From Wednesday, Oct. 31, through Saturday, Nov. 3, eight Shenandoah University students and one Spiritual Life staff member attended the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) national conference in Chicago, Illinois. CCDA’s mission is “to inspire, train, and connect Christians who seek to bear witness to the Kingdom of God by reclaiming and restoring under-resourced communities.” This organization of practitioners has created a set of practical principles developed through living and working with impoverished communities. CCDA focuses on eight components:
- holistic approach
- leadership development
- being church-based
- listening to the community
Throughout the conference, attendees attended plenary sessions, workshops, and immersive learning experiences to network and hear best practices from leaders in the fields of community development, spiritual formation and social justice advocacy.
The trip was an amazing experience. It was so inspiring and I feel so motivated to go and make a difference in the world, and even here at SU.”
Danee Simmons ’20 | Mathematics major
Each day of the conference, the students and Shenandoah Assistant Director of Spiritual Life Keith Jones Pomeroy reflected on what they heard and how it related to the group’s values and vocations.
I loved the conversations. We had such a good group that was so willing to have open, difficult conversations every day. Even though we all had a lot of different information and different opinions on the topics we discussed, we could still talk about it openly and not be judged.”
Danni Greer ‘20 | Religion major
Not only did the Shenandoah group listen to conference speakers on stage, but it also had in-depth conversations with practitioners and leaders in the fields of nonprofit leadership, faith-based organizing and community development.
On one morning, the group breakfasted with Lisa Sharon Harper, a writer, activist, speaker, and founder and president of Freedom Roads Consulting group. This was part of a continuing relationship with Harper, who spoke at the Thy Kingdom Come conference organized by Shenandoah’s Office of Spiritual Life in 2015. Harper’s work has earned recognition nationally, with the Huffington Post recognizing her as one of “50 Powerful Women Religious Leaders to Celebrate on International Women’s Day.” The Shenandoah group also shared meals and conversation with other speakers, writers, and public figures like Mark Charles, Daniel White Hodge and Jonathan Brooks. Group members asked pointed questions and gained wisdom from each of these leaders’ extensive experience advocating for social change, reconciliation and equality within society.
These conversations and the conference itself empowered students to connect with Shenandoah’s core value of “respect for diverse cultures, experiences, and perspectives.”
I feel as though the conference thoroughly changed my perspective on minorities and privilege both in and out of the church. I believe that, with the information I learned at this conference, I can more successfully lead back on campus at SU to help our school become more diverse and accepting, not just when pertaining to race, but also to people from many different cultures, gender identities, disabilities or backgrounds.” The university’s vision includes having “a campus culture of compassion, responsibility, advocacy and justice which graduates are inspired to replicate in communities beyond Shenandoah.”
Hannah Hale ’21 | English major
Opportunities like the CCDA national conference allow students studying a variety of academic disciplines to make connections about what it means to be a person of faith, values, conviction and integrity in a globalized society. Such opportunities also inspire students to live out Shenandoah’s mission as they grow as “critical thinkers, and ethical, compassionate citizens who are committed to making responsible contributions within a community, a nation and the world.”