Marjorie 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.
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.
Spiritual Care During Illness (especially for church elders): Get practical insights on spirituality of presence and visitation including some basic do’s and don’ts, what to expect and the positive impact of spirituality and healthcare.
Compassion in Military Environments (military chaplains): A panel for and by chaplains on self-care as well as the special challenges of moral injury and the like.
Spirituality workshops (Tuesday)
Have you ever wanted to learn Yoga or how to walk a Labyrinth? Are you interested in learning more about Lectio Divina, Intercessory Prayer or Contemplative prayer? Sign up for one of three practical sessions where you will engage in these spiritual disciplines, guided by a practitioner.
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.
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.
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.
(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)
CALLING ALL PRAYER WARRIORS!
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.
Reggie 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Responding to the Call: Opportunities to serve globally in God’s Mission - Explore how you, your congregation or your region can organize a People-to-People pilgrimage as a group with the help of Global Ministries.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 on the theological, cultural and practical rationale for Christians to engage difficult conversations.
Monday – Panelists will introduce three models of conversation already in use across the church.
Tuesday – Praxis – each participant is invited to attend the model and topic of their choosing (some may choose to learn about a particular model, others may make the choice based on topic up for discussion – either is just fine!)
Wednesday – Going Deeper – What else do we need to learn in order to use this model in our own setting?
Rev. Sandhya Jha offers a theological rationale for engaging difficult topics with congregations and communities. She will explore why we must talk about difficult and often divisive questions and name basic rules of engagement
Rev. Sandhya Jha is the Director of the Oakland Peace Center and co-pastor of First Christian Church in Oakland, CA. She serves as Missional Minister of Transformation and Reconciliation for the Christian Churches of Northern CA-NV. Her passion is liberation ethics as an academic field and as a lived experience in urban communities. She recently published “Room at the Table: The struggle for dignity and unity in Disciples history,” a book about people of color in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Sandhya is an anti-racism/anti-oppression trainer with the Disciples of Christ, a regular public speaker and preacher, and an occasional consultant for Church Extension’s New Beginnings program.
Through a panel discussion format participants will reflect on four models of conversation that have been used in settings across the church to faithfully engage matters of belief in which there is a wide diversity of opinion. Each panel participant will talk about how they used their model in the congregation, region, or general church and share joys and challenges of those experiences. There will be time for questions.
World Café – Linda Gardener shares the experience of the Pacific Southwest Region using World Café Conversation Tables to talk about the inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered (LGBT) persons in the life of the church.
Participants in this World Café will engage in a collaborative dialogue in response to a series of questions focused on increased understanding of inclusion of LGBT persons in the life of the church.
Using powerful questions the World Café offers a practical and creative way to grow our capacity for collaborative thinking. It does not seek to persuade or campaign for one’s view; rather, it seeks to broaden understanding of the topic discussed. World Café is based on the assumption that people already have within them the wisdom and creativity to confront even the most difficult challenges.
Circles of Peace – Glenda Servance shares how her congregation, Central Christian Church in Indianapolis, has used this approach to make decisions and have conversation around such areas as immigration and community ministry. Using the conversation method of Circles of Peace, this group will have discussions about issues related to immigration in the United States.
There are many topics that are calling the church to action and there is often no one right answer to any of these issues – no clear-cut - no one can deny it, road to justice. And we do not want to call people to action without first giving them a path to understanding and a place to find their voice. And as we do this we will find that even after seeing the same information, hearing the same stories and thinking through with intention and following the Spirit, we still come out in different places and with resoundingly different thoughts on the action that should be taken. And that is as it should be.
Circles of Peace is one way for congregations to engage challenging conversation and remain in relationship with one another.
Faithful Conversations – Robyn Bles will share this model of dialogue – “engaging divisive issues while maintaining our unity” -- developed by the Council on Christian Unity in partnership with Disciples Peace Fellowship, to promote vigorous and robust discussion on the challenges of putting our Christian faith into practice. The process was introduced at the 2011 General Assembly by a diverse group of Disciples who shared their personal reflections and differing points of view on issues of war and peacemaking. Time in this Assembly’s “faithful conversations” will be dedicated to taking this conversation even deeper and discerning if there might be something we as a church are ready to say or do together about becoming a “just peacemaking church,” responding to violence in our daily culture and society; offering ministry as congregations to military personnel, veterans and their families; and, understanding the changing nature of warfare today and its impact on pursuing peace.
Each Sacred Conversation Learning Track participant will practice engaging the Sacred Conversation model of their choice.
MODEL: World Cafe | TOPIC: Questions related to LGBTQI roles and relationships in the Church
Through the method of asking powerful questions and knee-to-knee conversation. This topic and the Café questions will be clarified closer to the assembly.
MODEL: Faithful Conversation | TOPIC: Unity, War and Peacemaking
This model of dialogue began at the 2011 General Assembly Nashville, and continued in congregations and regions leading up to 2013 Assembly, to engage divisive issues while maintaining our unity.
MODEL: Circles of Peace | TOPIC: Immigration
This group will explore issues related to some aspects of immigration of specific consequence to Disciples congregations. The working team for this group will clarify the particular questions that will be asked in this group prior to the assembly.
Media and Arts in Worship
We 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sacred Stations: 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.
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?
The Cyber Church: The pastor of an online congregation that has been gathering for four years in the cyber-world of Second Life (online virtual community) will discuss online churches and how online communities can help spiritual development.
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?
Welcoming those with Hearing Loss: There are over 40 million Americans with hearing loss, the largest “disability”. Learn how installing hearing loops (also called audio, or induction, loops) can improve comprehension.
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.
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.
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.
Video in the Church: A brief introduction to cameras, software, websites and methods to incorporate moving pictures into worship and church promotion.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How 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.”
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
From Maintenance to Mission - 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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Do You See What I See? - Viewing texts through the lens of stewardship
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
It Is Easy to Be Green! - Real resources that work for greening your congregation and your life
Learning by Doing - The panelists will teach as if we are children in different age groups (preschool, elementary, middle & high school).
Finishing Well - led by the Christian Church Foundation