i’m at the lifeteen youth workers convention outside of phoenix for a few days. lifeteen is a catholic youth ministry organization that is very much like ys at a soul level. we’ve enjoyed a very friendly relationship with them for years, and keep hoping it will develop into some kind of partnership; but that hasn’t happened yet. i told the exec director tonite that one of the reasons i want to partner with them is that i like them so much, i want excuses to hang out more often.
there are about 450 youth workers here, from all over the u.s. (and a few from canada). really wonderful people, passionate about jesus and teenagers. i did a seminar yesterday morning on middle school ministry, and felt like i was with my tribe. tonight i do a general session.
but, last night was a really interesting experience for me. i went to the “adoration” service they had: basically, a 2 hour worship and prayer service, with gifted worship leader matt maher (who we’ve enjoyed at some of the ys conventions, and will be with us again in pittsburgh and toronto this fall). it was a wonderfully powerful time of worship, singing, confession, and prayer. most of the service felt just like i would experience elsewhere in my world. but there were just enough cross-cultural moments to remind me that i was the ‘other’ in this crowd. in a room of 450 catholic youth workers, i was the sole (or, at least one of the only) protestants. like i said, this didn’t matter 90% of the time; but there were, of course, a handful of moments where i didn’t know what to do (like the two times they all kneeled – the first of which killed my knees on the cement floor, but the second of which i was saved by noticing that the guy next to me put his flip-flops under his knees), and a few moments when the theology was clearly somewhat different than my own.
i enjoyed this difference, actually. but it also put me in that place of realizing my “otherness”. i felt completely accepted and included, so i can’t compare the experience to that of a person of color attending an all-white church. i felt a bit disconnected, and even disembodied – like i was occasionally observing rather than participating. and that left me feeling a bit of an outsider. i know this is a regular experience for many in the church (no matter what theological stripe), and was a good reminder to me, and a good awareness. i found i was able to stay present to the moment, and not be overly distracted or removed, and that was a good thing.
anyhow, i’m not 100% sure what my reflections are on this experience, to be fully honest (obvious, i suppose, by this rambly post that isn’t going anywhere). it was a powerful time of worship. i think the primary gleaning for me was to soak in the reality that, while i was ‘other’ and there were differences between me and the rest of the crowd, we were all completely focused on worshipping god, focused on jesus, and sharing this community together. it felt like i was in a parallel universe, but one filled with people who share the same values, share the same calling, and worship the same god as i do.