I’m certain I will not be able to recapture the magic of Christianity 21 here, so instead I offer you a few snapshot moments/cursory observations that were lovely ones for me.
– There was something incredibly authentic and open about the overarching tone of the conference. The speakers came from so many different starting places not to mention current paradigmatic residences, and each one stood up and spoke directly from that place with passion. In other words, nobody was faking it. And you could tell. (This may not seem all that special, but as someone who has gone to her fair share of churchy conferences, I usually leave thinking a fair chunk of what I just watched was a puppet show with very calculated string pulling.)
– Shane Claiborne was working the registration desk swiping credit cards. And, as Tony humorously put it, “he doesn’t even BELIEVE in credit cards!” There were a handful of pastor-speaker-author guys there, and they spent the weekend moving chairs, working tables and sitting in the back listening. And they could not have been more genuine about it all. Thanks guys!
– When you invite 21 people to come and say what they think most needs to be said at this point in Christian history, you leave the conversation pretty wide open. I for one was fascinated to see what kind of mashup it would create. And what it created was a symphony of hope and humor, wit and doubt, justice and presence and a desire to live “close to the ground” as real people who live in a real world with both real problems and real possibilities. It was a symphony of eyes wide open, hands brimming with the dust of the earth.
– There was a dad who was carrying his baby in a sling and walking her up and down the aisles during an entire session. The baby kept playing with the dad’s hair. I kept watching them and smiling, thinking, “It’s so good that we didn’t ask life to stand outside so we could take copious notes.” We tend to do that at conferences.
– C21 was a feast of artistry. In addition to the compelling presentations, Paul Soupiset was working his magic live-sketching with pen and paper, Shauna was painting, HeatherLynn was singing, and Courtney was taking photos (that you must see). When you added in the stained glass windows and generally open-feeling sanctuary, it was a wonderfully rich place to spend those hours.