2011 ESC Leadership Seminar Focuses on Generosity

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Not your average "Hark the Herald": Jeff Raught of Ted & Company Theaterworks portrays the angel Gabriel in a condensed presentation of "Just Give 'Em The News".

Story and photos by Mandy Garcia

On November 28, 2011, more than eighty steward leaders gathered at the Sirata Beach Resort in St. Pete Beach, Florida for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center 2011 Leadership Seminar. This year’s theme was “Creating Congregational Culture of Generosity in the twenty-first century”. Representatives from nearly twenty denominations heard presentations on the subject by plenary speakers Carol F. Johnston, Jill Schumann, and Paul Johnson. Attendees participated in lively discussion, sharing of ideas, and mutual encouragement.

Between plenary and worship sessions, conversations abounded. In the foreground, plenary speaker Jill Schumann chats with a Leadership Seminar participant.

On Tuesday morning, Associate Professor of Theology & Culture and Director of Lifelong Theological Education and Christian Theological Seminary, Carol Johnston, shared her extensive research about the public roles that congregations play in communities. She told stories of churches in different cities across the US, and of her acknowledgement of their unique personalities and key roles in neighborhood development.

After an ocean-view lunch break, Jill Schumann spoke from her experience as President and CEO of Lutheran Services in America, and suggested “rethinking stewardship” according to shifts in culture and technology. Thinking positively about asset mapping and mutual care were large components of her informative speech.

Q & A sessions and a panel discussion with presenters offered many opportunities for participant interaction.

Wednesday morning brought a presentation from Paul Johnson, Director of Neighbourhood Development Strategies of the City of Hamilton, Ontario. Paul continued the theme of viewing stewardship through a new perspective, and told of trials and successes of unusual and innovative community-based programs in Hamilton. 

All three speakers were prepared to discuss difficult questions and speak from their extensive experience at the panel discussion that afternoon.

Each of the three days also included worship led by Ted & Company Theaterworks. The company concluded the event with a rousing performance of their original piece, “What’s So Funny About Money,” at the seminar’s closing banquet.

Though the Florida weather was cool and windy on the beach, the energy during group discussion, “talk-back” sessions, and songs of praise sung each morning, kept participants warm inside. Inspiring, informative, and encouraging conversation dominated the seminar and the atmosphere was supportive and collegial.

After the closing festivities, attendees lingered to exchange embraces, contact information, and that one last idea until meeting again next year at the ESC Leadership Seminar, 2012.

No matter what the preferred medium, attendees gathered many thought-provoking take-away nuggets from Leadership Seminar. Mandy Garcia is coordinator of donor development for the Church of the Brethren.

View the 2011 Leadership Seminar Photo Album

Order Books Recommended by Leadership Seminar Presenters in the ESC Bookstore (see the Featured Resources Section)

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