Pastors and Leaders 2019 Workshops

Tues. 2:00-3:30

Come Over and Help Us!

Presenter: Lawrence L. Giden

In this workshop, we will talk about what roles our pastors and church leaders play in helping provide social justice as it relates to the African-American community, whether in the house of God or in the local community. We will look at theological and historical references to support the importance of race relations and how our (Caucasian) brothers and sisters can help aid their counterparts in the struggle for racial equality and combatting racism.

Lawrence L. Giden received his Master of Arts degree in Christian Formation from AMBS in 2017. He has always had a passion for social justice in the African-American community and believes the church should be the leading voice not only in racial justice, but racial reconciliation. Lawrence founded Church in the Movement, which was a spiritual and educational program through IU South Bend's Civil Rights Heritage Center. The program brought together pastors and churches, religious organizations, and citizens to see the importance of the church with an educational focus on the role of churches during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-60s.  Lawrence serves as a licensed minister at Bethlehem House of Bread Ministries in Niles, MI. He is also a musician and teaches in the Sunday School department. He currently works as a mental health technician assisting patients with their goals through facilitating group discussions.

Embrace Enemy Love: a Playful Spiritual Practice

Presenters: Rianna Isaak-Krauss and Rebecca Slough

Play is a spiritual practice that helps us to love our neighbors in tense times. Through play with clear boundaries, we move our awareness from our heads to our hearts and into our bodies, embracing flexibility, improvisation, and freedom. We express different ways of knowing our childlike delight, our mischievous desires, and our identity as creative children of God. Play is a significant form of self care and a means for full-bodied prayer. It releases our tension, laughter, new possibilities, and the constant glut of  information that we take into our spirits and bodies daily.  Play allows us to practice letting go of control and discovering what messages and stories shape us deeply. These spiritual practices enable us to return to the hard work of loving others: imagine playing with those people with whom you deeply disagree or even with your enemies!

Rianna Isaak-Krauss, of both Winnipeg, MB and Fresno, CA,  is a current AMBS student working on her MA in Christian Formation, she is also in the process of being an certified InterPlay leader. 

Rebecca Slough has played with the Goshen Interplay group for nearly 20 years. She served as academic dean at AMBS from 2007-2018. Some of those days held lots of opportunity to play and others not so much. Her time as dean  was a continual improvisation. Before becoming dean, she served on the AMBS faculty for nine years teaching in the areas of worship and the arts.

GRID: The Goshen community supports our immigrant neighbors

Presenters: Bryan Mierau, Marbella Chavez, and Mary E. Klassen 

The Center for Healing & Hope, based in Goshen, Ind., launched a practical and concrete effort to support immigrant neighbors when it began offering  the Goshen Resident ID (GRID) card in late 2017.    

Several staff and board members of the Center for Healing & Hope will share how they worked carefully to build community involvement for this effort. This included forming a task force of representatives from not-for-profits, churches, schools, financial institutions, media and city government, along with interested community members. Securing the endorsement of city government officials, seeking the support of civic networks, procuring start-up funds, and mobilizing volunteers from a cross-section of the community are part of the story.  

Presenters will share their experiences of both successes and challenges with the goal of opening a conversation about what other communities are doing and what we can learn from each other to help vulnerable groups and people on the margins.

Bryan Mierau, executive director, Center for Healing and Hope
Marbella Chavez, immigrant resource coordinator, Center for Healing and Hope
Mary E. Klassen, communications specialist, Center for Healing and Hope

Healthy Masculinity: On Being a Man

Presenters: Jamie Pitts, Don Neufeld and Steve Thomas

What does it mean to be a man? We need an alternative to toxic masculinity shown in the news nearly every day with men abusing power, dominating others and committing violence. In this workshop, we will explore healthy masculinity from an Anabaptist perspective, drawing on Peaceful at Heart: Embracing Healthy Masculinity to be published by the Institute of Mennonite Studies (IMS) and Wipf and Stock in February, 2019.

Led by Jamie Pitts, professor of theology at AMBS, Don Neufeld, clinical social worker, and Steve Thomas, U.S. Coordinator for Mennonite Men - each of whom contributed to this book project.

Reading the Bible With Neighbours and Strangers: Encountering the “Other” With - and Within - Scripture

Presenter: Bryan Moyer Suderman

How does Scripture function in this polarized and polarizing age? We so often experience the use of Scripture as part of that polarizing dynamic - is it even possible for Scripture to be a place of encounter with the “other” in healthy and life-giving ways?

Bryan Moyer Suderman is an itinerant Bible teacher and singer-songwriter from Kitchener, Ontario. In this workshop, with his signature style of weaving together songs, reflections, and interactive learning, Bryan will lead a time of “searching the scriptures” and our own experiences, drawing ideas and challenge and inspiration from different accounts of engaging the “other” with - and within - the Bible. In so doing, we may be surprised by some of the resources we find for “Loving Our Neighbours in Tense Times.” 

Bryan Moyer Suderman has been creatively engaging diverse communities with Scripture for over 25 years, and is known for his dynamic and interactive style of speaking, teaching, singing and song-leading. Bryan was the keynote speaker at AMBS Pastors Week 2016 on the theme of “Reading the Bible With Jesus” and continues to serve as a Teaching Associate of the AMBS Church Leadership Center, traveling around North America and leading “Reading the Bible With Jesus” (RTBWJ) workshops as well as retreats, concerts, and worship experiences. This workshop on “Reading the Bible With Neighbours and Strangers” is a complement and counterpart to that RTBWJ agenda, and is also available to congregations as part of Bryan’s itinerant ministry (

Reframing Evangelism Within the Context of Relational Discipleship

Presenter: Marvin Lorenzana

This workshop invites participants to engage their neighbors with the gospel in an intentional yet relational kind of way. Reframing evangelism within the context of relational discipleship, participants will be challenged to explore missional tools for how to meaningfully connect with those outside the church in ways that embody God’s love and grace. As part of this experience, participants will also take part in a 25 minute simulation experience using a tool called Missional Discipleship Groups (MDGs) where they will learn experientially how to engage others in a more intimate, relational and safe space that is highly conducive to a meaningful discipleship experience.  

The format used for this workshop includes about 40 minutes of input time that includes a Prezi presentation as well as multimedia that is immediately followed by a 25 minute simulation experience using MDGs. We will end our time together allowing for about 25 minutes for Q&A.

Marvin Lorenzana works for Mennonite Mission Network as the director for Missional Discipleship Initiatives. 


Sanctuary in the Streets: the Faith Community Showing Up for our Neighbors

Presenters: Julia Schmidt and Marisa Smucker

Come learn about the formation of the Elkhart-Goshen Sanctuary Coalition and the Rapid Response Network. The Elkhart-Goshen Sanctuary Coalition was formed by individuals and congregations as an active way to support immigrants as they face the current crisis in the U.S. The Rapid Response Network is a working group of the coalition which specifically trains individuals on how to respond to raids by immigration and customs enforcement and other unjust law enforcement. The presenters will share a brief history of the movement in Elkhart County, along with pieces of the Rapid Response training. Be ready to share your own experiences and best practices of showing up for neighbors affected by the political climate.

Julia Schmidt graduated from AMBS with a MDiv in May 2018. She is the Coordinator of the Elkhart-Goshen Sanctuary Coalition. Her current paid employment is as a Care Facilitator for Oaklawn Psychiatric Center.

Marisa Smucker works for Mennonite Mission Network as a church relations representative, is a part-time student at AMBS, and is a member of Belmont Mennonite Church.

Scribes for the Reign of God: The Doctrine of Discovery

Presenters: Mary Schertz, Katerina Friesen and Safwat Marzouk

This session will present ongoing work from the 2018/19 Scribes for the Reign of God project, a collaborative research process involving AMBS faculty and facilitated by Institute of Mennonite Studies. This year's theme is the Doctrine of Discovery, the legal and theological framework for the dispossession of indigenous lands by colonizing powers. This year's Scribes are Mary Schertz, Katerina Friesen, and Safwat Marzouk. Their projects explore related themes in theological education, the theology of repentance, and the tension between worship and conquest in the Book of Exodus. The session will enable pastors and leaders to dialogue with AMBS faculty's cutting edge research, and so to be challenged and inspired to engage one of the pressing issues facing the church today.

Mary Schertz is Professor Emerita of New Testament, AMBS.

Katerina Friesen lives on Yokut land in Fresno, California. Her work centers around healing from the violence of structural sin. She currently works with incarcerated people to cultivate inner and outer gardens through the Insight Garden Program. Katerina is also an Adjunct Instructor of Biblical Studies at Fresno Pacific University and volunteers with restorative justice circles in the community.

Safwat Marzouk is Associate Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, AMBS.

The Movement Makes Us Human: Wisdom and Challenge from the life of Dr. Vincent Harding

Presenter: Joanna Lawrence Shenk

This workshop will focus on the life and legacy of Dr. Vincent Harding, who was constantly challenging and encouraging people to get together across lines of difference. He believed that our calling was to be in relationship across racial lines where we "get messy and connected and involved and angry and sorrowful and everything else that deeply engaged people are supposed to get." And from that depth of relationship we work for societal change. Pastor and author, Joanna Lawrence Shenk will share from her recently published book on Dr. Vincent Harding, “The Movement Makes Us Human” (Wipf & Stock, 2018) and invite participants into conversation together. 

Dr. Harding was one of the first Black Mennonite pastors in the United States, co-pastoring at Woodlawn Mennonite Church in Chicago in the 1950s. Dr. Harding was a historian instrumental in the creation of the field of Black Studies (through founding the Institute of the Black World in the late 1960s). He was the first director of the King Memorial Center in Atlanta. He was the primary writer of the prophetic “Beyond Vietnam” speech that Dr. King delivered one year, to the day, before his assassination. He was the author of the first comprehensive narrative of black resistance to enslavement, “There is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America,” beginning on the shores of the African continent. He was a lifelong activist and movement elder in his later years, mentoring many young people in their work for justice.

Dr. Harding’s legacy is significant due to his formidable contributions to movements for justice and his enduring commitment to be involved personally. As a historian he was intimately knowledgeable about the capacity of white supremacy to terrorize and devastate vulnerable peoples. His vision for a just society was not unfounded optimism. It was rooted in the capacity of his ancestors to survive the most barbaric realities and do so while loving and nurturing each other, singing together and dancing toward freedom. He steadfastly believed that just as black people led a movement that liberated this country in the 50s and 60s, we all have the capacity to carry forward the mantle of liberation today.

Joanna Lawrence Shenk is the Associate Pastor at First Mennonite Church of San Francisco. As an author (Widening the Circle: Experiments in Christian Discipleship and The Movement Makes Us Human, networker, podcast producer (the Iconocast) and facilitator, she invites others to join movements for justice and wholeness and recognize their deepest identity as beloved. She enjoys riding her bike, making popcorn on the stovetop, organizing with Faith in Action Bay Area and learning as much as possible about Bay Area history. She also loves living in community with her family and housemates in the Mission District neighborhood. 

The Welcoming Prayer: Inviting God into our Tension

Presenters: Naomi Wenger and June Mears Driedger

The Welcoming Prayer practice is an extension of Centering Prayer which takes the core of Centering Prayer into our daily lives and interactions. This practice of Welcoming Prayer allows one to choose to respond to someone or situation rather than reacting to the present moment. Welcoming Prayer enables practitioners to “unhook” from the charged emotions of the situation and allows us to take appropriate response as Jesus would have us respond.

Co-led by Naomi Wenger and June Mears Driedger, The Hermitage Community.

Pastors and Leaders 2019

Learn more