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School for Leadership Training 2007

SLT speaker Dorothy BassGerald Shenk leads discussion on generosity.

SLT Workshops Spark Discussion/Debate

Written By Lora Steiner

When fresh Subway rolls were dropped on the desks of three participants of Gerald Shenk’s workshop, “Habits of Generous Christians,” no one was certain what to do. The gift—as well as dollar bills which some attendees found taped under the tables in front of them—were an attempt to see how each person would respond to what they had received.

In his workshop, Shenk encouraged attendees to think about generosity more broadly than what one reports on income tax forms. As a culture, he said, we’re “completely missing out on the blessings and benefits of generosity.”

 The bread and dollar bills prompted an animated discussion about what it means to live generously in an affluent and often stingy culture.

For Shenk, the workshop was as much about facilitating a conversation and sparking imaginations as teaching. He said, “I was frustrated by how boring people think this topic is, and how easily we consign it to the stuffy corner that no one really wants to talk about.”

For the 25 participants, the session was a chance to share stories about times they had received generosity, think of ways to cultivate a spirit of generosity in themselves and others, and to learn from each other about something that will carry on far beyond the classroom.

This seminar was one of the most popular at Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s School for Leadership Training, an event which occurs each January. Professor Nancy Heisey led another popular workshop titled, “Dead Sea Scrolls, DaVinci Code and the Gospel of Judas.”

SLT speaker Dorothy BassNancy Heisey discusses early Christian writings and archeology.

This workshop focused on early Christian writings and archaeology. For Heisey, it was a chance to talk about her research, which she doesn’t often do in the undergraduate Bible courses she teaches.

“The goal of the seminar,” said Heisey, “is to help participants think a little more about how they evaluate popular portrayals of ancient realities.”

Heisey encouraged participants to know what people are reading. “Find ways to encourage and deepen faith through these books,” said Heisey. “People are interested. We need to use those moments to build on what we all know.”

EMS student Conchita Holtz, who attended Heisey’s workshop, questioned whether it was useful to read popular works like The Da Vinci Code, but said she found the discussion helpful.

“If we don’t read the writings of skeptics, then how can it allow us to delve deeper into our faith?” asked Holtz.

EMS student Kevin Gasser, who was attending SLT for the second time, said he appreciated the change of pace and the variety of speakers.

“I also appreciate the way professors give of their time,” he continued. “The beginning of the semester is busy for everyone, but these professors give their time, creativity and ideas to help make meaningful workshops like these.”

For more information on Nancy Heisey's workshop click here>>>

1/23/07