out that the message brought by heavenly messengers throughout scripture is particularly relevant in the face of a changing church: “Fear not.” She gave the reminder that change, whether individual or church-wide, can be painful, but that God remains faithful.
The group also engaged the question of “a (re)new covenant,” through music, drama, and visual arts. Ken Nafziger, program planner and Professor of Music at Eastern Mennonite University, and Marilyn Houser Hamm, of Mennonite Church Canada, provided musical leadership for the weekend. Nafziger noted to the group, “There is nothing that we do together that is more important than the way we sing and what we sing.” Bonnie Harr, a first-time participant from Latrobe, Pa., remarked, “Oh, the music! Oh, the music! We have to teach the world to sing.”
Humorous and often moving interpretations of scripture were also core components of worship. Ted Swartz, actor and playwright of Ted and Company, joined with participants in writing and presenting the texts. He also debuted the first act of his new show "Learning to Play," along with musical collaborator Justin Yoder of Salford, Pa., on cello. This new play by Swartz gives voice to our fears and hopes when a faith community engages in questions regarding sexuality.
The annual Retreat has become an important time for people to connect and build relationships across MCUSA and MC Canada, as well as other denominations. “There’s something special about how people enter into this weekend. They come with anticipation and with a certain level of trust—in one another and in the work of the spirit,” said Angela Dietzel, Laurelville Program Director. “Some refer to this weekend experience as a ‘thin place’, a time when we feel little distance between heaven and earth and we catch glimpses of the divine in our midst.”
The 28th annual Music and Worship Leaders Retreat is scheduled for January 9-11, 2015.
Photo: Individuals expressed their questions, laments, hopes, and prayers on colorful flags that were strung above the worship space during the Music and Worship Leaders Retreat at Laurelville Mennonite Church Center, January 10-12, 2014. (photo by Kreg Ulery)
Sunny skies and mild temperatures welcomed 70 motorcycle enthusiasts to Laurelville for the 25th annual Mennocycle retreat August 16-18. This year’s participants rode in from 7 states and 1 province to enjoy a weekend of fellowship, entertainment, worship and, of course, the rides. One group enjoyed a 210-mile ride through the hills of West Virginia. The other group ventured into Pittsburgh to see the Knit the Bridge project and meet one of its main planners, Amanda Gross.
Michael Yoder, Executive Director of Laurelville, provided devotional words for the weekend. He
challenged participants to reflect on milestones of their journey, to draw meaning from them and use them to set the direction for the future. Jeff Raught, Mennonite actor/musician/storyteller from Talmage, PA, entertained the group on Saturday evening with a performance of music and thought-provoking humor.
This year’s gathering marked Mennocycle’s silver anniversary, and participants shared memories of past events and the ties that bring them back year after year. While based at
Laurelville’s location in western Pennsylvania, Mennocycle’s history has included events held in Pipestem, West Virginia; Ontario; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Harrisonburg, Virginia; and Shipshewana, Indiana. The themes of renewing friendship and building new relationships are highlights of the annual event. Dan Hess, one of the founders of the group shared, “What started as a daydream about a weekend gathering of Mennonites...who were into serious motorcycle touring has evolved into a network of significant friendships stretching over 25 years.” Maynard Brubaker, another long-time Mennocycler, has always made a point to be there, even when it means rearranging his calendar to make it work. Over the years, the group has evolved to include not only Mennonites, but friends and neighbors who hear about it and share a passion for motorcycling.
Motorcycle styles may change over the years, but the friendships forged during Mennocycle
weekend at Laurelville endure and grow. Next year’s gathering is still in the planning stages, so check back for the 2014 dates and location.
MOUNT PLEASANT, PA-Laurelville’s summer camp is over and was a success! Over
200 children participated in the “Peace Rocks” program and by the end of the
week, campers left with a better understanding on how they can contribute to
the world, peacefully. From creek hikes, to mail call and soggy sleep outs,
summer campers left with stronger friendships with each other, and God.
Angela Dietzel, Program Director, was very pleased with it
all, “Summer Camp is always a highlight of the year at Laurelville and this
year was no exception. We had a tremendous staff, many of whom have grown up
coming to camp. It was great to watch them come together as one and put their
all into making a great experience for all the campers.”
Prior to arrival, campers had the opportunity to memorize
scripture to get a camp shirt. Taking the number of verses as to the camper’s
age, Psalm 145 was recited and retained, and then taught. After breakfast and
dinner, campers filled the Youth Pavilion for “the gathering” where they were
led in worship by Laurelville’s summer staff and taught by various Bible
teachers. Although the teachers changed weekly, the theme of Peace Rocks was
brought to life from various approaches. Along with the teachings, Brody Thomas
wrote a worship song for all of the campers to learn “Always Be There”.
Laurelville welcomed a few new Bible teachers to summer
staff as well. Rocky Carr, who is currently a seminary student and LMCC
Association member and Joe Furry, Pastor at Martinsburg Mennonite Church,
joined the rankings of an already phenomenal Bible teaching team.
Daily, campers had the opportunity to participate in creek
hikes, crafts and the ropes course. Along with these activities, they were
offered “special interests” which were beyond the normal camp activities.
Special interest sign-ups were before breakfast and lunch. For a camper to get
their first choice, their cabin would have to win an early entrance into the
meals. This was done by either lining up straight and silently, or whatever
else the summer staff would have them compete to do. Of course, during free
time, you could find most campers in the pool cooling off after a hot day of
This was Michael Yoder’s, Executive Director for
Laurelville, first Summer Camp Experience, “It’s exciting seeing the faith formation,
the joy of camp, and the development of friendships that happened this year at
Summer Camp, both in the campers and the summer staff. As I played games with
the campers, listened to counselors share and heard reports from parents, I
simply give thanks to God for a great summer of ministry. It’s exciting what
God is doing at Laurelville.”
Overall, Summer Camp was a huge success, as our Explorers
Camp was at capacity and Mini Camp was just short of filling. Everyone is
excited for next summer already! Congregations are encouraged to give their
church families feedback from their summer camp experience, and to begin
promoting next summer. Details for winter registration are being finalized and
will be communicated when ready.
Laurelville Mennonite Church Center is pleased to offer a preventative health event. On August 15, 2013, Life Line Screening, a leading provider of community-based preventative health screenings, will host their affordable, non-invasive and painless health screenings.
Five screenings will be offered that scan for potential health problems related to: blocked arteries which is a leading cause of stroke; abdominal aortic aneurysms which can lead to a ruptured aorta; hardening of the arteries in the legs which is a strong predictor of heart disease; atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, which is closely tied to stroke risk; and a bone density screening, for men and women, used to assess the risk of osteoporosis.
Register for a wellness package, which includes four vascular tests and osteoporosis screening from $159 ($149 with member discount). All five screenings take approximately 60-90 minutes to complete.
To register for the event and receive a $10 discount of any package priced above $129, please call Life Line at 1-888-653-6441 or visit Life Lines website. For questions concerning the screening, please contact Amy Nemec at 800-897-9177.
On August 15, the screenings will take place in the Small Dining Hall at Laurelville.
MOUNT PLEASANT, PA – Laurelville Mennonite Church Center (LMCC) held their semi-annual “Gathering” for their Association this past weekend. Since its formation in 1943, the LMCC Association was formed to not only financially support and maintain ministry, but to foster relationships among families and friends. In celebration of their impending 70th anniversary, they gathered on the grounds “For Such a Time as This”.
Vice President of Admissions for Eastern Mennonite University, Luke Hartman, accepted the invitation to come and share during the weekend’s main sessions. During this time, he challenged the group to heighten their passion for a compassionate connection for the family unit, “for such a time as this”. Hartman spit out rhymes and ratios about healthy relationships with the Lord and each other, bringing to light the alarming rate of divorce, especially in Christian marriages. Along with this, he set out to redefine the ways families spend time together. Joining Hartman was Brian Moyer Suderman to lead the group in family style worship.
This year, the Association initiated AJ and Alta Metzler into their Creekside Circle and receiving the recognition were three of their children Edgar, Alice (Roth) and Joyce (Hostettler). Instituted in 2010, Creekside Circle was created to recognize the pioneers and visionaries in the Laurelville family. During the evening’s reflections, Maynard Brubacher, of Scotdale, reflected on his time with the Metzlers, “they touched so many lives, especially mine”. Brubacher shared how his life was drastically changed from one conversation with AJ Metzler, as he was preparing to begin a business and had just bought a home in Indiana. Within weeks their plans changed, and Maynard and Jan moved to Laurelville to manage the camp. The Metzer’s join Cleo Weaver, Dwight Hartman, CF & Martha Yake and Henry, Jo, Nelson and Perry Brunk in the Circle.
Along with worship and celebration, the Association weekend had 27 participants in their Spring Fun Run, with 14 runners and 13 walkers. Following the (almost) 5K, children had the opportunity for a Junior Jog around the baseball field, and everyone finished with a family relay. Following the races, members gathered in the Meetinghouse for their semi-annual business meeting. The meeting was brief, as board chair Kim Miller thanked outgoing Executive Director John Denlinger and welcomed Michael Yoder, and his family (wife, Stephanie and children Austin, Carson, Lindsey and Grant), to the Laurelville staff. Yoder will assume his position as of May 20.
“Michael has had extensive pastoral experience and moves from a vibrant congregation to continue his ministry,” shared Miller.
Every Gathering for the LMCC Association is unique to those who are able to attend as the crowd and theme change. As everyone prepares to be under new leadership and press forward with mission and ministry, there is no better time “For Such a Time as This.”
Pictures and a highlight video from the weekend can be found on our Facebook page.
Laurelville was blessed with a fruitful 2012. Please take a moment to download our "Stories & Reports" for 2012 and share it with anyone you think would enjoy hearing about Laurelville's progress.
Download the 2012 Stories and Reports Here.
MOUNT PLEASANT, PA-Laurelville Mennonite Church Center is pleased to announce the hiring of a new Executive Director. As of mid-May, Michael Yoder will officially join the staff. Yoder, and his family, were able to join the team on campus, in early March, and are excited to relocate in mid-May.
“Michael is the ‘whole package’ and stood out through his skills in business, ministry, an eye for vision and an ability to grasp both the big picture and the finer nuances of Laurelville’s ministry,” shared Laurie Weaver, chair of the search committee. “I am excited to see Laurelville continue down the path we’re on and have Michael challenge the board and staff to strive to meet new challenges and goals.”
Yoder grew up in a small Mennonite community in central Ohio. After graduating from Cedarville University with a BA in Management with a Non-Profit emphasis, he relocated to Lancaster, PA where he currently lives with his wife, Stephanie, and four children, Austin, Carson, Lindsey and Grant. Yoder went on to receive a Masters in Divinity from Evangelical Seminary, and will be leaving the full-time pastor life for camping and conferences. He is no stranger to camp life, as he and Stephanie met while on summer staff at Camp Hebron, a sister Mennonite camp.
As the incoming Executive Director, Yoder plans to continue the strong connection with the Mennonite church, the long partnership with the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation, and the many long-time hosted groups who join Laurelville year after year. He also anticipates getting to know the members of Laurelville’s Association and continuing to expand membership. From his experience with Camp Hebron he has seen, first hand, the long-term effect camp has on both staff and campers. Along with summer camp, he is excited about the many leadership-based programs that Laurelville hosts.
“I am excited about the opportunities in Laurelville’s future,” adds Yoder. “In the next season, Laurelville will continue to bring in this long-standing concern for the church to bear upon all programs. I believe that a place like Laurelville really needs to be shared with an ever-increasing constituency. Thanks to the good leadership of the board and John Denlinger, Laurelville is positioned well for a bright, expansive future.”
Kim Miller, Board Chair for Laurelville, went on to share, “The Board is very pleased to continue dynamic leadership by hiring Michael Yoder. Like John Denlinger (Laurelville’s previous Executive Director), Michael has had extensive pastoral experience and moves from a vibrant congregation to continue his ministry. He brings vigor and vision to the Executive Director position, along with organizational experience and business training. We could not be more enthusiastic about the leading of the Spirit to bring Michael and his family.”
The staff had the opportunity for a meet-and-greet at the beginning of March and Michael will be joining the staff on their annual retreat. Everyone anticipates the Yoder’s arrival in May. He and his family will be joining the first half of the Spring Gathering, May 3-4, and will be on campus full-time mid-May.
The eighth biennial Sustainable Food & Farming Conference at Laurelville Mennonite Church Center reconvened at the beginning of March. Participants of “Farming that Heals” were renewed and affirmed in their passions for the Lord’s call in Genesis 2, through keynotes, workshops and worship.
“I attend a lot of organic and sustainable farming conferences,” commented Leslie Zuck, Executive Director for Pennsylvania Certified Organic, “and I always look forward to Laurelville the most. It’s a cross between an educational conference and a spiritual retreat.”
Although all keynote speakers and workshop leaders were from all over the map, their topics and stories seamlessly came together as they shared and taught on the paths they have traveled in growing and farming. Along with the presenters, the conference was led in worship by “The Walking Roots” band, based out of Harrisonburg, Virginia. Made up of aspiring farmers and conscientious eaters, the band was able to compose worship sets which flowed through a theme of “Farming that Heals”.
The weekend began with three assignments from Becky Kretschmann, of Kretschmann Organic Farms, setting a definitive tone for the group: always consider the other side of life when looking for God’s goodness, continuously assess your dreams and desires and clear away whatever is holding you back, and keep some seeds in your pocket to remind us of unanticipated growth; she ended her keynote address by offering a blessing of hands.
As the weekend progressed, participants had the opportunity to hear from Kristi Barenburg-Janzen, a national journalist who specifically focuses on sustainable farming. Janzen focused on striving for health of people, land, animals and finances, pointing out they are all intertwined and dependent on each other.
Saturday provided opportunity for participants to choose from a variety of workshop offerings ranging from a family Sabbath to the ideas for Practical Permaculture. Many participants took part in the fermentation demonstration led by Trevett Hooper, chef and owner of Legume in Pittsburgh. During this lesson, attendees were taught the simple process of preserving local produce to use throughout the year. At the end, Hooper brought along some previously prepared sauerkraut and Kimchi.
Closing out the conference were keynote addresses from Maurice Small and John Creasy. Small is an expert in urban farming and focuses on educating at-risk youth in farming and agriculture. He recently relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina where little to no efforts have been put forth with urban agriculture. Together with his wife, they packed up as much as they could fit around all of the dirt from their land in Ohio, and headed south. His time is spent redesigning urban land to make it sustainable, as well as pouring in to dozens of local youth to give them a sense of purpose and direction through the care of the land.
Rounding out the large group gatherings, Creasy gave the group their job description as “curators and co-creators of God’s creation”, highlighting the artistry of farming as they care for the earth. He reminded the group of their responsibility to “create culture and reflect God’s Kingdom”. Creasy is not only co-pastor of The Open Door church, in Pittsburgh, he is also director of Garfield Community Farm, in the hills of Pittsburgh. At Garfield farm, they are living into God’s charge to care for the poor and hurting. Recently, they have made it possible for patrons to use WIC and SNAP benefits to purchase food for their families, promoting healthy living and life.
“I enjoyed the pauses between each session,” shared Don Kretschman, “I wish more farmers took the time to pause versus being so task oriented.”
Angela Dietzel, Program Director for Laurelville, commented, “This retreat is about more than resourcing. There are many opportunities for farmers to learn the skills they need to tend the earth. At Laurelville we hope that we create a space for people to come and share from their own experiences-- the joys and the sorrows--and nurture growth in one another in both faith and practice.”
Anticipation is already building for the next conference, slated for 2015. Maurice Small ended his time at Laurelville with a charge, “Continue to grow, continue to ask, continue…”
Once the new year begins, and children are back in school, there are mental countdowns for two events: spring break and summer break. Many camps have been running for decades and as families grow up and expand, the once children become parents, and even grandparents, and the discussion comes up as to where the children will attend. If there is a long history of a certain camp, in the family, it is assumed the children will attend the same summer experience.
Many grandparents, over the years, have made it a priority to encouraging their grandchildren attend the camp they grew up attending. This is true for Wayne and Roveen Yoder. Ever since their oldest grand-daughter, Mira, was able to attend Laurelville Summer Camp, the Yoder’s assisted their family with transportation to make it possible for the girls to go to camp.
“When Mira first attended mini-camp in 2008, Derek and Laurie were living in Plainfield, Illinois, making it difficult for drop-off and pick-up,” Wayne Yoder recalls, “We would take some of our vacation time to either pick-up or drop-off in combination with a family visit.”
The Yoder’s are no strangers to summer camp, as both Wayne and Roveen (Townsend) came to Laurelville as campers, worked on summer staff and eventually sent their children to summer camp. Both have countless memories of their camp experiences, and want the same for their grandchildren. As a camper, Wayne recalled a time where he became ill on the final night of camp. He excused himself from worship and went back to his cabin, climbed to his top bunk, and proceeded to “lose [his] evening’s dinner” through the old open cabin windows, “My counselor, in typical Laurelville counselor fashion, rallied to my aid, got me some tea and toast, and helped me make it through the night until my parent’s returned the next morning.”
Wayne went on to be a counselor in 1964. His time on staff allowed for a bit of free time, where you could often find him sitting by Jacob’s Creek, preparing the next day’s Bible lesson. He describes those times as “sacred”, and still takes those moments when he is on the grounds.
Roveen’s memories are true to a nostalgic time at Laurelville. From creek hikes and walk-a-mile, she can still tell you exactly where in the Lodge she was sitting when she accepted Christ as her Savior. From being a camper, Roveen went on to spend two summer’s on staff, one as a waitress and one as head of the dining room. She recalls in 1963, having to wash all of the dishes by hand for a number of weeks, when the dishwasher was in need of repairing. However, her time was broken up with Wayne visiting on Sunday afternoons while he was courting her. Four years later they were married.
After marrying, the Yoder’s made it a priority to send their children, Derek and Kristin, to Summer Camp. Both enjoyed the experience, and Derek went on to follow in his father’s footsteps and married his summer camp sweetheart.
Overall, Laurelville Summer Camp is a week of the summer that is life-impacting and is a priority of many families across generations. Wayne and Roveen are sure to follow-up with their granddaughters, talking about what was important to the girls while at camp and their highlights, “But perhaps more important are the references and connections that are made throughout the year to things that were learned and done at Laurelville,” shares Wayne. “We believe that integrating all of what we say and do in life is important and the ‘Laurelville experiences’ are key components in that integration.”
Roveen went on to add, “Laurelville has been a special place for our family for many years and even though Derek’s family were many miles away, we were committed to helping to see that summer camp happened.”
Angela Dietzel, Program Director for Laurelville, added “One of the blessings of summer camp is seeing how it becomes a tradition for families and continues through generations. I often interact with both parents and grandparents who came to Laurelville themselves and readily share stories of their own experiences. For these families, camp becomes a part of each child’s own faith development and is enhanced by the support of family member who understand a piece of their own experience."
Attending summer camp at Laurelville for the Yoder/Townsend children is now into the third generation, and they can’t think of a better way for children to spend a part of their summer. As Laurelville continues to get excited for this coming summer, the staff is delighted to hear of stories, old and new. All are encouraged to visit the Laurelville Camp Memories page to submit their stories and memories, or the Summer Camp registration page.
Photo Credit to Wayne Yoder. 1. 1964 summer camp. Wayne is the 6th from the left in back row. 2. Roveen at work in the Laurelville Dining Hall. 3. Their son Derek on day 1 of summer camp. 4. A group from Pinto MC.
MOUNT PLEASANT, PA- The 26th Annual Music and Worship Leaders Retreat (MWLR) at Laurelville Mennonite Church Center (LMCC) came to a close this past Sunday, January 13. During their time, music and worship leaders were inspired and taught by many tenured leaders, including Rt. Rev. John Klassen and Isaac S. Villegas. Contained in teachings were various steps and challenges in the area of hospitality among churches. Overall, the planning and resource team created “…a space where change [could] take place”, giving leaders the opportunity to sit back, soak in and worship God as they assessed their current worship styles and brainstormed for years to come.
“What began with a ‘test drive’ of the new hymnal and song books, 26 years ago,” shared Ken Nafziger, “has progressed into a reunion of familiar ground, where we can inspire each other at a long-standing training event.”
Angela Dietzel, Program Director for LMCC, began the weekend’s time with an invitation to take a few breaths and invite God to step in and allow energy and renewal into their lives. From there, the program fell into place with opening worship and greetings from the resource and planning team. While going over some needed details, Dietzel casually asked how many participants were joining the retreat for the first time. As a quarter of the room stood to their feet, the reputation of the gathering spoke for itself.
Isaac Villegas, pastor of Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship and co-founder of the Rutba House, set the tone of the weekend, sharing that prayer should be at the heart of a Benedictine life, ultimately reflecting a lifestyle of hospitality. As followers of God, taking moments-pauses, throughout the day, or in the case of a worship leader, a worship service, should be welcomed and cherished; taking advantage of the idea that the Lord is moving and speaking. Villegas went on to teach that in those pauses is where the listening occurs, which should be the first rule of worship.
The guest speakers creatively narrated the weekend’s teaching, by working with each other on the given topic of hospitality. As Abbot John Klassen, Abbot of Saint John’s Abbey and Chancellor of Saint John’s University in Minnesota, carried on the teachings in hospitality, he gave a simple rule of “opening up to the one who knocks”. Notwithstanding that when a door is opened, an immediate need for a “hospitality audit” should be in order, because believers can often be inwardly focused, in turn unintentionally shutting out those who are seeking hospitality. Abbot Klassen’s words cut deep, sparking in participants to think outside of the box, including considering what a “present day foot washing” would look like.
After an amazing dinner prepared by LMCC’s chef, Matt Cameron, and staff, the participants hurried back to the Meetinghouse for the highly anticipated HymnSing Plus, two hours of nothing but quality singing with 200 powerful voices. Dietzel had joked early on in the retreat about various programs always starting late, however with the MWLR, participants get to their seats 15 minutes early, ready for the next session. During HymnSing Plus, Ken Nafziger and Marilyn Houser Hamm, along with their worship band, led the group through songs from the Hymnal, Sing the Journey and Sing the Song. With melodic voices raising “Arise, Your Lights is Come”, “I Will Come to You in Silence”, and “Alleluia, the Great Storm is Over”, to name a few, the group was also introduced to new verses for “Rain Down”, authored by Jeff Raught. As the final song came to a close, the reverent silence hung for a moment as participants clearly sensed the spirit.
Overall, the 26th annual Music and Worship Leaders Retreat was a huge success. Dietzel, along with her committed planning and resource team, executed a powerful weekend, allowing room for the spirit to move and hearts to be open. Villegas and Klassen brought palatable challenge to the participants, giving real opportunities to take back possible change and new opportunities for their worship communities. Plans are already in place for 2014, and beyond.
“Hospitality invites to prayer before it checks credentials, welcomes to the table before administering the entrance exam.” Patrick Henry