Leadership Development office invites video submissions for Call Wall exhibit at Phoenix 2013
By Jenn Carreto
(Mennonite Church USA)—What qualities are important for a pastor to have? What are the essential elements of a ‘calling congregation’?
The Leadership Development office of Mennonite Church USA hopes that congregations across the country will take up the challenge to answer these questions in 59 seconds or less.
Congregations and individuals are invited to submit short videos that will be featured as part of the Call Wall exhibit at the denomination’s biennial convention, to be held July 1–6 in Phoenix. All videos will be shown as submitted and projected continuously at the Call Wall display in the exhibit hall. The deadline is May 31.
“We’re hoping that the project stimulates some powerful collaboration, and not just among those fluent in the world of social media,” says Terry Shue, director of leadership development for Mennonite Church USA.
The Call Wall has been a recurring presence at Mennonite Church USA conventions since 2005. It began as a project primarily facilitated by the !Explore program of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (now Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) of Elkhart, Ind., on behalf of Mennonite Church USA. The project has evolved into a broader initiative adopted by Mennonite Church USA’s Leadership Development office and is now co-sponsored by Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Va.; Hesston (Kan.) College and AMBS.
Previously, former !Explore participants and church leaders interviewed people at convention and worked with videographers to produce clips of the interviewees answering questions in the moment. This year, the task of creating and editing the submissions is entirely in the hands of local congregations, well ahead of the July meeting date.
Terry Shue, director of leadership development for Mennonite Church USA, explains the benefits of this shift.
“Congregations now have more of an opportunity to foster dialogue around these important questions,” he says. “The process of editing alone could cause a ripple of reflection as church bodies come together to agree on what is central enough to make it into the 59 seconds.”
The Call Wall also will offer space for convention participants to name, or nominate, people from their home congregation in whom they see gifts of leadership and who they believe should be nurtured into further ministry roles. The Denominational Ministry office of Mennonite Church USA will then send these individuals letters of affirmation, explaining the Call Wall project and the nature of their nomination and sharing information about various leadership training opportunities and resources offered within Mennonite Church USA.
With this follow-up after convention and the invitation for video submissions beforehand, denominational leaders aim to acknowledge and support the dynamic leaders and diverse ministries that are already active at the congregational level.
Laura Lehman Amstutz, communication coordinator for Eastern Mennonite Seminary and a point person for the project, explains how the multi-phase dimension of this year’s Call Wall highlights the important role that each community plays in cultivating a culture of call.
“We all own the call process,” she says. “It is not just individuals or seminaries or the Leadership Development office, but all of us working together. That’s what makes the culture of call work, and that’s what will take Mennonite Church USA into the future.”
Fostering a culture of call across the church is a goal within the leadership development priority of Mennonite Church USA’s 10-year Purposeful Plan, which was affirmed by delegates at the previous convention in 2011 in Pittsburgh. The plan contains seven priorities to guide the denomination’s work: Christian formation, Christian community, holistic Christian witness, stewardship, leadership development, undoing racism and advancing intercultural transformation, and church-to-church relationships.
Shue encourages congregations to think creatively about how they answer the two questions and how they tell their story, keeping in mind that church exists beyond the walls of the sanctuary. Filming at a local park, café or community center or writing a rap song or short skit are just some of the forms submissions could take. Furthermore, this project is an opportunity to harmonize the multitude of voices that make up a congregation.
“You don’t have to have a Twitter or Instagram account to be able to get your thoughts to us,” says Shue. “Youth groups can interview the older generations of their church, or congregations can host adult study sessions centered on these questions. We really want to capture the wide range of experiences of call that are already out there, growing and moving within the livelihood of our national church family.”
For information about submitting videos, see http://mennoniteusa.org/2012/11/20/cultivating-call-in-59-seconds/.
The Call Wall exhibit at the Columbus 2009 convention. (Photos by J. Tyler Klassen)