“This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and odd balls gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes. And there’s always room for more.” – Rachel Held Evans
They had me at Nichole Nordeman. I’ve become a diehard fan of hers over the past 4 years (check out her album, Every Mile Mattered). When it was advertised that she would be participating in the Evolving Faith Conference I did some investigating. I discovered names like Barbara Brown Taylor, Kate Bowler, Jen Hatmaker, Nada Boltz-Weber, and others that I’ve read and with whom I am familiar would be participating in the conference.
Evolving Faith was birthed by Jeff Chu, Sara Bessey, and the late Rachel Held Evans as a way for fellow travelers on this Christian journey to find hope in the dark and wilderness. To provide water for the thirsty and to bring people together across various points of view to celebrate this vast and wide table God has created for us. All are welcome. All are valued.
The conference took place over 2 days (You can still register and access the material! (https://evolvingfaith.com). I spent 2 days learning and being stretched as presenter after presenter challenged us:
- “Do we really want to return to normal? Normal in which a black man gets shot, children are in cages, prisons are crowded?” - Mihee Kim-Kort
- “Tell me what is possible today? How do we live in the truth of today?” – Kate Bowler
- “If we truly felt like we belonged, we wouldn’t have justice.” - Jeff Chu
- “Be the vulnerable one that says I’m sorry and makes mistakes.” -Carol Gallagher
- What is the script you’ve written about your identity? Calling? Ability? -Gail Song Bantum
This was just a snap shot of the depth of the messages we heard. But the one that resonated with me the most came from Jen Hatmaker. Hatmaker is a well-known Christian author and speaker who recently announced the separation form her husband of 26 years. She was open and honest in saying this is not something she wanted, but it is what is happening. She spoke about that moment when Jesus has risen, but the disciples and Mary Magdalene do not know that he is risen. The disciples and Mary are still caught in the devastation and tragedy of the whole event…. they don’t know that a resurrection is coming. Because of this they do not recognize that Jesus is there with them now. Mary Magdalene even asks him if he is the gardener. She is too caught up in her despair to recognize who is right in front of her. When are we like this? When have we missed the face of Jesus in the midst of our despair?
This message has sat with me. As Hatmaker said, Jesus is incredibly present in our chaos. Jesus is in every single moment where there is life.
This hope that Jesus is with me as our worlds continue to spin out of control. This hope that Jesus is walking with me as we face a daily unknown of the future of our country offers me peace. This hope that Jesus is with me as I worry about the health of family and friends is sustaining.
I don’t know if Evolving Faith will directly impact my ministry…. but it directly impacted my faith. Y’all, it’s been a dark year….and this gave me light in the darkness. If you are able, I would encourage you to register and give yourself space to listen, stretch and be comforted. As ministers, caring for our own journey is just as important as the people’s journey you are leading.