Speakers & Workshop Leaders

Mark Tidsworth
Keynote Speaker

Mark launched Pinnacle Leadership Associates in 2008, since then expanding Pinnacle’s ministry in terms of services and geographical reach. Serving in various vocational roles (pastor, new church developer, interim pastor, renewal pastor, therapist, nonprofit director, business owner, leadership coach, congregational consultant, leadership trainer, author) prepared Mark for leading Pinnacle into its various expressions. Mark’s direct service continues to be driven by a keen curiosity about the intersection of faith, church, and 21st century living. At this point, you will find Mark doing presentations, providing trainings, coaching, and creating content. Mark is a frequent presenter in clergy gatherings and denominational gatherings. Ordained in the Baptist Tradition, Mark now serves through the Church at large. Mark resides in Chapin, South Carolina.

Luke Browder
Conference Musician

Luke Browder currently serves as a Lecturer of Choral and Vocal Studies at Clemson University where he directs the Men’s and Women’s Choirs, teaches applied voice, and provides musical direction for the Clemson Players. He has been an active musician and theatre artist in South Carolina for nearly 20 years and has worked as a conductor, performer, voice teacher, and director. He earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in choral conducting at the University of South Carolina where he led the USC Summer Chorus in performances of Maurice Duruflé’s *Requiem, Op. 9* and Benjamin Britten’s *Rejoice in the Lamb*.

Dr. Browder earned his Bachelor of Music from Furman University, his Master of Music from Converse College, and has served on the voice faculties at North Greenville University and the Lawson Academy of the Arts. As a choral conductor, he has directed church choirs for over a decade and is currently the Director of Music Ministries at John Knox Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC where he directs the Chancel Choir, Handbell Choir, and Children’s Choir.

Alonzo T. Johnson

Workshop Leader

Rev. Dr. Alonzo T. Johnson is the Coordinator for the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People Program (SDOP) and the Convener for the Education Roundtable, an education working group within the Educate a Child Transform the World Domestic Initiative, both of which are ministries of the Compassion Peace and Justice ministry area of the national Presbyterian Church (USA). Rev. Johnson has 25 years of experience including work in urban ministry, congregational based organizing, youth/education ministries, creative arts, peacemaking, anti-racism, anti-poverty, anti-violence and social justice ministries.

Alonzo is married to the Rev. Aisha Brooks-Johnson who is the Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta. Aisha shares her gifts of preaching, teaching, and song throughout the presbytery and beyond. She is currently enrolled in a DMIN program in spiritual direction. Together, Aisha and Alonzo have a blended family of three children, Maya (23), Jasmine (18), Ellington (17), grandchild Kalani (6 mo) and an incredible mom that keeps them all together named Debbie.

Aisha Brooks-Johnson
Workshop Leader

Rev. Aisha Brooks-Johnson is the Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta. She is married to Rev. Dr. Alonzo T. Johnson and together they have a blended family of three children, Maya (23), Jasmine (18), Ellington (17), grandchild Kalani (6 mo).

Paul Grier
Workshop Leader

Paul Grier is Vice President at the Presbyterian Foundation and is responsible for the Foundation’s “Project Regeneration” initiative – an advisory and consultation service to congregations, presbyteries, and organizations whose sustainability is in question.

During his 20 years with the Foundation, Grier has overseen regional and national funds-development efforts, relationship-management with ecumenical partners, and client-relationship with shareholders in the Foundation’s sponsored mutual funds complex, New Covenant Funds.

An eighth-generation Presbyterian, has Paul has served on congregational Stewardship, Finance, Capital Campaign, Endowment and Pastor Nominating committees, and on Presbytery Administrative Commissions. He is an elder and Trustee at Westminster Presbyterian Church, a 2000-member congregation in Greenville, South Carolina.

Mandy Keathley
Workshop Leader

A native of Charleston, SC, Mandy Keathley’s life-long passion for music began early. Playing handbells, studying the organ, and singing in church choirs kept church music as a central part of her development as a musician. As a student at the South Carolina Governors School for the Arts, she had the opportunity to begin her professional conducting career by conducting the Greenville Symphony Orchestra. Early studies also included summers at the Brevard Music Center and later, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and Appalachian State University.

Mandy has served Presbyterian churches of various sizes as Director of Music and/or Organist, the smallest having only 25 members! She is currently the Director of Music at Central Presbyterian Church in Anderson, SC where she has served for the past 16 years, leading adult choirs, children’s and youth choirs, and handbell choirs. In addition, she teaches private piano, organ, and voice lessons. She lives in Greenville, SC with Lucy, her beautiful shepherd, who enjoys keeping her on her toes.

Kevin Simons
Workshop Leader

Kevin Simons is the Editor for St. James Music Press and Director of Music and Organist at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Saginaw, Michigan. In 2023, after 20 years of teaching, he left his position as Associate Professor and Director of Choirs at Saginaw Valley State University.

He holds degrees in vocal performance, choral conducting, and music education from the University of Oklahoma, Central Michigan University, and Boston University.

As the Editor for St. James Music Press, Kevin oversees the publication of choral and instrumental music used by churches throughout the world. He serves as the Director of the Sewanee Church Music Conference, the oldest conference for musicians in the Episcopal Church and is the choral director for the Baroque on Beaver Island Festival..

Well known as a builder of choral programs, Kevin is a frequent choral and vocal clinician. His choirs have sung with the Saginaw Choral Society, Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra, and for conferences of the American Choral Directors Association and National Music Teachers Association. He has collaborated with Sydney Guillaume, Sylvia McNair, Natalie McMaster, Kevin Cole, and the Chieftains. He resides in Saginaw, Michigan, with his wife Amy and their children, Claire and Henry.

Pressley Cox
Workshop Leader

Pressley Cox serves as the Associate for Shared Mission and Ministry in Foothills Presbytery. She is a graduate of Presbyterian College (BA in Religion/Christian Education), Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (Master of Arts in Religious Education) and Columbia Theological Seminary (Master of Divinity).

Prior to coming to Foothills, Pressley served as Pastor for Eastminster in Simpsonville, SC. She has also served congregations in York, SC and Charlotte, NC. Pressley currently serves as the Social Media Coordinator for SOAP APCE. She is married to Ben and they have three high schoolers.

Lynn Miller
Workshop Leader

Lynn Miller has spent her life working in and around the intersection of faith, art, and education. She has worked as a graphic designer, a museum educator, an associate pastor, a secondary art teacher, a freelance artist/designer, and an adjunct college instructor. She is currently pastor of Limestone Presbyterian Church in Gaffney, SC.

Lynn likes school. She holds the BFA in graphic design from MS University for Women. She earned the MA in the history of art from the University of Georgia, where her thesis focused on John Calvin’s theology of art. She received the M.Div. from UPSem and the D.Min. from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Her D.Min. project was *Living Stones, I Presume: Assessing the Theological Motivations of Church Architectural Styles*. Her final degree (for now, anyway) is a recently completed MFA in Creative Writing from her first alma mater, MS University for Women. Her thesis was a poetry collection titled *Here is the Church*. Lynn’s five poem sequence on the 11th-century architectural sketchbook of Villard de Honnecourt has been published by *The Ekphrastic Review*.

A native of Mississippi, Lynn is a member of Foothills Presbytery. She has been active in Presbyterian Women as the Communications chair for PW in the Presbytery of Mississippi, as the designer of the Honorary Life Membership Pin, and as the author/illustrator of the 2020-2021 PW Bible Study *Into the Light: Finding Hope Through Prayers of Lament*. She has designed coloring books, textile pieces, and stained glass, has been a keynote speaker at retreats and conferences, has helped design art-based VBS curriculum, and has given presentations and written art guides for various congregations.

In her free time Lynn reads cookbooks and other non-fiction, plays the piano, enjoys photography, and watches a probably-unhealthy number of British gardening shows.

Worship & Keynote Information

“Small Boat, Good Current”

Psalm 46There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God

Primary Themes

Good Current – God’s energy has been flowing through this universe since the beginning of time. God’s energry still is flowing through our world, enlivening us through the Holy Spirit. Disciples of Jesus are not called to create spiritual energy for leading God’s Church. Disciples of Jesus are called to surrender control, trusting that the current of God’s energy is good, and trusting themselves to this current.

Small Boat – Churches come in many sizes. Deconstructing what “small” means, moving toward increased “church-esteem”, seeing the gift in small.

“Reading the Current” | First Keynote

This presentation includes two parts, the first foundational for understanding the current situation with the second moving into response.

Part One—Given the seismic shifts in our world, so many people are reevaluating their lives, including their relationships with their faith and their church. While this raises some level of concern for us, this also presents timely opportunities for churches to reevaluate who they are and what they are about. This presentation describes recent cultural changes, along with research on how churches are responding. Vitalized congregations are described, followed by Mark’s recommendations on what we can no longer do and what we must do as churches.

Part TwoThree Prerequisites for Navigating the Waters

Before launching ourselves and our churches out onto those waters, there are three practices every church leader needs in place beforehand.

“Navigating the Waters” | Second Keynote

This presentation dives into Four Key Moves by church leaders toward becoming the most effective version of the body of Christ we can be in this current situation. Learning these four key moves open the door for leaders to invite their churches into this kind of adaptive transformation, equipping them to courageously trust themselves to the current of God’s movement through Christ. In other words, these are takeaways for church leaders, useful in their church contexts.

Workshop Information

Friday Large Group Workshops

PCUSA Partners: PMA and The Presbyterian Foundation | 10:45 am

Project Regeneration Discernment

Project Regeneration is a gift to smaller membership congregations from our Presbyterian Foundation. Facilitators from the Foundation employ a discernment model based in prayer to help congregations follow where the Spirit is leading.

Led by Paul Grier.

Engaging Justice Issues in the Local Church

Learn how SDOP (Self Development of People) engages anti-poverty work and its intersections. This interactive workshop will also equip participants with missional strategies centered around networking, community organizing to create and leverage congregational/communal power in engaging justice issues in the local church and community through the relationship building practices of direct action and advocacy. Using spiritual practices, biblical perspectives of justice and missional based asset mapping, the workshop is also designed to encourage relationship, network and community building among participants.

Led by Alonzo T. Johnson

Worship Planning | Friday 1:15 pm

Intentionality in Worship Planning

This workshop will focus on the reasoning behind why we make certain choices in our worship planning. As worship leaders, we have a calling to serve all the members of our congregation, as well as any visitors who may join us in worship. It is easy to settle into a familiar rhythm in our worship planning regardless of whether it best serves our congregation. This workshop will offer tips and tricks for attendees to apply to their planning routine in order to make intentional choices about the flow of worship in their church, with special attention given to the role that music plays in congregational participation.

Led by Luke Browder

Saturday Workshops

“Choosing and Evaluating Curriculum” | 10:45 and 1:15

Nearly every church purchases curriculum of some kind: Adult Bible studies, Children’s Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Confirmation curriculum, and so forth. You need a way to determine which curriculum is right for your program, one that aligns with your theology, is engaging for your participants, and gives your leaders what they need to facilitate. This workshop will help you with all of these tasks.

Led by Pressley Cox

“Practical Resources for Handbells and Handchimes in the Small Church” | 10:45 and 1:15

Have you ever wanted to start a handbell choir, but don’t know where to start? Don’t have enough people to create a “full” choir? Or are you just curious about how handbells work? This workshop is for you! We will look at practical resources for starting a bell choir and learn some hands-on techniques for ways you can use bells in worship.

Led by Mandy Keathley

“Naming Trauma and Claiming Healing” | 10:45 and 1:15

A journey through spiritual practices that invite us to name layers of trauma in our collective experiences and to connect with narratives that foster healing, wholeness, and self-compassion.

Led by Aisha Brooks-Johnson

“By the Book” | 10:45

How to stay copyright compliant and ethically responsible in the small church. Examples and suggestions will be provided of what to do (and what not to do) to live in a world with bulletins, streaming, and social media.

“Even I Can Sing That” | 1:15

Musical resources for the small church from the catalog of St. James Music Press. Participants will sing through anthems, psalmody, and service music that will empower your small congregation to sing.

Led by Kevin Simons

“Naming Trauma and Claiming Healing” | 10:45 and 1:15

A journey through spiritual practices that invite us to name layers of trauma in our collective experiences and to connect with narratives that foster healing, wholeness, and self-compassion.

Led by Aisha Brooks-Johnson

A Whole New World: Paracosms in Christian Education | 10:45 and 1:15

Paracosms are highly detailed, imagined worlds developed by one or more persons and revisited often. The Bronte sisters developed paracosms, and C.S. Lewis and his brother “Warnie” developed a paracosm, complete with a written history and artifacts. They didn’t return to that world after they became adults, but, of course, C.S. Lewis created imagined worlds that many of us have visited on the page and on the screen.

Often, paracosms are dismissed as play, but Christians create a paracosm every time we imagine a world where people “come from north and south and east and west and sit at table in the Kingdom of God.”

Paracosms can be more than entertainment. In this workshop we will take a look at the general creative benefits of worldbuilding and their relationship to faith. We’ll do some hands-on paracosm work and then consider that practice as both creator and nurturer. As a creator…how is a world – “your” world – born? How does one begin to expand an initial idea into a full world? As a nurturer…how do you help another person – child, youth, or adult – to create their world? During the deeper dive we’ll dig into how to use paracosms to specifically explore questions of faith and theology as well as ways to incorporate paracosms into faith formation.

For this workshop, please bring a writing tool and something on which you can write/draw/doodle. We suggest having a sketchbook with unlined pages that can be devoted to your paracosm. 8” x 10” is an average size, but you can find both larger and smaller books. A ruled composition book will work as well.

Led by Lynn Miller

Sunday Deep Dive Workshops

9:30 am

Workshop Presenters will present deep dive workshops for those who want to know more.

Additionally, keynoter, Mark Tidsworth will offer the following deep dive:

Communities of Practice

How will you take home the inspiration and learning from this conference?  Keynote presenter, Mark Tidsworth offers this deep dive to share an effective model developed and employed by the Pinnacle Coaching Group. COPs are high quality, effective, and cost-efficient way for churches to be in relationship with each other, focused on mission advancement.