Pastor’s Week this year took place the last full week of January. My wife Karen and I drove down to Elkhart leaving on Saturday morning and arriving back home the following Sunday. We stayed with my brother and his family in Shipshewana. One highlight of the week was seeing my nephew Gabe, who is known to the wrestling world as “Gabezilla”— a professional wrestler based in Ocala Florida. Check him out on the internet if you get a chance! Another highlight was visiting with my childhood friends, Dan and Evie, over supper at Das Dutchman Essenhaus restaurant in Middleberry Indiana.
Pastor’s week began Monday morning with seminars put on by the AMBS Leadership Clinic. I participated in the “Congregational Ministry and Leadership in the Face of Sexual Abuse” offering led by Nancy Kauffman and David Miller. Nancy is one of the Denominational Ministers of MC USA who has been involved for many years in working with organizations and congregations around matters related to the misconduct of a leader. David Miller is a professor at the seminary focused on practical theology and pastoral internships. We learned that developing safe church policies and practices is very important in preventing and limiting abuse. Accountability for all persons entrusted with the care of another, as well as openness in dealing with problems of misconduct when it does occur are two practices every group of people do well to cultivate. We were referred to two organizations for further resourcing on the issue of clergy sexual misconduct: Faith Trust Institute and Dove’s Nest, both of which have a presence on the internet.
The majority of Pastor’s Week focussed on the theme “Cultivating Inter-Cultural Leadership for Diversity-Oriented Churches.” This topic is also very relevant to Home Street given our Vision 20/20 and stated desire to become a diverse community reflecting the neighbourhood around the church. We were led by Dr. A. Brian Leander, a Guyanese man 6’4” with a gentle spirit. He articulated “diversity is God’s desire and design” for the church. As followers of Jesus, we are called to embrace, honour and learn from the differences among us, he says. If we are motivated to grow and develop our “cultural intelligence” we will be much better prepared to revitalize congregations, plant new churches, serve not-for-profit ministries and businesses, and take on mission assignments.
The week was attended by a wide diversity of people, many of whom were visible minorities, spoke multiple languages, and served in urban congregations from a variety of denominations. The main teaching events were supplemented with workshops on cross cultural awareness building. AMBS has begun developing cultural awareness in all of its students through intentionally hiring professors and staff from diverse backgrounds and visible minorities. They have revised their strategic plan policy to address systemic power imbalances and attitudes in the community. Perhaps we as a congregation can follow the lead of our seminary!