Story and photos by John W. Coleman
The Eastern PA Conference was bustling with conference-wide events from September through November, filling many weekends and some weekdays with rich learning opportunities to resource leaders and ministries and even to offer some fun and fellowship. Training event topics—addressing matters of the head and heart—ranged from preventing domestic violence to using emotional intelligence, from ministering to veterans and families struggling with the wounds of war, to leading churches in the midst of conflict.
Even with so much learning going on, our “fall semester”—unlike real school—began with recess. About a hundred members, families and guests converged on Camp Innabah Sept. 7 to enjoy food, fun and fellowship and great, soul-stirring music at the multicultural Celebrating Our Cultures picnic. The event was so popular that the sponsoring Commission on Religion and Race plans to offer an encore next Sept. 12.
That same weekend our Conference Council on Youth Ministries (CCYM) cosponsored Camping at the Crossroads, a youth ministry retreat hosted by Covenant UMC of Moore Township in Bath. With plenty of inspiring music and messages, it was a festival, a rally and a retreat, all rolled into one, to reach youth and young adults for Christ. One great outcome is that several North District participants have now joined the CCYM and attended its Nov. 23 meeting with other new and old members to help plan its 2020 events.
The last two Saturdays in September offered Hopewell UMC’s annual Planting Seeds for Ministry Growth event, Sept. 21, and Domestic Violence, the Church Responds II, Sept. 28, hosted at Simpson House.
Planting Seeds’ keynote presenter, Jen Hatmaker, inspired a roomful of her fans and online followers, plus others perhaps unfamiliar with her. The popular author, speaker and blogger who co-leads a new church with her husband in Austin, Texas, enthralled listeners with her humorous but hard-won wisdom about leading church folks through transformation “when things get tough.”
When asked what she saw as the most urgent problem in our society today, Hatmaker surprised many in the mostly white audience when she spoke with impassioned honesty and humility about the problem of racism.
The second annual Domestic Violence seminar, sponsored by the conference DV Committee, focused this year on the errant socialization of boys and men that often causes misguided, disrespectful and even abusive masculine attitudes and behaviors toward women. The Rev. Rickie Houston, a pastor, father and trainer with A CALL TO MEN, keynoted the event and joined other specialists and workshop leaders in a candid panel discussion.
The Leadership Launch Workshop, Oct. 5, sought to help a roomful of leaders at all levels—from conference to congregation—answer the burning question “How churches can form and mobilize vital, visionary leadership teams to launch into bold, life-changing and church-changing ministries?”
The Rev. Jacqui King, of the UMC’s Discipleship Ministries agency, an enthusiastic, enjoyable, expert in leadership development, took her audience on a full-day “leadership training adventure” at Quakertown UMC. She focused their attention on three keys for a successful leadership launch: clear, realistic goals; a courageous faith; and effective teamwork.
Those same keys, among others, were emphasized two weeks later by a procession of visionary clergy presenters at HOPE! Talks 2.0: ReBoot!, Oct. 19.
Hosted again by Lighthouse Fellowship in Glenside, it was an encore of last year’s much-appreciated sharing of best ministry practices among a collection of stories and strategies to inspire among small but vital churches.
Churches as First Responders to the Military and Veteran Population, Nov. 13, was a half-day seminar for clergy and laity hosted by First UMC Phoenixville and sponsored by the Office of Connectional Ministries and the Committee on Disabilities Concerns. It was led by the Revs. Will Barnes and Wanda Sevey, clinicians trained in marriage and family therapy with experience in teaching students and working with military service personnel and their families.
While it deserved a larger audience, those attending learned to recognize the many possible needs and problems that military and veteran congregants and their families face. They learned about military culture and its impact on families and how churches and pastors can minister to those suffering from PTSD and moral injury (an emotional injury to one’s “moral conscience and values resulting from an act of perceived moral transgression”).
Emotional Intelligence & You!—Jesus’ Approach, Nov. 16, hosted by Bethel UMC in Spring City, taught mental and relational skills innate to everyone and important for every church. EQ impacts communication, teamwork and conflict management. And it can create an inclusive, welcoming environment, especially where the gift of human diversity exists.
It’s about how to “know thyself,” by being fully aware of oneself and fully present in relating to others. That includes recognizing and addressing true emotional needs and motivations for behaviors. And according to the Revs. Anita Powell and David Piltz, who co-taught the session, there was no one who did it better than Jesus Christ. The workshop provided insight into Jesus’ approach to managing conflict, creating believers, and teaching others about living life with God at the center.
There were certainly more conference teaching and training events over this last quarter of 2019—including: