2018: A Year of Learning and Ministry

This year was one of transition for the Beecken Center, but still found us working on many formative opportunities for spiritual seekers of all faiths. Participants from all over the world joined us here in Sewanee to explore many facets of faith formation and effective ministry in a changing world.

Sheri D. Kling, Ph.D.Sheri D. Kling, Ph.D.

The big news this year was the appointment of Sheri D. Kling, Ph.D. as the executive director of the Beecken Center and associate dean of the School of Theology. Dr. Kling holds graduate degrees from both the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) and the Claremont School of Theology (CST) in California. “I’m thrilled to be part of the Beecken Center and the School of Theology and honored to have joined the wonderful staff here,” said Dr. Kling. “So many different facets of my life and work experience are now able to inform what I learned in my theological education to allow me to hopefully make a difference for the Center and for the Church as a whole.”

In March, Listening Hearts Ministries once again partnered with the Beecken Center to host their Art of Teaching Spiritual Discernment workshop. Twenty-five participants from all over the United States came to the DuBose Conference Center over a rainy five days to explore facilitating and mentoring spiritual discernment groups, as well as exploring personal discernment practices. This powerful program will return again to the Beecken Center in March of 2019. Registration is open until January 23 at this link.

Tennessee Faith and Justice SummitThe Rev. Dr. Judy Cummings

In April, the Beecken Center partnered with the Tennessee Faith & Justice Alliance, a project of the Tennessee Supreme Court, to host the Tennessee Faith and Justice Summit. Spiritual leaders and community justice advocates from across the state congregated here in Sewanee to work and trade ideas around connecting people with less economic means to legal services through faith communities. Presenters included the Rt. Rev. Brian Cole, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee; the Hon. Cornelia A. Clark, Tennessee Supreme Court justice; the Rev. Dr. Judy Cummings, senior pastor at the New Covenant Christian Church in Nashville; Andrae Crismon, managing attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands; and Kirsten Jacobson from the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services. The program was initiated by Kimberly A. deMent, an alumna of the School of Theology and pro bono coordinator of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Education for Ministry (EfM) continued in its mission to nurture the ministry of all the baptized in more than 800 local seminar and online groups in the United States, including some meeting in prisons. In 93 Episcopal dioceses and six provinces of the Anglican Communion, EfM continues to thrive across the globe. This year saw nearly 2,000 new EfM graduates going out to answer the call to ministry in daily life. In addition to mentor trainings in Sewanee and around the United States throughout the year, EfM graduates gathered at St. Mary’s Sewanee in April for their annual retreat. Led by associate director for training Elsa Bakkum, EfM alumni spent a sunny weekend using the Circles of Trust® approach to explore personal strengths and talents for use in ministry. Additionally, Elizabeth Wilson, assistant director of Career & Leadership Development at the University of the South facilitated two evening sessions using the Liberating Structures format. Registration is now open for the 2019 EfM Graduates Retreat, featuring the Rev. Julia Gatta, author of Life in Christ, September 20-22.  

EfM Graduates at the 2018 Graduates Retreat at St. Mary's Sewanee

In May, the Beecken Center partnered once again with the Interim Ministry Network to host a Fundamentals of Transitional Ministry workshop. Participants—lay and clergy leaders—explored best practices around interim ministry and congregations in transition, conflict management, and advanced skills in change management.

Invite Welcome Connect had a very busy year. Events were hosted in such Episcopal dioceses as Oklahoma, San Diego, Nebraska, Southern Ohio, Arkansas, Los Angeles, Delaware, and several others. In June, the Beecken Center hosted the Invite Welcome Connect 2018 Summit, where 125 practitioners—both newcomers and seasoned veterans—came together to share ideas, worship, and network. The Rt. Rev. Robert C. Wright, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, preached the opening sermon, and workshops were facilitated by longtime Invite Welcome Connect practitioners from churches around the country. Jen King of Lake Forest Park, WA said, "This was one of the best and most powerful sessions I've ever attended. The worship and surroundings restored my soul!" Registration for the 2019 Summit is now open!

The 2018 Invite Welcome Connect Summit at the University of the South

In July, 51 high-school students from all over the United States (and one student from China!) gathered on the campus of the University of the South for SUMMA Theological Debate Camp. Over nine days the SUMMA campers debated both sides of the proposition, “Churches should be gun-free zones.” “This was our largest group of campers so far,” said the Rev. Cindy Fribourgh, SUMMA’s director. “Twenty were returning campers, which I believe speaks highly of their SUMMA experience. The campers love the challenge and the study, they love seeing their friends again, and they love coming back to Sewanee’s beautiful campus!” The 2019 session of SUMMA Camp will be held July 16–24 in Sewanee. Applications are being accepted!

Campers from the 2018 session of SUMMA in front of All Saints' Chapel in Sewanee

In August, the Beecken Center partnered once again with the National Disaster Interfaiths Network (NDIN) to host their Volunteer Disaster Chaplaincy training in Sewanee. Thirty participants gathered to learn spiritual first-aid, disaster response operations, community resilience practices, self-care, and much, much more. Upon completion, trainees were certified as disaster chaplains and are now eligible for deployment through NDIN to communities in need across the United States. This program will return to Sewanee in July of 2019, and registrations are now open at this link.

Volunteer Disaster Chaplaincy trainees at the Sewanee Inn, August 2018

In the fall, the Beecken Center hosted two workshops, both focused on providing knowledge and best-practices for congregational vitality. Dr. Westina Matthews, adjunct professor for the Center for Christian Spirituality at General Theological Seminary, and the Rev. Dr. Tommie Lee Watkins, Jr., rector of St. Andrew's Church in Birmingham, Ala. facilitated a course on contemplative spirituality and sexuality. This course helped participants with tools to engage healthily and respectfully with LGBTQ youth in pastoral settings. A few weeks later, the Rt. Rev. Joe Goodwin Burnett, retired bishop of Nebraska, came to Sewanee to facilitate a workshop on family systems theory as applied to congregations. Conflict management practices were a large part of this course, especially the ways in which leaders can be a “non-anxious presence” in their congregations.

2019 is shaping up to be a banner year for the Beecken Center. Under Dr. Kling’s leadership, the Beecken Center is exploring new program partnerships and formative opportunities for continuing theological education. Visit our events page for more information on upcoming events, and sign up for our mailing list (on the right-hand side of this page) to receive that information in your inbox!