ELKHART — 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.
The question asked by Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary’ organizers of their upcoming conference is: “What can be learned from leaders who were formed ‘in the wilderness’ for the struggles we face today?”
This question is central to the theme of the conference, titled “Formed in the Wilderness, Leading in Hope,” which will begin at 7 p.m. Feb. 21, and conclude at 12:30 p.m. Feb. 24. The event will be held in person on the campus of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, 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, 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,” said Shana Peachey Boshart, Faith Formation minister for Mennonite Education Agency and one of the planners of the event.
The conference, which will include worship, prayer, teaching sessions and numerous workshops, will feature the following speakers:
• Opening Address: Sibonokuhle Ncube, AMBS student, social justice advocate, development, humanitarian relief and peace practitioner
• Teaching Sessions: Eleanor Kreider, theologian, church musician, retired missionary
• Bible Studies: Tom Yoder Neufeld, professor emeritus of Religious Studies and Theological Studies at Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ontario
• Sending Sermon: Rolando Sosa Granados, 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 this Saturday to receive the best rate. The final registration deadline is Feb. 14.
Participants who attend all plenary and workshop sessions may earn 1.2 continuing education units.
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 Feb. 21, before the start of the conference: ambs.edu/leadership-clinics.