MINNESOTA: MDG Training Summit draws national leaders, offers practical training
By Joe Bjordal, September 20, 2007
[Episcopal News Service] More than two hundred adults, youth and children participated in a day-long training summit at Church of St. John the Evangelist in St. Paul, Minnesota, September 15 to equip individuals and congregations to support the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
"What's Your Point 2007? -- A Millennium Development Goals Training Summit" was sponsored by the MDGs Task Force of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota.
The training summit is one component of an overall advocacy and education strategy about the MDGs that has also included direct donations to international relief and development agencies, such as Episcopal Relief and Development and Bread for the World, and grants to congregations as seed money to launch projects in support of the MDGs.
The Rev. Devon Anderson, chair of Minnesota's MDG Task Force, said the training summit was a big success for many reasons, including that fact that there was a broad diversity represented in the participants.
"We were able to pull together, during a very busy time of the year, over 200 people from around our diocese who have a passion for global mission and reconciliation," said Anderson. "There were people from rural areas, Total Ministry clusters, Indian missions and big program parishes. There were young children, youth, adults and elders. We had geographical, cultural, and generational diversity represented -- people from all walks of life and means coming together around the MDGs. It was the kingdom of God and it was holy and beautiful."
From the Baptismal Covenant: A Call to Mission
The keynote address for the training summit was delivered by Dr. Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church and mother of the Rev. Devon Anderson. She told summit participants that the promises we make in the Baptismal Covenant are foundations and motivations for doing God's mission in the world.
"The mission of reconciliation in the world belongs to God and we are God's vehicles for that, charged by our baptismal covenant, according to the gifts given us, to carry on Christ's work of reconciliation in the world," said Bonnie Anderson, who movingly recounted her experience attending the Towards Effective Anglican Mission (TEAM) Conference in Boksburg, South Africa earlier this year, as photographs of conference participants were projected onto a large video screen.
"These are people, from all over the world who are living out their baptismal covenants. They are working every day to make sure their neighbors are loved as they love themselves," she said.
"When we think about our call to mission -- what it is that each of us is uniquely called to do -- we need to remember first that this is God's mission, not ours. And, inherent in our mission call is relationship. It is not about us, the rich Americans, saving the unchurched, poverty-stricken world. It is about us, the people of God, learning from and sharing with other people of God. There are many, many ways and contexts for mission."
Anderson concluded her remarks by saying "We have our marching orders -- laity, clergy, bishops -- according to the gifts we have been given: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?"
The 'Three-Legged Stool' of the MDGs
Minnesota's MDG Training Summit brought together representatives of the three main national organizations in the Episcopal MDG movement. A summit segment called "The Three-Legged Stool of the MDGs: Development, Relationship, Advocacy," featured representatives of Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD), Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation (EGR) and the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations, a part of the Presiding Bishop's staff in Washington that is responsible for representing the Church's positions on public policy to Congress and the White House and equipping the advocacy of Episcopalians around the country.
Participants in the first-ever public, joint panel discussion were the Rev. Lynn Sanders, director of church relations for ERD, the Rev. Mike Kinman, executive director of EGR, and Alexander Baumgarten, international policy analyst for the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations. Bonnie Anderson moderated the discussion.
Individual presentations and the fielding of questions made it clear that "each leg of the stool" is necessary for a comprehensive approach to supporting the MDGs.
In response to a question about "what you would like to see from each other to better carry out your work," the presenters were frank in agreeing that the work of their individual organizations is sometimes seen as competing. They agreed there has been tension, but there is a new attitude of cooperation and a growing willingness to work together.
Kinman summed up the feeling of the group when he said that all kinds of systems, organizations and approaches are going to be necessary in the future to successfully support the MDGs.
"We should not be afraid of the tension," said Kinman, "rather milk it for all the creativity it has."
The Training Summit also offered series of small-group workshops, repeated twice during the day, which offered practical training in support of the MDGs. Topics included: "What are the MDGs: An Introduction" by the Rev. Mike Kinman; "Thinking Globally, Organizing Locally: Episcopal Global Mission in Historical Context" by Dr. Michael McNally; "The MDGs and Worship" by the Rev. LeeAnne Watkins; "The Willing Heart: the Psychology of Asking" by the Rev. Barbara Mraz; "From Violence to Wholeness: Nonviolence and the MDGs" by the Rev. Jackie Lynn and the Rev. Rex McKee; "It's All About Relationships: Organizing a Mission Project 101" by Laurie Beckman Yetzer; and "Reading the Times: Using Everyday Life to Inspire MDG Commitment" by Dr. Lisa Kimbal.
A 'Template' to be Shared
Devon Anderson noted that there had been inquiries from several other Episcopal dioceses as plans for the workshop were being developed.
"One of the things I'm most proud of is that our training summit can be used as a template for other dioceses who are trying to figure out 'the next step' in their own MDG work. We'll gladly share what we have created for the common good of the whole church," she said.
Anderson noted that part of what was developed was a day-long learning experience for children which allowed them to interact with each of the eight Millennium Development Goals. The examination of each goal included a visual connection, a Bible story, a game, a hands-on activity, a connection to the Book of Common Prayer, and something that each child can do about that goal after the event. The children's program was developed by MerLynne Byrne, director of Faith Formation at St. Stephen's Church, Edina.
Anointed for Service
Minnesota's first MDG Training Summit ended with a closing worship service with some powerful symbolism.
Earlier in the day, Kinman said "if you really want to get your congregation charged up about the MDGs, involve your youth and children -- they are already globally connected."
As the closing worship service concluded, the participants in the children's program made their way through the congregation carrying containers of newly-blessed oil which was given to each person to anoint the hands of the person seated next to them.
Devon Anderson noted that the service -- and the entire day -- was celebratory and joyful, which "could only be explained by the Spirit in our midst."
"We were about to deepen the conversation about the MDGs and understand their complexity better," she said. "We provided a forum for people to network and join forces and we offered practical, utilitarian workshops that were armed with new ideas and strategies to take back to congregations and be God's agents of reconciliation in the world."
More information about the Diocese of Minnesota's support of the Millennium Development Goals is available by contacting the Rev. Devon Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org
I I thought I'd post the whole article. It explains what happened there so well. The reason I was there is because my tiny little church has an MDG project. We are supporting a community center that is being started in Rwanda. We knew we wanted to do a project after we attended our diocesan convention last year and got fired up about the MDGs. On Palm Sunday one of our congregants who, along with her late husband, had been active in worldwide work with genocide spoke to the congregation about her hopes to start this center in his memory. The collection that day brought in all we needed to qualify us to apply for a diocesan matching grant, which we were later awarded. So far we have raised most of the funds we need and are beginning to gather the school supplies and books we are sending to the center. It's an amazing thing to think that a little church on the prairie in Minnesota can impact the lives of people in this place far away who have endured things that we cannot even begin to fathom. And the other amazing thing is that it's changing our lives as well.
All of the people who were there were so fired up about what they were doing. I had lunch with a very interesting person named Laurie (who happened to be a Lutheran at this very Episcopal gathering) who does advocacy work for kids and had done one of the workshops. As we were chatting, we got to talking about where she went to church...no surprise on this amazing day of providences and Spirit moments that she is a member of Diane's congregation! And it further turns out that Laurie is planning to be coming out my way to do some congregational work for her organization, so hopefully I can help her make some connections.
At the beginning and end of the day we sang a song that went:
If not us, not them
If not now, then when
If not here, nor there, If not this world, then where?
The whole day was just so incredible. One thing after another. The closing worship was powerful. The singing, the annointing of our hands for mission with the kids passing the oil....it left me thoughtful and energized and really hopeful about the future of the church.