One of the most prominent Presbyterian “celebrities” has to be Fred Rogers. Popularly known as Mr. Rogers, it is hard to think about him without humming the line “Won’t you be my neighbor?” In fact, the major theme in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was learning to get along with those around you regardless of how they were different. At the beginning of each episode Mr. Rogers invited the audience into his home to learn new things and more about those that lived in his neighborhood.
The 2015 Montreat Institute for Church Leadership was titled “Neighbor.” The goal of this event was to explore how we, as Christians, navigate our multifaith world. Keynote addresses were given by Brian McLaren, Judy Schindler, Valarie Kaur, and Najeeba Syeed-Miller to give us a broad perspective on this topic.
Brian McLaren opened and closed the conference by sharing history about the ways that Christianity has done harm to those of other faiths and opened our eyes to the realities surrounding ways that our faith can be used to oppress others. Judy Schindler talked us through “Five Steps to Loving Your Neighbor.”
Valarie Kaur touched us with stories that were both heartwarming and heartbreaking. She also invited us into the world of the Sikh community to gain a better understanding of her faith. Najeeba Syeed-Miller taught real, practical strategies for constructive relationship building with people from other religious traditions. Valarie and Najeeba also held a joint conversation for the audience. Frank Thomas, Eric Wall, and Margaret LaMotte Torrence led worship services that were moving, creative, and artistic.
We also had supplemental film screenings with Judy Schindler and Valarie Kaur and a best-practice workshop with Allison Purves. In the evenings we had gatherings in the Assembly Inn lobby hosted by the Montreat development office.
This event made a lasting impression on participants and will help us as we continue to work towards becoming the community that God calls us to be. We were challenged to think about how we can work with our neighbors to model peace, compassion, and partnership.
Montreat works hard to bring you leaders and topics that challenge and inform. Each session of the Institute for Church Leadership is built with pastors and church leaders in mind, and October is an ideal time to be in Montreat.
We invite you to join us. Disconnect from your busy life, go for a hike, surround yourself with beauty, reconnect with friends, or just relax around the lake. Make Montreat a yearly October destination for learning, rest, and community. The 2016 Institute for Church Leadership conference is “DisGrace: Seeking God’s Grace Amid the Disgrace of Racism.” You can sign up for updates for this event at www.montreat.org/disgrace.
See you next October.