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ACE Learning Groups

2022 Current ACE Groups

Care Bears (2019, 2022)

How does care lead to transformation?

  • Brian Funderburke
  • Lindsay Geist
  • Jennifer Hansen
  • Brent Huckaby
  • Meg Morrison
  • Andy Woodworth

"We were able to look at different models of care around the environment, others, and ourselves.  We were able to take time to rest and fellowship as a way to care for one another.  These times are so vital for staying useful and engaged in long-term ministry.  Having a group that encourages one another to make time to get away is incredibly helpful." 

Church Pirates (2020-2022)

Where do you see the Holy Spirit outside of the institutionalized ideology of church?

  • Dave Allen Grady
  • Laura Patterson
  • Amy Valdez Barker
  • Julie Wright

"We know what the Holy Spirit looks like inside the church, but what would happen if we opened our eyes and hearts to the Spirit's work outside of our traditional views?  At first, it seemed like a daunting task because the Holy Spirit is literally everywhere.  Our pirate crew took the opportunity to discover how the Holy Spirit collaborates with "terroir" (soil and land)."

Curds and Jelly (2022-2023)

How does the act of eating food bring us together?

  • Susan Allen Grady
  • Dana Ezell
  • Amanda Lane
  • Cassie Rapko
  • AnnaKate Rawles
  • Leslie Watkins

"People need fellowship opportunities.  One of the most common fellowship opportunities in our culture is around the table with food.  Fellowship in the church may not always result in a radical change, a movement, or address a racial justice issue, but fellowship can ignite personal change and discipleship.  Fellowship with others Christians gives us a sense of belonging and the sense of community that encourages and uplifts the faith community."

Enneagram Explorers (2022-2023)

How can we use the Enneagram as a tool to grow spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and professionally?

  • Carolyn Clifton
  • Ashley Jenkins
  • Lesley Langford
  • Allyson Lawrence
  • Valerie Loner
  • Leigh Martin
  • Beth Sanders
  • Sandy Skinner

"We are excited to learn about ourselves and each other.  In discovering more about our individual personalities it helps us discover ways of communicating within our ministry context and to those who process information differently than we do."

Pescalogians (2022-2023)

How do we remain in love with God and thrive in life and ministry?

  • Herzen Andone
  • Mike Broome
  • Ed Dickens
  • Kenny Ott
  • Andy Postell
  • David Wofford

"This group came together under a common theme of weariness and a common passion for the outdoors.  We want to establish healthy rhythms of renewal, identify best practices of Sabbath, develop a band of brothers, and become better fishermen.  Healthy pastors with healthy habits of renewal will produce fruit in the churches they serve, as well as the Conference at large."

Restoration (2022-2023)

How do we show up in a holistic way as pastors and leaders to what connection with Christ will look like in the future?

  • Fede Apecena
  • Beth Clark
  • Kate Floyd
  • Ryan Miller
  • Elizabeth Pollard
  • Brian Smith
  • Anjie Woodworth

"We want to explore leadership and worship through a wholistic lens and build relationships with our clergy peers.  We seek to explore what models of wholistic leadership look like and how they intersect with all aspects of leadership: with the individual, the congregation, and our larger society and culture."  

Story Companions (2022-2023)

How can we build sustainable relationships in a broken world?

  • Susan Amick
  • Sharon Edgar
  • Keya Hillman
  • Angela House
  • Karen Kagiyama
  • Shari Rates
  • Melanie Stanley-Soulen

"We are well on our way of becoming a beloved community.  Our discussions are rich; our care for each other is palpable; our excitement of just being together is lovely.  We listen intently to one another's stories.  Our time together is refreshing and empowering. We carry each other with us as we go back to our ministry settings."

Theology of Play (2020-2022)

How do we reclaim our identity as those who are created to play?

  • Joya Abrams
  • Wendy Cordova
  • Catherine Boothe Olson
  • Lynne Smith
  • Carolyn Stephens
  • Jessica Terrell
  • Blair Tolbert

"We are busy!  How often we go and go and go some more, without taking the time to foster a way of life that is truly restful and healthy.  We fail to live fully. This pandemic has brought new challenges and stress to all of us.  We need more space, time and permission to play. We need space and permission to rest and to do what is good for the body - thus making ourselves more available to ministry.  It is simply good to be with others without having to lead or teach or be in charge.  I think when we take better care of our whole selves, we are better able to care for others.  In addition, I think in most settings, we have church members who have forgotten how to play and need permission and opportunities to enjoy life, to rest to be recharged in creative ways."  

Weavers of Worship (2020-2022)

How can we grow spiritually and glorify God by using all our senses through incorporating creative arts into worship? 

  • Rob Bruce
  • Theresa Coleman
  • Carol Cook
  • Shelia Crowe
  • Greg Meadows
  • John Turlington

"Our desire is to build the Kingdom of God by finding new and creative ways to express and engage our congregations in worship. We want to cultivate sensory-rich worship in our services that reaches people of all kinds of learning styles.  We have learned so much and have greatly appreciated our group support during the pandemic."   

Past ACE Groups

Border Walls and Bridges (2019-2021)

How do we prepare the table to be a place of welcome for everyone in order to have crucial conversations?

  • Martha Dye
  • Ash McEuen
  • Juan Quintanilla
  • Joel Rodriguez

"In a million years, I never thought I would have the opportunity to study and visit in-depth the issue of immigration that has affected to one extent or another people all over the globe. Why in the world would a mother leave her children, a man his family, a child her parents to travel a dangerous and uncertain journey to a place they have never been and where they know they are not always welcome?  Here’s what we discovered: The immigration/refugee situation is just a mess. Just a mess! But isn’t that God’s main business? To poke around and change us so that we find the courage to start cleaning up the messes of the world?  We want to learn more about the connections between the root causes, politics, and power that impacts this humanitarian crisis."

Conversations Along the Journey (2019-2021)

How do we have civil conversations in a divided world?

  • Zack Martin
  • Matt Murphy
  • Lori Osborn
  • Beth Shugart
  • Byron Thomas
  • Max Vincent

"Given the challenges of our church and our nation we believe that conversations, difficult though they may be at times, can bring about healing, transformation, and foster unity.  We’ve seen it amongst ourselves as members of Conversations Along the Journey and would love the opportunity to play a part in making these kinds of conversations part of the normal rhythm of the church in the North Georgia Conference and beyond."   

Intellectually Curious, Socially Conscious & Holy (2019-2021)

How do we embrace diversity and welcome the other into our midst?

  • Nora Colmenares
  • Rodrigo Cruz
  • Dana Everhart
  • Tonya Lawrence
  • Joseph McBrayer
  • Vance Ross
  • Brian Tillman

"As a group of diverse individuals, we intentionally formed around a shared belief that commonality discovered through relationship yields greater fruit than divisions of difference that exist in disconnectedness. We are a group of clergy who vary in gender, age, ethnicity, ordination vows, and ministry context. Each of us brings with us a wealth of knowledge and experience that have informed the inner workings of our group from the beginning and continue to be a deep well from which we draw each time we gather."

Watch: The Intellectually Curious Reflect on Systemic Hate

Intentional Pilgrims (2019-2021)

How do we repurpose the ancient practice of spiritual disciplines in order to recognize the value in what is old and seasoned in our spiritual lives while enduring practices with new approaches?

  • Cindy Conner
  • Dan Dixon
  • Mark LaRocca Pitts
  • Liza Marler
  • Kathie Statsko

"More than destination, pilgrimage, as opposed to tourism, is a question of attitude and intent. An attitude of being open to significant meaning and an intent to experience deep connections along the way can transform an ordinary journey into a life-changing pilgrimage. We, the Intentional Pilgrims, chose for our ACE2 project a pilgrimage along Route 66. Crossing prairies, rivers, mountains, and deserts, connecting large cities, small towns, and forgotten hamlets, and filled with roadside attractions, Mom & Pop motels, and “greasy-spoon” diners, Route 66 has taken us through the heartland and soul of America where we encountered God in the everyday and in everyone, especially ourselves. Learning more about ourselves and the ways God can transform the ordinary into the sacred and the old into the new, we hope to bring to our churches a better and renewed us and a deeper understanding into how spiritual transformation occurs in the lives of God’s people." 

 Job's Friends (2019-2020)

How do we share with other clergy the value of covenantal peer groups over the course of ministry?

  • Jody Alderman
  • Robert Brown
  • Chuck Hodges
  • Rob Lanford Jr.
  • Terry Walton
  • Bob Winstead

"The importance of a peer learning group like Job’s Friends is inestimable.  Job’s Friends share a 35+ year journey of not only ministry within the North Georgia Annual Conference, but for life shared with, lived into and leaned into together as friends, brothers and fellow children of God. Job's Friends is a ministry accountability and support group formed for the purpose of resourcing one another, supporting one another by covenanting to commit the time, energy and resources to provide a "safe space" to share and encourage one another in the pursuit of excellence as clergy, spouses, parents and friends in community, praying for one another and "being present" for one another as we share life’s journeys. We hope to help others form meaningful and lasting accountability and support groups."

Parts Unknown (2019-2021)

How do we make the unknown known to our churches as we seek to discover and participate in what the church may look like in the next 25 years?

  • Heather Jallad
  • Shannon Karafanda
  • Ted Rollins
  • Julie Schendel
  • Owen Skinner

"When we came up with our group and theme "Parts Unknown," we had no idea how unknown the world around us would become.  So in one sense our goals were to discern something we can anchor on and take the next step, but also to rediscover fellowship and rest, both of which have unfortunately become unknown to us in the past two years.  We are moving to the next phase of life, church, and our own denomination.  Perhaps instead of focusing on the destination, we should remember that we started as a movement.  Movements are never static.  They are dynamic.  They transform us.  So we move.  We move where the Spirit leads us and know that is gonna be alright."

Prayer and Place (2019)

How does one become a person of prayer instead of a person who prays?

  • Josh Amerson
  • Emily Bagwell
  • Katy Hinman
  • Allen Johnson
  • Thomas Martin
  • Blair Setnor
  • Jordan Thrasher

"Sacred spaces do not just happen casually.  Intentionality is so important to the process of preparing places and events where the divine can be readily experienced."

Purer Space (2019-2021)

How do we create purer spaces in our lives together through authentic and trusting relationships?

  • Eddie Bradford
  • Debbie Carlton
  • Mac Enfinger
  • Dane Wagner

"We call ourselves Purer Space. We have experienced stress, uncertainty and conflict that are part of ministry and life in general.  We long for something different. We long for a deeper experience of God’s presence. We long for authentic and trusting relationships. We have committed ourselves to journeying together with the hope that God will do something new in us, among us, and around us."

Rest and Renewal (2019-2021)

How can I pour myself out, knowing I will be refilled?

  • Leonard Akers
  • James Gwin
  • Chris Mullis
  • Shelia Preacher
  • Travia Speer

"It is difficult to summarize the many insights we gleaned from our three-year journey. Each group member has a unique perspective. However, there are some common themes. First, every community (and person) is unique and will experience renewal differently.  Neither should we expect one clergy to have the same renewal needs as another or to follow some arbitrary pattern of renewal. Second, a spiritual life aids in healthy recovery. Third, sometimes the most resilient people need renewal the most. Since they can endure more than average and keep going, they may find themselves deeply wounded before they realize the need for renewal. They may be too injured to recover on their own.  Fourth, we learned how life is incredibly resilient and often finds a way despite overwhelming obstacles. Given a little time and space, new life will eventually re-surface and thrive with the right conditions. There is no life stronger than the New Life Christ instills in believers. One may appear irredeemably dead, but the Spirit will usually revive in time when the conditions are right. It was a privilege to participate in ACE2 . We have learned much and grown together. Thank you for your support and encouragement." 

Serenity Sisters (2019-2021)

How do we as female pastors integrate mind, body, spirit, and environment for the purpose of personal renewal and deepen our relationship with God and others?

  • Elizabeth Ackerman
  • Elaine Crawford
  • Heather Flaherty
  • Nancy Long
  • Candy Thacker

"Our purpose was to practice the self-care and restoration so needed for clergy.  We have learned that it is okay and necessary to pull away from the "business" of ministry to spend focused time with God, nature, trusted friends, and self.  There is value in spending time with each other and building trusting clergy relationships."  

 Walking Women of the World (2019-2021)

How do we strengthen our mind, body and spirit, recognizing the spirituality of our physical selves and walking into the authentic individuals God created us to be?

  • Anika Jones
  • Millie Kim
  • Terri Lemons
  • Karen Lyons
  • Pam McCurdy
  • Cyndi McDonald

"Walking is not merely a physical activity.  It is also an attitude, and have an attitude of walking with others helps us to find joy in unexpected places.  The Bible is full of examples of persons who walked with God and with other people.  This is something that we can do as well.  It's only when we get away and have some "downtime," that we realize how exhausted we are.  Even though our experiences are physically tiring because of the walking and hiking, our emotions and spirits are refreshed and rejuvenated.  It is so important to maintain communication and relationship with a group of other clergy who understand what we do in our daily lives for support and accountability."       

Wholly Living (2020-2021)

Am I currently living a life of wellness?  Am I striving to become whole?  How is my wellness or lack thereof affecting my vocation and community? 

  • Kathy Brockman
  • Jessica Chicken
  • Patrick Faulhaber
  • Tyler Jackson
  • Tim Lloyd
  • Joe Palmer
  • Blake Trent