|Lauren, Mary, Kristin and I|
Our trip to Overland Park, Kansas, was a pilgrimage of sorts, although I don't think any of us thought it would be so when we set out after lunch on Tuesday. While I thought I was taking staff to a Continuing Ed event, I can see now in retrospect that we were on a journey that allowed me, at least, to deepen my faith and walk as a Christ follower and a leader in the church.
When one goes on a pilgrimage you must be willing to put yourself out there - to extend an invitation to others to join you in the journey of life and faith. Jesus did this in the most ordinary times - often when he was on a walk; 'drop your nets, Andrew and Simon, and follow me,' 'come down out of that tree, Zacchaeus, we're going to have dinner at your house.' Invite, invite, invite...and see who the Holy Spirit inspires to join you. I appreciate that Mary, Kristin and Lauren all said 'yes' to the invitation!
As you travel I think its important to allow people to go at their own pace, even if you are a bit impatient, trust that God is always at work...its pretty amazing when you slow down and allow God to do God's thing - you get to see the Holy Spirit and grace in action!
At COR they worship in a variety of ways - and during the Leadership Institute we had a taste of every one of their worship styles - the music was amazing; from a full orchestra and traditionally robed choir to the youthful VIBE band to their amazing organist to the gospel duet to the praise band, it is obvious that these folks are committed Christians who are sharing their gifts to glorify God. Music is a universal language that speaks to us in a myriad of ways. There were several times when the presence of the Holy Spirit was so powerful in the music that I wept. I was not the only one. I give thanks for these holy moments.
We had a plethora of workshops to choose from and the four of us attended those we thought would best suit our tasks within the church. Some were better than others, but one thing that impressed each of us was the willingness of COR to give it away - they gave us hand out after hand out and said; 'go to our website, down load the video, make copies of this stuff and use what you like for your context'... I am blown away impressed by their generosity - extravagant hospitality - humble gratitude to God for blessing their faith community so that they could be a blessing to others.
What a better place our world, our connection, our communities would be if we did likewise. None of what we have or do is proprietary - it all belongs to the One who calls us and claims us in our Baptism. It is ours to give away - we are all blessed to be a blessing!
All pilgrimages, like all stories, have times that are demanding. The question is how do the characters handle the challenging parts - the tension - the breakdowns? We learned before we even set out on our journey to COR that there were folks at the church praying for each and every one of us by name. We likewise soaked our time apart in prayer. Prayer was essential when the car wouldn't start (thank God for AAA and that it was only a battery!) Frankly, prayer was essential every step of the way. From the moment we departed till our arrival home. We prayed together...and through our prayers we drew closer to one another and to God.
Now what are we going to do with it? What will I do with the notebook full of ideas and handouts? (and the sack of books from the bookstore too!) What will any of us do with what we learned? It would be easy to settle back into the rhythm of life here at home (it sure felt good sleeping in my own bed!) but we had an amazing opportunity to learn from our sisters and brothers and we do have a responsibility to our faith community here at home as well...so here the key things I learned and some initial thoughts that I took away...
1) my gut instinct about our fall Stewardship campaign was right (how about that?!) At Trinity we will continue to uphold our baptism and membership vows and consider how God is calling us to support our church and one another through our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. I came home with some ideas that will equip me (and even push me) to do this better.
2) Adam Hamilton is a fine preacher and he really, really wants to share with preachers and churches what he has learned. Adam is naturally curious and winsome - he goes on trips and videos his studies and publishes them because he knows not everyone will get to the chance to go to the Holy Lands, or other places, themselves. Again he wants to give it all away...to the glory of God! Check out his website for some wonderful resources: AdamHamilton.org.
3) Hamilton's enthusiasm is infectious and I can see how folks are drawn toward him. I appreciate his intentionality about lifting up leaders and equipping and empowering lay folks. He does this very well. He also gives voice to others - he is not the expert - he brings in others to share their stories rather than re-telling them. I need to do this more often myself.
5) It really is great to see familiar faces when at an event like COR. I saw many pastor friends from the Iowa, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin and the Illinois Great Rivers Conferences. I wish that I could have had time to sit a spell and talk, but a quick hug and 'how are you' often had to suffice. I can say that I look forward to one day having the time to do more visiting...maybe that is what heaven will be like? I made a new friend, Eunice from New Jersey. She is a bubbly Latina pastor who I kept running into throughout the conference. She made me smile...I liked this as well.
Attending the COR Leadership Institute was another step in my journey of faith. I was blessed to be on pilgrimage with Mary, Kristin and Lauren. They are amazing women of faith and a blessing to our Trinity community. They help me to be a better person, a better Christ follower. And isn't that, really, what its all about? I look forward to sharing what I learned with my community here in Waverly and to the next adventure that comes our way.
together, on a journey of a lifetime,