(Mennonite Church USA) – The sixth annual Hope for the Future gathering takes place Feb. 2-5 at Calvary Community Church in Hampton, Virginia, bringing together leaders of color and others from across Mennonite Church USA for networking, support and conversation on issues of power, race and diversity across the church.
More than 70 people are expected to attend this year’s event, according to Iris de Leόn-Hartshorn, director of transformative peacemaking for Mennonite Church USA and a member of the planning committee. Of those, more than 40 are people of color, she said. Attendees are coming from at least 14 states, spanning from the West Coast to Texas, Florida, New York and points in between. It’s an increase over the 2016 attendance and exceeds the planning committee’s goal. Mennonite colleges and universities are invited to each send several students of color to add a greater young adult voice.
“Bringing together people of color and their allies for planning for the future of how we work together and get along is important,” said Gilberto Pérez Jr., senior director for intercultural development and educational partnerships at Goshen (Indiana) College and another planning committee member.
“I am excited about planning our future together in areas of intercultural competency and intercultural leadership,” he added. “We have an amazing opportunity to listen and put forth action plans that get us to a better place when it comes to intercultural competency.”
The gathering will focus on three primary areas this year: Where does the Hope for the Future movement go from here? How can “Black Lives Matter” be viewed from an Anabaptist perspective? And what repercussions do actions of sexual abuse and misconduct have, particularly for people of color?
Scheduled events include worship, informational presentations, plenary speakers—including prominent African-American social activist and theologian Ruby Sales, small- and large-group discussion sessions, sharing of stories, and opportunities for planning and developing strategies. Conversation will include follow-up on the Intercultural Competency Call to Action that came out of Hope for the Future last year.
“Listening to organizations share how they are doing on the Intercultural Competency Call to Action will be the highlight,” Pérez said. “Here we will learn how organizations are doing when it comes to intercultural competency. Listening to one another will allow for learning to take place, and we hope networking and idea-sharing will also occur.”
Other planning committee members include Michelle Armster, executive director of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Central States; Stanley Green, executive director of Mennonite Mission Network; Carlos Romero, executive director of Mennonite Education Agency; Noel Santiago, LEADership minister for spiritual transformation in Franconia Mennonite Conference; and Regina Shands Stoltzfus, assistant professor of peace, justice and conflict studies at Goshen College.
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