Are you in the holiday spirit yet? Have you enjoyed/ will you enjoy gatherings of family and friends?
Intent as we Christians are at keeping Christ at the center of the holidays, we also pour a lot of effort into making it a season for reunions with our loved ones. Whether that entails toting a warm pumpkin pie to the neighbors’ or flying home from the eastern hemisphere, we love to gather together to enjoy the Lord’s blessing.
As adopted daughters and sons of God, we count one another as our extended Christian family. For some that spreads icing on an already tasty cake. For others, it provides the only family they know. Hence, part of our mission as believers is to build up and promote authentic koinonia throughout the body of Christ in both its immediate expression, the local church community, and its catholic expression, the universal Church.
The board of directors at the Presbyterian Outlook Foundation, Inc., at its September 2006 meeting, stumbled upon a big “aha” regarding our role in the church family. Like so many fellowships and organizations, we were discussing our mission and vision. In the midst of stating the obvious — reporting accurate news of the church, presenting insightful commentary on the news, and providing helpful resources for ministry — board chair, Stacy Johnson, said, “I don’t think that’s the essence of the Outlook’s mission.”
He caught our attention.
“The Outlook is in the business of networking.” As some board members pondered, he elaborated that for years the Outlook has been the place where pastors have kept up on news of former classmates, where elders have heard about the happenings among colleagues they’d met at presbytery and General Assembly meetings, where church professionals have heard about new call/job opportunities, and where Presbyterians of all stripes have gone, just to get a feel of what’s going on with whomever.
Made sense, we thought.
Others chimed in. One mentioned that the prominence of letters to the editor at the front has made the Outlook the place to hear feedback, long before the invention of Web sites and blogs, and filling the role once filled by the former Monday Morning magazine.
Still others added that the digital era has turned the Outlook’s Web site into a forum for conversation around the important issues of the church.
The board members nodded a collective, “Aha.”
In light of that we resolved to do three things.
First, we determined to continue to strengthen the quality of content provided in the print magazine.
Second, we set a course for developing our Web site into a “Village Green” for the denomination (watch for more about this in coming months).
Third, we decided to organize a conference to gather hundreds of Presbyterians together for face-to-face fellowship and learning.
We approached the Cross-Cultural Alliance of Ministries (C-CAM) and Montreat Conference Center in N.C. to see if they would partner with us. They both jumped at the opportunity. Together we blocked out July 1-5, 2008, at Montreat. for the gathering. We formed a planning team — with each organization well represented, plus a broad range of leaders from every area of the church — geographically, racially, theologically. And then we set in motion a plan for the event and invited outstanding speakers to provide great fodder for the conversations.
“Church Unbound” will convene on Monday evening, July 1, with the preaching of Brian Blount, new president of Union Theological Seminary-Presbyterian School of Christian Education. The keynote address will be brought on Tuesday morning by Shane Claiborne, co-founder of The Simple Way community in Philadelphia and author of The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. His story is so striking that we assigned Erin Dunigan to do a piece on him (see p. 10). The line-up of other speakers will be stellar, both in plenary and in workshops. Mark your calendars for those dates, and check out the respective Web sites to reserve your spot.
Speakers aside, the best part of the event will be the opportunity for fellowship, to experience family koinonia with old friends and new, with sisters and brothers in Christ. Keeping Jesus at the center, we who have connected through the years and in recent days via the pages and Web site of the Outlook can reconnect in person — with handshake and holy kiss.
Consider yourself invited to the table of fellowship in our Lord.