[an error occurred while processing this directive] This article is from the EMU News Archive. The approximate date of publication was in January 2007. Current EMU news is available at www.emu.edu/news

School for Leadership Training 2007

EMS Conference Explores 'Life Abundant' Theme

Reid Encourages Abundant Living

The speaker left the podium, strode back and forth across the platform and seldom referred to notes as he carried on an animated conversation with the crowd filling Martin Chapel for the opening session of the School for Leadership Training at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Jan. 15.

Plenary speaker Stephen Breck Reid invited the audience to "gather at the welcoming table," to experience the theme of this year's program, "Practicing Life Abundant in the Congregation and in Daily Life." Dr. Reid is academic dean at Bethany Theological Seminary, Richmond , Ind. , and an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren.

"What would happen in your congregation if all members opened their eyes and saw all the (spiritual) resources available to them?" he asked. "The church needs to hear the testimonies of those whose eyes are wide open . . . how many stories are there just waiting to be told?"

Drawing on an Old Testament story of the prophet Elisha facing an overwhelming army from Syria surrounding the city, (II Kings 6:8-23), Reid noted Elisha's declaration to the people that "the multitude with us is bigger than the multitude that is with them. Don't be afraid . . ."

"We're too often pushed by our own set of fears," Dr. Reid declared. "Whereas, God is calling us to encounter and to lower our anxieties at His welcoming table."

Reid led one of 16 special interest classes offered during the conference on “ Psalms as Practice for “Making Room” and Shaping Communities” .

He encouraged class members to "expose your congregation to the wide emotional expressions found in the Psalms, including the laments.

"Look at Psalm 13, for example," Reid said. "The psalmist expressed intense feelings, not the way we're used to in addressing God, who already knows our thoughts and needs."

Reid commended study of Psalms 120 through 134 - Psalms of Ascent - that depict "a pilgrim people on a journey.

"The Psalm writer takes an activist view of God, one who neither slumbers nor sleeps, who is active in history. We need to read the larger world into the Psalms discover the missional language that is there," Reid

He encouraged class members to "expose your congregation to the wide emotional expressions found in the Psalms, including the laments.

- Jim Bishop

SLT Speaker Dorothy BassSLT speaker Dorothy Bass encourages participants to engage in Christian practices. Click here for more photos!

“We are living in a smorgasbord culture where everything is interesting and nothing matters.” said Dr. Dorothy Bass, keynote speaker for the 2007 School for Leadership Training (SLT) at Eastern Mennonite University.

“Christian practices are things Christian people do over time that reflect a response to God’s grace,” said Bass, director of the Valparaiso (Ind.) Project on the Education and Formation of People in Faith, an ecumenical project to develop resources to help people live the Christian faith with vitality and integrity.

“Practices that reflect abundant life are endangered in our society,” Bass continued. “They are being overcome by lifestyles that are rich in things but impoverished in things that matter.”

SLT

Click here for more SLT photos!

Over three days, Jan. 16-18, Bass encouraged the 225 SLT participants to reflect on their own experiences of Christian practices such as hospitality, Sabbath, forgiveness, healing and discernment, among others.

These practices, Bass said, are to be shaping factors in the lives of Christians, noting:

“A Christian practice is not just niceness or some belief that we feel we should enact. A Christian practice is a way of living that is woven into our daily lives.”

“Participation in these practices is formative,” she said. “It makes you someone, but study of the content and meaning behind the practices can be transformative.”

Bass used the practices of Sabbath and hospitality to illustrate how Christian practices form and transform. “Sabbath is now something Christians can choose,” she said.

“If we really ponder the biblical stories into which these practices draw us, we can see how they will orient us to a different way of life,” the speaker said. For example, Bass said “Resting [as in Sabbath] is one way of reminding us that we are not the creator and we don’t have to keep the world going.”

“It has been challenging for me to think about practices like hospitality and Sabbath,” said Marc Hochstetler, pastor at Moorhead Mennonite Church , Millersburg , Ohio . “It has been good to look these practices again and remember their biblical background.”

Joan Troyer, a hospice nurse and lay leader at Berkley Avenue Mennonite Fellowship, Goshen , Ind. , said, “I came to SLT for my own personal renewal. Coming here has allowed me to receive spiritual nourishment, instead of always having to provide spiritual food for others.”

Next year’s School for Leadership Training will beheld Jan. 21-24, 2008 on the theme of “embodying sexual wholeness.”

- Laura Lehman Amstutz 1-22-07

Read about two popular SLT workshops

Read about the SLT Banquet