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Leadership institute equips immigrant women to serve church


New Immigrant Clergywomen’s Leadership Institute kicks off in Daytona Beach

by Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service

New Immigrant Clergywomen’s Leadership Institute attendees. (Photo provided)

LOUISVILLE – The New Immigrant Clergywomen’s Leadership Institute begins this week in Daytona Beach, Florida, as approximately 17 female clergy from around the country gather to collaborate and develop leadership skills to better serve their congregations and the church. Developed by PC(USA) Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries (RE&WM), Leadership Institutes are designed to help racial ethnic, immigrant, and women leaders strengthen skills and relationships, learn new ideas, become encouraged to expand personal comfort zones, and receive inspiration, guidance, and support from national church leaders and executives.

Key agenda items for this year’s three-day gathering, which begins August 1, include “navigating your call, performance management, listening groups, and celebrating new immigrant clergywomen.” According to the Rev. Dr. Rhashell Hunter, Director of Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, racial ethnic and new immigrant congregations are growing and thriving in the PC(USA) and as the church becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, it’s important that church leaders also become more diverse.

“Statistics show that 38 percent of PC(USA) ordained clergy are women; the largest percentage in the history of the church,” said Hunter. “Women bring different leadership styles and gifts to ministry, and these styles and gifts are shaping the church’s future. We’re committed to developing leaders for the future, and the Leadership Institutes help nurture the racial ethnic and women leaders who serve the church now and in the future.”

Leadership Institutes were established as a ministry of Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries in 2010, with the first Racial Ethnic Clergywomen’s Leadership Institute held at Montreat Conference Center.

“We envision a world where women, new immigrants and racial ethnic persons have an equal voice and fully participate in church and society,” continued Hunter. “It is exciting and a privilege to join with gifted, new immigrant clergywomen in the PC(USA), see their accomplishments and journey with them in ministry. We have worked to create a spiritual environment at this leadership institute, where relationships are created and deepened and where immigrant clergywomen are affirmed and supported in their vocations in leadership and ministry.”

One of the attendees at the inaugural Montreat event, the Rev. Dr. SanDawna Ashley, is the new Presbytery Executive for Minnesota Valleys Presbytery and served most recently as Manager for Call Process Support and Teaching Elders Ministries with the Office of the General Assembly. She is a featured leader at this year’s event.

“The Leadership Institute connected me with key denominational leaders who were seeking women pastors who had a sense of call to ministry and administration positions; the event was an introduction into working for the larger church and navigating the systems of a larger denomination,” said Ashley. “Networking, vocational coaching, and discernment are key components of the training provided, and I’ve continued to use the knowledge I’ve gained at the Leadership Institute to serve within the denomination.”

Ashley hopes this year’s attendees realize there are places for their gifts to be used in the larger church. “I also hope to identify individuals with the gifts and graces to fill key positions within the denomination. The institute is designed to address hopes of what can be and to resource individuals with a strategy to make ministry dreams possible.”

The 2017 New Immigrant Clergywomen’s Leadership Institute runs August 1-3. To maximize networking and one-on-one conversation opportunities with church leaders, RE&WM limits the number of participants at each session. The Women of Color Consultation seminar, also sponsored and directed by RE&WM, runs concurrently at the same location with the Leadership Institute. The Women of Color Consultation promotes the leadership of women of color in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

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