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

$55 Individual | $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 –

Linda Chastine, Krista Colleague; HIV Program Coordinator with African Americans Reach and Teach Health ministry (AARTH)

Stacy D. Kitahata, Program Director, Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship;

Claire E. Smith, Krista Colleague; regional coordinator for the Kaleidoscope Institute for Leadership in a Diverse Changing World

Ilana Weber, Krista Colleague; Program Director, Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest

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. 

Linda Chastine is a Black Queer Femme living, working, and building community in Seattle, WA as an HIV Program Coordinator with African Americans Reach and Teach Health ministry (AARTH), a small nonprofit founded in 2002 to address the needs of Black Americans and African born folks living with HIV/AIDS. In life, Linda is committed to creating spaces for Black/Brown, and Indigenous Queer People of Color (BIQPOC) to share their narratives as a joyful proclamation of defiance, resiliency, reclamation, and reparation. Ultimately, Linda is dedicated to dismantling all forms of oppression so that one day, all life may have the ability to live their fullest with love, joy, and dignity, free from fear, shame, and injustice.

Stacy D. Kitahata, Program Director with the Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship, develops intercultural experiential learning within an adaptive leadership context. She is an Associate with the Kaleidoscope Institute for Leadership in a Diverse Changing World and KI Northwest, as well as a Qualified Administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory. Stacy offers more than 25 years of global intercultural experience with grass roots organizations, faith communities and higher education.

Claire E. Smith, served two years with Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest as bilingual domestic violence advocate in Portland, and as an academic assistant with Pretty Eagle Catholic Academy on the Crow Reservation in Montana. She is regional coordinator for the Kaleidoscope Institute for Leadership in a Diverse Changing World. As an Apprentice Facilitator with the Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship, Claire assists the program for facilitating intercultural dialogue and learning. Claire is a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University and holds an MSW from the University of Washington.

Ilana Weber (she/her) graduated from a small liberal arts college in the Midwest as a first-generation college student and moved to Portland to join L’Arche Portland, an inter-generational community where people with and without disabilities share life together. Ilana’s years at L’Arche developed a deep resonance with mutual relationship, celebrating difference, and the sacredness of human connection. Now, as a Program Coordinator with Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest, Ilana accompanies volunteers in the Northwest as they pursue social and ecological justice, community, spirituality, and simple living. Ilana envisions a world where everyone is free to be their whole, thriving selves, and invests in doing her part to make that happen.

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 in Times of Division and Despair
John Hale, CEO & Executive Director, Call of Compassion NW,
Imam Jamal Rahman, Interfaith Community Sactuary &
Dr. Mark Jones, Founder & CEO, The Sunyata Group

Civility refers to one’s demeanor of politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech. Civil Discourse, in civil conversation, is experienced with openness, honesty, and above all, with mutual respect, even (or especially) with those with whom we disagree. This workshop will introduce spiritual practices that strengthen empathy for others and enhance our self-awareness of how we are tempted to respond and how we can limit adverse reactions. It will also present relational conversation tools and skills that will facilitate deep, respectful, and authentic dialogue, even on topics that are divisive. We will test the practices and propose ways they can be applied in our daily lives.

Jamal Rahman / co-founder of Interfaith Community Sanctuary and Board VP of Northwest Interfaith, is a popular speaker on Islam, Sufi spirituality, and interfaith relations. Originally from Bangladesh, he has an abiding faith in the power of heart-to-heart connections to encompass differences and dissolve prejudices. His passion lies in interfaith community building. He remains rooted in his Islamic tradition and cultivates a “spaciousness” by being open to the beauty and wisdom of other faiths. By authentically and appreciatively understanding other paths, Jamal feels that he becomes a better Muslim. This spaciousness is not about conversion but about completion.

Jamal enjoys programs that celebrate life and unity through delight, laughter, and food.  Since 9/11 Jamal has been collaborating with Rabbi Ted Falcon and Pastor Don Mackenzie. Affectionately known as the Interfaith Amigos, they tour the country sharing the message of spiritual inclusivity.

Mark R. Jones, Ph.D. / President and CEO, The Sunyata Group Leadership Innovation of Sunyata (LIOS); Board President of Call of Compassion NW. Mark is an educator, researcher, and senior executive leader with over 35 years of entrepreneurial experience. He has led the Sunyata Group for-profit and non-profit entities since 2004, hosting and participating in “collaboratory educational, operational, and research projects to address extinction-level issues and high-leverage/impact problems such as social and environmental collapse and spiritual crisis ( 

His focus is the development of enlightened communities (Bodhisangha) as resilient high-performance communities (Beloved Communities) to heal and sustain all aspects of the world (tikkun olam). Mark has over 28 years of leadership experience in corporate, non-profit, elected, and appointed positions, including over 5 years at the executive level. He is a major advocate of international higher education institutions and corporate training programs.

John Hale / CEO & Executive Director of Call of Compassion NW and Board Treasurer of Northwest Interfaith. John has been a leader in advancing and expanding the local ecumenical and multilfaith movement since 9/11 when it felt that the majority of Islamic peace-loving people were being blamed for the crimes of a few extremists. The hostile environment that emerged for Muslims in our country provided the spark for his transition from a successful business career to nonprofit interfaith work. Ever since, he has been applying his education and more than 20 years of extensive executive management experience to promote solidarity, understanding, and collective compassionate action through these organizations.

John is a mission-based strategist skilled at working with people to develop trust among one another, to clarify their goals, and to achieve sustainable results. He guides his teams with a collaborative style and a lifelong dedication to spiritual activism.

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.

Haley Ballast is currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity at Seattle University School of Theology & Ministry, and is a candidate for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA). She recently completed an internship as an anti-racism organizer at the Church Council of Greater Seattle in conjunction with her M.Div studies. She is passionate about seeing communities transform together toward peace, wholeness, and justice, through the collaborative dismantling of oppressive and dehumanizing systems. She received degrees in Psychology, Linguistics, and Spanish, from the University of Southern California and has worked in the fields of autism behavioral therapy, baby sign language instruction, youth ministry, and church administration, before discovering a call to ordained ministry. Haley and her husband Jon have five children, two of whom were welcomed into the family through international adoption from Ethiopia. 


There Is No Single Issue Struggle: Seeing the Intersections Between Social & 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 the social justice issues about which we are passionate, including housing justice and environmental justice.

In particular, we will explore housing justice and Initiative 1631, 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 all forms of injustice are inextricably linked. We will practice using multiple justice lenses, including the lens of environmental justice to create a more expansive understanding of social issues.

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

The practice of making racial justice a way of life requires commitment and intentionality at the personal level and within our congregations.  It demands listening, learning and action that addresses our own complicity and offers the mainstream church a pathway to confront systems of oppression.   Join in conversation to learn from one another and discuss models of transformation, building a reservoir of truth and hope in a time of resurgent hate and bigotry.

The Rev. Dr. Linda M. Smith is the President of the Church Council of Greater Seattle Board of Directors. She also serves as Executive Director and Pastor of SKY Urban Empowerment and Transformation. Dr. Smith holds a Doctoral degree in Transformative Leadership and a Master of Divinity with Post Graduate certificate in Transforming Spirituality. She is currently pursuing a second Doctorate in Prophetic Leadership and Preaching. 

The Rev. Dr. Smith comes from a professional background in human resources and has been actively involved in coaching managers and leaders in professional development for over 30 years. Her experience includes corporate, organizational, and ministerial experience. She has been actively involved in many social areas, speaking and advocating on issues of equity and justice in the areas of poverty, homelessness, and race. Amongst her several roles in Renton, was Co-Chairperson for the Renton Police Department African American Pastoral Group, and a member of both the Renton Human Service Advisory Board and the King County Regional Human Services Citizen Oversight Board. She has done volunteer work at the King County Justice Center in Kent, Seattle, and Aberdeen, ministering to those who are incarcerated. 

Michael Ramos serves as the Executive Director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle. He has over 30 years of experience in faith-based advocacy, organizing and pastoral ministry, including serving as Director of Latino Ministries for the Catholic Diocese in Oakland in the mid-1990s. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Seattle University.   

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. If you don’t have a carpool already, there is a voluntary & self-organizing carpool option via GroupCarpool.

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.