On Nov. 28, 2011, more than 80 steward leaders gathered at the Sirata Beach Resort in St. Pete Beach, Fla., for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center 2011 Leadership Seminar. The theme was “Creating Congregational Culture of Generosity in the 21st Century.” Representatives from nearly 20 denominations heard presentations on the subject by plenary speakers Carol F. Johnston, Jill Schumann, and Paul Johnson. Attendees participated in lively discussion, sharing of ideas, and mutual encouragement.
On Tuesday morning, associate professor of Theology and Culture and director of Lifelong Theological Education at Christian Theological Seminary, Carol Johnston, shared her extensive research about the public roles that congregations play in communities. She told stories of churches in different cities across the US, their unique personalities, and key roles in neighborhood development.
After an ocean-view lunch break, Jill Schumann spoke from her experience as president and CEO of Lutheran Services in America, and suggested “rethinking stewardship” according to shifts in culture and technology. Thinking positively about asset mapping and mutual care were large components of her informative speech.
Wednesday morning brought a presentation from Paul Johnson, director of Neighborhood Development Strategies of the City of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He continued the theme of viewing stewardship through a new perspective, and told of trials and successes of unusual and innovative community-based programs in Hamilton.
All three speakers were prepared to discuss difficult questions and speak from their extensive experience at the panel discussion that afternoon. Each of the three days also included worship led by Ted & Company Theaterworks. The company concluded the event with a rousing performance of their original piece, “What’s So Funny About Money,” at the seminar’s closing banquet.
Though the Florida weather was cool and windy, the energy during group discussion, “talk-back” sessions, and songs of praise sung each morning kept participants warm. Inspiring, informative, and encouraging conversation dominated the seminar and the atmosphere was supportive and collegial. After the closing festivities, attendees lingered to exchange embraces and contact information, and that one last idea until meeting again next year at the ESC Leadership Seminar 2012.
— Mandy Garcia is coordinator of donor development for the Church of the Brethren. For more about the Ecumenical Stewardship Center, of which the Church of the Brethren is a denominational supporter, go to www.stewardshipresources.org . Former Bethany Seminary staff member Marcia Shetler is now serving as executive director of ESC, which recently adopted a new set of by-laws and new governance structure to enhance its position as a stewardship education and resource leader for churches and denominations.