Notes from Urbana (in St. Louis!) 2006.
Notes from Urbana (in St. Louis!) 2006.
I’ve been trying to pin down lessons from this past Urbana and even though I feel like I’ve done more than one and I knew a little of what to expect (even as a volunteer) it still was a bit like drinking from the firehose. It’s hard to pin down a meta-theme for me other than renewal. It’d been a fairly dry fall and going to Urbana was a renewal of value for me; what I cherished in life, what my goals were and where I think God is leading us a family. It was also a good lens to look at what was distracting and why it was so.
There were quite a few highlights for me. My two favorites (along with alot of people, apparently) were Oscar and Brenda on night one. Brenda’s talk was a personal call to action and it really showed some apathy that had crept into my life in areas that I wasn’t aware of; both are really worth listening to and if you’ve not yet, check them out www.urbana.org.
Of course, there was Bono too; what was up with that? It was a well used way to get people’s attention, in my opinion. Bono mentioned that he saw his celebrity status as more of currency to spend and he spent a bunch that night. It was interesting to see how his speaking really caught people’s attention. Heck, that whole evening and theme really was uncomfortable for me, in a good way. The World Vision presentation in the exhibit hall where you walked through the experiences of an AIDS victim and the broken bread meal that we had following were both really powerful; coupled with Oscar’s call to think globally and in community with other brothers and sisters from around the globe and we were given alot to think about; I ended up writing an article about the experience that will probably show up on www.urbana.org in March sometime.
It was great to do professional work in a Christian context. Volunteering at Urbana is stressful and intense and fun and challenging all in the same weird breath. There were alot of late nights but come to think of it, were their any non late nights? Regardless, I’m appreciative of the time I got to spend working with the webcast folk.
The thing I like about Urbana is that it tends to be time that you experience God unfiltered; free from the distractions of day to day things it’s a good time to listen and see wonderful things happen and I always look for those moments. There were a few of those. Urbana conferences taught me to pray and not be at all suprised if there are immediate answers to the prayer. But that could be another post for another time.
I heard those words more than a few years ago uttered by Jeremy Begbie, a British professor, who gave them as part of a wonderful talk at IV’s Following Christ, Shaping Our World conference in snowy Chicago over Christmas break. It was a foundational talk for me and one that I will be forever greatful for because it expanded my view of scale of God and how he influences my life. As he urged the listener to have a happy new year, he pointed out God’s ability to use reccurring themes in our life; themes that can build on each other in improvisational ways, similar to that of a jazz musician and urged us to listen and marvel at the continued work of God in themes that can stretch out over a number of years if necessary by looking for the subtle jazz of the new familiar.
I thought about the ideas in that talk came a number of times this week as I had the opportunity to serve with friends at the Urbana mission’s convention in St. Louis. Past Urbanas have never failed to be watershed moments where I feel drawn to the presence of God and hear his direction in my life. Even as a volunteer, listening and watching and keeping my head up to look around has been something I’ve been appreciative of the opportunity to do.
This week was no exception. I worship through scale; specifically, it’s wonderful to plug into a large system (or body) of people and play my part and get a sense of the vast level of experience and care that goes into putting on the whole. At one point this week, as an example, I was backstage and walked out front to see the final performance of the dance team on stage. As I saw these very gifted performers pour out their spirit in humble worship to their creator, I thought of the equally gifted people running lights, the skill of the person running sound, the watchful eye of the ‘stadium servants’, the countless artists that were behind the scenes enabling the vide of that performance to be kept and the number of people we were working with on the web to record this event for those at home and the gifts of the particular speakers for each day and it was worshipful.
Then I pondered the stories of the 22000 people in the audience and wondered how many were there for their first convention and had a similar story of meeting (the pictures were there at one time, oh and forgive the design, it was a few years ago) or how many were getting this taste of God and of heaven at such a scale for the first time and it made me sit in awe of God.
Working the convention was also a renewal of value for me. It’s always wonderful to see and appreciate God’s work through the University and how that time played such a pivotal role for me and the privilege I have of still interacting at the University today as staff and lecturer and IV volunteer.
I could, and will, go on about specifics of the convention and where MJ and my heart still lies, but I will save those for another non-insomniac post.
But as I sat there crowded around a monitor in a back hallway taking communion, I solemly appreciated the body of believers I was taking it with and the friends I was in company with and the new ones I had made that week (amongst them, it was wonderful to get to put faces with bytes of Paul and Dave (we really should have got a picture…)) and thought of the themes that God had stirred and re-improved. It made me sit in wonder of the effects of these 6 days and what lessons I would take this time around from Urbana and what new things lie ahead.
Back from Urbana. Aidan is back in his bed, we’re sitting at home and we’re super tired. Check out http://www.urbana.org for more info on the conference including audio and video from each of the sessions.
It was an incredibly busy week; I don’t know what I was thinking that I would be able to have time to post things during the week!
I’m going to post more detailed entries this week, but I thought I would kick things off. We’re in St. Louis, and I’m writing this in the lobby of the Renissance Grand. We got through registration and we’re about to go to the orientation dinner for staff/volunteers. It’s weird that in 10 years, Urbana has changed quite a bit. It’s quite a bit bigger and as we passed by the Edward Jones Dome on the way in, it’s a whole different scale than my first experience.
We just got back from our orientation to our job assignments. For the technical end of the site, take a look @ Urbana.org starting tomorrow night. Expect the video to come up about 2 or so hours after the evening session concludes. I’ll be uploading the video and encoding it (along with 3 others); it’ll be in flash format. There will also be mp3s that will be downloadable.
It’ll be some good times; the director of the site bought us some Starbucks giftcards which could be some indication of what this week will look like. I’ve been looking forward to large amounts of caffeine :).
As we look at agencies, there are 17 potential ones we’ll check out at some point during the week. We’ll be scoping those out during our free time.
So tonight, sleep, and we’ll go from there.