I've been learning, having conversations, growing, and being inspired at the first Widening the Welcome conference in St. Louis.
A few brief observations:
- This is a whole lot to take in. And I love it!
- The conference facilities at the Drury Plaza are marvelous! The food is great, the rooms are great, almost everything is working perfectly! Our conference planner, Debbie Cowen from Summit Meetings, Inc, is someone I highly recommend to others working on conference planning!
- Our music leader, Martie McMane, is wonderful -- she plays guitar and has a voice that is reminiscent of both Joni Mitchell and Carole King.
- Jane Fisler Hoffman is courageous, engaging, funny, and the perfect preacher to start off our worship ties together. My favorite quote from her sermon, "As a pastor, my many open mistakes have helped others to face theirs."
- Nancy Kehoe is a genius. Her 25 plus years incorporating religious belief and spirituality and their role in treating mental illness show in her presentation. I laughed a little, but cringed when she said, "Mental illness is a no casserole disease - when someone is diagnosed with schizophrenia no one brings over a casserole."
- Debbie Creamer offered us four new ways to look at, or images of God. The accessible God calls for an end to oppressive structures. The interdependent God calls for us to remember that we all rely on one another. The disabled God is revealed in the wounded Jesus -- with pierced hands and feet and sides. The limits God reveal to us that limits are part of what it is to be human. It takes everyone to make up the body of Christ.
- Craig Rennebohm's presentations on building a mental health team in local congregations are one of the main reasons I am at this conference. I've learned much from his workshops so far, including the idea that in mental health ministry we need a psychological, biological, spiritual, and social approach to wellness.
- David Greenhaw is a passionate, dynamic speaker. His quote, "You have worth not because you are a producer. You have worth because you are a child of God." made me want to stand up and cheer.
I'm continuing to post quotes (usually a bunch at once after writing things in that longhand way) on the Widening the Welcome facebook event page and on twitter.
More to come -- we're only half way through!