Thursday, July 3, 2008

My View of 2008 - NAC

NAC 2008 - here-n-gone…Wow!
There is much to think about; I returned home too tired even to think. Slowly absorbing what others were writing, my responses are multiplied. I found sufficient negatives--and--numerous positives. So, what’s new! Is my water glass half full or half empty?

The City of Anderson welcomed us heartily. We were not the 20-30-40,000 visitors we used to be across the 50 or so Conventions I’ve enjoyed. I also opposed some aspects of meeting annually in Anderson, editorializing and voting against building Warner Auditorium (the Beanie) in the 60s. It may have been the “world’s largest roof-raising job” but it slowed our regional expansion and growth outside of the Midwest--a “mission” issue long discussed in some quarters outside Mid-America.

Those who contrived the construction “misled” the Assembly in the costs and transitioning (there’s no other word for it and some admitted the hard sell). We ultimately paid a handsome price for it, but we used it as well. In 1968, my Wesleyan friend Bob Zuhl participated in the “uniting” service of the Pilgrim Holiness Church with the Wesleyan Church in that Auditorium. It served many an AU graduation, a few Free Methodist Conventions et al…as well as us.

In spite of its good usage, it thwarted the natural seeding process of the church into other areas outside Middle America, keeping us focused in a small-town just outside Indianapolis and leaving us with a “small-town“ mindset. Although native to the Midwest, my early years were outside the Midwest and always with the “outsiders” view--a small-town kid who discovered a larger urban world.

I have lived to see the Beanie deconstructed and we are back where we were--mid-60s. We meet as a restructured (1996) Assembly--better organized, streamlined, but essentially the same. We no longer assemble on our own national site, but come as guests of a growing University we helped create. Trying to regroup--after some tumultuous years that we need to release--we struggle with ironing the wrinkles out of our cooperative ministries.

Looking back at our 2008 week together--WOW! After being overwhelmed with the program dominance of Chog Ministries through the weekend (necessary as they are), I spoke to Dr. Cynthia James after her sermon, and greeted her with, “A preacher has come among us!”
Dr. Paul Shepherd may have missed the text for some on closing night, but for me he punched home his concept of wholeness. I found it “wholesome”! Between Shepherd and James, I found Rod Stafford’s message ably illustrated but ordinary, except for his emotionally charged video climax (delivered by his deceased brother Gil). The church lost its leading theological light, but I lost a longtime friend.

Worship music improved from 2007 (a site change could vastly improve the sound and God has never needed a hearing aid!) The worship style at times bordered on a poor imitation of exhibitionism. Services were too focused in overly packaged talent with inadequate congregational participation. This year saw an improved focus on God--less focus on the worshipper in words and music, leading to more worshipful adoration directed Godward. Conferences of every sort were in abundance. One could meet almost any need one might bring--spiritual, educational, mental, or emotional. For me, the individuals I encountered were the plus factor.

I anticipated meeting Narcisco Zamora, from Ecuador-Chile. I did, and obtained an autographed copy of his Walking Man bio. I am now reading of his travels on foot and otherwise up and down a 1,000 mile stretch of South America. Tommie Mosely profoundly inspired me with his witness from his wheel chair. His inspiring song blessed me. A later encounter “challenged“ me when he remembered me by name.

I gloried in sitting in Anderson, IN., heartland USA, taking communion with believers simultaneously with so many around the globe--part of the service led from OKC USA, along with live video clips from global sites. CBH utilized their facilities well, but I wondered why only 300 congregations agreed to participate.

Sarah Blake introduced herself to me last year. This year I yelled at her on the street, (met her father and even her guide dog wagged his tail for me). I admire this vibrant young, partially-sighted female seminarian, advocate for people with problems. Society views her as “handicapped;” I see wisdom beyond her years and a “whole” person.

Robert Bixler, of CA, and I sat and visited for a longtime, talking about the role of the Bixler family in our history et al. I knew Robert‘s father Leon--a gifted pastor-printer many years ago. I helped connect Robert with Dale Stultz at the Historical Society. I am personally blessed by younger leaders like Lloyd Moritz, NW Area Administrator. Lloyd‘s skills and energies push me to paddle harder to keep pace, but his friendship and wisdom lifts and encourages me.

One highlight came from a chance conversation at a lunch table--perhaps a further friendship. David and Maxine Kimble--Grand Cayman. David, a Canadian, married Maxine, a Caymanian, the great sailors of the Carribean. It recalled my own visit in the islands. Our last sighting came when David called out from the crowd as we had seated ourselves on the Trolley, en route to the Heritage Hymn Sing.

Other names float around as I sip from my partially-filled glass--not half empty. The events of 2008 were unimaginable at that first encampment in 1883, Bangor, MI! The message of holiness and unity retains its powerful appeal--trans-denominational, ethnically diverse, and global).

Transforming our culture will come as we are transformed. Transformation is a personal experience, both individual and social in its net-working processes. The role of NAC is changing, as is everything else. Networking will continue--that’s what people. I dare to participate in NAC as a part of that vital networking. What happens now is like what happens after Sunday morning church--the service begins--continues.

Around the globe, we are thousands of points of light, each dissipating a certain darkness. We are old; we are young. We hate loud music; we love “all kinds” of worship music. We are God’s people on mission, comfortable with our diversity as we network with God’s people of various names, theologies, and strategies, but we gather around Jesus Christ--God’s anointed one. We do our best to follow His commandment--love one another.

As we network in His love, I believe the best is yet to come………..

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