By Annette Brill Bergstresser
ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Church USA/Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — In 2014, following a workshop led by Shana Peachey Boshart on children’s spirituality at the biennial convention of Mennonite Camping Association, Rachel Gerber and Elsie Rempel lingered to chat with Boshart. One of the fruits of this conversation is Deep Faith: Anabaptist Faith Formation for All Ages, a conference to be held Oct. 6–8 at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS), Elkhart, Indiana.
“We realized how much our ministries had in common and lamented how little contact we had with each other,” says Rempel, who was then staff for faith formation for Mennonite Church Canada. (Gerber serves as denominational minister of youth and young adults for Mennonite Church USA, and Boshart as conference minister for faith formation of Central Plains Mennonite Conference.)
“We decided to start meeting online periodically to change that and were soon sharing lots of resources with each other,” Rempel continues. “Before long, the idea of a conference was birthed — one that would help other people who care about faith formation to connect and learn from each other.”
The planners describe Deep Faith: Anabaptist Faith Formation for All Ages as a practical conference designed to empower Anabaptist pastors, teachers and lay leaders in the church to develop a robust understanding of life with Jesus and expand their imagination of faith formation for the 21st century.
Keynote speakers for the event include John Roberto of LifelongFaith Associates; Rachel Miller Jacobs, assistant professor of congregational formation at AMBS; and Brian Quan, pastor of Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church.
Others with passion for faith formation have joined the planning team, which Rempel describes as “a fascinating blend of practitioners and professionals — from congregational leaders to seminary professors and denominational staff.” Additional members include Shannon Dycus, pastor at First Mennonite Church of Indianapolis; Katherine Goerzen, associate pastor at Tabor Mennonite Church in Newton, Kansas; Andy Brubacher Kaethler, assistant professor of Christian formation and culture at AMBS; and Carrie Martens, pastor of faith formation at Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ontario.
Now a freelance formation consultant, Rempel has stayed on as chair of the group “as a labor of love,” even though she no longer works for Mennonite Church Canada. The group has only met via online videoconferencing.
According to Rempel, various event sponsors have come through from across the church to join AMBS and Mennonite Church USA, including the Anabaptist Faith Formation Network, Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, Mennonite Church Manitoba and The Gathering Place. Mennonite Camping Association will sponsor a pizza supper and camp-style part on the opening night of the event.
“All in all, this group and this event are a most inspiring example of how, with some initiative and boundary-crossing friendships, we can work together across geographic and organizational boundaries that often separate us,” said Rempel. “We hope, pray and dream that the Deep Faith conference will connect and inspire many kindred spirits in their ministries of helping to form others to grow into the likeness of Christ.”
Gerber added that in her role, she sees more and more pastors with the title of “faith formation” or “associate pastor of children, youth, and families.”
“How do we care for the breadth and depth of attending to faith formation from a holistic perspective?” she asked. “It’s my hope that this conference will give us tools to begin to imagine what can be — to create durable faith that spans the life cycle and to be encouraged by other practitioners, learning with and from one another.”
Early registration costs will be $125 USD for adults and $50 USD for students until Sept. 14. More information will be available online as planning continues; see mennoniteusa.org/deepfaith.
Deep Faith logomark