Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Attendees at the 2024 H.R. and Secretariat training at the Columbia Union Conference

Secretariat HR Training Event Focuses on Building Strengths

Story by V. Michelle Bernard

The Seventh-day Adventist Church isn’t immune from staff shortages facing organizations across the United States. As a result of many soon-to-be retirees and other labor force issues, “we’ve had a hard time filling education roles. [Our Secretariat and Human Resource (HR) staff] are on the front lines of having to fill these roles,” says Celeste Ryan-Blyden, executive secretary of the Columbia Union Conference.  


This week, Blyden (pictured, right, with Allegheny East Conference clerk, Alicia Johnson) and her department, with assistance from the Treasury Department staff who handle HR responsibilities at the Columbia Union office, hosted “Strength Finders,” the union’s second annual Secretariat/HR training. 


Union leadership wants unionwide HR professionals to be strong and effective. “We also wanted to thank them for the work that they do to serve and support the unionwide workforce,” adds Blyden. “They are responsible for helping thousands of employees who work daily to advance the mission.” 


The event guided some 40 participants—who support the workforce of the union’s eight conferences, health systems and educational institutions—to more closely study how to leverage their strengths to build stronger teams and personal success at work—which will impact many others beyond the office. 


Attendee Lily Snyder Gregory, director of HR at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md., who has worked in HR for six years, says “Humans are our hands and feet of the organization— our greatest asset. But [they’re] more than an asset; they will be the ones who will drive your work culture.” 


Attendee Fred Warfield, director of HR at the Potomac Conference, adds, “Positive work environments contribute to the overall well-being of all employees, which in turn, fosters a greater sense of purpose, satisfaction and fulfillment. As Adventist organizations build their cultures around biblical values like respect, fairness, kindness and ethical business practices, employees reach full engagement and productivity, allowing them to expand the mission in greater ways!” 


The event also provided team-building and networking opportunities and hands-on training for some of the duties the attendees manage on a day-to-day basis—like updating membership and employment records, employee training and more. 

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