2016 ESR Leadership Conference

Holy Experiments: Risk, Courage, & the Entrepreneurial Spirit

August 12-14, 2016
Featuring Keynote Speakers Samir Selmanović and Christina Repoley


Online Registration is available. (No longer available)

In the search for meaning, many persons stand at an intersection where at least one path leads into unfamiliar territory. Whether described as ideas, leadings, or callings, a certain inner summons persists deep within one’s quest for faithfulness. Interests and passions urge the consideration of the untested opportunity, sometimes even if the gifts and skills feel unfinished; sometimes even when sources for necessary funding are not evident. Whether to service, ministry, a new venture or a career change, these moments often lead to the birth of the entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurial leadership, whether in ministry, service, or business, has a spiritual vein, connecting with the deep life of the Spirit. As something new and untested, the experimental nature of this venture is all but guaranteed. As a response to the work of the Spirit within, the feel of holiness or sacred ground is natural. The sense of riskiness is genuine. The value of courage can hardly be overrated as one takes the initial steps toward this new investment of one’s self in the work that emerges from this effort.

We live at a vibrant moment. Whether in established structures or new ventures, desires to be useful, faithful, and successful co-mingle toward an integrated life where faith and vocation are one. Many old structures struggle to survive. New visions insist that innovative approaches and new models must be found! But how does one begin? Who understands the challenges faced? What does one need to succeed? It is an exhilarating moment for the entrepreneurial spirit. We may expect fresh leadership to emerge from successes and failures alike.

This year’s leadership conference intends to create space for conversation, for reflection, for sharing questions and wisdom that arise from the path you are traveling. With others, name the questions that nag. Share the wisdom you can offer. Learn from the experiences of others, trusting that leadership emerges where gifts are shared.

This conference is designed especially for...

  • Entrepreneurs
  • Intrapreneurs
  • Ministers, especially non-traditional ones
  • Business Professionals
  • Students
  • Life-long learners and kindred spirits


  • Find affirmation for your calling
  • Build supportive relationships
  • Experience fresh energy and new resolve
  • Learn practical ideas to benefit your work
  • Contribute to a body of shared knowledge


  • Hear teaching that stirs the mind and resonates with the soul
  • Participate in rich workshops led by skilled presenters
  • Engage in small group conversations with interested peers

Keynote Presentations

"That Fierce Heat of Living" with Samir Selmanović

An entrepreneur is really a bearer of risk. Like Jesus was. If you follow, in this largely inner game, everything that you fear will be put before you. Get ready for embarrassment, failure, and rejection. By befriending our fears, however, we become robustly vulnerable and therefore powerful. We learn to love well and serve the world in creative and productive ways.

Samir Selmanović, PhD PCC, is an Executive Life Coach and Leadership Development Advisor who has coached 100+ leaders and consulted 20+ organizations from diverse sectors of society. He has been a guest speaker at educational institutions, including Harvard and Princeton Universities. His non-profit interfaith leadership work has been profiled in the New York Times. Samir’s current interests are Narrative Coaching and Design, and Conversational Intelligence. Samir lives in Manhattan, has a complicated love relationship with New York City and tends to miss subway stops while reading. When the going gets tough, he goes into his kitchen and cooks up kindness for family, friends, and strangers. Samir lives wholeheartedly and will die an entrepreneur. www.wisdomworkroom.com

"Coming Alive: Discerning the Next Chapter of Quaker Service" with Christina Repoley

If the Religious Society of Friends is to have a future, the dynamic engagement and leadership of young people will be key. Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS) is a new expression of a deep seed within our tradition. It is an experience that encourages the faith of young adult Friends and draws spiritual seekers into the Religious Society of Friends through transformational experiences of service and communal living, grounded in the context of supportive Friends meetings, churches, yearly meetings, and conferences. QVS is dedicated to working with local Friends meetings and churches in the United States to offer these opportunities for leadership development, spiritual formation, training in Quaker practices, professional experience, service, and justice. QVS connects with the Quaker movement at a place that has been critical for generations of Friends—at the intersection where our experience of God leads us to Spirit-grounded service with and for others. Christina, the founding executive director of QVS, will share from her experience of taking this leading into concrete action, reflecting on Friends process and wisdom along the way.

Christina is the founding executive director of Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS) and a member of Atlanta Friends Meeting. She is a 2002 graduate of Guilford College and received a Master of Divinity in 2011 from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. She serves on the Board of Directors of Friends Fiduciary Corporation and the advisory board of Peace Builders Camp at Koinonia Farm. Her writing has appeared in Friends Journal and Quaker Life and she has been the invited speaker at various events including the 2014 Philadelphia Yearly Meeting William Penn Lecture and Guilford College’s 2014 Commencement Exercises. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and children. 


Special Programs

"An Entrepreneur’s Gift through Story: Whispers in the Wind, A Story Teller’s Calling" with Stephen Pete Sebert

Stephen Pete Sebert, Johnson Bible College (A.B.) and Earlham School of Religion (M. Ministry, 1973), has been schooled in Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky and now Texas. Guided by grandmothers, grandpas, mom & dad, little ones, and others—some living, others born centuries ago—he has watched, read, and listened to all of them for 75 years, soaking up their sayings, tales, books, paintings, and habits. In many places, he has walked and rode hills, hollows, and alleys. He has pastored 4 churches, visited many others, including mosques, synagogues, museums, schools, bars, malls, parks, and the homes of anybody who invited him in. Without the listening and encouragement of those along the way, he would not have turned into a teller of tales that help us stay balanced and get us back up when we fall down.

"An Entrepreneur’s Gift through Song: Timeless Quaker Wisdom through Plainsong" with Paulette Meier

Paulette Meier is a singer/songwriter. Her award winning CD, Come Join the Circle: LessonSongs for Peacemaking, is used around the country to inspire children to learn the ways of non-violence. As the Minnie Jane Artist in Residence, Paulette spent nine months at Pendle Hill in 2004, where her interest in Quaker spirituality and history was nurtured. The following year, she began to set selected passages of 17th century Friends’ writings to chant-like song. In 2010, she co-released with Quaker Press an a cappella recording of these “song-chants,” titled Timeless Quaker Wisdom in Plainsong. The CD has served as an educative tool in the roots of Quaker spirituality and as a meditative focus in spiritual practice among Friends, additionally introducing the Quaker way to non-Quaker, contemplative Christians who find great resonance in the teachings. 


"Global Marketplace Ministries: Venturing into Microbusiness Models for Economic Self-Reliance" with Migwe Kimemia

Entrepreneurship is a calling that is as old as human civilization. A Wall Street Journal report entitled, “The Faces of a New Generation,” reports new jobs are now being created by young entrepreneurs and forty percent of college students and recent graduates say that they would prefer to work in a start-up company or become self-employed. Not only that, it is now common knowledge that out of ambition or necessity, more than a million boomers every year start microbusinesses. Where does one get the courage and motivation to assume microbusiness risks? Why do such innovative entrepreneurs need a business plan? What values did Quaker entrepreneurs practice to lead a fulfilling and meaningful way of life. Do you believe you have a calling for ethical entrepreneurship in the global marketplace? 

This workshop will engage the participants in exploring various responses to these questions. The workshop will particularly focus on the principles of developing a viable microbusiness plan. The workshop will also present the best practices for starting a microbusiness in the global marketplace.

Kimemia was born and raised in Kenya. He received his spiritual calling for global marketplace ministries during his years in the small business development and international banking and trade finance in Nairobi. He has been the Economic Justice Program Director with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Dayton, Ohio since 2002. Prior to joining AFSC, he was the Economic Development Coordinator for the Dayton Urban Ministry where he was instrumental in revitalizing the Wesleyan Hill Neighborhood within four years (1999-2002). Kimemia holds numerous degrees and certificates, including an M.B.A. from Clark-Atlanta University-School of Business and an M.A. in Urban Ministry from United Theological Seminary-Dayton, Ohio. Kimemia is a member of the Quakers & Business (America) Group. He is a member of the Dayton Friends Meeting.

"Following Leadings and Getting Out of the Way: Being an Entrepreneurial Quaker" with Jennie Isbell Shinn

Whether your entrepreneurial urges manifest as a business or as a ministry, if you are living from a faithful center, marketing your work can be the hardest part. Sometimes the marketing tasks are for your intended customer base, and other times “marketing” must be focused on the worshipping community that (you hope) supports you. This workshop is for those beginning a business or a self-supporting ministry, or struggling along with a long-term start-up endeavor. “Pain point” marketing does not feel Quakerly. What are the other options? Is there a clearness-based process for creating a vision statement, a mission statement, and even a marketing plan? Is there a reason to drop the ministry model and move forward with a business model instead? This is a working workshop. Case studies will be drawn from participants.

Jennie Isbell Shinn (ESR, M.Div., 2007) is a Quaker spiritual director, writer, and retreat leader who joyfully serves people at the edge of church, inviting them to notice how close God actually is, unadorned by a particular creed or requirement. In addition to offering the overt ministry of spiritual direction, she also practices undercover ministry through her work as a consultant to non-profits by focusing on the topics of mission, strategic planning, board development, fundraising and volunteer management. She lives and works in West Tisbury, MA with her adoring husband Newell and their way-above-average child, Jasper.

"Building Shalom" with Ron and Pam Ferguson

In the middle of one of the poorest counties in Indiana, a coalition of church and community leaders joined forces to address the status of poverty and hunger in the county. Building Shalom is about the building by volunteers of an environmentally green, energy efficient building called the Shalom Center. The Shalom Center houses a local food pantry and is making a difference addressing the county’s problem of hunger.

Ron and Pam Ferguson are Quakers from Kansas and Idaho who spent 9 years with the Mennonite Central Committee in Southern Sudan working with refugees and in Uganda doing development and peace building. For the last 17 years they have been released for ministry at Winchester Friends Meeting in Winchester, Indiana where they have been active in jail ministry, managing a food pantry, and participating on the General Committee of Friends Committee on National Legislation.

"How Do You Offer Yourself as a Mentor?" with Dwight Wilson

This workshop will focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the participants’ mentor experiences to date; who might prove to be an ideal mentor for foreseeable goals; why mentors are valuable; the advantages of having a diverse set of mentors; why people resist seeking mentors; who are the best candidates to be mentored; and how to offer yourself as a mentor.

Dwight is father of four sons and three grandchildren. He is a member of Ann Arbor Friends Meeting; worked as an educator at Oakwood Friends School, Moorestown Friends School, and Friends School in Detroit; served as Pastor of Durham, Maine Friends Meeting, and as FGC General Secretary. Outside of Friends he has held many positions including Founding Executive Director of NJSEEDS and Associate Dean of Students at Marshall University. In retirement, most of his time is occupied by writing Psalms: Seeking Peace and Justice and the historical fiction series Esi Was My Mother, where antebellum black and Quaker history intertwine. He volunteers in many capacities including as Clerk of ESR Board of Advisors, as Human Rights Commissioner and holding cardiac ward babies at the local Children’s Hospital.

"Your Story Blueprint" with Samir Selmanović

People will enter your orbit if they like you, trust you, and identify with you. Instead of needing more proof about your ministry or your idea, most people are trying to locate themselves in your story and are waiting to hear your authentic voice. Your story is your greatest (and likely the most underutilized) currency. It will allow you to make a lasting impression, expand your influence, and enlarge your platform. Come and get storied!

"Consistent Design: Creating a Web Presence That Communicates Your Ministry" with Summer Cushman

By its very nature, entrepreneurial ministry can be difficult to explain. How do you communicate what you do? How do you make sure the people you are trying to serve can find you? How do you make sure they will have a clear picture of what you offer when they do? Having a web presence is essential in any entrepreneurial endeavor. Your website should be easy to find and navigate. And it should consistently communicate the ministry you are offering to the world. Websites can be overwhelming, but they do not have to be. Websites are a way of telling your story. They provide a space to share your experience, your gifts, your call to ministry, and the work you do. And, unlike you, they are available to people 24/7.

This is a working workshop. Bring your mission statement or a short paragraph that describes what you do. We will be using your words and ideas to discuss design concepts, communication practices, and website reviews. You will leave with a clear picture of the steps you need to take, as well as some resources to help you improve or create a website that clearly communicates your ministry.

Summer Cushman is an artist, minister, and yoga therapist. She graduated from ESR with an emphasis in spirituality in 2010 and has been studying yoga at a deep level ever since. After graduation she owned a successful yoga studio in Indiana for 3 years before returning to her home — the Pacific Northwest. She is currently building a private yoga therapy practice in Bellingham, WA. Her ministry involves working with people one-on-one, in groups, and through online programs. The goal of her work is to help people find appropriate ways to relieve their suffering, whether it exists on the physical, mental, or spiritual level. For more information, please visit www.summercushman.com.

"The Growth of Social Entrepreneurship within Faith-Based and particularly Quaker Institutions" with Edgar Ala

In many faith based organizations, entrepreneurship is required to stir change, create institutions that last, and secure sustainability. Social entrepreneurship provides a useful vehicle for addressing these challenges through new formations or tapping into already existing social capital amidst dynamic human relations/networks. Through this workshop, participants understand the role of how social entrepreneurship as a vehicle for socio-economic empowerment plays in the Kenyan context and the attendant fit for impact, sustainability and best practices that could be adopted to their unique contexts.

Topics covered include social dynamics and culture, governance and accountability, strategic orientation, and institutional capacity building. Ultimately, the workshop will build capacity, trigger attitude and mind shifts in the practice of entrepreneurship thereby enabling us to ‘see’ how such institutions potentially tip transformations in communities for social-economic empowerment, even from medium to large scale.

Edgar Ala is head of Primal Ventures Ltd, a Nairobi-based social enterprise company specializing in business modelling, training, strategic plan development, entrepreneurial support, and partnerships. He is a founder and co-founder of a number of diverse companies including LeamSoft Business Solutions Ltd (ICT services), Quaker community Sacco Ltd (financial services), and Paradigm Shift (youth empowerment). Edgar and team have founded and sustained stewardship of diverse community initiatives including a transport project (motor bike business), an agricultural demonstration farm, and held entrepreneurship skills seminars that have served youth and women. In the last 5 years, he has held roles in Friends United Meeting Africa Ministries; Quaker Investment Company Limited; Quaker Community Savings and Credit Society; and Nairobi Yearly Meeting of Friends Quakers. Edgar holds an M. A. in Business Administration from Africa Nazarene University, and a Bachelors in Information Systems Technology degree from United States International University. 

"Spirit-Led Voices: Seeking Bold Change in Washington, DC" with Tim Cullen

Our modern political life often seems to be all noise and bluster. But it is in these times that it is most important to encourage policymakers to pause and listen for that still small voice in themselves and hear what that voice is telling others. How do Quakers step into a ministry of political activism? How do we put our faith to work in the political world? For some, political activism comes easily, as the logical next step in their spiritual journey. Others feel called more to their inward spiritual work, or to service. But all of these voices are equally vital to a healthy and moral political life. Fortunately, Quakers, since the beginning of the Religious Society of Friends, have a tradition of a ministry of political activism, and that tradition is still strong today. The Friends Committee on National Legislation is just one of many putting Quaker faith into action. Still, more can be done and more voices need to be heard – not just those of people who find it easy and comfortable. Join me to worship, share, and learn about spirit-led voices at work in Washington, DC and throughout our political life.

Tim Cullen serves as FCNL’s Capital Campaign Project Manager. He supports FCNL’s development team in sharing the opportunity to build out FCNL’s young adult programs, grassroots lobbying network and Quaker presence on Capitol Hill through the “World We Seek: Now is the Time” capital campaign. Tim holds a BA in Political Science and Globalization Studies from Gettysburg College where he graduated summa cum laude. He is a member of Gettysburg Monthly Meeting. In 2010-2011, he served as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bahrain. He joined FCNL in the fall of 2011 as a program assistant in the Quaker Nuclear Disarmament Program and then coordinating the first Quaker Public Policy Institute, held in November 2012.

Friday, August 12

5:00 pm


5:15 pm


6:30 pm

An Entrepreneur’s Gift through Story: Whispers in the Wind, A Story Teller’s Calling – Pete Sebert

7:30 pm

Anchor Groups

Saturday, August 13

8:00 am

Open Worship

8:30 am


9:15 am

Keynote: That Fierce Heat of Living – Samir Selmanović

10:15 am

Anchor Groups

11:30 am

Group Conversation

12:00 pm


1:15 pm

Workshop #1: Kimemia, Isbell Shinn, Ferguson, Wilson

2:45 pm


3:15 pm

Workshop #2: Selmanović, Cushman, Ala, Cullen

4:45 pm

Anchor Groups

5:30 pm


7:00 pm

An Entrepreneur’s Gift through Song: Timeless Quaker Wisdom through Plainsong – Paulette Meier

Sunday, August 14

8:00 am

Open Worship

8:30 am


9:30 am

Keynote: Coming Alive: Discerning the Next Chapter of Quaker Service – Christina Repoley

10:30 am

Group Conversation

11:30 am

Closing Exercise

12:00 noon