More than 70 people from 23 congregations across the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod attended a “Weathering the System” event, hosted by Lutheran Congregational Services. The event included speakers, workshops and discussions that addressed some of the challenges that Congregations are facing.

Carol Detweiler, the Christian Education Director at New Hanover Lutheran Church in Gilbertsville attended the event with a council member, and a member of the stewardship committee. “Like every congregation, we deal with conflicts and growing pains,” Carol said. “The whole thing was very well done. It gave good practical advice but had a spiritual tone to it as well. We realized that it comes down to a lot of basics that we as a church just don’t do very well.”

The attendees participated in workshops and group discussions with members of other congregations. “It was a good way for everyone to see that we aren’t the only church that’s struggling,” Carol said. “You felt supported. Everyone shared the problems that they were facing and how they were dealing with them.  You heard all different voices, which was helpful.”

Maggie Ainslie, the chaplain at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, led a workshop on communication. “Hearing people’s stories and seeing them interact was amazing,” she said. “Everyone was really open and there was a high level of trust, even among strangers.”

As a former pastor at Atonement Lutheran Church in Philadelphia, Maggie understands the challenges that congregations are facing. Participants discovered that they are not alone in their struggles, and discussed ways to solve or work around problems.  “People asked great questions, and everyone was really engaged and actively learning.”

Carol’s congregation has started to implement what they learned at “Weathering the System.” They presented the key points to the church council and administered a survey. “We started sharing more, and listening to each other,” Carol said. The council plans to form committees to implement aspects of the event in the congregation. “I would be very surprised if anyone walked out of the event without something that they can use,” Carol said.

If you are interested in participating in a similar event to promote the wellness of your Congregation, e-mail Rev. Dr. Jennifer Ollikainen at