Annual Gathering 2021 ReportHighlights and Reflections from our time together, September 17-20, 2021
Annual Gathering 2021 was unlike any other Annual Gathering MHF has held! For one thing, due to ongoing concerns around COVID19 and the Delta surge, it was not feasible to meet in person this year. We could not give each other hugs after a long unprecedented year of pandemic, join in harmony of song – and yet we did gather! We discussed, learned, connected, and encouraged each other to continue with the work God has called us each to do in the world. So rather than focus on what we could not do because of the pandemic, let us focus on what we did in spite of the pandemic.
What we learned in a short three days!
We started off Annual Gathering with a Lunch Break Workshop led by Beth Good titled “Sitting Dancing with suffering: keeping hold of your faith while working in a violent world”. Beth shared with us some strategies for us to use as healthcare providers in dealing with the suffering that is inevitably around us. How does one “dance” with suffering when it is difficult enough to just sit with it? Recognizing the link between compassion and spirituality, listening to the voices of others, deepening your humility, and caring for yourself are core principles to practice. What you know in your head also translates to practice in self-care in the midst of suffering: taking breaks from “suffering”, taking care of your body, and taking time to remember and release. These nuggets of truth are what allow us to keep moving, keep walking, keep dancing in spite of the suffering that continues around us. This is all easier said than done, but at least we can start with saying it aloud and together in community.
Our opening Plenary session began with board member Lyubov Slashcheva sharing “The five life standards for the healing professions: caring more with less” . We apply Doris Janzen Longacre’s Five Life Standards from her book Living More with Less (c1979, Herald Press): Do Justice, Learn from the World Community, Cherish the Natural Order, Nurture People, Nonconform Freely. What does it look like to adopt these five life standards for health professionals for the purposes of healing and how do they apply to our lives as Anabaptist healers? This presentation is only the start of the conversations for MHF as it develops a project to compile living testimonies into an accessible written and/or multimedia resource that can be utilized by the MHF membership. It will provide a theologically-grounded template for Anabaptist health professionals, and non-health readership, as they wrestle with ethical, justice, and lifestyle issues in healthcare.
“Drawing from our history…Can we reimagine what it means to be a conscientious objector to what has become a medical and industrial complex era?”– Lyubov Slashcheva
MHF will continue to pursue this topic as we seek to integrate faith values into all aspects of daily life, rather than segmenting vocation from spirituality and lifestyle. Stay tuned for more updates on this project.
Saturday morning was the long anticipated STAR Training led by MHF board member Donna Minter and Crixell Shell from the Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Center. STAR stands for Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience and this two hour intro to STAR is only the beginning for developing greater competence in pursuing Cultural Competence, Racial Healing and Equity. Full STAR training and more information is available on their website Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute.
Members have reflected that this training was the most valuable part of Annual Gathering for them as we have all faced a year filled with traumas and are learning how to process them in healthy, Anabaptist-aligned ways. MHF is grateful that Donna Minter, one of the trainers and leaders of Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute, serves on the board of MHF.
What better way to start off a Sunday morning than to gather to ponder ethics for breakfast, today’s elephant in the room: Ethics of the COVID booster vaccine.
“There is no defensible moral stance…that could argue that this partiality is limitless–that any country should advance the interests of its own citizens no matter the consequences for other people in the world, no matter the stakes for the entire world. This imbalance between the partiality of nations versus the goals of global justice has defined the entire COVID-19 tragedy. Booster shots are just the latest issue in the unsavory implications of vaccine nationalism.” – from Katie Pearce’s article, “Are Boosters a Bioethical Bust?”
How do we reconcile that with our call to act justly and what actions can we take as healthcare providers? There is no judgement or accusations made, but a clear call to respond justly, mercifully, and lovingly. As God has called us to do.
“He has shown you, oh people, what does the Lord require of you? But to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” — Micah 6:8
And closing our conference, Charlene Epp led us with Sharing Our Stories of Courage and Creativity During the Pandemic: What Will We Bring With Us? We heard some stories from Tory Bonners and Ryan Kauffman on their challenges and joys in their professional work. Charlene then guided our small group time, giving participants a chance to share more deeply with one another on the difficulty or hope during Covid times within our breakout rooms. It was a sacred and respectful experience that we all shared as well as closing together as a whole group to report back on the common threads we heard.
In the closing session, Cate posed a question to all MHF members: “What is it you need from MHF? What can we do for you that would meet a need, a spiritual need right now, a need in your practice, a need in your life.” Whether you attended Annual Gathering or not, we welcome your feedback on this question as MHF plans its new program year and we continue to seek to prayerfully support Anabaptist healthcare professionals and the integration of faith values into healthcare.