Leading in hope through difficult times to be focus of joint conference

Published: January 10, 2022

Pastors & Leaders | Deep Faith 2022 Conference to explore “Formed in the Wilderness, Leading in Hope”

ELKHART, Indiana (AMBS/Mennonite Church USA) — From its beginnings, the church in many places has faced times of great upheaval and struggle. Yet somehow, God’s people have not only survived but thrived, and their lives and leadership have often been shaped by surprising hope. What can we learn from leaders who were formed “in the wilderness” for the struggles we face today?

This question is central to the theme of an upcoming conference — Formed in the Wilderness, Leading in Hope — which will begin at 7 p.m. EST on Monday, Feb. 21, and conclude at 12:30 p.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 24. The event will be held in person on the campus of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana, with livestreaming and Zoom connections also available for those at a distance. (COVID-19-safe protocols will be followed.)

The event is a joint conference of two leadership gatherings: the AMBS Church Leadership Center’s annual Pastors & Leaders conference and Mennonite Church USA’s Deep Faith gathering for faith formation leaders. Pastors and faith formation leaders of all Christian denominations are invited to attend.

“In this stressful time when everything is shifting and very little seems certain, we are so fortunate to be surrounded by wise leaders — in the pages of Scripture, in the voices of the early church, in the conference speakers and in each other,” said Jewel Gingerich Longenecker, PhD, AMBS Dean of Lifelong Learning and one of the planners of the event. “I look forward to walking alongside and learning from leaders who have persevered through great difficulty and yet have led — and continue to lead — with great courage, clarity, faith and hope.”

Participants in the conference will draw insight from the late Alan Kreider’s book, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire (Baker Academic, 2016), as they seek guidance and inspiration for the challenges of today. Each day, Eleanor Kreider, Alan’s wife and partner in ministry and scholarship, will offer reflections on readings from Alan’s book, followed by responses from two Anabaptist church leaders. Also each day, Tom Yoder Neufeld will lead Bible studies that draw on stories of leading in hope through difficult times.

“Alan Kreider’s book provides rich material about the formation practices of the early church, and I’m looking forward to gathering with pastors and other formation leaders to ponder the possibilities it sparks for nurturing faith in Jesus in our present-day contexts,” reflected Shana Peachey Boshart, Faith Formation minister for Mennonite Education Agency and one of the planners of the event.

Speakers at Pastors & Leaders | Deep Faith 2002 include (l. to r.) Sibonokuhle Ncube, PhD; Eleanor Kreider, MMus; Tom Yoder Neufeld, ThD; and Rolando Sosa Granados, MDiv. (Photos provided)


The conference — which will include worship, prayer, teaching sessions and numerous workshops — will feature the following speakers:

  • Opening Address: Sibonokuhle Ncube, PhD, AMBS MDiv student; social justice advocate; development, humanitarian relief, and peace practitioner
  • Teaching Sessions: Eleanor Kreider, MMus, theologian; church musician; retired missionary
  • Bible Studies: Tom Yoder Neufeld, ThD, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies and Theological Studies at Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ontario
  • Sending Sermon: Rolando Sosa Granados, MDiv, Pastor at Piedra Viva Mennonite Church, Elkhart; therapist for children and adolescents


Participants will be able to choose from 23 in-person and 10 online workshops; sample titles include:

• The Bible Project: A Tool in Faith Formation

• Embracing the Hope of the Beloved Community

• Engaging the Whole Church in Conversations That Matter

• Fear Not: Hoping Towards Nonviolent Responses to Violence

• Gathering Hope: Ways We Guide Faith Formation

• Peaceful Practices for the Wilderness of Polarization

• Political Idolatry and White Christian Nationalism

• Reclaiming Hope from Trauma Narratives in Scripture

• Shalom Readers: Helping Children and Adults Choose the Jesus-Way of Peace

• Social Media Use and Intercultural Engagement

• Wounded Healer: Trauma-aware Spiritual Care


Registration fees for the event vary for individuals, married couples, and students. Discounts are available for first-time participants, those who bring a friend who has never attended Pastors & Leaders, and those needing financial assistance. Register before Jan. 15, 2022, to receive the best rate. The final registration deadline is Feb. 14, 2022.

Participants who attend all plenary and workshop sessions may earn 1.2 Continuing Education Units (CEUs). 

Learn more about the schedule, meals, lodging and transportation: ambs.edu/pastorsandleaders

See also information about the daylong Healthy Boundaries Leadership Clinic to be held on Monday, Feb. 21, before the start of the conference: ambs.edu/leadership-clinics  

Collaborating to support theological thought leaders

This is the second joint conference of Pastors & Leaders and Deep Faith. The first one was held in March 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns began in the U.S. Both AMBS and Mennonite Church USA were among the sponsors of the original Deep Faith conference, which was planned by an ad hoc group of faith formation leaders from Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada and was held at AMBS in October 2016. (AMBS is a seminary of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.)

AMBS/Mennonite Church USA release

Mennonite Church USA is the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States with 16 conferences, approximately 530 congregations and 62,000 members. An Anabaptist Christian denomination, MC USA is part of Mennonite World Conference, a global faith family that includes churches in 58 countries. It has offices in Elkhart, Indiana, and Newton, Kansas. mennoniteUSA.org

Located in Elkhart, Indiana, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary is a learning community with an Anabaptist vision, offering theological education for learners both on campus and at a distance, including a wide array of lifelong learning programs — all with the goal of educating followers of Jesus Christ to be leaders for God’s reconciling mission in the world. ambs.edu

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