last night’s general session was one of those rare moments that will go down in convention lore. tic and i will be talking about this for years; not because it was flashy or slick, or extra funny; but because it was a still and quiet god thing.
when we agreed with this sheraton to hold our conference here, they had the main ballroom booked for something this saturday night. our plan was to move out for one session. first baptist church of vancouver (where stan grenz’s widow, edna, is still the worship pastor) is kitty-corner from the hotel, and they agreed to host us.
now, the evening was amazing because god showed up in some powerful ways. but god also showed up in the little tiny details. like: it was snowing tonite. and walking over to the church, all bundled up, while the snow slowly and softly fell, brought a peace and stillness to this downtown street. then, god was in the architecture of the church. it’s an old-skool downtown baptist church, with a wrap-around balcony on three sides. our 900 youth workers fit perfectly in the space, and the entire thing felt warm and imtimate. jeff johnson, accompanied by a stunning viola player and a virtuoso flautist, led us in a half hour of contemplative worship. hearing the 900 voices join together in that intimate space was (forgive the dramatic wording, but it’s the best word i can think of right now) rapturous. there was a section where we were all being quiet, except a baby who was cooing in the back of the sanctuary. normally this would bug me. but last night it choked me up: it was (at least for me) a reminder of the incarnation. and then we sang about emmanuel, god with us.
we brought three youth workers to the stage to tell their stories. one was a part-time female pentacostal firecracker from a semi-rural town, one the asian director of youth ministries for the catholic archiocese of vancouver, and one a black french-speaking quebecer. their stories were a beautiful snapshot of the tapestry of youth workers represented here.
then the speaker. omg. a local canadian woman named joyce rees. i’d not heard of her prior to this: she leads a ministry called jacob’s well in the toughest neighborhood of vancouver. we assumed she would speak on justice and the poor, her normal topic. she has assumed she would speak on that also. but she felt god nudging her (not knowing all the other stuff we had planned for last night) to speak on rest and sabbath. it was abso-freakin’-lutely amazing.
then melinda, our co-mc, lead a time of prayer for those in the room who were feeling especially worn out and beat down. it was gorgeous.
the killer thing about the night for me, apart from how beautiful all these elements were in and of themselves, was that we didn’t plan it to have this thread, this theme.