I had the blessing of spending a good chunk of the last two days at the Conspire Cincinnati Gathering. Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? Its not ominous unless you think of small groups of people working on bettering our local communities as ominous. I was so blessed to spend time to hear the stories of ways that people are making a difference here in town but also in many different places in our country. There was a continual reminder throughout the gathering that this is our call as Christians – yes we are called to the big things, but its the everyday relationships, everyday connections, everyday community that Jesus tapped into and we are called to tap into ourselves.

One of the things that I loved about this gathering time was that it wasn’t fancy, but it was real. There wasn’t a fancy production (in fact there were a few technical snafus along the way), some of the speakers weren’t super-polished, and there were a few words shared that you don’t normally hear in a church building. But again…it was real. It was leading us from one place down a path of hope and beauty to community beyond.

A few of the highlights…
– Like I posted earlier today…there is an invisible movement afoot that is slowly becoming visible.
Jane Gerdsen sharing The Praxis Communities’ tenets – Know people by name, give permission, respect the seasons, accept the beautiful mess, participate in the church beyond the church, play.
Paul Sparks from the Parish Collective – The neighborhood is the place we learn how to be human…Jesus had a walkable ministry…We cannot come to a place until we come home to ourselves…
Rasheeda Washington – If we don’t have enough cracks, then we aren’t getting bumped enough to seep into others and be used of God…witnessing isn’t just telling but its first seeing and then telling what we have seen.
Tim Soerens – Create something big enough to live a larger life but small enough to be known.
Mandy Smith – Collaboration is permission for us to be human together.
Jimmy Spencer Jr – Shared crazy stats about how over 1,000,000 charities have been founded since 2001 – nearly all under $75,000…hyper-local
Ronnie Harris – The work of reconciliation is counter-intuitive and counter-cultural
Jan Beard – 70/30 rule – 70% things in the church ministries that are “comfortable”, but 30% not. Intentional.
Doug Pagitt – reflecting upon the same passage I happened to preach on last Sunday – Philip and the Ethiopian…he quoted Peterson Toscano… “The first baptism was of a black, African, surgically-altered, gender-variant, wealthy, literate, civil servant who is a person of faith. To the poorer, illiterate, non-eunuch church folks this Ethiopian eunuch is the ultimate outsider. Yet this is the first baptism.”
Derek Peebles – Show me your friends and I’ll tell you your future.
Dee Yacino – We should never seek to do anything unless we are friends first.
Dwight Friesen – We cannot live into place alone…people partner with people far better than organizations partner with organizations.

These are but a few of the stories and notes from what I wrote and there were others who spoke who I didn’t get to write down notes (Derrick B – I’m talking about you and your powerful words this morning). It really spoke to me affirming the work that God is doing among the congregation I serve. I see the ways that people have a deep heart for being local. I see it in the discussions taking place in our pastoral discernment team. I see it in the openness to welcome another congregation into our midst. I feel it. I celebrate it. I am grateful for it.

This picture was taken on my way to my car at the end of the day today. I was just walking a few blocks to where I parked when I passed by this alley and nearly just kept going but realized I needed to stop and take a second look. Sure enough there was this narrow dark alley illuminated only by the suspended lights and leading to what was a table with an umbrella over it – a place of community. So there I was on the busy street with cars passing by, stores and restaurants open, people hurrying by, conversations on cell phones, text messages being sent, and so forth. But there was a path off to the side that led to a place to sit, to listen, to talk, to share, to connect. A perfect way to capture the celebration of the last few days.

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