I’m still trying to process my own impressions and ideas from my recent trip to UnConference 11 in Stony Point, NY in an attempt to file a useful and meaningful report for Evangelism Connections. The thing has been a true hallmark in my life and a serious kick in the pants for my sense of call and ministry, and an incredible knitting together of a faith community that still isn’t sure what it’s going to be once it grows up, but is infused with incredible ideas, energy, and mutual love & respect.
So, although my own memoir is coming eventually, in the mean time I want to share some of the impressions, memories, and takeaways that several of my friends have already written in the days during and after the conference.
I’ll post a snippet from several blogs entries here, but each of these quotes comes from a larger post that is linked at the bottom of each quote. Please go visit those posts in order to get an even better picture of the ongoing formation of the Unco community.
“UnConference is, by and large, open to the Spirit’s presence among us, guiding us and nourishing us. We dance in and with the Spirit, inspired by the kids among us who dance freely. We are a gathered group of people from multiple denominations and walks (Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Mennonites, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Canada, and a few more) who care about and love the Church they are called to, and are open to where the Spirit may be leading the Church in the near and distant future. We aren’t seeking a specific road, but we know that there may be a new road to travel, and that both excites and frightens us. But we want to be faithful, and to follow where we are led, known or unknown. Not even near-monsoon level rains can dampen our Spirit, or our spirits. Oh, and we love unicorns.” – Jason Cashing
“Clearly, it’s going to be a special person who decides to go to an open-space gathering, hosted by unicorns and robots. We were all creative scrappers. We didn’t talk much about the hot topics of the church, no one took a litmus test, but I imagine that most of us were progressive or liberal. We were people who may not have the cushiest positions, but we oozed with imagination. We understood that it won’t necessarily be our calling to serve the most prestigious church or to climb the ladder of tall-steeple leadership, but to create new ministries.” – Carol Howard Merritt
“We are the experts we need. We don’t need permission from churches and institutions to start the positive changes that we want if we support each other in mutuality and real love.” – Brian Merritt
“I was at the UnConference these past couple days, surrounded by playful, creative, technologically savvy Christians. Connected primarily through social media, they have created community by sharing their ideas, passions and every day activities. Most folks were pastors of churches, many in Presbyterian Church (USA) where I serve. Pastors struggling to lead our oldest churches. Pastors daring to reach homeless people outside of our oldest churches. Pastors longing for art in worship. Pastors who need change within the institution and who know what some of those changes need to be. Pastors who have insight into the world outside of the church and the world inside the church. To those folks, I asked, ‘Where is the Holy Spirit in all of this?’” – Beth Scibienski
“Unconference11 was a powerful experience for me. Not only because it represented a spiritual milestone for me, but because there was something incarnational about it. Fleshy and sticky. There was not only information shared, but relationships were graciously hosted with God and others. Every participant was given the opportunity to contribute and be respected. This is not what usually comes out of a conference.” – Joe Smith
“This week, I’ve been at the UnConference. This place is filled with leaders and thinkers and lovers of God’s people from all over the denominational map. It is filled with deep and silly conversations, odd inside jokes about unicorns, bottles of wine, smartphones, iPads and laptops, color and life and (maybe most importantly?) hope. This gathering is Church–Church in the fullest, most life-giving way I’ve experienced it.” – Becky Durham
“The Unco11 un-conference is intended to be an alternative to the usual church conference. The agenda is crowd-sourced: attendees write their suggested topics on a board, and then discussion leaders nominate themselves and are assigned discussion rooms. I went to sessions on bi-vocational ministry, moving the church forward, palliative care for dying congregations, science fiction/fantasy and faith, and requirements for ministry training and ordination – and learned lots.” – Daniel Heyward
“As I go forward from here I will look forward to reading what other attendees will write and share about their experiences. I also look forward to see what things happen in the action category from this event. My process will be to figure out how we can get the most out of the next Unco to connect people, grow as a community and most of all continue the work of building the Kingdom of God we have all been invited to take part in. And most of all get lots of rest prior to it so that I can make the connections I so desperately want to.” – Chris Johnson
“There is freedom here as the rules are guided by the group and fluid. There is tenderness here as we share mutual respect and care for one another, even though we hardly know one another. There is intensity as we share our passion for this strange calling to be in Christian community. There is complaining and sharing, and there is being heard. This does not seem to be about being right or wrong, but about listening, empathizing, appreciating, and understanding.” Eric Ledermann
“In the second hour I went to ‘Ministry for Lay People’. It was very interesting to hear what everyone else thought. We agreed that most ministers assume anyone working in the church REALLY wants to be ordained, and those of us in the room agreed that we didn’t really care about ordination.” – Abby Waters
“When I think about children in worship, that’s what I imagine–a space where a child feels comfortable enough to race to the front and dance.” – Becky Durham
“Can you picture it, a sacramental meal filled with so much love? What if I told you that those three “celebrants” were under the age of seven; that their clergy-parents were presiding at the table, while they stood or were held and participated alongside them? Would that change things?” – Lara Blackwood Pickrel
“When I read the gospels, I see this radical guy who came onto the scene and turned everyone’s perceptions about faith and God and religion upside down. I see someone who observed how a religious society’s superficial traditions had divided them from the people who needed God most… and I see the prophetic way in which Jesus tried to change the perspectives of the religious people so that they could see what really matters in this life. This, for me, sums up what it means to live the Gospel, and this is what keeps me connected to the message of Christianity.” – Crystal Lewis
These are the posts I’m aware of as of Monday morning, May 23rd. I’ve probably missed a few posts that’ve already been written, and I KNOW there are going to be more forthcoming. So if you’re one of the folks who attended #Unco11 and would like your post linked here in this overview, please let me know and I’ll add the link, or feel free to add the link yourself in the comments of this post.