Time Well Spent: One Pastor’s Reflection on Big Tent 2013

The Rev. Lisa M. López is the solo Pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church in Hanover Park, a small multicultural congregation continually seeking to live into its calling as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. 
Rev. Lisa Lopez

2013 Big Tent combined 10 national Presbyterian conferences and a single theme: “Putting God’s First Things First” (Matt. 6:33–34). It was held August 1–3 in Louisville, KY.

When my search for Continuing Education opportunities yielded the promotional material for Big Tent 2013, I knew I had to be there. The first six months of my call as solo pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church at Hanover Park already had me yearning for wisdom regarding the challenges of multicultural worship, making disciples, and faithful/effective ministry in our poverty-stricken suburban neighborhood. After carefully selecting from the massive amount of quality workshops provided (at last, Community Organizing training!), I hoped to come home inspired and equipped.

The experience did not disappoint. From the National Multicultural Ministries forum on Models of Multicultural Worship I was able to glean a few fresh ideas on how to approach the structuring of worship so that the service not only honors the variety of cultures represented in the sanctuary, but invites participants to appreciate unfamiliar forms of adoration. Needless to say, I am confident we will have a few “experiments” in worship very soon.

Nancy Jo Dederer of Homewood, IL, visits with Trina Brown of Salem, IN. © Danny Bolin, courtesy of Presbyterian News Service.

Nancy Jo Dederer of Homewood, IL, visits with Trina Brown of Salem, IN. © Danny Bolin, courtesy of Presbyterian News Service.

I was also particularly blessed by the testimonies of global partners shared during the World Mission Conference offerings. These ranged from stories of well-meaning mission efforts gone wrong to the presentations of initiatives that are transforming particular communities. Sharing some of their stories back home is leading to valuable conversations with our ministry team members about empowering neighbors, upholding the dignity of all in service, and resisting the temptation to sacrifice depth of involvement for speed and breadth of activity.

Yet not all blessings came through the many insightful presentations I attended, as crucial as new insight is for continuing ministry. Perhaps some of the most valuable moments came through the encouragement of colleagues, the life-giving power of Word and Sacrament among a multitude of eager disciples, and joyful fellowship with old friends. So the final verdict on Big Tent 2013? Time well spent.

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