- Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of Interfaith Youth Core, spoke for 45 minutes this morning to a spellbound audience about a "theology of the bridge," his metaphor for ways interfaith cooperation can overcome those who use religion to dominate or separate people of different faiths.
- A workshop with Hamsa and Emy of IFYC discussing concrete ways we as campus ministry staff can promote religious freedom and respect in our own environments. It was their first workshop, but they carried it off without a hitch and really opened our eyes.
- I sit down to lunch, and one of our campus ministry students hands me a list of all the things she and the rest of the group have been planning for this academic year. Completely. Freaking. Unprompted. By. Me. This is what I was hoping we could do after returning from the conference, and now it's already done. Time to hang on for a wild ride this year, I think.
- A remarkable conversation with B, a seminary classmate serving in a new call since we saw each other last. Her new call is a) a very important synodical staff position, b) one for which she is very well-equipped and, I imagine, at which she is succeeding wildly, and c) one which usually goes only to ordained clergy, regardless of whether the clergyperson in question is qualified. Here's a great example of the church not being bound to its past when looking to its present needs. Professional lay ministry is a growing part of the church and needs to be lifted up when we do it right!
- A plenary session on social media that turned out to be more valuable than I suspected it would be. Lots of helpful information, but the caveat by which our use of that information can be judged: "Don't mistake effort for success."
- Another workshop with Rosella and Mike on Alternative Spring Break programs. Rosella and Mike are two incredibly vivacious 20somethings who have been carrying out heavy ministry responsibilities over the past two years, if not longer. I was floored by their intelligence and commitment to the important ministry they are doing, and I wish I had known about them prior to this conference.
- Finally, a gut-busting dinner with our friends from Christus House at the University of Iowa. We all went to Gino's East for true Chicago deep-dish, and I'm about ten minutes from succumbing to a major food coma.
It was a day to celebrate the many ways God is active in this church. In the midst of all our anxiety about mission support, social issues and the future of our denomination, we need to take time to look around and see the fearfully, wonderfully made people carrying out important ministry in our midst. God be praised: this church will have a future if we are wise enough to encourage and empower those with such remarkable gifts.
Grace and peace,