Pastors & Leaders | Deep Faith 2022

Monday, Feb. 21 – Thursday, Feb. 24

A joint conference of AMBS and Mennonite Church USA Faith Formation.

(The Healthy Boundaries Leadership Clinic event registration is now full.)

Formed in the Wilderness, Leading in Hope

For many pastors and faith formation leaders, these days are a swirl of confusion and exhaustion. Even as schools and workplaces seem to be getting back into the swing of things, it’s hard to know what we can expect or hope for from our congregations.

What does the church need to be in this time? What is the Spirit’s call to us as we seek to be faithful leaders?

Fortunately, this is not the first time God’s people and their leaders have found themselves in a kind of wilderness. As we know, the Hebrew people wandered quite literally in the desert for many years. And the church, from its beginnings in the New Testament until now, in many places over many years, has faced times of great upheaval and struggle brought on by disease, war, discrimination, persecution, economic inequality, and technological change. Somehow, in the midst of peril, God’s work and God’s people have not only survived, but thrived. And if their testimonies are to be believed, 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? During this conference we 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 we seek guidance and inspiration for the challenges of our time. 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, a close friend of Alan and Eleanor, will lead Bible studies that draw on stories of leading in hope through difficult times. Through responses, sermons, and workshops, we will learn from today’s leaders what it means to lead the church with hope today.

Take heart! God is with us and will show us the way. Come join us as we hear stories of God’s faithfulness in the Bible, the early church, and today!

The conference will be held in person, with livestreaming and Zoom connections also available for those at a distance.

COVID-19 UPDATE: We will follow our campus policy to use COVID-19-safe protocols during the in-person portion of Pastors & Leaders | Deep Faith. We may adjust the format of our offerings based on COVID-19 statistics and will communicate any changes to presenters and participants. (See also our COVID-19 Update Center for more information.)

Registration cost, discounts, refunds, meals, lodging and transportation

Registration before the Jan. 15, 2022, early registration deadline is $195 USD for in-person or online. Registration by the Feb. 14 final registration deadline is $245 USD. See more information regarding discounts, scholarships, refund policy, meals, lodging and transportation.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, in-person space is limited to 150 participants. When we reach capacity, in-person registration will close, while registration for online participation will continue until the registration deadline.


(left to right)

  • 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

Each day, teaching sessions will feature reflections by Eleanor Kreider followed by responses from leaders from a variety of faith formation and ministry contexts:

  • What is the Good of Patience?
    • Nekeisha Alayna Alexis, AMBS Intercultural Competence and Undoing Racism coordinator
    • Caley Ortman, Youth Pastor, First Mennonite Church of Reedley (California)
  • Christians are Made, Not Born
    • Moriah Hurst, Nurture and Faith Development Pastor, Park View Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg, Virginia
    • Mark Tiessen-Dyck, Lead Pastor, Bergthaler Mennonite Church of Altona, Altona, Manitoba 
  • Wise Doves: A Peacemaking Church Formed by Worship
    • Madeline Maldonado, Pastor, College Mennonite Church, Goshen, Indiana
    • Matt Troyer-Miller, Minister, Wood River (Nebraska) Mennonite Church


In person

Broken Zipper Grief | Yvonne Riege

When grief goes unresolved it’s like a broken zipper; whether you ignore it or forge ahead, you won’t be warm in your comfy sweatshirt if you ignore the broken zipper. During this session, Yvonne Riege, Licensed Clinical Addictions Counselor and Church of the Brethren Ordained Minister for over 20 years, will help ministers in identifying those who may be struggling with complicating grief and/or are handling grief in unhealthy ways (addictions). Resourcing and creative ways to work with grieving individuals will be provided.

Building a Canoe as a Spiritual Practice | Andy Brubacher Kaethler

This workshop combines the practical expertise of woodworkers with the wisdom of spiritual leaders who informed and inspired the building a cedar strip canoe with a seminary class. Building a cedar strip canoe is an example of a focal practice that is bodily grounding and spiritually orienting.

Climate Anxiety, Climate Apocalypse | Douglas Kaufman

In the midst of the anxieties of the COVID pandemic, a broader anxiety lurks — how climate chaos creates an increasingly dim future. How can churches provide hope and engagement rather than anxiety and powerlessness? We will consider the emotions around climate change and Christian teachings, practices and rituals that help people engage climate justice. Specifically, we explore teachings around hope and apocalypse and engage a ritual of ecological lament.

Discovering God’s Hope-filled Calling for Your Congregation | Paula Killough

Leading congregations in Canada and the United States today is challenging for many. How do we lead toward the vocation of the church that the Book of Ephesians describes? Using exercises, spiritual practices and scripture this workshop aspires to be a respite for the weary and a word of hope for leading toward discovery of the calling of the Church.

Embracing the Hope of the Beloved Community | Daniela Lazaro-Manalo

Many churches are wandering through a wilderness of questions about race and whiteness. Using Mennonite Central Committee’s new resource, Embracing the Beloved Community, this seminar will introduce how church leaders can facilitate spaces to help congregations understand the importance of having conversations about race within a faith context for their congregations and communities.

Everyday Spirituality | Arthur Stewart

Those of us working in ministry need a vibrant spirituality. However, for many of us, what we used to do doesn’t seem to work anymore. We, and our world, have changed. I propose that we don’t need a new model to try, but a different perspective on spirituality altogether. How might we see ourselves and our contextual realities as the fertile soil to grow something new? God doesn’t use one-size-fits-all programs, and neither should we. This workshop will help us explore an everyday spirituality for each of us.

Fear Not: Hoping towards Nonviolent Responses to Violence | Krista Dutt

With violence rising throughout the country, and violent rhetoric corrupting the church and broader Christian theology, Anabaptists find themselves in a wilderness. How do we embrace faithful responses to violence amid fear and uncertainty? How do we measure success in situations of danger? This workshop will use Mennonite Central Committee’s new resource, FEAR NOT, to introduce ways congregations can have conversations and create their own practices and policies that embrace a non-violent approach to active violence within and around their walls.

Leading with More Questions than Answers | Dan Schrock

Pastors and others sometimes try to lead churches by casting a vision and offering answers. In this workshop, we’ll wonder what might happen if we lead a congregation by asking lots of questions instead of providing lots of answers. Our inspiration will be Jesus, who asked over 300 questions and answered only three.

Making Hope Journals | Janeen Bertsche Johnson

Hope Journals are small books in which people may place scriptures, hymns, poems, or other artifacts that speak of hope. They can be used for daily meditation at home, taken along to medical appointments as a prayer aid for the waiting room, or given to people who are facing a difficult experience. In this workshop, each participant will create a Hope Journal to take home. No artistic experience is required. Limited to 15 participants.

On the Trail of Stories for the Wilderness | Jonathan Larson

This session is intended:

  • to lay hold of narrative equal to wilderness experience
  • to demonstrate wilderness uses of story both personal and collective
  • to name what is numinous and propelling in story

Participants are encouraged to reflect in advance on a story pertinent to wilderness experience, whether personal or community.

One Body but Many Parts: “That Part” | Ann Jacobs

“That Part” is a buzz phrase these days. When someone highlights a point significant in their conversation with another, the response is now, “That Part.” Try using it, especially when talking to the younger generation – and watch how they respond. That applies well here, “What part of the gospel is essential for us to assist others to get through their arduous journey today? Whatever part of the gospel you are called to be in the world, be that. If we as the Church are to model the Body of Christ to the world, we can then reflect the Body of Christ – as a healing gospel to the world? Revisiting 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, we are One Body but Many parts offer something needed in our hearing today. Could this mean we are more interdependent on others than we realize as we discern our call and ministry to the church? Jesus came to offer salvation, healing, and peace to the world. Jesus comes to us as the Prince of Peace. As we live out our compelling confessions, how do our identity and faith reflect the Body of Christ to the world? How are you called to “offer healing and wholeness to a peace faltering, dying world in this post-Christian-pandemic era?” While we pray for hope, healing, and peace for this dying world, “That Part” that links the wayward to the savior Jesus Christ is your part that contributes to the Body of Christ?

Peaceful Practices for the Wilderness of Polarization | Jes Buller

How does the Church thrive in the wilderness of division and polarization? The energy that sparks from healthy conversation amid difference offers hope for the church to model a different way, living out a theology of peacemaking and reconciliation in our most personal conversations. In this workshop, facilitators will introduce “peaceful practices” – skills for addressing divides present in congregations and communities – and offer resources that return hope to a splintered church.

Political Idolatry and White Christian Nationalism | Drew Strait

This seminar offers an overview of white Christian nationalism and makes suggestions for how pastors and congregations can disorient it both internally and externally. In conversation with texts of the Bible, we will explore the political metaphor of idolatry and the ways white Christian nationalism distorts one’s knowledge of God.

Reclaiming Hope from Trauma Narratives in Scripture | Susannah Larry

This workshop will equip pastors and leaders to teach from Scriptural texts infused with violence. What if we could refocus our reading of the Bible to center the voices of trauma survivors? Join Dr. Susannah Larry, MC USA minister and AMBS professor, as she explores how we can experience Scripture as attuned to the wholeness of survivors, both in the Bible and in our world, bringing hope from “wilderness texts.”

Refuge for the Warm-blooded: Eldering as Vocation | Mary Schertz

Many of our congregations are old and almost all of our congregations have older people in them. This last part of life is its own wilderness. Retirement, aging bodies, losses of all sorts are challenges and often challenges that threaten our safety and sanity. In other words, true wilderness. In this workshop, “Refuge for the Warm-blooded: Eldering as Vocation,” we will create space to ponder how congregations can call older people to take on eldership, not as a congregational committee, but as an identity and as important work in a community.

Shalom Readers: Helping Children and Adults Choose the Jesus-Way of Peace! | Amanda Bleichty

Shalom Readers is a program from Central Plains Mennonite Conference that invites children and adults to read and engage with a variety of books that promote the Jesus-way of peace. Learn more about the program and how you can facilitate it in your conference, congregation, or home!

The Bible Project: A Tool in Faith Formation | Moriah Hurst

The Bible Project offers free videos and podcasts. This workshop will explore ways to use these videos with a range of ages in faith formation. We don’t have to do all the biblical work on our own. Come ready to interact and share what tools have been helpful for you in faith formation classes.

The End of Deadly Magic: Action After Contemplation | Naomi Wenger

Howard Thurman wrote: “It is good to make an end of movement, to come to a point of rest, a place of pause. There is some strange magic in activity, in keeping at it, in continuing to be involved in many things that excite the mind and keep the hours swiftly passing. But it is a deadly magic; one is not wise to trust it with too much confidence.”

How much of our lives is given over to the deadly magic of restless activity without pausing for reflection? Like Martha (Lk 10:38-42), we scurry from one activity to another, believing that our work is what keeps the Church, or even, the Christian faith, from languishing. I used to justify my Martha-tendencies by reminding folks that, “Jesus loved Martha, too.”

This is true but misses the point of the story, entirely. It is not about who is “doing the most” or even “doing the right thing.” The point of the story is about the “one thing necessary,” complete trust and absorbing contemplation. I can hear the reply, “If we all did that, who would teach the toddler class?” In this workshop, we will learn the place of contemplation and contemplative prayer in the life of a servant of Christ. We will learn about practices and practice together doing the one necessary thing. We will learn how contemplative practices lead us into teaching the toddler class, directing the choir, preparing food for the hungry or even opening a homeless shelter.

“The Lord Will Be the Stability of Your Times” Isa. 33:6 | Lynn Thrush

This workshop will strengthen the theological mooring of church leaders by reflecting on Jesus’ adoption of the hopeful visions of the Old Testament prophets, and Jesus’ decisive victory over the powers of evil via the cross and resurrection.

The Wilderness of Online Information: Resources and Strategies for Leading with Hope | Karl Stutzman and Brandon Board

Come learn about strategies for discernment in the midst of the online information wilderness. The session will also provide direction to numerous free online theological, biblical, and leadership resources that can help you lead with hope. Together, we will work to discover solutions to the challenge of misinformation in church communities.

“Travel Light” and Other Lessons from the Wilderness | Ed Kauffman

Over 15 trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in N. Minnesota have taught me a thing or two about surviving and thriving in the wilderness. Many of those lessons apply not only to wilderness travel but also to life and leadership. Through stories and pictures, we will share learnings from wilderness experiences.

What Worked for Us: All-age Faith Formation | Moriah Hurst

As we approached another school year of young people not being vaccinated we had to dream together about new ways to have Sunday School. Come and experience the inter-generation, activity-based learning approach to faith formation. Bring a spirit of play, your ideas of what worked for your church, and ideas of what you learned from that.

What’s the Story Now? – Narrative Lectionary | Jennifer Davis Sensenig

“I didn’t grow up in the church, so I don’t really know the whole Biblical story.”

“I grew up in the church and I know some Bible stories and have favorite verses, but how does it all hang together?”

Proclaiming the word of God in diverse ways is essential to the ministry of the church and a weekly challenge for preachers, worship leaders and Christian formation leaders. Our congregation has been using the Narrative Lectionary for a couple of years — an alternative to the Revised Common Lectionary, which follows the whole arc of the Biblical story each year. During this COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve studied this lectionary and interviewed more than 20 Anabaptist pastors in Canada and the US who have experience with the Narrative Lectionary. Come hear what I’ve learned and how the BIG story of scripture might fuel hope across multiple generations in your congregation.

Online (via Zoom)

Open to online registrants and in-person registrants who use their own device/headset and can find a suitable location.

A Childhood Wilderness | Jon Carlson

Childhood is supposed to be the opposite of a barren wilderness—a time of abundant nourishment that forges healthy roots. But what happens when it’s not? Drawing from his own experiences growing up in the foster care system, Jon Carlson will explore how adversity and nurture are both necessary to cultivate resilience and grit. As participants reflect on their own formative experiences, we will also consider how we accompany families and children in our churches who are living through atypical experiences.

Current: Engaging the Whole Church in Conversations that Matter | Joan Daggett

Currents of unease and change are swirling in today’s church and society, and it can be hard to find a framework or safe place for engaging one another in conversation. Bringing all ages together in worship and conversation around topics that matter is the vision behind Shine’s new thematic, digital, undated curriculum, Current. Join Shine staff in conversation and learning about how you can use this new curriculum to lead your church with hope in the wilderness of these times.

Engaging Imagination and Creativity in Community: Opening the Eyes of the Heart | Amanda Bleichty

For the past year, Central Plains Mennonite Conference has worked at engaging visual artists to help us sharpen our collective imaginative muscles. Michelle Hofer is a visual artist from Freeman, SD, who has been integral in this initiative. In this session, learn about Central Plains efforts to increase the use of the arts in our publications and gatherings, explore some of Michelle Hofer’s Scripture-based work, and experience Michelle’s practice of Visio Divina (visuals to open and engage the eyes of the heart while contemplating the Scriptures).

Gathering Hope: Ways We Guide Faith Formation | James Akerson

After a brief outline of various ways we share our faith tradition, the facilitator will introduce a method of sharing faith in the context of worship. Participants will share what has worked and what has not in their attempts to share tenets of faith. We will compare the methods, settings, and goals of our various attempts at Christian education and faith formation.

Hard-pressed but Not Crushed: Stories from Global Anabaptist Pastors and Leaders | Sharon Norton

This panel will give voice to leaders from South America, Europe, and the U.S. They will tell their stories of faith and resilience in the face of personal loss and community suffering during the pandemic. Karen Sethuraman of SoulSpace in Belfast will share about her journey as a community chaplain, testifying to hope in a setting of renewed sectarian conflict and Covid. Sharon Norton and Linda Shelly, regional administrators for Mennonite Mission Network, will join the panel, sharing the practices that have helped them accompany global leaders during Covid, as well as practice their own well-being in the wilderness. Participants can respond to these and other questions–What can we learn from global Anabaptist leaders that will help us in our journeys in the U.S.? What encouragement do you have to offer global leaders out of your own experience? What has sparked your curiosity and creativity as a result of this workshop?

Immersion into the Wilderness: Wild Church and Forest Church Practices | Katerina Friesen and Wendy Janzen

Katerina Friesen and Wendy Janzen will share stories and practices from Wild Church and Forest Church communities where they pastor in the United States and Canada, respectively. This workshop will explore the theme of wilderness as a geographical place of transformation, where God invites us as church communities into a sacred connection with land and water. Participants will be invited to brainstorm and imagine together ways their communities might be more deeply immersed into love for their places as we face the ecological crisis with active hope.

Inspiring Faith Formation with the Pause: Pray, Breathe, Play Card Deck | Sarah Neher, Maren Hange, Katie Misz and Michelle Burkholder

For many faith formation leaders, the pandemic uprooted their programming and hurried to transition activities online or stopped offering programming all together. Many yearned for resources to help their children, youth, and families find moments of peace and well-being in the midst of upheaval and uncertainty. In the summer of 2020 seven faith formation leaders gathered regularly online to share their struggles and success as they made their way through the wilderness. Through that process, they birthed the Pause: Pray, Breathe, Play card deck. This workshop will introduce attendees to the Pause: Pray, Breathe, Play resource and explore how it can be used in a variety of contexts. There will be the opportunity for participants to share resources they have found useful and dream about the future of faith formation.

Serving and Abiding with Hesed Heart | Lace Watkins

Those of us of faith, both ordained and lay, are navigating new waters in both their public ministries and in their intimate abiding with congregants, their leadership and staff, and also the wider world. In times of turbulence the impulse can be to either lead with an authoritarian hand or to be passively subject to prevailing forces brought about not by the pandemic but also in the evolving ways we relate to those we serve. As Anabaptists, however, we must look to a third way — to seek to become a soft yet sturdy and a relentlessly reliable, yet supportive and resilient presence in the lives of the people we serve, as well to those outside our immediate community’s walls. This workshop will speak to Hesed: what it is, why it is necessary to cultivate and model this attribute, and how important it is to make our communities full of Hesed Hearts.

Social Media Use and Intercultural Engagement | Mosaic Mennonite Youth Formation Team

As society continues to increase in technology and virtual space, we need to help youth navigate those spaces in a way that reflects the life of Jesus. Social media deeply affects the self-image of youth and as leaders, we need to remind them of their identity as a child of God. Likewise, during the pandemic, racial injustice was highlighted in new ways. As a church, how are we helping youth engage in the work of racial justice in a way that reflects living a life in Jesus?

The Mosaic Mennonite Youth Formation Team includes: Jaye Lindo, Brooke Martin, Hendy Matahelemual, Michelle Ramirez, & Danilo Sanchez

Wounded Healer: Trauma-aware Spiritual Care | Jason Storbakken

The Wounded Healer workshop introduces participants to key concepts related to trauma awareness, resilience-building, and ancient/contemporary spiritual practices.


All items on the schedule are offered in person, with distance options noted as Livestream or Zoom. You can view a printable PDF version of the Schedule, including Workshop times and locations. All times are Eastern Standard Time.

* Livestream
† Zoom

Monday evening

7:00 p.m. Worship service with sermon (Sibonokuhle Ncube) *


8:30 a.m. Gathering time *
8:45–9:45 Worship with Bible study (Tom Yoder Neufeld) *
9:45–10:30 Break
10:30–11:30 Workshops †
11:30–1:30 Lunch
1:30–2:30 Workshops †
2:30–3:00 Break
3:00–4:00 Teaching Session 1: “What is the Good of Patience?” Focus: The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, Chapter 2: “The Good of Patience” (Eleanor Kreider and friends) *
4:15-5:15 Conference/Regional Church and AMBS Administrators’ gathering
7:00–8:00 Readings from Disarmed: The Radical Life and Legacy of Michael “MJ” Sharp by author Marshall King. View a flyer for the event (in person only).


8:30 a.m. Gathering time *
8:45–9:45 Worship with Bible study (Tom Yoder Neufeld) *
9:45–10:30 Break
10:30–11:30 Workshops
11:30–1:30 Lunch
1:30–2:30 Workshops
2:30–3:00 Break
3:00–4:00 Teaching Session 2: “Christians are made, not born;” Focus: The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, Chapter 6: “Catechesis and Baptism” (Eleanor Kreider and friends) *
4:00 Dismiss


8:30 a.m. Gathering time *
8:45–9:45 Worship with Bible study (Tom Yoder Neufeld) *
9:45–10:30 Break
10:30–11:30 Teaching Session 3: “Wise Doves: A Peacemaking Church Formed by Worship;” Focus: The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, Chapter 5, “Communities as Cultures of Patience,” Chapter 7, “Worship,” and Chapter 8, “’Wise Doves’ in the Didascalia apostolorum” (Eleanor Kreider and friends) *
11:30–11:45 Break with drawing for gifts *
11:45–12:30 Worship with sermon (Rolando Sosa Granados) *
12:30 Dismiss

Recordings of last year’s Pastors & Leaders

Video recordings of the plenary sessions can be found below. Learn more about this and other past events.

Recorded components include: