Michael King, Monday evening plenary speaker, grew up in Cuba and Mexico as a son of missionary parents, where he experienced multiple cultures and faith understandings. He learned to cherish the Anabaptist-Mennonite commitment to faithfully follow Jesus while wondering what alternate convictions another tradition might have shaped in him.
Although refined and chastened by life journeying, experience as pastor and publisher, academic training, and turning toward a faith in Christ enlarged by doubts and questions, lessons from King’s background continue to nurture his passions as Dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary and Vice President of EMU. In the seminary he is articulating such themes as "treasures of not being sure,” “transforming the shadows,” and “using power for the less powerful.”
King has long been an editor and publisher, first through Herald Press (Scottdale, PA, 1989-1997) and then more recently as owner and publisher, Cascadia Publishing House LLC (Telford, PA, 1997-). He has been pastor in congregational settings ranging from Germantown Mennonite Church (Philadelphia, PA, 1982-1989), Spring Mount (PA) Mennonite Church (1997-2008), and more. Michael and his wife Joan are parents of three adult daughters, and grandparents of one.
Joan Kenerson King, Monday evening plenary speaker, currently serves as a Senior Integration Consultant for the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. As an advanced practice psychiatric nurse she has devoted her career to supporting the creation of contexts that facilitate recovery and empowerment for people living with mental health and substance use disorders challenges. She has created a storytelling training that helps people in recovery to re-connect to their stories and recognize their power for healing not only themselves but others.
She has a private therapy practice.
Joan is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University and the University of Pennsylvania. She is the wife of Michael King, the mother of three daughters and the grandmother of one grandson.
Ijeoma Achara, Monday evening plenary speaker, Dr. Achara has worked extensively in the behavioral health field. Currently she consults with state and local government entities as well as provider organizations regarding the provision of recovery oriented care and the development of recovery oriented systems of care. Prior to her consultation activities, Dr. Achara served as the Director of Strategic Planning at the Department of Behavioral Heath and Mental Retardation Services (DBH/MRS) where she was responsible for leading the transformation of Philadelphia’s behavioral health system into a recovery oriented system of care. Her responsibilities were broad in scope, and in addition to managing the change process, she developed strategies to increase the leadership of people in recovery, changed clinical practices in the system, developed peer based recovery support services,identified and modified policies that were inconsistent with a recovery orientation and developed new initiatives that advanced the transformation process.
Before her work in Philadelphia, Dr. Achara served on the faculty at Yale where she worked with Connecticut’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services
(DMHAS) to conduct research targeting health disparities, cultural competency and the provision of recovery oriented care. Dr. Achara also supported DMHAS’ recovery
transformation efforts and the development of culture specific substance abuse treatment programs in Connecticut.
Dr. Achara has extensive experience in both child and adult behavioral health. In addition to the systems level work that she currently engages in, Dr. Achara has worked as a provider in various settings including hospitals, community treatment centers, and schools across the country.
Tilda Norberg, Tuesday morning plenary speaker, is the founder of Gestalt Pastoral Care, and as a United Methodist minister she is appointed by her bishop to the ministry of Gestalt Pastoral Care. For six years she taught theory and practice at the New Institute for Gestalt Therapy in Manhattan. Since 1968 she has led many spiritual growth retreats and training workshops, and has maintained her private practice in Staten Island, NY. She loves playing the violin and playing with her grandchildren.
She is a graduate of Michigan State University (1963) and Union Theological Seminary, NY (1966) and is certified in Lomi Body Work. Her Gestalt training was with Dan Sullivan at The Gestalt Center in Princeton, NJ, and The Gestalt Institute of Canada in Vancouver, BC.
Tilda has written six books on Christian healing ministry and Gestalt Pastoral Care.
The books are:
- Consenting to Grace: An Introduction to Gestalt Pastoral Care
- Gathered Together: Creating Personal Liturgies for Healing and Transformation
- Threadbear: A Story of Christian Healing for Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse
- Ashes Transformed: Healing from Trauma
- Stretch Out Your Hand: Exploring Healing Prayer
- The Chocolate-Covered Umbrella: Discovering Your Dreamcode
Pam Reese Comer, Tuesday morning “It Takes a Village: 5 Things to Know About Mental Health” speaker, is director of counseling services at EMU and a graduate of the EMU master of arts in counseling program and JMU master of education in counseling program. She is a licensed professional counselor and also has a private practice called Horizons Consultation and Counseling. On her publication materials for both EMU Counseling Center and her private practice Pam states “If you find a counselor you trust, you can change your life”. She believes the therapeutic alliance is the safe and sacred context needed for healing and that a common denominator exists …. core lies that keep us from feeling whole and accessing the truth. It is that inner knowing that is the foundation of her approach to therapy.
Lonnie Yoder, Tuesday morning “It Takes a Village: 5 Things to Know About Mental Health” speaker, is a native of rural southeast Iowa. Lonnie served as youth minister and assistant pastor in his home congregation, East Union Mennonite Church, for twelve years before engaging doctoral studies in Religion and Personality at the University of Iowa. Married to Teresa Boshart, a nurse administrator, and father to two young adult daughters, Lonnie enjoys family time, sports, genealogy, and gardening. A professor at Eastern Mennonite since 1991, in 2010 he assumed the role of associate dean at the seminary while continuing to teach in the areas of pastoral care/counseling and leadership. For several decades, Lonnie has enjoyed working at the interface between religion/spirituality and mental health.
John Otenasek, panel moderator for the Tuesday evening presentation, has spent 29 years living with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and 20 of those as a provider of mental health services. From dairy farmer at a residential treatment facility to the Executive Director of a non-profit center for healing and recovery, it has been a journey that has led to a life of advocacy. John has worked for system transformation and for the rights of the mentally ill as he seeks to eradicate stigma, ignorance and other barriers to effective treatment that is self- determined. His message is one of hope and recovery.
On Tuesday at 7 p.m. during “In Our Own Voices,” panelists will share their personal stories of darkness and confusion, illumination and, for some, even transformation as they journey through the extreme emotional states of what our society labels “mental illness.” In the process of trying to make sense of their experiences and of countering society’s stigma, they are discovering mystery, beauty, giftedness, enlightenment, recovery and hope.
Ted Swartz, Wednesday morning plenary presenter, is a writer and actor who has been mucking around in the worlds of the sacred and profane for over 20 years. As theologian and thespian, Ted brings a unique perspective to his craft, creating a space where these two worlds can interact.
Many people first learned to know Ted as part of the duo, Ted & Lee, working together with Lee Eshleman. Their creative partnership ended suddenly in 2007 when Lee took his own life. In Laughter is Sacred Space, a show both humorous and vulnerably honest, Ted explores the paradox of working with a comedic partner struggling with bipolar disorder, as well as the challenge of writing and performing God’s stories while experiencing the absence of God after Lee’s death.
Ted is owner and artistic director of Ted and Company TheaterWorks, a professional touring company based in Harrisonburg, VA, and is the creator of co-creator of over a dozen plays. Along with writing and acting, his loves include his wife, Sue; three sons, Eliot, Ian and Derek; daughters-in-law Katrina, Hanna, and Chelsea; and, the newest addition, granddaughter Mona Quinn.