Friday, May 20, 2011


On Monday I drove - seven and a half hours in the rain - to Stony Point NY, on the Hudson River north of New York City, for Unco11, held at the Presbyterian Church (USA) conference centre there. I got to see lots of Adirondacks and Catskills scenery on the way there and back, including zipping into the US Military Academy at West Point (which was overcrowded during Graduation Week) and driving past Revolutionary War sites at Newburgh, Fort Montgomery, and Stony Point itself.

The Unco11 un-conference is intended to be an alternative to the usual church conference. The agenda is crowd-sourced: attendees write their suggested topics on a board, and then discussion leaders nominate themselves and are assigned discussion rooms. I went to sessions on bivocational ministry, moving the church forward, palliative care for dying congregations, science fiction/fantasy and faith, and requirements for ministry training and ordination - and learned lots. There were also amazing worship services. I suggested reading in different languages for the closing worship to show that we are not going out into a unilingual world; and we had the Gospel read in English, Korean, French, and Greek.

Folks were drawn from PC(USA) and a few from other American denominations like the United Methodists and Disciples of Christ - and two Canadian attendees, myself and an Anglican priest, to make Unco international for the first time. They tended to be younger, and tech-savvy - there were more iPad 2s at Unco than exist in all of the three United Counties here, I'm sure.

Unco for me: Just what I needed after an insanely busy April, with Holy Week, Easter, and my mother's death. Lots of learning. Lots of inspiration. Lots of real-life connections with people whom I had only seen in tiny pictures on Twitter. Lots of sharing. Lots of quiet, too, so I could decompress. And now back into the world, to put all that I've learned and digested into practice, knowing that I have a new network of support and prayer to draw on.

1 comment:

Mary Beth Hancock McCandless said...

It was fantastic to finally meet you. It was also a little surreal since I've prayed for you in response to comments through Twitter and since we've also had some worship/prayer/conversation time in SecondLife. Nice to connect a real hug to the virtual support we've shared.