Update Newsletter


April 2018 Volume 41 Number 5


Lancaster Conference’s Celebration of Church Life

Pastor Jeff Linthicum and Pastor Jim Schwartz


Jeff Linthicum:

Lancaster Conference held their annual Celebration of Church Life (CCL) on March 23rd and 24th. Tim Sprunger, Pastor Jim Schwartz, and I (Pastor Jeff) drove out early on the morning of the 23rd and returned technically on the 25th. Celebration of Church Life is not what we would think of in our past as a conference or denominational meeting. No business is conducted, no budget approved, and no nominations are made for positions. The Bishop Board (Conference Pastors) would be where those decisions are made. The Bishops notify churches of what is transpiring within the Conference. If you trust your leadership this is a good model, one that has worked for many years for Lancaster Conference.

The Celebration of Church Life is supposed to be just that, a celebration. There were three different times of worship, each led by a different worship team. We had a time of communion celebrating the one true thing we all have in common, our faith in what Jesus has accomplished for us. The last couple of years there was a time of "sharing the call;” pastors would come and share their journey to becoming a pastor. There were three participants in the STEP program. STEP stands for Study and Training for Effective Pastoral ministry and it is a program that has traditionally been run jointly between Lancaster Mennonite Conference and Eastern
Mennonite University. At CCL they announced that it is now being administered solely by Lancaster Conference; the only involvement from EMU is giving credit for courses. Another gentleman shared his journey out of being a devout communist, having been sent to Cuba to study from his native Nicaragua. It was a powerful testimony of coming to faith in Jesus and pastoring a Mennonite Church in the United States. During CCL there were also a number of breakout sessions offered. I presented one about our catechism trip to the Lancaster area. Tim Sprunger also helped to present
one on discipleship.

One of the most encouraging things for me personally was the welcoming of the 53 new churches joining Lancaster Mennonite Conference. Many of these churches are represented in Latin America. They feel a deeper theological connection with Lancaster Conference than any other Mennonite organization around. Also they welcomed Franklin Conference, formerly of MCUSA, as well as a number of other congregations that were once a part of MCUSA. Please do not read this as being encouraged by the loss MCUSA is experiencing, but that our decision and the path we walked as First Mennonite Church is actually being affirmed by a number of other congregations and an entire conference.  


Jim Schwartz:

This was my first opportunity to attend a conference as a new pastor of the Mennonite Church.  Having served in another denomination, I attended with expectations of how these sorts of events are supposed to go. 

A few of the impressions that struck me about the weekend:

1. This is a new conference composed of some very old churches as well as new churches as well as churches from the East, Midwest and from around the world associated with this new conference.  But because of (or in spite of) all of this change, there was a strong spirit of unity among the participants.

2. There was the impression of age and a long history dating back to Europe and immigration into the US.  But there was also a spirit of newness of a new living organism, representing the body of Christ, coming together to change the world.  I felt that we are looking forward with excitement as a conference to what God will be doing next, rather than looking back at the past with anger and regret.

3. Our times of worship varied from country style, to traditional and to more modern sounds.  Yet the focus was on the one we worship rather than the style of worship. 

4. Coming from an Amish background, I was excited to see the area where my ancestors passed through on their way west to settle in Indiana.  And it is exciting to be part of a local church that is playing a key role in the forwarding of the gospel around the world.  

5. The conference is there to serve and enable the local church and its ministries.  It seems some denominations exist in order for the local churches to serve them and their needs. 

This church is an important part of the conference!!  When I told people I met that I was from the First Mennonite Church in Berne, there always seemed to be a special welcome because of this church and its reputation with the conference.  And of course the sessions were interesting and informative and the seminars were very helpful and appropriate for ministry, but I expected that. 


 Items Needed for VBS

 Community VBS 2018 has a “VICTORY” theme and we will be decorating with a sports-pep rally theme. We are looking for the items below. Please be sure to label clearly with your name AND church name if you would like the items returned. Please bring items to the box under the VBS table.

·         Large trophies

·         Streamers of any color

·         Helmets

·         Jerseys

·         Uniforms to hang on the walls (any sport)

·         Old volleyball or basketball nets

·         Any sports equipment that would make an interesting display

·         Empty paper towel tubes †


 Senior Fellowship Activity

 The Senior Fellowship Activity will enjoy breakfast at an area restaurant and then go to Fort Wayne for a Tin Caps baseball game on Wednesday, May 16, 2018. We will be leaving at 8 a.m. from the east parking lot. There will only be a few steps to negotiate at the ballpark. The cost will be $22 per person, which includes breakfast (including tax and gratuity), ballgame ticket and bus expense. Make reservations by calling Stan von Gunten at 589-3887 no later than April 29, 2018, as we need an exact count for the ballgame tickets. We will be returning home at approximately 3:30 p.m. †


Parenting in a Digital World

 The challenges of parenting in today's digital world are numerous. Are you trying to find ways to channel digital activities?

If you are a parent or grandparent and need some encouragement and advice to deal with digital parenting and instruction in a positive way, you are invited to First Mennonite Church in Berne on April 18 and 25 and May 2 at 6:30 p.m. to hear Clinton Faupel address the issue of parenting in a digital world.  Clinton began working with youth in the 90s.  Currently he serves as Executive Director/Co-founder of RemedyLIVE, a web based non-profit designed to help teens reach their potential through the use of technology.

If you are looking for advice from a Christian perspective, then you will want to attend these sessions. Questions can be answered or additional information can be obtained by calling the church office (589-3108); ask for Chris Hyman. †


 Among Our People

 Harry Yoder – Adams Memorial Hospital, March 3-7

Lillian Sprunger – Adams Memorial Hospital, March 3-7

Louise Lehman – Parkview, March 7-14

Tara Steffen – Surgery at Parkview, March 14. She is recovering at home.

Shirley Prentiss – Gallbladder surgery in Florida, March 15.  

Dale Sprunger – Outpatient eye surgery in Muncie, March 19

Bill Beachey – Outpatient surgery, March 23

Grant Meyer – Outpatient shoulder surgery, March 26. He was in the states until April 11 recovering at the home of his In-laws.

Gail Simon – Adams Memorial Hospital for several days. She is recovering at home. †


Home Going

Doris Sprunger, 96, of Berne and formerly of Fort Wayne, passed away on Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018 at Swiss Village in Berne. She was born on March 5, 1922 in Monroe Township near Berne to Jonas and Zilla (Gilliom) Sprunger. Upon her profession of faith in Jesus Christ, she was baptized on May 31, 1936 and was a lifelong member of First Mennonite Church in Berne. Her favorite Bible verse was John 3:16.

She attended her neighborhood No. 8 Sprunger Country School for eight years, before graduating from Monroe High School in 1940. Always outstanding in math, she graduated from International Business College in Fort Wayne in 1944. She had a stellar work record, beginning at Decatur Super Service. In Fort Wayne, she worked 27 years at Meyers & McCarthy, and then at Dulin, Ward & DeWald, serving as a bookkeeper/accountant for each firm. After completing a course with H & R Block, she used the earned credentials to become a tax preparer for over 20 years. After retirement, she continued working part time into her 80s. In the fall of 2010, she moved from Fort Wayne to a lovely apartment in Swiss Village Retirement Community in her hometown of Berne, where she enjoyed the loving Swiss Village staff, being near relatives, renewing acquaintances, making new friends, reading and watching sports on TV.

She is survived by her sister Berneta (Sprunger) Yager; and sister-in-law Alice (Merlin) (Neuenschwander) Sprunger, both of Berne, along with many adoring, grateful nieces and nephews scattered throughout the United States. She was preceded in death by her parents; six brothers, Freadus, Lowell, Otis, Loren, Merlin K. and Verne Sprunger; and sister, Margaret Eggers.

She will be remembered by friends and relatives for her sweet spirit, quick wit and wonderful sense of humor. Visitation was one hour prior to the 2 p.m. celebration of life service on Saturday, April 21 at the Swiss Village Chapel in Berne. Officiating was her cousin, Rev. Jerry Flueckiger. †