LEAD 2010 draws 300 for “Educating the Diverse Church”

03-15-2010 by

Geoff Ashmun

Offering a day of programming worthy of its theme, L.E.A.D. 2010: Educating the Diverse Church brought together Presbyterians from the Chicago area to explore topics ranging from social media to culturally-conscious worship, from dreams and the spiritual life to financial management. More than 30 workshops were available to approximately 300 attendees.

LEAD is a partnership between McCormick and the Presbytery of Chicago and a host church, instituted by Grayson Van Camp (Class of 1992), Director of Alumni/ae Relations, who annually chairs the LEAD Planning Team. The March 6 event at First Presbyterian Church of Arlington Heights kicked off with a spirited worship service featuring the Rev. Dr. Rhashell Hunter, a graduate of McCormick and Director of Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministries/Presbyterian Women for the PCUSA.

Dr. Hunter offered a provocative interpretation of Mark 7:24-30, in which Jesus encounters a Syrian Phoenician woman in the seaside city of Tyre in what is modern day southern Lebanon. Just as Jesus is exhausted and intent on finding privacy and rest, he discovers that he cannot escape the burden of who he is. The Phoenician woman, by all accounts an outsider to Jewish culture and society, risks stepping out of her social location as a Gentile woman and entreats Jesus’ to tend to her deathly ill son. What ensues, Hunter reminded attendees, is practically unprecedented: Jesus loses an argument.

“The mission of Jesus ministry was to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles,” Hunter said. “But this woman rejects that idea, arguing that the Christian ministry belongs to all – and Jesus apparently agrees. For saying that, Jesus said, ‘You may go. The demon has left your boy.’ The nature of Jesus’ entire ministry is changed.”

Several other McCormick alumni/ae, staff and faculty were on hand as workshop instructors. In the afternoon, Dr. Ted Hiebert, McGaw Professor of Old Testament, joined Emily McGinley (Class of 2009), newly hired Director of the Common Ground Project at McCormick and Lindsey Anderson (Class of 2009) to discuss a class book project called, Beginnings: Children’s Stories from Matthew and Genesis (co-edited by Dr. Lib Caldwell). This book is the first in the Transforming Traditions series.  Alumna Jody Noble (M.Div. 2009) attended the workshop and has submitted this report. An online photo gallery of LEAD events is also available.