well, it is now history. last thursday through saturday we hosted nearly 200 pastoral leaders from around north america (including a wonderful group from winnepeg) for a conference that concludes our five-year faith as a way of life project. it was awesome, and for so many reasons. one of our lead pastors on the faith as a way of life project, skip masback, recalled sitting with miroslav volf back in 2002 when the project was still a draft proposal, imagining five years hence when a national pastoral leadership conference would convene at Yale. then he looked at me and said, "home run, chris. we pulled it off." let me tell a few stories to give some sense of the conference, and then recommend that you check out the podcasts we'll soon post of keynote presentations.
my aim, since i had solid funding through the lilly endowment (who backed the whole five-year project as part of their "sustaining pastoral excellence" program), was to set a festival table and then fling open the doors to see who would come. sort of a biblical image, actually. it was so gratifying to see pastoral leaders working in varied settings come from around the country, gain new insights and leave inspired for their ministries. but the truth is that in a conference like this the insights and inspiration are layered. the intellectual content is there, especially from keynote speakers miroslav volf and craig dykstra. yet at the center for faith and culture we like to say that ideas need legs, and so we didn't just stop at keynote vision casting. creative and practical ministry ideas came through members of our national working group who presented workshops on connecting faith to everything from daily work to poetry and the arts to the 2008 presidential race. over the five years of the project we explored these spheres of life (work, arts, politics, etc.) in relation to faith, asking how faith can shape all spheres of our lives. members of the project offered outstanding workshops on areas they've worked on over the course of the project. yet there is more, i've learned, to creating a conference that moves people instead of just informing them. i wanted to "set the table" so that body and soul were tended to, and not just the mind. judies catering provided great food, and we held a friday night reception and dinner in the historic yale commons, a cavernous dining room downtown. and perhaps most important, we welcomed an amazing worship band from l.a.: zehnder. they are extremely talented, charismatic, and broad in their range of music, including their own creative songs but also classical hymns, spirituals, and contemporary global hymns. they regularly play for worship at immanuel presbyterian in downtown la. they wrote a song, one fluid flow, for the conference, and generally keep us singing songs of thanksgiving to god. on top of that, they played a public concert friday night at historic battell chapel, sharing the bill with the amazing jazz pianist willie pickens. mr. pickens was here with his pastor, susan johnson, to present a workshop on their 'jazz in the city' ministry in chicago's hyde park. he has recently recorded a double cd called jazzspirit--his arrangements of a slew of hymns and spirituals in jazz form. the concert was an experience in elevation. it was amazing.
so, you see, i and many others set a rich table and it was, by all accounts, a wonderful and filling banquet. in retrospect, however, we set a table but God was the host. the abundance we all felt was a multiplication of the component parts that made more of our offerings that we ourselves could have "made" happen.
if you were there, thanks for playing your part. i'll post when the podcast is live, and will point you to some great reflections on the conference over at rustin smith's blog.
anon, and peace,