Friday, February 8, 2013

can i get a witness?

Luther Seminary's Mid Winter Convocation is one of my favorite rituals. Early every February, they host a conference that pierces a theological or practical topic it's grads (and other nerds) flock home for. I got hooked on convo as a student. We could attend free of charge and I loved squishing into the Olson Campus Center Chapel, nestled between great and tired leaders who were out there...leading.

I show up for these three days no matter the topic and without expectations. I just meno in the presence of others who miss school and love what they do. It's pretty great - even if the theme is lame or none of my classmates attend. There were a few things I really appreciated about this year's convocation, so I want to share them with you here.

1. Chris Trimble. Thank you for understanding innovation and business, but also having a keen sense of how the church works. I tend to zone out when business leaders assume non-profit/spiritual organizations need a big dose of corporate strategy, but I was grateful for everything you shared. You told stories we could and should relate to while also drawing out the unique features of an organization that's called to be about kingdom building - where numbers and pie charts are penultimate. You gave me a lot to think about and I've already ordered one of your books.

2. You never know who's going to show up. I ran into two pastors I admire greatly. Becca was the intern before me and Jeni was the intern after me. We all share a deep love for Sierra Vista - how it shaped us as women, leaders, and pastors. We reminisced and relayed much without needing words. It is good to be surprised by who shows up.

3. Morning Prayer. I've written about Humble Walk Church before. They are up to something and I am so glad whenever I see them in action. On Wednesday we were asked to write down our uncertainties and anxieties on a 3x5 notecard before putting them into the slots on a big, goofy looking box in the narthex. Just one 3x5 card?!?

The next morning we found the cards hanging from strings on the outside of the box. Jodi told us that this box was designed to move by the help of many - that it would be very awkward or impossible to move it all alone. So, like a crowd surfing mob from the 90s, we passed the box over our heads and around the whole sanctuary. While it moved we all got our hands on its weight and learned it wasn't too heavy. People pulled off cards at it came by.

The cards were gone before it got to my pew. Oh, my pew. We are young pastors filled with uncertainty and anxiety. We had poured our hearts onto those cards the day before and now there was no fear left for us. There were more witnesses than worries. There were enough hands and things were able to move.

I am proud of Jodi for convincing old Lutherans to crowd surf at 9:00am. She doesn't even have dreadlocks anymore, so people weren't just doing it because the uber-hip mission start pastor told them to. They did it because these days she's got a bit of clout as a leader. People know that she helps you experience things differently - she's gentle but firm about that every time.

I am proud of my friend Marc for suggesting that it be filled with ashes and passed around this Wednesday - dust sprinkled atop our heads from the box that holds our sins and sorrows. We like Marc because he is wise and always coming up with things that terrify people because they are so right on.

I'm glad for Jeni and Colin telling me about life as Pastor-Squared: pastors who are married to pastors. I confessed to Jonathan that I'm a hot mess and that my kitchen sometimes looks like a Cymbalta commercial - everything is always "soaking". Then he let me hold his baby, Elliot.

I am proud of my friends Kara and Joy for owning the ways motherhood and "part-time" work wear us out. I gobbled up their stories and their prayer requests. We laughed and drank coffee and I walked into the last speaker quite late because God was speaking in so many places on Thursday morning.

The Humble Walk hodge-podge band played a peppy version of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus", which was the greatest gift I received this week. I knew Zion would sing it today at Lorraine's funeral, and that rendition would have a different mood and lens.

I filmed the third verse of Humble Walk's rendition on my iPhone. I knew I'd need both versions this week - the tambourine and the organ. Together they would help me bridge the movement from tired wondering in the pews to being a pastor in the pulpit, confident about the risen Christ and the risen Lorraine.

Uff da. That's a big move.

And so I'm glad the witnesses outweighed the worries on Thursday morning. When that box passed overhead it felt awfully light and there were no burdens for me to grab. Just a pew filled with colleagues who also looked relieved to be swallowed up by such a great cloud of witnesses.


Mary Hess said...

Thanks for your beautiful witnessing here!

Family Freeman said...

Thanks, Meta! Fun to see you and fun to read your are a gifted writer!