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May 2022
Special Event

Stepping Back:
Engaging New Horizons

Monday, May 23, 2022

10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Eastern

Online Via Zoom

In a time of increasing polarization, projection and intensity, this conference investigates the dynamics of today. Participants will explore opportunities for individual, family, and organizational purpose and perspective.

This one-day event will offer:

  • "A view from the bleachers" to examine your context.

  • Deeper understanding of how family, identity and experience shape your leadership.

  • New insights on leading in today's polarized environment.

  • Perspectives on conflict as a source and means of growth

Morning Keynote: The Role of Social Addaptation on Human Functioning

Afternoon Keynote: Leadership, Vision and Managing Relationship Polarization
Dr. Walter H. Smith, Jr.
Keynote Speaker
Bio: A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Smith has a primary interest in applying Bowen theory to family violence, child abuse and organizational functioning. He is a licensed psychologist and a graduate of the Georgetown Family Center’s Post Graduate Program in Family Theory and Family Psychotherapy. Dr. Smith is a founder of The Western Pennsylvania Family Center and maintains a small private practice. He is the former executive director of Family Resources, a child abuse treatment and prevention organization in Pittsburgh, and is a frequent national and international lecturer.
Ronald W. Richardson
Workshop Presenter
Workshop 1: A Practical Approach to Polarizing Forces


We live in a significantly polarized world; not just internationally, or in our politics, but within our families, in our churches, in our communities, and our workplaces. We may be a part of intensifying those forces or helping to reduce them. Bowen Family Systems Theory helps to explain the emotional forces at work in these challenging times and it offers a way of addressing them. Dr. Richardson addressed some of this in his book Polarization and the Healthier Church: Applying Bowen Family Systems Theory to Conflict and Change in Society and Congregational Life (2012). In this brief presentation, Dr. Richardson will offer practical approaches to modifying the emotional process of polarization, based on Bowen theory. Differentiation of self is central to changing that process and he will attempt to show how that works. Those who know something about Bowen Theory will get the most out of this presentation.

Bio: Rev. Dr. Ronald W. Richardson is former Executive Director and Clinical Director of the North Shore Counseling Center, pastoral counselor, and author of many books on Bowen Family Systems Theory, including Becoming a Healthier Pastor, Systems Theory and the Pastor’s Own Family (2004), Couples in Conflict: A Family Systems Approach to Marriage Counseling (2010), and Polarization and the Healthier Church: Applying Bowen Family Systems Theory to Conflict and Change in Society and Congregational Life (2012). Ron's latest publication, Mothers and Sons: Changing the Script (2021) is both a memoir and a detailed description of his family of origin work and is available on Amazon as an e-book.

Richardson attended Princeton Theological Seminary and later received his Doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy from Colgate/Rochester Divinity School. He is a member of the North Puget Sound Presbytery, a Diplomat for American Association of Pastoral Counselors, and Clinical Member and Approved Supervisor for American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

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Workshop 2: Grief and Resilience: A Family Systems Perspective

Grief can be lonely and isolating. How we grieve can facilitate connection and relational resilience. Using a family systems perspective, this workshop will explore a relational understanding of loss, recovery, and resilience and will review various styles of mourning in order to identify key interactional processes, resources, and practices that support and promote healing, healthy adaptation, and relational resilience in the aftermath of loss.

Fulgence Nyengele
Workshop Presenter
Bio: Dr. Fulgence Nyengele is Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling in the Chryst Chair in Pastoral Theology and currently serves as Director of the Doctor of Ministry degree and M.A. in Counseling Ministries program; he is also Director of the MTSO’s Thriving in Ministry Initiative. Among the courses he teaches are: “Introduction to Pastoral Care and Counseling,” “Trauma, Moral Injury and Crisis Ministry,” “Pastoral and Psychological Facilitation of Forgiveness,” “Grief Care and Counseling,” “Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy,” “Multicultural Perspectives and Issues in Pastoral Counseling,” and “Family Systems Therapy.” He is an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church and member of the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education, the Society for Pastoral Theology, and the American Academy of Religion. Prior to joining the MTSO faculty he served United Methodist congregations in Southern California and as pastoral counselor at the Clinebell Institute for Pastoral Counseling in Claremont, California. He is originally from DR Congo.
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Workshop 3: Where Am I? What's the Next Faithful Step?

When you're stepping back, a map can be an indispensable tool. It can show you where you are and it can help you figure out what you need to do as a leader to get to where you want to go. Once you find yourself on the map in any given situation, the next step becomes more clear.  Bonus reflection questions may be used to help stay on track every day. 

Dana Runestad
Workshop Presenter

Bio: Dana Runestad has been a pastor in the Southeast Michigan Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America since 1986. Born into a family of pastors, nurses and musicians, she is the youngest of four with three older brothers, is a wife to Barry and mother of two grown sons. She holds degrees from Carthage College in Kenosha WI (BA), Southern IL University (MMusic), and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (MDiv). She has served in a great variety of congregational settings and staff positions.


Dana (rhymes with “banana”) has relied heavily on Peter Steinke’s books to navigate in leadership. In 2015 she started a three-year stint in the post-graduate program in Bowen Family Systems Theory at the Bowen Center in Washington D.C.; since 2018 she has been part of the Center’s Faith Leaders’ Seminar. She enjoys her book club (20+ years running), hiking, watching good TV and a good laugh.

Workshop 4: Anxiety - The Gift Nobody Wants and Everyone Needs

Anxiety is part and parcel of being human.  It can create, stir up or shut down people, places and principles.  This workshop will focus on the reactions and responses to anxiety over time in organizations, families, friendships and communities.  We will discuss creative responses in a time of social upheaval, change and possibility.

Emlyn Ott
Workshop Presenter

Bio: Emlyn Ott is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and has served as a parish pastor, campus minister, pastoral counselor, leader, and seminary professor for over 25 years. She was named CEO and Director of Healthy Congregations,Inc. in 2005. She holds a Master of Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, a Doctor of Ministry from Phillips Theological Seminary, and is a Clinical Fellow in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. She has participated for nine years in postgraduate work at the Center for Family Process and the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family and is currently part of Research Group at the Bowen Center.

Conference Schedule
10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Eastern

10 am – 12:30 pm Morning Session


Morning Keynote with Walter Smith (including Q&A )

Workshop #1 


12:30 – 1:15 pm Lunch

 With optional breakout rooms for those who wish to eat with others


1:15 – 4:00 pm Afternoon Session


Workshop #2

Afternoon Keynote with Walter Smith (including Q&A)


4:00 – 5:00 pm Optional Happy Hour 

Grab a favorite beverage and be in conversation about the day

Registration Options & Costs

Healthy Congregations Member: $75

Healthy Congregations Member with Continuing Education Hours: $100


Non-Member: $125

Non-Member with Continuing Education Hours: $150

2021-22 Leadership Series and GPS Participants: Included in tuition.

Membership Bundle: $200

Includes Event Registration, One-year Healthy Congregations Membership, and the 2022 Member Book of the Year. A $250 value.

Student Membership Bundle: $100

Includes Event Registration, One-year Healthy Congregations Student Membership, and the 2022 Member Book of the Year. A $200 value.

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