Hannah Shanks

Church Name: Webster Hills
Gateway Central

Share any relevant background information including leadership experience both within the church and in other areas of your life.

At age 9, I walked the few blocks to my local UMC. I’ve found a place in United Methodist congregations ever since.

I served as a Summer Social Justice intern for the General Board of Global Ministries in 2012, as the head of Church Council at Centenary UMC from 2011-2015, provided conference level training on cultural competence in church volunteer work & presently serve on the Annual Conference Rules & Procedures Committee. 

I love church history, theology, & liturgy – enough that I completed a BA in Urban/Cross Cultural Ministry from Greenville University in 2010.

I have a Master’s of Social Work with a concentration in Community Practice & specialization in Nonprofit Administration from St Louis University. Presently I work as the BSW Program Director and Assoc. Professor of Social Work at Greenville University, where I specialize in policy practice.

Last year my first book, This is My Body: Embracing the Messiness of Faith and Motherhood was published through Upper Room Books.

Describe your personal practices of intentional faith development that strengthen your spiritual engagement with God and your capacity for fruitful leadership in the church.

My gifts and witness have called me into relationships with a number of worshiping communities around St. Louis and the USA. 

I worship 2-3x weekly with my Greenville University community during chapel, on Thursday evenings at a home gathering for dinner, prayer and communion with a small group, and on Sunday mornings at Webster Hills UMC. 

In addition, I've served as a guest preacher for churches around the connection and in pulpits in Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Virginia. It’s been my privilege to serve as a speaker at the UMC LEAD conference in Los Angeles in 2015 and in New Orleans in 2019. These communal worship spaces & experiences connect me to those I may never share life with – those of different age, race, background and values. They connect me to the fullness and variety of God’s image in the world. I am shaped by all of them.

In my personal practice, I’ve been enriched by praying the Hours, writing scripture meditations & through play with children and friends. 

Why do you seek election as a lay delegate representing the Missouri Conference?

At General Conference 2019 I volunteered 30 hours in 4 days. It was a pleasure to honor the witness of friends and seek wisdom with loved ones and leaders from around our connection.

Following GC2019 I asked myself the same question many of us asked: “What’s next? What can I do to serve the church?” Through the counsel of clergy & lay leaders from my faith communities, I considered the gifts & skills I have in light of the Church’s present needs.

My academics, teaching experience and private practice have given me the skills to evaluate policy, strive for clarity, scrutinize language and work toward crafting policies that achieve a further measure of justice. I've been trained to consider who our language includes and excludes. I'm skilled in culturally competent practices & in caring for those who have experienced harm.

My paid work is flexible and allows me to be available for all of General & Jurisdictional conference. I offer these skills to work on behalf of the Conference & UMC.

How will your involvement in General Conference 2020 support the church to fulfill the mission “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world”?

I am 30 years old. My life has been irrevocably shaped by the life & witness of the UMC. God willing, I have four to five decades of service ahead of me. As a member of a clergy family, I am keenly aware of how our polity and connection can foster resilience or drive dysfunction.

I want to be at the table when we craft the future of our church. In order to fulfill our mission we must be willing to unravel our old ways of being to make room for the new. We must be willing to change the way we disciple, the way we fund ministries & serve across the connection. This may, at times, look like risking the Body of Christ for the sake of making that Body complete - to let some things follow Christ into death in order for the work of bringing God's beloved into the Body.

We can count on resurrection. As a delegate, I promise to resist fear-based decisionmaking and to center the voices of those most impacted by our work, that we may follow God's transformation to the margin & beyond.

Since the primary focus for Jurisdictional Conference is to elect new bishops, what qualifications do you think the church needs in its future episcopal leaders?

It is my firm belief that episcopal leaders must be prepared to act in times of upheaval - to be the church in the street as often as possible. To provide an example of how clergy may faithfully respond to the many public injustices, travesties and upsets that leave congregants and congregations reeling. 

Episcopal leaders must be willing to set the tone of a Conference's congregation - through their engagement, they demonstrate the boundaries of the Church's willingness to discuss the issues that matter. 

Finally, episcopal leaders (like local clergy) must understand that budgets are moral documents - to lead the church in sound decisionmaking regarding investment in in care for creation and human flourishing.