Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. — Church of the Beloved’s album “Songs for a Mystical Supper”

The quick recap

I was afforded the pleasure and privilege of traveling to Minneapolis this year for the Kindling Young Adult and Campus Ministry Conference as the Movable Feast representative. While the conference content was incredibly useful and wonderfully orchestrated by Mike Angell, I most value the deep friendships that I walked away with. My colleagues in campus ministry are wonderful, intelligent, and compassionate people who are willing to be vulnerable and share their story that others may come to know and be healed by Christ. Episcopalians are also great dancers (we have the pictures to prove it).

The conference functioned on a model of “Open Space Technology.” That’s just a really fancy way you vote with your feet. We would all convene together for a large Plenary talk. When the talk was over, people could stand and volunteer to convene discussion on whatever was on their hearts, whether directly related to the talk or not. They simply stood, named a topic, and a gathering place. Then you “voted with your feet” by going to the talk that you felt interested in or called to.  Even better – you didn’t have to stay there. You could pop in and out of conversations and visit multiple groups in the time allotted. I relished the idea of not having to sit still, though each time I was so enthralled by the talk I chose and the stories shared that I didn’t move. Workshops suck, in my humble opinion, so I was very grateful for this model.

Our first Plenary was with Bianca Vazquez and Kristen Kane-Orsoto, two community organizers in DC. They taught us that community organizing is not about creating great programs for people — the top down approach — but is about sharing vulnerability and sharing stories, so that you build relationships. When you build those relationships and that trust, then the real needs and desires of a place unfold. This set the tone for the entire conference – everything else fell behind this basic principle.

I won’t continue to recap the events of the conference here. My friend Deacon Tom Lutes did a fantastic job of that over here. Go check it out. You can also check out the #kindling14 hashtag feed. I live tweeted much of it – excuse the few instances of snark please.

My heart

Stories. Our Christian faith was founded and carried by the breath of the Holy Spirit. Not by well-flyered programs, but by stories. Stories that ignite people and allow us to enter into a shared vulnerability with each other and with the very real characters in that story.

After the end of every conference day, a mass throng of Episcopalians would find their way to the pub together. We could never tell if the servers were thrilled or terrified as a throng of 75 seated themselves, but they handled it incredibly well. I became very close with some of the conference’s latinos and we all (non-latinos included!) called ourselves La Familia by the end of the week. However, being the “latino population” of the conference meant that we were perpetually the “loud fun table.” We shared stories and laughed together at the top of our lungs, and yelled and sang and grew together as Christian brothers and sisters. It reminded me of Jesus and his disciples being accused of being drunkards (Matthew 11:19-20). Really, JC and crew were all just friends in community with one another in the same Spirit. There was something inherently vulnerable about sharing at a table together, sharing stories over pub appetizers and local beers.

It’s exactly what we aim to do with A Movable Feast. We aim to share stories around a common table. They’re our stories, they’re old stories of the holy faithful struggling saints and disciples, and they’re a tapestry of all of these stories together in God’s Great story for us. It isn’t about how many souls we can suck into church, nor is it about bucking the whole church-sanctuary model. It’s about creating room for our Triune God to be apparent among us. It’s about the community that will appear just when the truck is there, and about the community that will linger together. We’re just showing up to the table and feeding people. God does all the rest.

I am so grateful to have been sent to the conference. I now have the language and the structure of my own heart’s calling in this venture to teach the Chapters we will be working with how to do this – how to minister to one another and not just present cheesy programs. How we can listen for the stories of young adults wandering through campuses, and how we can come to name God in those stories and the light of Christ in those people.

The embers are here in us and among us. Let us call on the Holy Spirit to blow gently on them, that they may ignite a larger fire for us to gather around.