“Equipping the Saints”: Hope for the Future V to address HR practices, procedures

A group of college students who attended Hope for the Future 2015 — the first year that college students were invited to the event, which seeks strategic ways to help the church embrace diversity in order to thrive. (Photo by Andrew Bodden)
A group of college students attended Hope for the Future 2015 — the first year that college students were invited to the event, which seeks strategic ways to help the church embrace diversity in order to thrive. (Photo by Andrew Bodden)

ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Church USA/Mennonite Mission Network/Mennonite Education Agency)—The fifth annual Hope for the Future gathering for leaders of color from across Mennonite Church USA will focus on Ephesians 4:12-16 and on HR (Human Resources) issues in the workplace.

The event, titled “Equipping the Saints,” will take place Jan. 21–24, 2016, at Calvary Community Church, Hampton, Virginia.

The Hope for the Future (HFF) conferences were created to provide a safe place for open conversation among leaders and emerging leaders in the church, regardless of their culture or family name. Together, participants name the challenges leaders of color face and strategize ways to lead systemic practices towards transformation and increased representation of leaders of color across the denomination.

“Last year’s event focused on conversations about power,” says Iris de Léon-Hartshorn, director for transformative peacemaking for Mennonite Church USA and a member of the conference’s planning committee. “In connection with the HR issues raised at last year’s event, we will also be looking at how we can provide a workplace environment where diverse people can thrive together.”

The gatherings are designed to bring together the denomination’s Racial/Ethnic constituency groups — African American Mennonite Association; African, Belizean, Caribbean Mennonite Mission Association; Asian Mennonite Ministries; Iglesia Menonita Hispana (Hispanic Mennonite Church); Indonesian Mennonite Association; and Native Mennonite Ministries.

Continuing a focus on involving more Mennonite young adults of color, planners have invited each of the Mennonite colleges/universities to send three to four students of color who are potential leaders to the conference.

While most participants are leaders of color who are working within Mennonite agencies and institutions, selected church leaders from the dominant culture are invited as well; they will join the event on the second day. HR personnel from across the church are also specifically invited to attend this year’s event.

At the upcoming gathering, Michelle Armster, interim executive director of Mennonite Central Committee Central States, North Newton, Kansas; and Isaac Villegas, pastor of Chapel Hill (North Carolina) Mennonite Fellowship, will lead participants in in-depth scriptural reflections on Ephesians 4:12-16. Felipe Hinojosa, associate professor in the History Department at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, will be the guest speaker for the banquet. The event will close with Sunday morning worship with Calvary Community Church.

According to de Léon-Hartshorn, the original vision for the HFF gatherings emerged from the desires and needs of leaders of color in Mennonite Church USA to come together for mutual support and to learn from and listen to each other. She notes that planners hope the event will lead to ways to strengthen current and emerging leaders of color, thereby strengthening the work of the church as a whole.

Everence, Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Education Agency and Mennonite Mission Network and co-sponsor and plan the event. Members of the planning committee include Armster; de León-Hartshorn; Stanley Green, executive director of Mennonite Mission Network; and Carlos Romero, executive director of Mennonite Education Agency.

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— Mennonite Church USA staff

See also:

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A group of college students attended Hope for the Future 2015 — the first year that college students were invited to the event, which seeks strategic ways to help the church embrace diversity in order to thrive. (Photo by Andrew Bodden)

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4 thoughts on ““Equipping the Saints”: Hope for the Future V to address HR practices, procedures

  1. It is important for people of color who work, live and serve in Mennonite organizations and institutions to have a safer space — to connect, to vent, to process, to inspire one anther. It might be difficult to believe, but working as a person of color for a predominantly white Mennonite organization / institution can feel really isolating. And spaces like HFF help people of color feel less alone. It also gives us a collective voice — where our perspectives might be harder to hear as individuals. Organizers invite select leaders from dominant culture, but it’s important that this not become another white Mennonite event. People of color choose to live, work and serve in Mennonite organizations and institutions and so we are constantly negotiating named and unnamed cultural norms and expectations that we don’t always know or recognize. It is healthy and appropriate to have spaces that operate outside dominant culture norms and expectations. White folks aren’t excluded (to use your words, James) but they are not the focus / center / drivers of the event. And that’s okay.

    1. Jenny, thanks for the comeback. You are better informed about this event than I.

      “gatherings are designed to bring together the denomination’s Racial/Ethnic constituency groups — African American Mennonite Association; African, Belizean, Caribbean Mennonite Mission Association; Asian Mennonite Ministries; Iglesia Menonita Hispana (Hispanic Mennonite Church); Indonesian Mennonite Association; and Native Mennonite Ministries” NO WHITE FOLK
      “invited each of the Mennonite colleges/universities to send three to four students of color” NO WHITE FOLK

      How can we say that white folk aren’t excluded? Let’s work on building bridges, not walls. I love my white brethren and sistren. They have so much to teach me – not because of my color vs theirs, but due to our shared humanity and common Saviour.

  2. I appreciate that you are presenting an opportunity for people of color to make contact and share their knowledge.

    Many organizations offer opportunities for men and women to get together without the opposite sex present.

    Getting to know the racial/ethnic diversity within the Mennonite community matters…GREATLY!

    HOORAY!

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