Tomorrow I begin my journey to The Great Gathering–over 500 people from the Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Methodist, Episcopal, and United Church of Canada outdoor ministry networks assembled together for four days at Lake Junaluska in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Lest you think we will be there to sing camp songs and roast marshmallows, you should know that our keynote roster includes Barbara Brown Taylor, Luke Powery, Shane Claiborne, and Joan Garry.
The Event-The event has been put together by Outdoor Ministry Connection. “Under the theme of RelationSHIFT, we will build relationships, discover each other’s gifts, and equip vital ministries to meet the emerging needs of God’s people.” We will gather for worship daily. The conference includes a list of workshops like I have never seen. It includes time for us to gather regionally across denominations. One afternoon/evening I will head off with the other Lutherans for a business meeting and a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Lutheran Outdoor Ministries (LOM) in the United States.
The History-I was elected to the LOM Board in Nov. 2012 and attended my first conference the next November. That was a joint-LOM and Presbyterian Church Camp and Conference Association (PCCCA) conference at Zephyr Point, the Presbyterian’s Conference Center on Lake Tahoe. The board presidents, and paid staff if they existed, from various denominationally affiliated national camping associations had been meeting annually. In late September 2015, they invited larger representations from each national board and about thirty of us met at a Methodist conference center in Florida. We met around various topics and several projects came out of our time together: research about the impact of camp, a training for intentional interim camp directors, and The Great Gathering. Jake Sorenson, who has done so much of the research, wrote about our time in Florida here.
In March 2017 the Outdoor Ministry Connection (OMC) team met at Ross Point in the panhandle of Idaho. Since I live a short plane ride away I got to represent the LOM board at the gathering, along with a colleague who was serving at Holden Village in Central Washington.
Then in May, 2017 the OMC Interim Director Training took place at Camp Lutherdale in Wisconsin.
I wrote about the planning process here, mixed in with other musings about ecumenism in Idaho.
And now many of us are heading to North Carolina. Hooray!!!
My Enthusiasm-I am incredibly excited about our speakers. I heard Luke Powery, dean of Duke University Chapel, at the Festival of Homiletics in Minneapolis a number of years ago. He was paired with a then upcoming diocese bishop from the Carolinas (Michael Curry) and together they were a force. I heard Barabara Brown Taylor at the same Festival and my congregation’s Monday morning study group just finished reading Holy Envy. I heard Shane Claiborne while sitting next to teens from my church at an ELCA Youth Gathering. And ever since I was introduced to Joan Garry’s website, I have been encouraging everyone I know to access her wisdom and experience. I am giddy about the speakers.
But I am also excited because this will be something of a reunion. Beginning with my three years at the Univ of Chicago Divinity School, continuing with my time writing with other pastors at the Collegeville Institute, participating in the Lewis Fellows Program (I get to do a lot as a woman Lutheran pastor from Idaho, me thinks), putting together Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids in Nampa with LDS, Episcopalian, Methodist, and UCC colleagues, speaking in Northwest Nazarene University classrooms once a year, Ecumenism is the water I swim in. It is interesting and life-giving and I always feel like we are at least striving to be the Body of Christ that God desires.
The truth is that the best part of the week is the new relationships which will be created. I have been to enough conferences, convocations, and continuing ed events to know that I have to open up my introverted self to the people around me and just wait for the Holy Spirit to go to work. When I show up and am open, I am almost always richly rewarded. Sometimes it’s instantaneous and sometimes it’s a seed planted for a future season. I finished my sixth and final year on the board last year but there was no way I was going to miss The Great Gathering.
The Possibilities-A colleague reminded me the other day on the phone that we do not know what the fruits of this event will be. We do not know what relationships will be formed, ideas shared, collaborations started, dreams dreamed. That can be scary I suppose but I find it incredibly freeing and exciting. I love that we are all taking this big leap–not knowing what is on the other side but trusting God to show up.