Enlightening, uniformly excellent, relevant and dynamic. These are how some Mennonite Health Assembly attendees described this year’s Mennonite Health Assembly, held March 9-11. Attendance was up about 50% over past, in-person Assemblies. 230 MHS members and friends registered for this year’s event.
The three days were filled with opportunities to learn, engage, grow and be inspired. Assembly included keynote speakers, nurture sessions, worship, workshops, roundtables and Q&A sessions. The theme “Emerge” focused the event material on what attendees have learned during the pandemic and how it is affecting their organizations and them as leaders.
“Empowering our leaders with best practices inspired by our faith and Anabaptist values is what distinguishes the MHS community”, said Karen Lehman, MHS President & CEO. “Even when we are physically apart, we are stronger together as one network.”
The generosity of our sponsors and lower costs associated with the virtual platform allowed greater attendance access. Many organizations took advantage of the group discount for five or more attendees opening the event to many who have not had the opportunity to attend in the past. One attendee commented, “I liked that our agency was able to send more people from a wider variety of backgrounds to attend.”
Keynote speakers inspired, encouraged and challenged attendees to be their best, authentic selves. In the voice of one attendee, the “keynotes were a highlight. Excellent choices!”
The event kicked off with Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky of the Trauma Stewardship Institute. Laura dove into key practices for self-care that are especially applicable to the current times. Laura reminded us that we need to care for ourselves to process the traumas of others. Only then can we emerge with the power and energy to continue to offer our gifts and skills in service.
Day two featured actor and author Ted Swartz. Ted communicated deep truths about life through poignancy, humor, story, and interviews with his father. Ted reminded us that in the midst of the unknown, uncomfortable and unpredictable beauty, joy, and truth can and do emerge.
Philip Gulley, author, speaker and Quaker pastor called attendees to action on the final day. Philip reminded us that Jesus did not come for the wealthy, but for the poor. The Holy Spirit emerges through us when we seek to be the hands and feet of Christ to those in our midst.
Assembly included nineteen 15-minute workshops on a variety of topics geared to equip members to strengthen their ministries. Attendees provided feedback that they “enjoyed the succinct and focused sessions” and that workshops were “relevant and timely.” Another said, “It was enlightening to see how much good content could be given in 15 minutes.”
Driven by the pandemic, holding Assembly exclusively online was new for MHS. MHS staff had a steep learning curve in hosting a virtual event and using a virtual event platform.
“I am proud of the MHS team. They worked hard and did an excellent job. We got a lot right. We learned some things we would do differently if we were to hold another virtual event in the future,” said Clare Krabill, MHS COO and Director of Mennonite Health Assembly.
One learning is that MHS would extend workshop sessions and add a live Q&A integrated into each workshop session. There is a balance between insufficient depth and maintaining attention spans. MHS would also incorporate a buffer at the beginning of presentations so attendees don’t miss the first few seconds of sessions.
Many attendees expressed they missed being together in-person. It is through the relationships and in-person networking that we find strength, encouragement, and fun. Does this mean MHS won’t offer a virtual event again? That remains to be seen.
“There is great value in widening the access to the leadership content grounded in Anabaptist values. MHS will explore ways to continue to include a broader audience,” Clare said. “We know that our members value being together and plan to offer an in-person Assembly each year.” Block your calendars for Mennonite Health Assembly 2022 in Greenville, South Carolina, March 23-26! In the meantime, for those who attended this year, keep enjoying the workshop content through April 11th. And we hope to see you in Greenville next year!