The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology launches its second training center, the Center for Transforming Engagement, aimed at equipping leaders and teams to awaken social change.

“We live in such fragmenting times,” says J. Derek McNeil, President of The Seattle School. “Moreover, rapid cultural changes, the pandemic, and the hostile nature of our political discourse have created an environment of increased distress and disjuncture. Leaders are under great pressure to lead in a way that increases their team’s resilience and adaptation, but with fewer skills and less preparation. We believe it is our work to serve leaders in their calling and to better equip them to serve their communities and neighborhood. The Center for Transforming Engagement reflects The Seattle School’s commitment to serving God and neighbor through transforming relationships.”

The new Center is a development from Resilient Leaders Project, which began in 2017 with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. Resilient Leaders Project researched the needs and strengths of ministry leaders, asking what helps leaders to thrive in the midst of challenging contexts. From that research, they developed a frame of the essential components of resilience: people, practices, and purpose. They created a 7-month program, the Certificate in Resilient Service, to support the resilience of ministry practitioners. Early in the project, the team also drafted their learnings into the Resilience Report, a white paper that has since shaped the formation of clergy-support programs around the world.

In 2020, a second grant from Lilly Endowment enabled the team to develop a program for congregational teams to listen and design responsive ministries in rapidly changing local contexts. This program, now in its pilot cohort, is the start of Trusting Teams Project. It additionally funds the operations of Christ & Cascadia, an online journal focused on innovative faith communities in the pacific northwest bioregion. Christ & Cascadia is the first offering of Place Project.

These three initiatives — Resilient Leaders Project, Trusting Teams Project, and Place Project — will now be components of the Center. The initiatives will work in concert to resource, train, and connect leaders to grow their resilience, develop the capacity of working groups, and respond to local human and natural ecosystems as unique expressions of faith.

The Center for Transforming Engagement has big plans to host gathering events, workshops, online courses, downloadable resources, and training programs with the goal of equipping leaders and teams to build cohesive communities marked by resilience, belonging, and regenerativity.

“Our vision is to restore institutional health through resilient leaders, trusting teams, and deep listening to the human and natural ecosystems of local contexts,” says Kate Rae Davis, Director of the new Center. “Over the last five years, our work with hundreds of leaders has repeatedly emphasized a key learning: while hope and vision may come from a leader, real social change only comes through groups working with one another in response to their context. We are committed to the rebuilding of institutions and healing of society through combining the best tools of the social sciences with the Christian values of faith, hope, and love.”

Learn more about the work of the Center for Transforming Engagement at The Seattle School