Saturday, January 03, 2009

Looking Back at Gather

(This post was written on Thursday at the Denver airport while waiting for my flight home.) Gather, the quadrennial national gathering of Episcopalian college students in Estes Park, Colorado, is now over, and I’m about to head back to New Hampshire from Idaho for the winter term. I’ve posted recaps for each day of the conference, and I’d like to cap it off with a week-in-review post, since the true highlights were in the week’s spirit, not the days’ events. This post covers the conference theme, the week’s diverse worship, the wonderful people I met, and the workshops I was unable to attend.

The theme of the week was “Seek, Engage, and Embody (S.E.E.) the Light,” but I must confess that while I did take away lots of good nuggets about the light of Christ from the five sermons, I never really felt as if I was immersed in the theme. This was probably because Untied Airlines made me miss the conference’s first day. No doubt that night’s Eucharist’s lessons and sermon gave set the tone and the context, and I just plum missed out. Still, even if I was unable to dive into the theme, the week was a thing of beauty.

Our worship was varied and diverse. The four Eucharists included a New Zealand BCP service, a Spanish service, this progressive service, and a more standard Rite II with Eucharistic Prayer B. Three Morning Prayer services included a Celtic service, a TaizĂ© service, and a more standard Rite II service. I’ll post some of my favorite prayers from these services later. The band – which largely hailed from Colorado but was national in scope – included a mandolin, a violin, a piano, a flute, drums, guitars, and more. There was a great deal of Christmas music (my favorite!) as well as a number of wonderful hymns (it doesn’t get any better than Friday’s combo of “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light” as the processional and “Come Thou Fount” as the recessional!).

Even better than the worship, however, were the people. Normally at events such as this, I spend my time huddled in a library or a corner, keeping myself company with books or pens. It’s not that I’m particularly anti-social, it’s just that I’m not particularly social. Conversations interest me, but not the conversation topics; people interest me, but not the specific events. This week was blessedly different. Between moving around at meal times, snowshoeing, the workshops and community groups, the evening free time “coffeehouse,” and more, I met so many wonderful people. I already mentioned my roommates, Daniel and Mario. There was also Chucky and the crew from West Virginia, Lauren and the gang from Oklahoma, Nikki and Andrea from Texas, Doug the West Point cadet (good guy!), Stephen from I don't remember where :(, Rosie from California, Fr. Douglas Fenton (the Episcopal Church Program Officer for Young Adult Ministry & Leadership Development), Pastor Joel, Dee from New York, and the list just goes on and on, I’m so horrible with names. My exchanges – both social and spiritual – with these people were what made my week complete. What an exciting future our church has! It’s a small world and a smaller church, so I look forward to seeing all these people at future General Conventions, ProvGats, and more. (It helped, I’m sure, that I already knew several folks from New Hampshire and Massachusetts.)

I’ve written about the three workshops I attended – prayer, Q&A with Michael Battle, and a discernment panel – but many others were offered. I had hoped to attend the two-part “Christian Sexual Ethics: A Young Adult Perspective,” but it filled up too quickly. I’m told the first session was great, but that second was more a discussion on the question “Is there sex in heaven?” than it was general Christian sexual ethics. Other workshop offerings included “Mission in the 21st Century,” “The Sustainability of Spirituality,” “ERD/Global Reconciliation,” “Spiritual Leadership,” and “Service Opportunities.”

I’d like to close this post with a really big thank you – to Father Douglas Fenton of the Episcopal Church Center for pulling it all together; our speakers Pastor Joel Nau (who also led the prayer workshop and coordinated travel arrangements), Father Michael Battle, and Terry Parsons; the various workshop leaders; and all the local chaplains, especially Fr. Josh Thomas, the head of college ministries for the Diocese of New Hampshire (w00t w00t). These folks gave the conference a certain beautiful, enriching depth. And of course, an even bigger thank you to Province One's Amanda and everyone else on the Student Leadership Team who worked with Fr. Douglas to make the event happen. They’ve been hard at work for the past two years, and it showed. Kudos to them all!

It's just one of those things you wish didn't have to end. I like what another attendee wrote in her own blog post. Says April, "There is no way to type of the whole sum of Gather, but I will say this: on the evaluation form, under what could be left out, I put 'going home at the end'."

No comments: