by Dr. Maribeth Velazquez Swanson
What was the outcome of attending a three-day, coffee-fueled conference jam packed with 85 workshops, six program tours, daily plenary sessions, inspiring morning devotionals and stimulating banquet messages?
For the more than 500 delegates of the National Social Services Conference, “Charting Change 2019,” it was nothing less than renewed commitments to adopting best practices to forward The Salvation Army’s mission and serve the marginalized with kindness, grace and justice.
Characters from The Wizard of Oz welcomed delegates to Kansas City, Mo., at the opening banquet, as did Major David Harvey, Kansas and Western Missouri divisional commander. In his message, Central Territorial Commander Commissioner Brad Bailey reaffirmed the Army’s belief that people can change, stating, “We are witnesses to the development of people into what they have always been meant to be as we pledge to live to care for the poor.”
With a nod to Catherine Booth’s words, “If we are to better the future we must disturb the present,” Dr. Christena Cleveland challenged delegates in her address to evaluate perceptions of culture and race which influence how value is determined in organizational decision making and the provision of social services programs.
Among those sharing their expertise were 34 Central officers, employees and consultants in workshops focusing on supporting positive change for those struggling with addictions, cultural competence, trauma, poverty, violence and developmental challenges, to name a few. Workshops on the Central’s innovative Pathway of Hope, online caseworker certification, services for veterans, anti-trafficking and aging were highly attended.
“The conference was intellectually stimulating, professionally relevant, socially sensitive and spiritually inspiring,” noted Kimberly Beck from the Midland Division.
Daily devotionals were led by Dr. Bill Ury, national ambassador for holiness; Commissioner Sharron Hudson, national president of women’s ministries, and Major David Harvey. Majors Jim and Penny Mungai, conference chaplains, provided a space for prayer and reflection—much needed for those serving on the frontlines.
The conference concluded with Dr. Anna Scheyett declaring social workers as “society’s super heroes” with powers that arise when they serve and lead with kindness.
* photo by Kajsa Swanson