School of Theology and Ministry
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News and Events

  • Signature Event on Churches' Future

    StateoftheChurch2013-2.jpgOver 65 participants took part in this month's second annual “State of the Church” conversation, convened by Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry on May 7, 2013. Attendees came from all over Washington and Oregon and included: denominational executives, individuals active in various types of ministry, students of the School of Theology and Ministry, and key leaders from faith-based community organizations such as--the Salvation Army, Union Gospel Mission, Faith Action Network, Church Council of Greater Seattle, and Oregon Ecumenical Ministries.
     
    The purpose of this annual event is to: 1) Create a workshop that invites religious influencers in the region into a single room, in order to 2) provide an intensive networking environment that 3) aims at producing cooperative conversation and action for addressing shared challenges and opportunities facing the future of Christianity in a rich pluralistic sea of religions.  These influencers and leaders have come to this conversation through Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry's formal ecumenical partnerships, as well as through the school's emerging partnership relationships (I.E. with Progressive Evangelicals, Pentecostals, the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, and more).  
     
    This year's second annual gathering focused on themes such as: homelessness in the community, shared building spaces, specialized ministry spaces, and the need for a coherent religious voice in civic discourse.  The first spin-off planning session from State of the Church will take place in June on the subject of repurposing church lawns in order to cultivate food for feeding the hungry in the Tri-County Puget Sound Region as well as Portland.  Students, faculty, and members of the school's extended community discussed how being Christian in the Pacific Northwest means that Christians share a minority-religion status that requires creative cooperation.  Christians from varied denominational backgrounds already are working alongside one another in many cases, but during the gathering there was a significant desire expressed to deepen this cooperation. 

    The State of the Church is not merely a conversation of Christians in a room “talking to one another” for the sake of building relationships. It was a truly vibrant conversation of learning, planning and strategy toward our shared future. A few attendees shared thoughts with us this month about their experience:

    • "It was truly a distinct honor sitting with representatives from Christian denominations located all over the Northwest.  We engaged in dialogue around the current state of local Christian church climate, how to honor our unique differences and how to embrace our togetherness as many parts of the body of Christ. During our day together we were lead through various conversations and activities intended to nurture a sense of togetherness and break down denominational walls.  These conversations were facilitated by leaders from various denominations around the region.  One of the most compelling exercises, lead by Michael Denton, was a Faith-View Inventory intended to group participants into four “Faith Words” (A through D).   This Faith-View Inventory and subsequent “Faith Worlds” exercise developed by W. Paul Jones, Lee Barret and Holly Miller Shank gave tremendous insight into the unique “corners” of our denominations. We also just had a wonderful time in communion, laughter, sharing of mutual struggles and desires as well as our hopes for the direction of the church.  I look forward to hearing how next year’s State of the Church event builds on the good work from this year." ~ Adam Dahl, 2013 Graduate in the Master of Arts in Relationship & Pastoral Therapy
    •  "One of the most insightful moments was in a smaller conversation regarding leadership. I was in dialog with a Lutheran Bishop, a Lutheran pastor (a pastor not currently in a church placement, but working with students transitioning into ministry), a Lutheran lay woman, and the head of the ecumenical ministries of Oregon. We discussed the changing nature of church and pastoral leadership--especially as more and more pastors are part-time and/or bi-vocational. This generates a need for training available for all levels of church membership and leadership. I think that Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry has done a great job in offering training to a wide variety of roles outside that of a pastor. We talked together about what training might look like at a different levels--on a workshop or seminar level, or retreat experience." ~ Rev. Bruce Chittick, Burton Community Church
    • "The day was full of engaging conversation and refreshing ideas. I'm already looking forward to next year!" ~ Rev. Melody Young, Presbyterian Church USA
    • "An important benefit of attending the gathering was exploring church and broader religious dynamics from a larger regional perspective.  It was particularly helpful having a variety of local pastors, lay leaders, denominational executives and ecumenical agency representatives in attendance.  I also appreciated the opportunity to make the presentation on the church and civic engagement and found this processing affirming and the concerns and insights shared universally received.  It was also good to learn more about Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry programs and the good work being done in Seattle.  The key will be to spread it more broadly throughout the region." ~ David Leslie, Oregon Ecumenical Ministries
       

    The third annual "State of the Church" gathering will take place May 5-6, 2014! More details to follow.
     

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