Saturday, December 27, 2008

"the pause that refreshes": musings on Refresh 2008

recently attended College Union's Refresh 2008 at the Woodlands UMC in The Woodlands, Texas. This is an annual convergence of UM campus/college ministers organized by College Union, a conglomeration of UMs currently in ministry on college campuses or with college students/young adults. my wife has attended this conference in the past and raved about its impact on her ministry so i decided to attend along with her this year. i went in with relatively no expectations, still coming down from my NYWC high. i was not disappointed. this conference was truly refreshing in a number of ways.

first and foremost, it was compact. held in The Loft facility at Woodlands UMC, general sessions, small group sessions, and worship was all located in one building which made it remarkably easy to remain focused and connected btwn events. The Loft also provided free wi-fi (which was not a feature at NYWC) which assisted all those in attendance connection with the larger communities they are a part of outside of the event. Chris Seay, Sean Gladding, Dr. Elaine Heath, and Joe Myer each brought unique and refreshing perspectives to the large group/worship sessions. the music was also exemplary with Robbie Seay Band and Mercy Street's house band leading throughout the event. JD Walt also did an outstanding job leading us through worship and making some traditional prayers of the church new and fresh again. sadly, my wife and i were not able to stick around for the closing worship led by Rudy Rasmus but i am sure it was amazing as well. we have both heard Rudy before and he never disappoints in bringing the gospel with a new voice and fresh eyes.

my biggest takeaway from the entire conference would have to be Joe Myer's sessions on organic community and Sean Gladding's sessions on the presentation of the story of Scripture. both offered fresh perspectives on ideas that i have heard quite a bit about prior to attending the conference. Sean's use of the storytelling device to present the story of Scripture, a story that some believe to be out-dated, stale, and boring; was remarkably eye-opening for me to hear and remarkably helpful for me in culminating some previous ideas i already had about bringing the story of Scripture to communities who have had little contact with it in a way that it is both easy to digest and memorable for future use. Joe Myer's research and observations regarding the shifting from agrarian to nomadic community-building and functionality along with his observations regarding developing and maintaining truly organic community was helpful as well in that it i often use this term with those outside of the circle of thinkers/theologians that value this type of community and have found it hard to define or nail down what organic community really looks like or how it operates. Joe's sessions gave me some helpful parameters and terms to utilize in future conversations regarding developing organic communities.

for all those interested, i would strongly endorse this conference if you have any contact with young adults or college students. it is affordable and relatively easy travel and accommodation-wise. if you are an avid conference-attender and would like a break from your regular routine to participate in a conference that not only offers you information in order to innovate your ministry but a chance to reflect and relax, i strongly encourage you to check out Refresh 09. the website is www.collegeunion.org, information for 09 is not posted at this time, but keep your eyes peeled around October/November 09 for more details.

to Bishop Scott Jones, thank you kindly for dinner and your company, you continue to be an exemplar for how UM Bishops should function amongst and encourage young clergy. for all those friends and fellows that participated this past year, i sincerely value your friendship and am honored that you continue to consider me your brother in Christ. i continue to pray for each of you and your ministries. to those who organized Refresh 08, i sincerely thank you for your hard work.

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