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Evangelism Conference, Immersion event to be held back-to-back at Montreat Conference Center

Consider yourself invited to one or both conferences, which are both hybrid events

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Here is an invitation for you to come to the 2022 Evangelism Conference at Montreat Conference Center, October 30 through November 1.

The keynote speaker, the Rev. Shanea D. Leonard, will focus on the conference themes of addressing harm and embracing hope. For Leonard, that means acknowledging where we have been while living into the hope of what the church is becoming.

“We’ll sit with our pain yet look toward our hope,” they said. “We’re going to think, and laugh, and be compelled to reimagine [what church can look like].”

Onsite participants will experience renewal as they network with others interested in evangelism that is centered in radical welcome and justice — two of the 8 Habits of Evangelism featured at the 2021 conference. There are also opportunities to go deeper into harm and hope at conference workshops, which include:

The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow

A Healing Gospel for a Hurting World: Worship and the Craft of Radical Welcome

Using a lens of worship, the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow will explore Presbyterians’ hesitancy around evangelism. Reyes-Chow will encourage those attending to be known for living lives of compassion, love and justice in the world.

Reyes-Chow wonders in the face of Christian nationalism, violent extremism, and divisive tactics if we might be bolder in claiming and articulating a Gospel that tells a different story without holding to a claim on possessing the one true Gospel or the one true way for the people of God to worship together.

The Rev. Pepa Paniagua

“Calling In: A Conversation About Addressing Harm to and Cultivating Spaces of Celebration of the LBGTQIA+ community”

The Rev. Pepa Paniagua, the founding and organizing pastor of kin-dom community, a fully affirming 1001 new worshiping community, will explore how the church has been complicit in harming the LGBTQIA+ community. She will highlight ways harm is still happening while inviting participants to wonder what allyship might look like in their own lives and context.

The Rev. Dr. Cheni Khonje

Kalibu and Ulongo: Radical Welcome and Relationship as Evangelism

The Rev. Dr. Cheni Khonje was born in Malawi and became a political refugee when she was less than one month old. She will discuss cultural insights from the Yao people with sprinkles of Dutch hospitality that enhance their effectiveness in spreading the love of Jesus Christ.

As a baby, Khonje says she could not have understood the grace of radical welcome exhibited by the President of Zambia, who welcomed Malawi refugees into his country and helped her parents find meaningful employment. Khonje said the president’s faith — Kenneth Kaunda was the son of a teacher and Presbyterian pastor ordained in the church of Scotland — was evident throughout his presidency, and beyond.  “Cultural mores from the Yao and Dutch people instill in folk a strong ideal of including others as siblings,” she said. “To welcome them with joy by sharing God’s bounty.”

During the Intersections of Hope with a 1001 New Worshiping Community and a Vital Congregation workshop, the Rev. Dr. Robyn Byrd Michalove will tell the story of First Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, Texas, where she also leads an worshiping community formed out of a church that was looking for a pastor to bring in new energy. Michalove took the church, which was founded in the 1800s, into the parking lot. “People found their way to the church that might never have ascended the imposing stairs up into the sanctuary,” Michalove said. “That became our social ministry.”

As the church dwindled in membership, First Presbyterian Church, which wanted a Reformed witness in that part of Fort Worth, assumed membership of the congregation. Eventually First Presbyterian Church created a full-fledged mission outreach center that serves about a 1,000 people a month with anything from dental services to diapers, food and ESL classes. Weekly worship services are a part of it too.  Michalove is aware that some people might say, “Well, they can do all of that because they’re a big church with large pocketbooks.”  But she loves ministry in smaller churches and believes that any size congregation doing ministry that engages people contextually in their neighborhood can have significant impact.

The Rev. Dr. Robyn Byrd Michalove performs a baptism. (Contributed photo)

Michalove asks, “How can we not address harm with it comes to evangelism? Especially for those who have been marginalized?”

As she addresses the harm wealth inequality can have, Michalove hopes to get people thinking about privilege and how we are sometimes unwittingly being oppressors of the poor. “We need to think about ways in which we continue these patterns of ignorance,” she said. “For example, we still have a colonial sort of approach to giving, where I have something you need, and I’ll give it to you, and I will feel good about it.”

Because this approach can divide people and leave some feeling “less than,” Michalove wants participants to think of ways to create spaces for the people they’ve considered as “other,” for when those who have been marginalized find spaces to express the hope and faith they find in their community in Christ, growth happens for all involved. “It can really infuse a congregation with more energy, because just as they think they are giving out, they’re actually receiving health and vitality in return,” she said.

Michalove believes that being together in person at the Montreat Conference Center will help people think creatively together — especially after the last two years of the pandemic.

“So many congregations are trying to figure out what’s next and how do we get people back and what does that look like,” Michalove said. “Maybe it’s not so much about getting people back in the pews, but people in the pews out in the community and engaging in that way.”

The Rev. Rachel Hood Vogado, a pastor and artist, will also lead a workshop. It will focus on ways faith communities can be inspired to weave their stories with God’s story through visual arts. She has a great love for woodworking, welding, metal work and textile arts.

You can find out more about Evangelism: Addressing Harm, Embracing Hope and register for the conference here. Participants will also get an opportunity to add on the Vital Congregations Immersion event, which directly follows the conference Nov. 2-3, at 50% of the registration price. Click here for more information about the Immersion event.

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