Tag Archives: Mennonite Education Agency

Making theological formation and education relevant to urban churches

by Elizabeth M. Miller for Mennonite Education Agency, originally posted in The Mennonite

Kim-Mai Tang and Khoa Ho are part of the Year 1 Cohort (class of 2017) in Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s STEP program. Photo provided by EMU.
Kim-Mai Tang and Khoa Ho are part of the Year 1 Cohort (class of 2017) in Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s STEP program. Photo provided by EMU.

Flexibility is one of the critical ways the various schools associated with Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) are making theological formation and education accessible and relevant to urban churches.

But flexibility alone is not enough. Urban church leaders are also looking for education solidly grounded in a global context and embedded in relational networks, not just institutional structures.

In response a variety of Mennonite educational institutions have developed ser­vices meant to serve and learn from urban Anabaptists, often strongly rooted in a particular geographical center or located within a series of networks and partnerships.
 
1. Instituto Bíblico Anabautista
At Centro de Alabanza in Philadelphia each week, over 20 percent of the church community gathers to study and discuss courses offered by the Instituto Bíblico Anabautista (IBA, Anabaptist Biblical Institute) and facilitated by the congregation’s pastors, Fernando Loyola and Leticia Cortés.
 

“The advantage of the courses is that you can start whenever it best suits,” said Cortés in a recent interview. “We can study at any time.”

The IBA courses at Centro de Alabanza are held twice a week. Most of the participants at Centro de Alabanza are married couples, so men study one night and women the next. This way husbands and wives are able to swap child care during their respective class nights.

“[IBA] has total flexibility,” says Rafael Barahona, IBA and the Hispanic Pastoral and Leadership Education office director. “So [the churches] can make it work for them.” IBA provides instruction manuals for students and training for facilitators, but it does not impose an external schedule on church groups using the program.

For Centro de Alabanza, this flexibility has been key. The ability to offer courses on a schedule that equally benefits husbands and wives from within the same households has had a tremendous effect on the congregation. “In my case with the women especially, they have more confidence that they are capable, that they can use their gifts,” said Cortés.

An IBA student retreat. The 2014 retreat took place in Talladega, Ala. Photo by Violeta Ajquejay.
An IBA student retreat. The 2014 retreat took place in Talladega, Ala. Photo by Violeta Ajquejay.

Cortés has observed the women immediately putting into practice what they have been learning in the classes. Some have even started preaching in the worship services.

IBA is one of the longest-running and most expansive programs for urban Mennonite church leaders. Now in its 27th year, there are 42 centers serving around 300 students across the country, from New York City to Miami to Omaha, Neb.

2. STEP
Eastern Mennonite Seminary, a graduate division of Eastern Mennonite University,operates a campus in Lancaster, Pa., that most directly serves the eastern part of the state, including many urban churches in Lancaster and the greater metro area of Philadelphia.

“One of the things unique about the EMS program is that our programs are intended for urban dwellers,” says Steve Kriss, associate director of pastoral studies at EMS Lancaster and LEADership minister for Franconia Conference.

While EMS Lancaster offers an M.Div. track and two graduate certificate programs, they also operate Study and Training for Effective Pastoral Ministry (STEP), an undergraduate-level program for church leaders who wish to strengthen their ministry and leadership experiences.

From the beginning, STEP was designed as a collaborative program, dependent on urban church networks and experience. An advisory committee from Philadelphia-area congregations helped design the original program, and teachers and students came from area Anabaptist congregations.

“It was a very deliberate attempt to connect with the vibrant urban minority [and] recent immigrant congregations in the Philadelphia urban metro area,” says Mark Wenger, director of EMS Lancaster.

STEP is grounded in practical experience and mentoring relationships. Everyone who joins STEP must already serve in a leadership role within his or her congregation, and each student is paired with a ministry mentor.

“[It’s an] embedded model, not an academy model,” says Wenger. “What you study, what you read about, what you write about, you practice right away in your context. That works in an urban setting very well.”

By necessity STEP integrates global realities into the formal education experience.

“Global political realities sometimes come crashing down in the classroom,” says Kriss. “The world does not stay as separated as it might in a more traditional setting.”

The urban congregations that partner with EMS Lancaster include Vietnamese, Latino, Anglo, African-American and Ethiopian ones. The diverse identities of these, combined with their urban context, bring global issues to the fore.

“Urban leaders are asking us to work at ways of telling the Anabaptist story that integrate with urban and global realities. For places like Philly, it’s not just the city that we’re dealing with,” says Kriss. “We’re dealing with global realities. So our coursework needs to reflect those realities.”

It has also been important for traditional Mennonite congregations to be involved in the work that urban congregations and leaders are doing. Kriss calls this “enlivening work.” “Across the board it helps build relationships and give [traditional Mennonite congregations] new ways to look at Anabaptism.”

3. AMBS-SCUPE
Both EMS in Harrisonburg, Va., and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Ind., offer courses in their graduate programs specifically focused on urban contexts and ministry. They also regularly receive students from nearby urban centers.

In general, however, the seminaries report that it is the partnerships in urban-based theological education that have most strengthened their programs in this regard.

AMBS, for example, is a long-standing member of the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education (SCUPE). Rather than try to duplicate the courses and experience offered by SCUPE, AMBS encourages students to enroll in SCUPE’s courses in nearby Chicago.

Miller-and-Martin
David B. Miller, associate professor of missional leadership development and AMBS-SCUPE program liaison, meets with advisee Martin Navarro. Photo provided by AMBS.

 

According to Rebecca Slough, academic dean, SCUPE builds on the formation offered at AMBS while introducing students to a wider network of people.

“It puts [students] in a different theological and racial-ethnic environment,” says Slough.

Julia Gingrich, a 2014 AMBS graduate who lives and works in Elkhart, credits her SCUPE courses with giving her the tools to “exegete” her urban context.

“[They] played a significant role in forming me as a missional leader who seeks to be deeply and consciously rooted in my ministry context,” she wrote in an email.

The Urban Peacemaking course Gingrich took through SCUPE was especially helpful in preparing her for her ministry internship at St. James AME, which Gingrich described as “an African-American congregation located in a marginalized Elkhart neighborhood.”

“[In Urban Peacemaking] we studied and discussed gun violence and mass incarceration, issues that are of central concern to the members and neighbors of St. James,” wrote Gingrich. “Studying these issues helped me join St. James in [its] efforts to resist these forms of violence.”

4. Center for Intercultural and International Education
The kind of partnerships and networks that have made IBA, STEP, and SCUPE possible are also crucial to the work of the Center for Intercultural and International Education (CIIE) at Goshen (Ind.) College.

CIIE focuses on welcoming students from multicultural backgrounds—who are also often urban students—as well as working with organizations and churches that work with youth.

“Many times we think urban students are more needy than other students,” says Gilberto Pérez, CIIE director. But he notes that urban students often have a level of resiliency and network navigation skills that is helpful for college. Adjusting to college without the proximity of their home network can be daunting, however, so CIIE pairs them with a student mentor. “The mentoring gives them a place to experience what they had in their home community,” says Pérez.

While CIIE focuses much of its energy on the Goshen College community itself, it also sustains partnerships with 16 different community partners that work with students of color in locations all across the country.

Their goal, Pérez says, is “to be in relationship and offer the resources the church has available.”

5. ReconciliaAsian
ReconciliAsian, an Anabaptist peace center that works mainly with Korean-American churches in Los Angeles, recently began a partnership with CIIE. Like the Philadelphia churches who partner with EMS Lancaster, ReconciliAsian finds their focus to ultimately be a global one.

Their recent partnership with CIIE allows ReconciliAsian to reach what Park-Hur calls “invisible” youth in the Asian-American community who may not fit the “model minority myth” imposed on so many Asian-Americans.

Park-Hur also hopes to speak at more family conferences with her husband, Hyun Hur. Their respective backgrounds as a Korean-American and a Korean immigrant make them uniquely equipped to communicate a message of conflict transformation across generational boundaries.

Like many urban ministries, ReconciliAsian depends on a variety of relational networks and partnerships for its work.

As important as networks and flexibility are to theological formation and education in urban contexts, they alone cannot respond to other challenges. Some urban churches, for example, want their youth to attend Mennonite colleges, but they fear those same young people won’t return after four years away.

“Our undergraduate programs are all outside major urban areas,” says Kriss. “Some Mennonite congregations feel that to raise up good leaders and send them to Mennonite schools means the congregations lose them forever, because they don’t return.”

Cost is another hurdle. Some of the programs, like IBA, keep their costs low by using volunteer instructors. But accreditation comes with a price tag that can be particularly burdensome for urban churches and leaders.

Yet relationships can go a long way toward sharing these challenges and adapting or creating new educational structures that better serve urban churches.

“We need networks of trusted relationships,” says Kriss. “We need to spend time building relationships and being in each other’s space.”

Elizabeth Miller is a member of Berkey Avenue Mennonite Church in Goshen, Ind.

“Come and See”: Mennonite leaders visit Israel/Palestine

Participants in the Mennonite learning tour of Israel/Palestine visit the separation wall in the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. The wall cuts off the camp from an olive grove where residents used to work and play. (l. to r.) Isaac Villegas, Stanley Green, Ann Graber Hershberger, Mohammad Al-Azzah (Palestinian tour guide), Joy Sutter, Joanna Hiebert Bergen (MCC Jerusalem staff), Ron Byler, Tanya Ortman, Chad Horning, Ed Diller and Duane Oswald. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)
Participants in the Mennonite learning tour of Israel/Palestine visit the separation wall in the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. The wall cuts off the camp from an olive grove where residents used to work and play. (l. to r.) Isaac Villegas, Stanley Green, Ann Graber Hershberger, Mohammad Al-Azzah (Palestinian tour guide), Joy Sutter, Joanna Hiebert Bergen (MCC Jerusalem staff), Ron Byler, Tanya Ortman, Chad Horning, Ed Diller and Duane Oswald. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

by Jenn Carreto for Mennonite Church USA

Fifteen board members and staff representing various Mennonite agencies and organizations traveled to Israel/Palestine Feb. 24–March 4 to take part in a “Come and See” learning tour; participants included Joy Sutter, a member of Mennonite Church USA’s Executive Board from Salford congregation, and Noel Santiago, a member of Mennonite Education Agency’s board and a staff member for Franconia Conference.The tour marked the beginning of a denominational initiative to send 100 Mennonite leaders to the region on similar tours over the next five years.

While Mennonites have been involved in relief work, service, witness and peacemaking in the region for more than 65 years, the tour was organized in response to a 2009 appeal from Palestinian Christians called  “Kairos Palestine:  A Moment of Truth” (www.kairospalestine.ps).

A coalition representing a range of Christians in Palestine—including Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical—issued the open letter to the global body of Christ as “a word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.” They invited Christian organizations and faith groups to “come and see, in order to understand our reality.”

“The memories of our experiences keep intruding on my everyday thoughts some two weeks after our return,” reflected Chad Horning of Goshen, Ind., Chief Investment Officer of Everence and a member of the learning tour. “I am inspired by the steadfastness of Palestinians and Israelis alike in working for peace in the face of many years of disappointments.”

The learning tour followed the path of Jesus’ life by traveling to Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee and finally, Jerusalem. Along the way, they visited Bethlehem Bible College, Nazareth Village, refugee camps, settlements and community organizations, meeting local activists and villagers in each setting and hearing their stories. In Jerusalem they spent time at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial, and attended a Jewish Sabbath service. The group also connected with people serving with Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Mission Network and Christian Peacemaker Teams.

Participants were left with much to contemplate and share with their faith communities. Horning said he gained a better understanding of the terms often used to describe life in the region.

“Words like security, wall, border, military, settler, outpost, tear gas, demolition, rubber-coated bullet, and confiscation have more meaning when I tell the stories of people we met and who live in the context of these sterile terms,” he said.

Participants brought with them a range of experience and familiarity with the region. Some had visited or served there, but most were witnessing the realities for the first time.

Madeline Maldonado, associate pastor of Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Arca de Salvación, Fort Myers, Fla., and board chair for Mennonite Mission Network, was a first-time visitor to the region. Before leaving, she shared, “I hope to experience the culture and the conflict. I hope to feel the pain and frustration that are felt there. I pray that I can see God in what seems impossible for my Western and Latina mind to comprehend. I pray that God opens my eyes.”

Isaac Villegas, pastor of Chapel Hill (N.C.) Mennonite Fellowship and Mennonite Church USA Executive Board member, shared reflections four days into the tour: “I’ve seen too much. Towering walls stretching for mile after mile, turning Palestinian cities into open-air prisons. Can I choose not to see … the used tear gas canisters I held in my hand—used against Palestinian youth, bought with my taxes, manufactured by a U.S. company in Pennsylvania?”

In addition to questions about the United States government’s involvement in the region, the group was encouraged the consider questions of faith in new light.

“Our experience gave us new insight into Jesus’ life and ministry, as well as the current situation,” said André Gingerich Stoner, director of holistic witness and interchurch relations for Mennonite Church USA. “We return better prepared to pray and work for God’s peace and blessing for everyone in this land.”

In 2011, Mennonite Church USA Executive Director Ervin Stutzman—in consultation with the Executive Board (EB)—responded to the writers of the Kairos Palestine letter, committing to expand opportunities for Mennonite leaders and members to visit Palestine and learn firsthand about the suffering there. Stutzman and the EB also wrote a letter to members of Mennonite Church USA, asking them to read and discuss the Kairos document, to study Scriptures together on the matter and to consider how their financial lives may be enmeshed in the occupation of Israel.

In 2013, the EB underscored its desire to help the church more fully understand both the Israeli and Palestinian experiences and the role of Christian Zionism in this conflict. A “Come and See” fund was established with initial contributions from Mennonite Central Committee U.S., Mennonite Mission Network and Everence to offer some scholarships for present and future learning tours. Individuals, agencies and local congregations covered the remainder, according to Stoner.

For more reflections from learning tour participants, see: www.mennoniteusa.org/2014/02/26/israel-palestine-learning-tour-travelogue

The next Israel/Palestine learning tour is scheduled for October 2014 and will include participants from Franconia Mennonite Conference, Eastern District Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference. There are limited spots available and some possible financial assistance is available as well.  Contact Steve Kriss, skriss@franconiaconference.org, to express interest and learn more.  To be considered as part of the delegation, you must contact Steve by April 7, 2014.  This trip is intended for persons who have not previously traveled to the region.

First summit of the Mennonite Early Childhood Network

MEA_Summit_2013March
Front, left to right: Tracy Hough, assistant professor of education, Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va.; Kathryn Aschliman, MECN coordinator and emeriti professor of early childhood education, Goshen (Ind.) College; Linda Martin, former director, Salford Mennonite Child Care Centers, Harleysville, Pa.; Standing, left to right: Louise Matthews, director, The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center of Bluffton (Ohio) University; Tami Keim, professor of early childhood education, Hesston (Kan.) College; Elaine Moyer, senior director, Mennonite Education Agency; June Hershberger, founder of Early Childhood Innovative Connections and executive director, Diamond Street Early Childhood Center, Akron, Pa.; Linda Taylor, assistant professor of early childhood education, Ball State University, Muncie, Ind.

by Louise Matthews, Mennonite Education Agency

Eight women, six of whom were current members of the Mennonite Early Childhood Network (MECN) Council, gathered in the home of Linda and Vernon Martin of Salford congregation (Harleysville, Pa.), March 15-17, for the first summit meeting of MECN. Since 2006, members of the MECN Council have been meeting through monthly conference calls to provide information and support for parents and early educators of children, birth through kindergarten, primarily through e-mails to members and on its website.

Kathryn Aschliman, MECN coordinator, and Elaine Moyer, Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) senior director, former principal of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, and a member of Salford congregation, planned the agenda and facilitated the event for early childhood professionals from Indiana, Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The three-day summit included time to reflect on the mission statement, to explore current trends in care and education of young children, and to brainstorm about ways that MECN can continue to provide support for others in the early childhood field. The need for additional funding for MECN initiatives and resources was also discussed.

For a glimpse of local programs, Linda Martin provided an opportunity for attendees to visit Salford Mennonite Child Care Centers (SMCCC) in two locations: Salford Mennonite Church and the intergenerational child care program located in the Dock Woods Retirement Community in Lansdale (Pa.). Linda was the director of SMCCC for nearly 20 years and is currently serving on the board.

As an initial outcome of the summit, MECN will invite responses from churches, child care and education programs, and parents through a needs assessment survey to learn how MECN can best serve young children through the adults who teach and care for them. Responses to the survey will clarify the needs and help determine direction for future MECN initiatives.

According to Moyer, “MECN continues to support the very important future of the church—young children. It was a privilege to be with a group of educational leaders dedicated to early childhood education, wondering how MECN can best network and support parents, churches and early childhood centers.”

Louise Matthews, director of The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center of Bluffton University, led the Sunday morning worship. Reflecting on the message highlighted in the picture book, Different Just Like Me by Lori Mitchell, she said “We are gifted differently and have unique opportunities to be advocates for young children in direct and indirect ways through our various roles as educators and directors.”  Inspired by her involvement with MECN, Louise is in the early phase of creating an online resource called “Books & More” in the form of short video clips to highlight books and follow-up activities for those who work with young children. These YouTube videos will be accessible at www.bluffton.edu/lionlamb in the near future.

June Hershberger, founder of Early Childhood Innovative Connections  and executive director of Diamond Street Early Childhood Center in Akron, Pa., commented, “As a center director, I would like teacher resources and classroom resources that relate specifically to Anabaptist views on issues such as peaceful reconciliation of conflict, nonviolent classrooms and the use of technology with young children, as well as faith-indicators for MEA accreditation at the prekindergarten level and possibly endorsement of age-appropriate peace and Bible curriculum.”

Aschliman summarized the summit well: “What a memorable weekend it was!—such hospitality of caring for body and soul; such group synergy; such long-term visioning; such inspiration, such passion for young children, their families, and the church.  We departed with the assurance that ‘The God of love and peace shall be with you (II Cor. 13:11).’”

For more information about MECN, visit www.MennoniteEducation.org/MECN.

Moved by faith … back to school

Philippiansby Maria Byler, Philadelphia Praise Center

In Matthew 17 Jesus tells the disciples that with faith the size of a mustard seed they could move mountains. But at Philadelphia Praise Center/Centro de Alabanza de Filadelfia, something else is being moved by faith: adults are going to school. And I, as site administrator, get to witness the miraculous results.

This fall, 15 members of PPC/CAF started the certificate program of the Anabaptist Biblical Institute (IBA), an adult Christian education program coordinated by the Mennonite Education Agency and the Hispanic Mennonite Church. It consists of eight 12-week courses. Students complete workbook lessons on their own and meet weekly in group tutoring sessions. Tutors are pastors Leticia Cortés and Fernando Loyola. With God’s help the first course, Introduction to Bible Study, was completed in early December.

Each student is in a very different place with their education. One student is completing postdoctoral work, one dropped out of elementary school over 20 years ago. Most have begun to know Jesus within the last five years. But their varied experiences with school and church were overcome by the strength of their faith and their desire to learn more about God.

At the first class when asked about the homework, most of the students raised their eyebrows and shook their heads sadly. “Me cuesta leer tanto,” – “It’s hard for me to read so much” “No entendí todas las preguntas,” “I didn’t understand all the questions.” We struggled through the literary genres in the Bible and the difference between figurative and literal. But we also had great conversations about Hebrew identity, Creation, and even vegetarianism. Week after week I left the class amazed at what God is doing with these humble but eager followers. And the students left the class feeling as though they had merely scratched the surface of knowledge, and ready to deepen their understanding.

More than what God is doing inside each student is what God is doing with us as a community. We are each (including me) growing so much more than if we just read the lessons individually. IBA has become a very human place where we learn from the reading and also from our sisters’ and brothers’ life views.  This includes experiences of members of the community during the course. We have had to cancel or rearrange classes because of illness or other church events – and those happenings make it into the class conversation. Students often bring their children, who participate in their own way. It’s giving us all practice in being a community of sharing and support as we learn together how to walk this life as Christians.

At the beginning of the New Year we start on the second course: Anabaptist History and Theology. For more information on what we’re studying, check out the Mennonite Education Agency website. Or, if you’d rather, contact me – I love to talk about this exciting work that God is doing in the church!

Newton offices to sell part of building, consolidate workspace

Mennonite Church USA
Sept. 17, 2010

NEWTON, Kan.—This week, Mennonite Church USA signed an agreement to sell three of the four connected storefront buildings of the Newton offices of Mennonite Church USA to RiverPoint Church, a local congregation. Plans are to reconfigure the space in the remaining building to accommodate the 34 staff members who work there.

The 722 Main Street location is one of two national offices of Mennonite Church USA and previously served as the binational headquarters for the former General Conference Mennonite Church. One of the buildings in the process of being sold used to house the Faith & Life Bookstore.

“This is an answer to prayer,” said Shelley Buller, executive assistant for Mennonite Church USA, noting the cost of maintaining the properties. She anticipates that the consolidation of space “will spark renewed energy among staff at the office.”

Currently, Newton staff members are employees of Mennonite Church USA (denominational staff), Mennonite Education Agency, Mennonite Mission Network, Mennonite Publishing Network, Church Extension Services, Mennonite Men, Mennonite Women USA and The Mennonite.

While an inspection of the building is pending, and the sale will not be final until the Nov. 10 closing date, members of the Mennonite Office Executive Group (MOEG)—which oversees the Newton buildings’ maintenance and staff needs—also expressed excitement about the projected move.

“This felt right from the beginning,” said Chris Graber, building manager.

Terry Graber, production director for Mennonite Publishing Network and a member of MOEG, said that when the group learned of Faith & Life Bookstore’s plans to move to a different address last year, they thought the church should sell the property rather than try to rent it.

The Mennonite Church USA Executive Board agreed, and Graber, who served as the contact person in negotiations regarding the property, sought a buyer, but none came forward.

Then in late July, members of RiverPoint Church, an Evangelical Free Church congregation, expressed interest. The growing congregation of about 450 participants is renting space elsewhere in Newton.

As the two sides talked, the RiverPoint representatives surprised MOEG members when they offered to purchase the two adjoining buildings as well as the former bookstore location. The MOEG members realized that one building would have enough space for the current staff and more, and agreed that it would be good stewardship to sell the two additional buildings and move the staff. Negotiations went smoothly, Graber said, and the two parties signed the contract Sept. 17 following approval by the Executive Board.

“I’ve never been in a business deal where both buyer and seller worked so well together,” Graber said, adding that both groups were looking forward to having each other as neighbors. He said that he had invited RiverPoint’s staff to join Newton office staff members in their weekly chapel service.

Brad Martin, RiverPoint’s pastor, said that he has been encouraged by Mennonite Church USA’s willingness to work with the congregation on the transaction.

“Throughout, there has been a kingdom-minded focus above everything else,” he said. “We’re excited to be doing ministry in this building that has had such a long history of service to God.”

Once the transaction is closed, Graber said, the plan is to have a staggered withdrawal from the buildings over a period of 30 to 90 days.

Some of the funds from the sale will be used to remodel the remaining building—including upgrading the entrance—and to reconfigure the existing space, which Graber said will require minimal structural changes. Buller said she sees this facelift as an opportunity “to use the space efficiently and wisely and increase the camaraderie among staff.”

A portion of the proceeds will likely go to Mennonite Church Canada because of an agreement made when the General Conference Mennonite Church (GC) merged with the Mennonite Church (MC) in 2002 to form Mennonite Church USA. A Joint Executive Council agreed on a distribution formula of “60/40 for GC assets and 90/10 for MC assets,” which reflected the proportion of U.S. to Canadian members in the two denominations at the time. Proceeds from the sale will not be used for construction of Mennonite Church USA’s new building in Elkhart, Ind.

Ervin Stutzman, executive director of Mennonite Church USA, said, “I’m grateful for the initiative the staff in Newton took to work this out. The sale and the move will save considerable maintenance costs, make more efficient use of the space and solidify the offices’ place on Main Street.” There are no plans to close the Newton office, he added.


—Mennonite Church USA staff

Anabaptist Learning Institute courses to be offered in Pennsylvania

doc1.jpgAnabaptist Learning Institute (ALI), a program of Mennonite Schools Council (MSC) and Mennonite Education Agency (MEA), is offering two courses this June. “Shaping a Community of Learners” will be held June 14-18, in Lancaster, Pa., and “Understanding the Roots of Community” will be held June 21-26, in Lansdale, Pa. These ALI courses are not only for faculty and administrators, but also for pastors, youth pastors, Christian education directors, Mennonite agency employees and public school teachers.

Students have appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the Anabaptist/Mennonite perspective. “I learned so much about where Mennonites have come from and was able to make a connection with the foundation upon which the Mennonite faith is based,” said one student.

“Shaping a Community of Learners,” will be taught by Dr. Donovan Steiner, Ph.D., director of Master of Arts in education program at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), with assistance from Myron Blosser, M.A., science instructor at Eastern Mennonite School. Students will be asked to reflect on their spiritual journey, to craft a personal mission statement for teaching, and to integrate faith seamlessly into their instruction. Faith development for children and youth will inform teaching practice that is content and grade specific. Pedagogical methods will be introduced and /or reviewed for their congruence with Anabaptist/Mennonite faith and practice.

Students enrolled in “Shaping a Community of Learners” can earn three graduate semester hours from EMU. Act 48 Credit is available for Pennsylvania teachers granted a letter grade. Audit credit is not honored by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

“Understanding the Roots of Community” will be taught by Alan Kreider, Ph.D., retired professor of church history and mission at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS). Students will explore the theology and history of the Anabaptist movement while being encouraged to articulate the significance of this movement for themselves as persons and as teachers. Class sessions will include lectures by Dr. Kreider, discussions on the assigned readings from Anabaptist texts and current historians, and occasional dramatic readings of historical documents.

Participants enrolled in the course “Understanding the Roots of Community” can earn three graduate semester hours from AMBS. Act 48 Credit may not be available through AMBS.

Registration for one or both of the summer ALI courses is available now online at www.MennoniteEducation.org/ALI. In addition to the registration fee of $600; those who attend the course are responsible for textbooks, course materials, and their own lodging. E-mail ALI@MennoniteEducation.org, or call 574-642-3164, extension 15, if you have questions.

ALI is designed to provide an intentional Christ-centered orientation and professional education program for teachers, pastors and other leaders. ALI also provides teachers and other interested persons with opportunities to earn graduate credit from AMBS, Bluffton (Ohio) University or EMU (determined by who is teaching the course). Those who complete all four of the graduate level
courses (10 semester hours) earn the MEA seal as an Anabaptist Educator. The other two ALI courses are “Learning the Language of Community” (1sh) and “Building Caring Communities” (3sh).