Join us for Our Annual Conference

Weaving Our Strengths: Narratives of Hope

A day-long conference of fellowship, inspiration, & skill-building to strengthen local churches’ efforts for the common good.

Saturday, September 29, 2018 

8 a.m. – 3:15 p.m.

Mercer Island Presbyterian Church | 3605 84th Ave. SE, Mercer Island 98040

$40 Early Bird through September 4 | $55 after September 4 | $25 Student

Group Rates*: $175 up to 5 people | $275 up to 10 people
*team lead register

Scholarships available. Free childcare available with pre-registration by September 21.

For more information: (206) 204-3855 or email Ann

About the Weaving Our Strengths Conference

The Church Council of Greater Seattle’s fall conference, Weaving Our Strengths, is in its fifth year. It is a day-long conference of fellowship, inspiration, and skill-building to strengthen local churches efforts for the common good. It’s a great chance to connect across denominations, share best practices, foster spiritually-grounded action, and bring insights and opportunities back to your home congregation.

Here’s what attendees had to say about previous Weaving Our Strengths Conferences:

  • Very insight-full; spirit of mutual encouragement
  • Great – sharing ideas, getting ideas, networking
  • Exceeded expectations! This was my first conference and I look forward to the next
  • CCGS did a truly fine job of reflecting current, encompassing concerns. Do that again!
  • I love how everything was so local. It made it feel like we could do everything that we heard about was actually possible. It felt tangible.
  • Homey gathering of grassroots folks wanting to work with others towards greater peace and justice
  • I especially appreciated the afternoon guided discussion tables so that after we have attended the outstanding workshops, we have a more intimate setting to reflect on and share where the Spirit guides us to imagine some creative solutions to issues of which we are aware!
  • I experienced lots of energy – invigorated my local congregation involvement as well as ecumenical efforts.

We hope you can join us this year on September 29, 2018!

Conference Schedule
8 a.m. Registration
8:30  – 9:10 a.m. Gather & Worship
9:20 – 10:50 a.m. Workshop Session 1
11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Workshop Session 2
12:40 – 1:40 p.m. Lunch  (food vendor invited or bring your lunch)
1:40 – 3 p.m. Afternoon Session: Weaving Our Narratives of Hope* 
3 – 3:15 p.m. Closing Worship

*After a morning of learning, the afternoon will take a deeper dive, moving from conversation to action. We’ll form clusters around topics to share your stories and hopes together. Guided conversation will make the time fruitful – identifying the narratives and relationships that need to shift to unleash action. You will walk out with a foundation for ongoing collaboration, a fellowship of friends, and a story of hope to guide your next steps.

Workshops & Presenters - Session 1
The Living Body: Organizing for Church Vitality
Joey Ager, Community Organizer, Church Council of Greater Seattle

“Vitality” has become an widespread word in thinking about the present and future of church in the Northwest, but what is it, and how do we cultivate it? What does it mean to be a living body in our context? What are the tools available for people and communities of faith to become ever more alive?

In this workshop, we’ll explore the tradition of faith-based community organizing as one of the ways churches are exploring these important questions in the Church Council network and beyond.

Joey Ager is the Church Council’s lead Community Organizer. He lives in Tacoma with his wife and two boys.The focus of his work is in South King County, where he works closely with many congregations and communities to build local leadership teams, engaging the most pressing issues in their communities. He is from Scotland, but trained as an organizer in San Diego, where he lived and worked for 7 years before coming the Pacific Northwest in 2016. He has a degree in Theology and is driven by the promise of the year of Jubilee.


Our Call to Advocacy: Tools and Resources to Stand for Justice
Amber Dickson and Sarah Vatne, Faith Action Network

How do people of faith influence decisions on hunger, gun responsibility, private prisons and other issues impacting our communities? Join Faith Action Network’s Sarah Vatne, ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow, and Amber Dickson, Statewide Organizer, as they share simple and effective ways people of faith can advocate for just policies that strengthen our communities. During this workshop, we will explore the structure of Washington State’s legislature, share resources for communicating with electeds and staying informed on public policy, and discuss the 2018 ballot initiatives. If you are ready to advocate for justice, join this workshop to learn to be more effective.

Amber Dickson began her journey towards social justice in 2014 while participating in the United Church of Christ’s Justice Leadership Program. She learned about advocacy through placements at Faith Action Network and the Children’s Alliance. She is a member of Keystone United Church of Christ in Seattle.


Sarah Vatne grew up in Washington and spent two legislative sessions in Olympia where she worked as a legislative aide and as a coordinator for the Legislative Page School. She is serving at FAN through a one-year ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellowship and lives in Tacoma.


Equity in Daily Life: Opportunities and Challenges
Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship

This interactive session explores the ideological, institutional, interpersonal and internalized realities of oppression and ways to respond. Join young adult leaders and staff of the Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship building a practical foundation for intersectional equity and justice.

The Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship equips young adults engaged in long-term service to transform their service experiences into lives of service leadership. The facilitators include Krista Colleagues as well as staff. Valerie Norwood, executive director, and Stacy Kitahata, program director, develop volunteer preparation, transition and experiential leadership learning within a spiritually grounded context.

Spirituality and Justice: “Reset”
The Reverend Troy Lynn Carr, Pastor, Grace United Methodist Church

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously. 

Micah 6:8 (MSG)

In this workshop we will explore spiritual exercises as the praxis for deeper theological reflections and organic responses to injustice.  My spiritual practice rejects the philosophy of self-containment or a deep concentration of my own needs and issues. My spiritual practice compels me to respond to my community with compassion, action, and cultural humility. You are invited to explore with me how spirituality begins to restore the fissure being created within church and community. It’s time now for Christians to “Reset”.

The Rev. Troy Lynn Carr is pastor of Grace United Methodist Church, Seattle,  after serving Bryn Mawr United Methodist Church in South Seattle for two years. Rev. Carr holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work from Roberts Wesleyan College, Rochester NY, a Masters of Divinity from Lutheran Theological Seminary (now United Theological Seminary), Gettysburg, PA, and five units of Clinical Pastoral Education, with a completed Residency from Riverside Hospital, Newport News, VA. Rev. Carr is currently a Doctor of Ministry student at Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry. Rev. Carr is humbly honored to be elected to serve as a new board member with the Church Council of Greater Seattle, where she will serve with the committee on community engagement. Rev. Carr is an ordained Itinerant Elder in the AME tradition.

Water in Scripture, our Lives, and the World
The Rev. Kristy Farber, Senior Pastor, Mercer Island Presbyterian Church

Water is found everywhere in scripture. It symbolizes creation and order out of chaos. Baptism and rebirth. Healing and renewal. Water sustains us and life on this earth.

How do we read these biblical stories about water as we also read the stories in the news today about places where there isn’t enough water? Or where there is not clean water? As fires burn and people die of thirst? How do we understand this in light of baptismal waters? How might this rich imagery of water help us understand our faith and seek God’s hope for the world?

Kristy Farber loves helping people connect with God and neighbor through worship and service, and she gets the chance, every day, to work with incredible people who are authentically living out their faith. A proud graduate of the University of Washington, Kristy also has Master in Teaching from Seattle University and a Master in Divinity from Princeton Seminary, and spent time teaching and working in campus ministry before heading to seminary. Just before starting at MIPC, she served as a pastor at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Asheville, North Carolina. In the rest of her life, Kristy loves to be outdoors with her family, she pays for a YMCA membership that she wishes she used more, she falls asleep reading memoirs most nights, and she is learning to speak Spanish from her young children.


Civility & Civil Discourse
John Hale, CEO & Executive Director, Call of Compassion NW,
Mark R. Jones, Ph.D., Partner, The Sunyata Group, &
Imam Jamal Rahman, Interfaith Community Sactuary
Workshops & Presenters - Session 2
Standing with Our Muslim Neighbors: How to Be an Effective Ally
Aneelah Afzali, Esq., founder and Executive Director of MAPS-AMEN

The Muslim Ban is officially sanctioned by the highest court in our country. Those with anti-Muslim views and policy proposals are in the highest ranks of our country’s leadership. Hate crimes and bias incidents against American Muslims are at the highest levels in our nation’s history! It’s more important than ever for people of faith to stand with (and love) their Muslim neighbors. But what does that mean? At this workshop, you’ll learn how Islamophobia is weaponized, how it hurts us ALL, and what faith leaders can do to stand as true allies in building a beloved community, together.

Aneelah Afzali, Esq., is founder and Executive Director of MAPS-AMEN (American Muslim Empowerment Network). She also serves as a Board Member of the Faith Action Network and on the Steering Committee of the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network. Aneelah is a graduate of Harvard Law School who left her successful legal career five years ago to pursue service and knowledge. Since then, she has served as a community activist, interfaith leader, and justice advocate. Aneelah graduated from the University of Oregon Honors College and Harvard Law School. She also was named one of the 2017 Most Influential People by Seattle Magazine.

Cultural Humility Practices for Walking Alongside One Another
Briana Brannan, Immigrant & Refugee Accompaniment Organizer, Church Council of Greater Seattle &
Haley Ballast, Racial Justice Organizer

This workshop will focus on how we can continue to transform our involvement in the work for the common good from a perspective of “helping others” to “walking alongside one another” on the path towards mutual liberation. We will focus on ways we can incorporate cultural humility values and embodied practices into our relationships that cross racial, cultural, linguistic, and religious differences. We recognize that these collective practices will deepen our ability to be in right relationship with one another as we respond to sacred callings of caring for our communities, transforming unjust systems, and writing new narratives of a shared Kin-dom on earth.

Briana Brannan is the Immigrant & Refugee Accompaniment Organizer for the Church Council of Greater Seattle. Her work focuses on strengthening networks to support housing access and the creation of safe cities for immigrant and refugee communities. Briana interned as a Living Wage Organizer with CCGS during her year of service with the UCC Justice Leadership Program in 2013. She grew up in Colorado and came to the PNW to attend Pacific Lutheran University. Briana spent time in Mexico and Central America while completing her degree in Global Studies and Political Science. Her favorite places to find rest and renewal are on the trails, near water, on her bike, or in her garden.


There Is No Single Issue Struggle: Seeing the Intersections Between Housing & Environmental Justice
Erica N. West, Organizing Staff, Church Council of Greater Seattle &
Leda Zakarison, Environmental Justice Organizer

In the social justice landscape, there can be so many issues that we may feel that we can only claim a single one as “ours.” Yet as Audre Lorde said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives…Our struggles are particular, but we are not alone.” It is in this spirit that we will investigate the intersections between housing and environmental justice, two major local issues that have massive local, national, and global implications. Participants will be equipped with theological and political lenses to understand for themselves and communicate to others that these two issues are inextricably interrelated, and must be understood as such to positively impact change.

Erica N. West comes to the Church Council from the D.C. metropolitan area via the Justice Leadership Program of the United Church of Christ. Erica (otherwise affectionately known as E) is embracing this time at the Church Council as a period of experiential learning and vocational discernment on the journey before entering divinity school. E sees social justice as a form of spiritual praxis and at the Church Council is focused on organizing faith communities around housing, homelessness and the issues therein, in the diverse and complex political landscape of Seattle. E is a recent graduate of William & Mary and holds a degree in Government and American Studies. E enjoys reading for pleasure, spending time in intentional community, exploring Seattle public parks and social media.

Leda Zakarison grew up in Pullman, WA as a fourth-generation “daughter of the Palouse” and graduated from Whitman College with a B.A. in Religious Studies and a minor in French. Leda has experience in interfaith understanding, having worked for three years as an intern in Whitman’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. She founded the college’s chapter of Better Together, an organization that promotes interfaith understanding on campuses through conversations and direct service work. Her interest in environmental and social issues was piqued during a week-long service trip in college working with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. For the last year Leda has served as Outreach Coordinator at Earth Ministry via the Justice Leadership Program of the United Church of Christ. Presently, she is doing outreach to faith communities as a part of Washington Initiative 1631, a carbon fee initiative that will be on the statewide ballot this November!

Racial Justice as a Way of Life
The Rev. Dr. Linda M. Smith, President, &
Michael Ramos, Executive Director, Church Council of Greater Seattle

Leaders of the Church Council of Greater Seattle engage in a dialogue about racial justice from a personal and congregational perspective. Then, join in conversation about deepening reflection and action.

Discerning the Wisdom of God – Individually and Communally
Lisa Dennison, Executive Director of the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life (SEEL) Puget Sound;
Rev. Denise Easter and Rev. Dianna Kunce, co-founders of Renewal Ministries Northwest

On our journey with God we are graced with the gift of discernment in which the Spirit of Christ reveals God’s wisdom. St. Paul writes, “we have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, who explains spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” (I Cor. 2:13). In individual and communal spiritual discernment, we approach God in a posture of openness and humility to freely hear God about the particularities of life and mission. We will learn about the occasion for intentional discernment, framing the question, listening with holy indifference, and distilling what is heard.

Lisa Dennison is the Executive Director of the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life (SEEL) Puget Sound. She has been active as a spiritual director in the Ignatian tradition for over 16 years and helps to form other spiritual directors in SEEL. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius has great wisdom around discernment for individuals and groups to learn how to hear and respond to God’s call to all of us to share our gifts for making our world a better place by being ‘contemplatives in action.’


Rev. Denise Easter and Rev. Dianna Kunce are ministers in the Presbyterian Church USA. In 2003 they co-founded Renewal Ministries Northwest, a ministry that engages people in spiritual practices leading to deeper relationships with Jesus that refresh their souls and renew their spiritual vitality through guided prayer retreats. This ministry is rooted in Ignatian Spirituality and assists individuals, church leaders, and groups in listening to Christ and responding faithfully to His call. Denise and Dianna received their spiritual direction training from the Anglican Diocese of New England and have provided spiritual direction for individuals and groups for over 20 years. They have facilitated communal discernment processes with over 30 churches and organizations in the Northwest. 


Conference Logistics

Find directions from I-90 or from your location. Free parking available. We encourage carpooling.

Or you can plan a bus trip using King County’s Trip Planner. Sound Transit 550 and 554 stop at the Mercer Island Park & Ride, one mile from the congregation. We’ll have a shuttle taking people the ~5 minute drive to and from the Park & Ride. It’s also about a 10 minute bike ride or 25 minute walk if that’s your style. If you are planning on taking the shuttle, please let us know. ​

The entrance is accessible and the whole facility is on one floor.

Lunch will run 12:40 – 1:40 pm. We’re planning on an inexpensive lunch ($5 – $7) being available for purchase onsite with vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options available. Or you can choose to bring your own.

Coffee, tea, and snacks will be provided beginning at 8 a.m. and will be available throughout the day. There will be vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free snacks available.

We are currently planning to offer free childcare for folks who pre-register and indicate their interest in childcare by Friday, September 21. If interested, please contact Ellen.

Scholarships are available for those who request them. If interested, please email Ann or call her at (206) 204-3855.

Sponsorship Opportunities

The Weaving Our Strengths Conference is the perfect place to showcase your dedication to the region. Through sponsorship, you can align your organization with the region’s Christian community for the common good. Our work bridges faith communities with partners from all sectors —  business, non-profit, labor, and neighborhood organizations. Your financial sponsorship not only boosts the work of faith-based civic activism. It also tells local Christians that you are invested in their vitality.

Sponsor Benefits for 2018

Important conference sponsorship dates      

  • For inclusion on conference brochure:  Friday, July 6, 2018
  • For inclusion in all other available benefits:  Monday, September 10, 2018

Email Ellen Finkelstein, Conference Manager, for more information.