EMS' School for Leadership Training gives participants an opportunity to hear from experts and test their own ideas with fellow leaders. Photo by Lindsey Kolb.

School for Leadership Training focuses on Mental Illness

“All congregations are touched in some way by mental illness,” said Linda Alley, coordinator for this year’s School for Leadership Training (SLT) at Eastern Mennonite Seminary.

“Our goal is to help church leaders and congregations become healthy sources of support for both the individuals and their family and friends.”

The January 21-23 event, titled “Imagining the Church as Healing Space: To Hear, To Hold, To Hope,” will help leaders explore the role of congregations in providing space for those with mental illness, as well as families and friends who play a supportive role with these individuals.

Speakers will share from their personal journeys and offer ways to hold brokenness and faith in tension in the midst of the challenges of mental illness.

Michael and Joan King and Ijeoma Achara will speak Monday evening on “An invitation to hear, to hold, to hope” in a plenary session open to the public. Michael is dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary. Joan is a counselor and senior integration consultant for the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. Achara is a consultant for state and local governments and health care providers on developing recovery-oriented systems of care for those with mental health issues.

Tuesday morning, Tilda Norberg, author and founder of Gestalt Pastoral Care, will lead an experiential session on “Gestalt Pastoral Care: A New Approach to the Ministry of Healing.”

Tuesday morning, Lonnie Yoder, professor of pastoral care at EMS, and Pam Reese Comer, director of counseling services at EMU, will lead the group in a session titled “It takes a healthy village: 5 things to know about mental illness,” giving participants basic information about mental health and mental illness issues.

Tuesday evening, John Otenasek, executive director of a non-profit center for healing and recovery, will lead a panel of individuals who will share personal stories of the journey through the extreme emotional states of what our society labels “mental illness.”

Wednesday morning, Ted Swartz, founder of Ted and Company TheaterWorks, will perform “Laughter Is Sacred Space,” a show based on his experiences with his acting partner Lee Eshleman, who committed suicide in 2007.

Workshops will explore various aspects of the ways congregations can support individuals with mental illness and their families in healthy and sustainable ways.

Pre-registration is necessary for all events except Monday evening. For more information or to register, visit emu.edu/slt.