This year we moved to a shorter, 2-day meeting instead of a 3-day one. We also, for the first time in my memory, held our meeting in downtown Chicago. I think the loss of a day changed the financial impact of the meeting - which is very good. I think meeting in downtown Chicago got us to stretch our comfort zone of where it is good to meet -- which is very good. I also think that UIC was an excellent venue to have a meeting -- again . . . very good. (They have a bowling alley downstairs!)
And with the very good comes the challenges.
- Losing a day meant that the workshops offered were much shorter. I felt it in the one workshop I led (it started like a train wreck, as I had edited what could have been a 2 1/2 hour workshop into a 45 minute one - I took out things I should have left in and left things in I could have left out - it turned out OK, but it was also a learning experience for me.) and I also experienced it in a second workshop I attended. We tried to stuff too much into the short time period. If we follow the same pattern for next year, I'll have to remember that 45 minute workshops edited from 2 hour workshops don't work too well.
- Meeting in downtown Chicago is expensive. It also makes housing a little bit tricky. I (and many others) stayed at a UIC dorm that was about 6 blocks from the main venue. Not too bad, though the stormy weather Friday night made it difficult. Parking was a couple of blocks away from the dorms, too. I know that I'm spoiled by the venues with hotel, convention, and parking all in the same place . . . but I do like that way better.
- The Friday portion of the Annual Meeting was a little underwhelming. I started things off by leading the group in a rousing and energetic time of singing "Where Justice Rolls Down," but we definitely didn't sustain the energy throughout the rest of the day. I didn't notice it as much on Friday, however, as I did when things were far different on Saturday.
- I missed much of the business portion of the meeting Saturday while leading a delegation of youth on an adventure called "Two Tales of One City" We spent time learning about the many outreach ministries of Kenwood UCC and how they began. The most affecting statement I heard from Rev. Leroy Sanders was that 28 years ago the congregation voted not to begin a feeding ministry because "they didn't want that kind of people here." Rev. Sanders convinced the congregation to change their mind and it has been a transformative experience for all.
- After our time at Kenwood UCC we spent a couple of hours at Navy Pier. We experienced the need for community outreach and we experienced . . . fun. Two tales of one city. We also, in a very short time, formed new relationships with one another.
- Those relationships were evident as we came back during the last business session and then participated in the rousing, inspiring, powerful closing worship. Rev. Phil Hart's sermon, the liturgy, the songs, the prayers, the dancing, the offering, communion . . . everything was awesome. (OK -- the we had some trouble with the last hymn, but by the end of the song we had it down -- we'll have to do that one again next year!) I left the meeting inspired and refreshed - ready to tell a great story. What a great way to end!
There are several pictures from the event on the Illinois Conference Youth Initiative webpage and Facebook page.