Annual Gathering 2022 Report

Highlights and Reflections from our time together, October 14th-16th in Akron, PA

Annual Gathering 2022 brought over 30 MHF members together to dive deeply into our Five Life Standards for the Healing Professions project through deep discussion, plenary sessions, and confessional Bible Study! It was a wonderful weekend filled with laughter, delicious food, fellowship, and renewed connection. Read below about the weekend, what we learned, and MHF’s hopes for future gatherings! 

Gathering at MCC’s The Welcoming Place in Akron, PA

Annual Gathering really got started when the entire MHF Board arrived around 1 pm in Akron, PA to finally meet in person after 2 long years of zoom-only! Our board came from: Arizona, Alabama, Minnesota, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, and right nearby in Harrisburg! It was wonderful to share a hearty lunch and get to know one another better in person! 

Shortly we began welcoming many more guests for Annual Gathering! The weekend officially kicked off with a delicious dinner provided by Scott Rosen and Board Member Lyubov Slashcheva – from the Cover of More-with-Less: Fried Rice! 

After dinner and time to get to know one another and Fellowship, Malinda Berry – our Guest Speaker from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary – officially opened the gathering with her Plenary. 

Malinda has spent much of her Academic career exploring the Five Life Standards from More-with-Less as an alternative Peace Theology for the Mennonite Church. She calls this “Trunk Theology” – where those ‘on the ground’ in our congregations are the “Roots” of the Theological Tree, and Professionals – professors, theologians – are the Branches — but who are the “Trunk Theologians” bridging ordinary believers and professionals? Trunk Theologicans! Malinda proposes that More-with-Less and the Five Life Standards provide us a framework to be Trunk Theologians in our own practices, and suggests that Anabaptist Healthcare Providers are specifically positioned to do “Trunk Theology” around issues of Health, Healing, and Shalom (a word that literally relates to wholeness and health).

After Malinda’s presentation, our Annual Gathering Facilitator, Donna Minter, introduced the process of Talking Circles. Donna has given a number of online Intrdouction to Talking Circles trainings for MHF members in preparation for this gathering, which were very well received. Donna re-introduced Talking Circles and then provided queries and the group seperated into 4 Circles to practice! The Queries related to why we had come to Annual Gathering, our hopes, and getting to know one another on a deeper level.

In the evening, Annual Gathering participants gathered around a big outdoor fireplace on the grounds, roasting smores, enjoying the beautiful stars, and continuing to fellowship and connect with one another.

 Saturday – Day 2 of Annual Gathering

 

Like every day of Annual Gathering, the meals were a highlight! Breakfast was delicious oatmeal with locally grown blueberries, yogurt, and – of course – coffee! Some attendees were up very early fellowshipping over coffee in the guest houses, and others enjoyed taking a morning stroll on the grounds of the Welcoming Place, or gathering on the Adirondak chairs outside on the back porch.

Malinda opened Saturday’s program with follow-up remarks from her Plenary, continuing to explore with the Five Life Standards could mean for us today.

The heart of Saturday’s program was three opportunities to engage in Talking Circles exploring the individual Five Life Standards and how they apply to us as healthcare providers:

1. Do Justice

2. Learn from the World Community

3. Cherish the Natural Order

4. Nurture People

5. Non-Conform Freely

Participants formed circles with those they knew well and those they were getting to know, and discussed Queries – provided by Donna Minter – related to one of the Standards. In Circles many people shared stories from when they felt able to live these life standards, and also stories of struggling to apply these standards in their lives. Many stories were personal and moving, and it was particularly wonderful to hear stories across the generations involves in MHF – those sharing from their wisdom about 40 years of medical practice, and those seeking to apply these standards early in their careers.

Lunch was another joyous (and delicious) occassion, followed by two more opportunities to participate in Talking Circles.

After a delicious dinner of Pumpkin Chipotle Chili, Malinda led the group in a Confessional Bible Study on John Chapter 4 – the story of the Woman at the Well. Participants engaged deeply with the texts – asking questions of the text, even acting it out. It turns out there’s some real theatrical talent among member of MHF! Malinda also provided opportunities to create responsive art to the text, and some beautiful art emerged!

After dinner was our Ice Cream Social – with locally sourced Ice Cream from Fox Meadows Creamery. Everyone enjoyed themselves – and again retired to the big fireplace for more s’mores and conversation.

 Sunday – Communion and Closing

The highlight of our time together on Sunday was our Communion service. Sharing the bread and wine together reinforced that Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship is truly a fellowship. Throughout the weekend Joann Hunsburger did an amazing job leading singing, and on Sunday singing was led by Board Members Andrew Metzler and Clair Hochstetler on Harmonica, and participant Nicole Groff. It was wonderful to learn new songs from Voices Together and sing together.

Malinda offered closing remarks, continuing on the theme of Five Life Standards, before we began our communion service. Lyubov and Scott generously provided locally baked bread and even a friend’s locally pressed grape juice for the Communion Service. Cate, Licensed with Central District Conference, presided along with Malinda Berry. Everyone deeply appreciated the chance to receive communion.

Cate closed the morning, and the formal Gathering, with some comments and thanks. Lyubov and Scott again served a wonderful lunch of leftovers and more – and everyone ate and talked for another few hours!

Finally, it was time to pack up and go home. In the spirit of Fellowship, everyone helped to clean up and re-organized the Welcoming Place and slowly people headed back to their homes. It was hard to say Goodbye after a weekend that went so fast. But it was wonderful to be able to say: See you Soon!

 

May it be so!

 

 

 

 

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