Greetings all you McBloggers!

This past Monday and Tuesday many McCormick students, faculty and staff attended a conference in Indianapolis, IN called Next Church. It was the beginning of a conversation about where the church is being called and what it is being called to be. Needless to say, it was refreshing for many of us there and it really did start some amazing conversations across the board. We wanted to share with you some thoughts on this conference.

Monday morning began bright and early (after a long night for many due to bad weather); we grabbed our name tags among the throngs of people and our bulletins for the conference and headed straight for the coffee bar. God bless coffee, especially when you’re in seminary. After chatting together and running into MANY familiar faces from all across the PCUSA, we headed into the sanctuary of the Second Presbyterian Church of Indianapolis for worship together.

Tom Are, from the conference planning team, started off the morning with an introduction for the conference and really set the one for the time there. One of the most interesting and exciting things that he emphasized was that even as Presbyterians, we weren’t there to discuss how the church was going to become the Presbyterian Church, but how we are being called by God and the Holy Spirit to become whatever the next church looks like. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but we are a reforming church. Have you ever heard the saying “ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda?” Well, it means the church reformed, always reforming. So, maybe whatever the next church looks like, it will simply become the reform of the church that we are now. As reformed Protestants we really have to live into this idea of being reformed, continually.

Tom also said some other interesting things, here are some of my notes from the pews on the morning introduction:

~polity can’t create church, trust can

~the church needs to be responsive [to the world]

~If we fail at being church, everyone assumes that we are just like them. (this was in regards to the secular world)

~as ones who are called to be the church, we are called to new responsibilities in a new and changing world

~team jerseys are left at the door, we are one people of God

~our friendships determine the issues, not the other way around

~”The church is not dying, it is changing.”

~”Next Church will fail if it is about saving the denomination.”

~”Don’t confuse whining with being prophetic.”

~”It’s not about saving the church, it’s about being the church.” (this one is my favorites)

After Tom’s introduction, we went straight into worship. You know that feeling when you really know the Holy Spirit is present? I mean, you feel it in your bones, really present? Well, that happened for me. After our Call to Worship we went into the hymn, Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation. I come from a small church in the Southeast, and I attend church every Sunday at my field site, but I’m behind the pulpit with the pastors, so it sounds a little different. But standing in the very middle of 370 fellow Christians, claiming aloud that Christ is made the sure foundation of the church, was one of the most freeing and uplifting moments I’ve had in a really long time. All of us were there for the purpose of starting the conversation for making the church what it is being called to be, making it better and figuring out how to better respond to the needs of the world. Now, I’m not saying that this never happens, but it was something new, really big and really exciting.

After finishing up worship, we were treated to a talk on mission from the Rev. Andrew Foster Connors, followed by breakout small groups, a wonderful lunch and worship. Next, we heard from Rev. Dr. Joe Clifford (I have a special place in my heart for this man. He’s pretty awesome.), on vocation. One of Dr. Clifford’s emphasis’ was on young adults in the church. He made some really strong points and used the crowd as his example.After Dr. Clifford’s presentation, we moved back into new small groups on various topics and then came back together for a time of responses from participants. Afterwards, we had dinner and then, in various places, there were fellowship times. These were times of networking and communication in peoples homes.

Tuesday was the last day of the conference. It began with morning gathering and worship, followed by a presentation from Chicago’s own Rev. Chris Chakoian with a plenary discussion after more glorious coffee. The day ended with a closing worship and then lunch.

Now, I could sit here and give you my personal feedback about how this conference went (I believe you can read my bias above, honestly), but you should make the decision for yourself. What I can say is that it was a first conversation. Lots of first conversations happen… lots. But what was so exciting about this one is that it wasn’t like other first conversations. It was broad yet very clear about the issues we were and were not addressing and it really cut to some issues we’ve neglected as Presbyterians. So this wasn’t just a first conversation, it was a really good first conversation. The first of many to come.But like I said, check it out for yourself!

Here is what one McCormick Student had to say about the conference:

“The NEXT conference was the beginning of a good and important conversation. While not all of the most vital questions about ‘the next church’ were answered or the most urgent concerns addressed, I am grateful to have witnessed and participated, and I actively anticipate what’s NEXT. Also, I think seminarians and young leaders need to plan and host next time. Who’s with us?!”

From the reports, the next Next Church conference will be held in Dallas, Texas at the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas. But I like this idea of the young adults getting in on this more! Take a cue from Joe Clifford’s video.

You can see all the videos from the conference here and you can find out more about Next Church online here and on Facebook. You can also follow the Next Church blog here. Please let us know what you thought! Until we meet here again!

Peace ~ Shelley D.

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