Pastors and leaders to focus on hope "for such a time as this"

Pastors and leaders to focus on hope "for such a time as this"

Participants in AMBS’s 2017 Pastors Week engaged in small group conversations during the teaching sessions: (clockwise from left) Marisa Smucker, Goshen, Indiana, of Mennonite Mission Network; Duane Beck of Raleigh (North Carolina) Mennonite Church; Nehemiah Chigoji, Rancho Cucamonga, California, of Upland Peace Church; Amy Aschliman, Schaumburg, Illinois, of Christ Community Mennonite Church; and Kristin Jackson (back to camera), Chicago, of Living Water Community Church. (Credit: Jason Bryant)

By: Annette Brill Bergstresser

ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — In a time when many people are experiencing anxiety, trauma and upheaval, how can church leaders sustain hope among the people they serve, even when they might struggle with fear, hopelessness and exhaustion themselves?

Pastors and Leaders 2018 — an annual leadership conference formerly called Pastors Week — aims to help participants explore how “fear of the Lord” prepares them to live confidently and speak courageously at this moment in history, as well as to ground themselves in Christian practices that keep faith and hope alive. The event will run from 7 p.m. on Feb. 26 through 12:30 p.m. on March 1 on the campus of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana.

“In our conversations as a planning team, which includes people from a wide variety of churches and locations, we realized that the widespread anxiety in society these days is really taking a toll on churches and leaders,” said Jewel Gingerich Longenecker, AMBS dean of Lifelong Learning. “Leaders find themselves wondering whether they have what it takes to step up in the face of the pressure — or in some cases, real danger. They wonder whether they should be leading, and what they have to offer.”

“Our hope for the conference is that participants will be reminded that throughout history and today in many other parts of the world, God’s people have faced incredibly difficult situations — situations that both parallel and go beyond our own — and that even in the face of this great difficulty, the Church has deep, dependable resources and many sources of strength to lead with courage,” she added.

This year’s event, which is hosted by AMBS’s Church Leadership Center, will include worship, prayer, teaching sessions, workshops and large- and small-group conversations. Teachers and preachers from the seminary community will speak on the following topics:

  • Janna Hunter-Bowman, Ph.D., assistant professor of peace studies and Christian social ethics: “Going Big by Going Home: Local Responses to National Crisis”
  • Safwat Marzouk, Ph.D., associate professor of Old Testament: “Terror and Beauty in the House of the LORD”
  • Ben Ollenburger, Ph.D., professor of biblical theology: “Preachers Deaf and Blind, Servants of God the Creator”
  • Nancy Rodríguez-Lora, pastor, True Vine Tabernacle, Elkhart; clinical social worker specialist, Goshen; AMBS Master of Divinity student: “Boldness Before the Throne”
  • Allan Rudy-Froese, Ph.D., associate professor of Christian proclamation: sermon during Wednesday morning worship
  • Dan Schrock, D.Min., spiritual director; pastor, Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship, Goshen, Indiana; sessional instructor at AMBS: “Forgetting Ourselves in Prayer”
  • Rebecca Slough, Ph.D., academic dean and associate professor of worship and the arts: “Be Still — Know I Am God”

Pastors and Leaders 2018 wordmarkSara Wenger Shenk, Ed.D., AMBS president, and Rachel Miller Jacobs, D.Min., associate professor of congregational formation, will serve as worship leaders throughout the conference.

Participants will be able to choose from 15 workshops; sample titles include Hospitality and Safety; Flourishing in Ministry; Healing the Whole Person; Charlottesville … Going Inside; The Immigrant, Racism and the Church; and Choosing Words for Worship for the Future Church.

Gingerich Longenecker noted that the topics for this year’s event are relevant not only for pastors, but also for other leaders in the church. Also, leaders from any (or no) denomination are welcome.  

Registration fees for the event vary for individuals, married couples, part-time participants and students. Discounts are available for first-time participants; those who bring a friend who has never attended the annual event; and those who need financial assistance. Also, individuals, congregations, regional conferences and districts can become a member of the Church Leadership Center to receive additional benefits, including substantial discounts on events.

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

Learn more about meals, lodging, transportation and childcare: www.ambs.edu/lifelong-learning/pastors-and-leaders. Register by Feb. 6 for the lowest rates.

Leadership clinics

Leadership clinics are daylong workshops that take place on Monday, Feb. 26, before Pastors and Leaders 2018 begins in the evening. Topics include:

  • “Improvisational Leadership for the 21st Century: An Anabaptist Approach,” with David B. Miller, associate professor of missional leadership development; and Malinda Berry, assistant professor of theology and ethics
  • “The Church in the Age of Migration,” with Safwat Marzouk, associate professor of Old Testament; and Rachel Miller Jacobs, associate professor of congregational formation
  • “7x7: Laments for an Age of Sexualized Power,” with Jerry Holsopple, professor of visual and communication arts, Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Virginia
  • Participants can choose to register only for a leadership clinic or to combine attendance with Pastors and Leaders.

Cost: $65 USD before Feb. 6; $75 USD after. Group discounts are available. Learn more about leadership clinics: www.ambs.edu/leadershipclinics