Learning Tracks


Marjorie SuchockiMarjorie Suchocki will set the theological foundation for the spiritual life followed by panels on Monday examining transformative practices of congregations; chaplaincy; and a panel on elders. On Tuesday there will be a variety of opportunities to practice the spiritual disciplines. Wednesday will culminate in various forms of guided prayer. | Room WD1

Spirituality panels (Monday)

Healthy Spiritual Practices for Vital Congregations: Join this discussion exploring the role of prayer and other spiritual practices in decision making and congregational vitality. | Room W224 A&B

Spiritual Care During Illness (especially for church elders): A panel of Disciples chaplains will share with you best practices and the ministry of presence with persons who are in the hospital or on hospice. Come learn practical do’s and don’ts from experienced chaplains. This session will be particularly helpful for congregational elders, shepherding group leaders or caring friends. | Room 230B

Compassion in Military Environments: Zachary Moon and Rita Brock will discuss moral injury, soul repair and how congregations can support veterans, in particular those who are newly returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Come and learn about moral injury and how to help vets in your congregation and community. (This replaces the Support for Military Chaplains session. Due to federal budget constraints the leadership for this panel is unable to attend.) | Room W240A

Practice: Tuesday

Lectio Divina: Encountering God in Sacred Text

In many religious traditions, people believe that they are able to "hear" the Holy in the words of their sacred texts. Christine Valters Paintner, faith-filled artist, teacher, retreat leader and modern day mystic, writes in her book, " Lectio Divina - the Sacred Art," that the spiritual practice of "divine reading"  is about "being present to each moment in a heart-centered way,"  one in which we "delight in the nourishment sacred texts offer us." Join us as we practice together this ancient way of listening deeply to the voice of God and are nourished by engagement with the sacred texts of our own tradition. The leader for this workshop is Rev. Susan Towner-Larson, minister for conference relations in the general offices of the United Church of Christ. | Room 224F

Pray With Your Feet

Come learn how to pray with your feet. Rev. Warren Lynn will give guidance and insight into using a labyrinth for personal and congregational spiritual growth and direction. Various shapes and sizes of labyrinths will be offered for your use, as we learn to pray with our feet! 

Lynn is executive minister of the Office of Christian Vocation and manages the Well-Fed Spirit website. | Room WD1


Yoga has been understood as a spiritual discipline by a variety of religious people over thousands of years. Yoga is a "whole-body" experience seeking to integrate our physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental manifestations. Participants in this workshop will receive an active, experiential overview of Yoga including how the practice might be helpful for chaplains, pastors, counselors and caregivers, and an opportunity to engage in basic physical poses and meditation exercises. | Room WD1

(Joy Lynn Richardson grew up in Disciples churches of Texas and Georgia. She graduated from The University of Georgia with degrees in Child Development and Social Work, and has worked with multi-stressed youth and families in Atlanta and San Francisco. She received a Masters in Theological Studies at Pacific School of Religion focusing on the intersections of theology and spirituality with overall personal health. She is particularly interested in bringing this integration to survivors of trauma. Joy Lynn has practiced yoga for 13 years, and is a 2010 graduate of the 200-hour Purusha Yoga School Teacher Training.)

Spiritual practices (Wednesday)


The National Convocation has been asked to lead a traditional Prayer Meeting to close out the Spirituality Track of the General Assembly.  The Rev. Drs. Dale Braxton and Alex Fletcher, pastors from the Alabama/Northwest Florida and Florida regions respectively, will lead us in Prayer Meeting. If Jesus had to pray, we do, too. We ask for a “Praying Spirit” to truly be in our midst as we ask, “Lord, Teach Us to Pray?”  Let us gather together in the Prayer Meeting and talk to God, turn things over to God, and experience God, exercising the privilege of our faith as we carry EVERYTHING to God in prayer. | Room WD1            

Missional Transformation

Reggie McNealReggie McNeal will set the scene for missional transformation based on his background in helping people and Christian organizations pursue more intentional lives by bringing his experience as a denominational executive, coach and local pastor. | Room WF5

Missional Transformation panels (Monday)

Participants in the Missional Transformation track will spend time together as a learning community. Much of the insight shared by our presenters is the result of study, analysis and journeys of discovery. Therefore we invite you into a time of listening with your heart and speaking from your heart. The format for these learning communities will involve a 20 minute presentation followed by holy conversations for a 40-minute period. Each session will end with a 20-minute harvesting session.

Outward-focused Congregations - From Membership to Mission Model: As members experience a sense of entitlement, they create a consumerist culture focusing all resources to serving members only. Discern how to turn the tide and become a church that lives its mission to be present in its community. | Room W224G

Changing the Scorecard for Success - Rethinking the Marks of a Faithful Congregation: What denotes a successful congregation? The number of people in the pews? Income?  Building size? Metrics of success for churches impacting their communities are kingdom standards, not our culture’s. | Room W221C

Leadership in a Missional church - Equipped and Sending: For too long, the church has been designed to say “no” to new ideas and activities.  Explore the concept of “spirited permission giving” and how leadership can be given away for the sake of Christ. | Room W221D

Leading Congregations through Change - Responding to Technical and Adaptive Change Challenges: Explore transformative change and how congregations must be willing to give some things up, in order to become something new.  Learn what adaptive change looks like and how to engage people with transformative change when they are content with the status quo.| Room W224E

Buildings - Conduits or Roadblocks to being Missional: Is your church building serving your mission, or is your congregation a slave to the building?  How can you join this creative movement to release church facilities to be life-giving centers of ministry again? | Room W221E

Reclaiming the Great Commission - Theological Basis for the Transformational Church:  Join others to explore the theology behind how a church acts and move beyond naming the things the church needs to “let go of”  to focus on what the church “could become” if it follows God’s call. | Room W230C

Listos para Hacer Misión - Liderazgo Transformador para Congregaciones: Toda congregación en un momento dado de sus vidas necesita una transformación de modo que pueda ser relevante a su comunidad y a la realidad del tiempo en que están viviendo. Para ello se necesitan líderes enfocados y dispuestos a hacer las transformaciones necesarias en sus vidas de modo que puedan ser modelaje y ayuda para que las congregaciones sean transformadas a la imagen de Cristo junto con sus comunidades y como organización están continuamente transformado la forma de liderar y su ministerio.  Bien lo dice Romanos 12:2 Y no os adaptéis a este mundo, sino transformaos mediante la renovación de vuestra mente, para que verifiquéis cuál es la voluntad de Dios: lo que es bueno, aceptable y perfecto. | Room W240B

Missional Transformation workshops (Tuesday)

Planning for Leadership Development in Your Congregation - This workshop will explore the characteristics of effective and faithful church leadership and help congregations make a difference within their walls as well as in the life of their extended communities. | Room W224C

From the Ends of the Earth to our Doorsteps: Being a Global Mission Church - We have just as much to learn from our Global Partners as we have to give to them. Learn to respond to this shift. | Room W221A

Mission Pathways: Resources for Congregational Mission - Learn about Hope Partnership’s new Mission Pathways resources including precise, up-to-date demographic analysis, compassionate guidance and objective assessments of congregational resources for mission. | Room W221C

Fit, Trim and Holy: A Place that’s Right and in the Right Place - Disciples Church Extension Fund will introduce services/assessments they have created for churches whose ministries are being hijacked by their buildings and help congregations explore options. | Room W221D

Raising Resources to Raise Up Mission: Capital Fundraising at its Abundant Best - Successful capital fundraising  puts vision, mission and intentional stewardship of resources first in planning a project and developing a case for support. | Room W221E

DARE to lead! A Call for Courageous Leaders - Discover THE JOURNEY, a process developed by the Hope Partnership that helps create transformational leadership in your congregation. | Room W223A

Missional Transformation Discussion (Wednesday) | Room WF5

Sacred Conversations

Sandhya Jha

There are so many things we struggle to talk about in the church!  It has been said that if you get 10 Disciples in the room you will have 12 opinions.  Disciples hold dear that kind of diversity and freedom of opinion. Yet, without the tools and experience to have conversations in healthy ways and to make decisions about some issues in the midst of our diversity, we find ourselves unable to deepen our understandings of each other and our relationships and our witness in the world suffer as a result.

Participants in the Sacred Conversation Learning Community will learn about and experience various formats (models) for engaging difficult conversations and questions, applicable to congregational, regional and general expressions of our church life. Practical experience, using real-life questions, will enable participants to experience healthy conversations and discover models to use within their own congregations and organizations.

Sunday core lecture

When a church/congregation is facing difficult and potentially divisive issues, are there some basic rules of engagement? 
Rev. Sandhya Jha will offer both a theological understanding and practical proposals for engaging difficult topics with congregations and communities. | Room W224 A&B

Monday: Identifying “Sacred Conversation “Models | Room W3 & 4 (all)

A panel will present three models of Sacred Conversation:Each panelist will address both the process and how-to’s of their model,  as well as describing how the model was used to address a particular topic in the church, including, “Why we decided to use this model; how did we do this; and what happened.”

World Café (Linda Gardner), Circles of Peace (Glenda Survance); and,Faithful Conversation (Robyn Bles).  

Tuesday and Wednesday : Hands-on experience of the Models  

Each Learning Track participant will have a chance to experience the Sacred Conversation model of their choice.

World Café | Room WF 3 & 4 on Tuesday, Room W224C on Wednesday

Using the World Café model participants will have an opportunity to engage in open and honest conversation with other Disciples regarding the inclusion of LGBT folks in the life of the Church. This model does not seek to convince or persuade others, rather it invites a broadened understanding of the subject. In the Tuesday session of this Learning Track, we will explore what grace and welcome feels like as well as the impact when there is a lack of grace and welcome. 

On Wednesday, we will discuss how covenantal relationships guide conversations that allow for differences of opinion/faith understanding without inviting intolerance or fostering misinformation. World Café will not be directly discussing Resolution 1327, but seeks to provide a model of a process which participants can take home and use for discussion of this subject in local congregations. 

Faithful Conversation | Room WF5 on Tuesday, Room W224D on Wednesday

Using the Faithful Conversation model which builds on conversations held during the Nashville General Assembly and in several regions over the past year, participants will be able to engage in discussion around different issues related to war, violence and peacemaking:  
a.       Care with Veterans and Their Families (Zachary Moon, leader)
b.      Exploring the Culture of Violence in North America (Robyn Bles, leader)
c.       The Changing Face of War (Craig Watts, leader)
d.      Toward a Declaration of a Just Peace-Making Church (Robert Welsh, leader) 

Circles of Peace | Room 224E (both days)

The Circles of Peace model was developed to equip congregations in facilitating intentional conversation, on complex and divisive topics. Designed in three modes (Inquiry, Action and Support), a Circle of Inquiry will be used during General Assembly to explore the issue of immigration.  

Media and Arts in Worship

Disney InstituteWe are touched, literally and figuratively, by the experiences we have in community, whether it is in a worship setting or the virtual world. This learning track kicks off with a lecture from one of the more creative scene-setting groups, the Walt Disney Company. The panels and workshops explore both the creative and the practical points of using all kinds of media and arts in the church. | Main Plenary Hall

Arts & Media panels (Monday)

Worship Crafting - What would happen if we began to truly think about what our worship needs to include to bring joy to God, instead of doing the same thing we always do? What do we include when we give space to create worship services to engage the holy? | Room W224H

Social Media/Multimedia - How do we use social media and multimedia in our churches and why would we want to? Explore the theological value of connections and using multimedia to enhance worship. | Room W224D

Arts - How are we including arts and artists in our worship space, sanctuaries and buildings? What is the value of creating spaces for art and just who decides what isart? Find ways to integrate all manners of art into worship. | Room W224C

Sacred Space - Our space can communicate sacredness. Think beyond liturgical paraments and the Table to bring fresh expressions to your worshipping space through lighting, design, architecture and other visual arts.| Room W221B

Art and Media workshops (Tuesday)


Digital Music: Back-up your pianist with options and flexibility in worship services. Favorite Hymns and Prayers offers audio, video, and print can be bought and used as individual products or purchased to use together. Watch and hear a demonstration from Chalice Press. | Room W240B

BRIM: Engage your congregation, no matter what type of worship style, in services and prayer encounters to bring the sacred back into the sanctuary and beyond. | Room W230A

Many Voices, One Worship: Should our worship services be led by more than just the minister? How do we select, train and inspire leaders from within the congregation to read scripture, write and lead liturgies, pray in worship, and play a vital role in worship preparation? | Room W232A

Social Media/Multimedia

Plugging In: What can the Christian faith offer the world through using social media? How can churches stay current with the younger “plugged-in” generation? | Room W230B

Free Online Resources for Technology in Worship: Arise Christian Church, a portable new church start in Orlando, uses free and low cost technology designed for churches. These solutions integrate social media, mobile devices, and an attitude of worship. | Room W230C


Beyond Warner Sallman & Thomas Kinkade - Digital Art: Explore the possibilities of including visual art beyond kitsch and cliché. Part one of this two-part workshop will look at digital art including art in PowerPoint/projection and alternative uses of digital art as means of enhancing worship. | Room W230D

Congregants Create! Bringing Material Art Practices into Worship: Prayerful incorporation of artwork as well as art-making is possible in worship services. Hear about The Gallery, a worship service inside the art gallery at the Pacific School of Religion. She will also address the possibilities that come with art-making in worship. | Room W232B

Video in the Church: A brief introduction to cameras, software, websites and methods to incorporate moving pictures into worship and church promotion. | Room W224A

The Acting & Preaching Connection: To stand in front of people and speak with a prophetic voice, full of passion and power can be terrifying for preachers and lay readers. Use basic performance skills to help keep sermons creative, truthful and poignant. | Room W224B

Liturgical Dance for Those with Two Left Feet:  This workshop will focus on examples of how to incorporate both trained dance and "extemporaneous" movement in worship. | Room WF2

Sacred Space

Visio Divina:  Visio Divina is an experience to enter scripture through prayerful engagement while identifying images, scenes, colors, motion, clothing, characters. Enter into inspiration and imagining all that is possible in art and media and imagine how to implement these ideas, including a draft design. | Room W224D

Beyond Felt Banners: Just how can we create art differently than the traditional and tired felt banners of the past? Come and experience a hands-on approach to use with any age group. | Room W209A

Prayer Reflected: How do you view scripture through photography? Experience a method to inspire youth and all ages to reflect the scriptures using simple photographic methods and PowerPoint to create a moving re-telling of scripture for your worship. | Room W222B

Arts & Media Discussion (Wednesday) | Room 224A&B


Walter BrueggemannHow do we respond to the generosity of God?  How do we manage resources?  How do we teach this discipline?  Would you like to learn how to speak about abundance in the midst of a culture that is fixated on scarcity?  On Sunday, Walter Brueggemann will lead a theological journey on stewardship – Living a More Excellent Story. As he says, “By default our lives and our money, in our society, get caught up in stories of fearful anxiety that issue, predictably, in guarded stinginess. The gospel frees us.” | Room WF1

Stewardship panels (Monday)

These conversations will continue in Tuesday’s workshops.

The Commandment Everybody Breaks – We say we're too busy. But God promised we will receive seven days of provision for only six days of labor. Trusting God's promise is central to our own practices of generosity. Video info | Room W224F

From Maintenance to Mission - The budget as a moral document: Is it really a best practice to quibble over how much we spend on coffee or the pastor's book allowance? Perhaps the “Narrative Budget” based on the congregation’s mission can show a congregation’s priorities and move us from maintenance to mission. Video info | Room W223A

Preaching the Stewardship Gospel Any Week of the Year - Preach scripture through a stewardship lens any time of the year by revealing the character of God pouring an overflowing cup for God's beloved. Video info | Room W230D

Money as Pastoral Care – Should the pastor know who gives financially to support the congregation and who does not? Giving is a spiritual discipline and a mark of personal transformation that can be added to other information to help members mature in the process of faith. Video info | Room W240C

And God Said It Was Good - Our earliest creation story names humans as servants and protectors of the garden but we often equate human dominion to human supremacy. Does the church have a place in dialogue about how we use the earth’s resources?  Can affirm there is “enough” for everyone to have what they need? Video info | Room W221A

Counting to Ten  - At the same time we are teaching our children that “Jesus loves me”, we should also be teaching them that God is generous and has abundantly provided for the world.  The time to teach patterns and disciplines for living is when we are young in response to a generous and loving God. Video info | Room W223B

Finishing Well – How can our passing from this life become life-giving to those we leave behind and witness to what we most sincerely believe? Finishing Well is about our estate planning, organ donation, green funeral arrangements and the opportunity to give at a level of generosity not possible when we were living. Video info | Room W240D

Stewardship workshops (Tuesday) 

A continuation of Monday’s panel discussions.

Speaking of Sabbath – a Conversation Overheard - Clergy speaking to clergy for laity to “overhear,” and laity speaking to laity for clergy to “overhear.” Video info | Room W209B

Money Talks – What Language Are You Speaking? - The process of moving a congregation from “maintenance budgeting” to “missional financial narrative,” and the utility of narrative budgeting as a statement of Christian identity. Video info | Room W224G

Do You See What I See? - Viewing texts through the lens of stewardship Video info | Room W222A

Best Employment Practices for Local Congregations - This seminar will help clergy and lay leaders identify best employment practices for congregations as well as explore fair compensation and benefits for all church employees. Sponsor: Pension Fund and led by President James P. Hamlett and Pension Fund staff  Video info | Room W209C

It Is Easy to Be Green! - Real resources that work for greening your congregation and your life Video info | Room W224H

Learning by Doing - The panelists will teach as if we are children in different age groups (preschool, elementary, middle & high school). Video info | Room W223B

Finishing Well Part 2 Video info | Room W240D

Stewardship Discussion (Wednesday) | Room WF1

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)