I was expecting to experiences something wonderful, but I didn’t know what.
I was expecting to meet some great people, but I didn’t know who.
I was expecting to be permanent and substantially changed, but I didn’t know how.
I arrived in Burlington the evening before the Cruxifusion conference began, and sitting in the hotel lobby I had the chance to talk with several other conference participants. That night and the next morning over breakfast several people confessed to me they didn’t know why they where there. They had their doubts that this would be relevant or appropriate for them, and I’m sure some felt guilt about being away from their work and people back home.
At the end of the first day, I reconnected with these people and asked – like any good pastor – if they were still unsure about being here. Each of them expressed how much they were enjoying the conference. “This is fantastic! I don’t know what’s coming next, but I’m so glad I’m here!”
I was delighted that our General Secretary, Nora Sanders, attended Day Two in its entirety. She experienced our passionate worship with contemporary evangelical praise songs. She heard younger ministers, men and women, share their faith journeys, their love of Jesus, and some of their pains, frustrations, and rejection within the United Church. I hope she carries us into her ongoing work at General Council office.
I returned to my congregation both enthused and tired. But I was suddenly very aware of the bigger picture and my place, and my congregation’s place within the wider work of Jesus Christ through His church. This is how I quickly came to summarize it for myself that first day back –
It’s about the people, not just about the tasks.
It’s about the long term, not just about today.
It’s about the wider church, not just about mine.
I see it like a family farm at harvest time. Everyone pitches in. There are other family members close by, but others are off in distant corners of the field. Some are doing the same work I am, others are doing different work or in different way. What matters most is that we’re all working together for the same purpose. His purpose. And we belong to one another, sharing together in both the work and the fun.
Something wonderful did happen for all of us at the conference, and I’m continuing to experience it. I did meet great people, and now I know them and our friendships are growing. I was permanently and substantially changed and with hopeful expectation, I’m excited to see how we and our denomination will continue to be transformed by what He began for us during those three days in Burlington.