Disclaimer: As always, I’m only talking for myself here. Nobody else should be dragged through the mud if you have issue with any of the stuff I say. All hot tar and flaming arrows should be directed solely at me.
I. Am. A. Wimp.
Even worse than that, I’m a Southern Wimp. I’ve got it coming from both sides; every fiber of my being and every predecessor in my lineage has admonished me, “Don’t ever disagree with anybody. Always conciliate. Always say ‘bless your heart’ and go along with the flow.” I guess that’s why, ironically, I’m so fiercely dedicated to this whole peacemaker gig that God has put me into right now. That being said, though, at the prospect of conveying a message that might be unpleasant to anyone — on either side of the aisle — I automatically assume the T-Rex Defense Posture. If I don’t move, maybe they won’t see me.
Yeah, I know. Dithering ain’t gonna work. Over the past few days I’ve had multiple people, both in person and online, tell me that they’re “looking forward to hearing my reaction to the conference.” Mm hmm — no pressure. (No tacit expectations, either.) But I need to be a big girl. I need to make good on my commitments, not only to attend the gathering, but also to give it an honest appraisal from my personal perspective. So, then, I suppose it’s time to gird up my loins and give that aforementioned honest appraisal. I’ll probably raise folks’ hackles on both sides of the theological spectrum as I do so, but it’s time that I gave up and learned how to make an omelet.
Let me start off by saying that I actually had fun. Even more than I was expecting, as a matter of fact. I pulled “Networking Jodi” out of storage — I hadn’t really needed her since Big Tent — and made a point to get to know people during breaks and down times. That, combined with the gracious hospitality exhibited by a certain former Vice Moderator who introduced me to lots of his friends, made for some great conversations and thoroughly enjoyable experiences. And, once again, I discovered that I had a remarkable amount of common ground to share with pretty much all of the individuals I encountered milling around Fourth Pres. Granted, that common ground was slightly different depending on the person with whom I engaged, but that’s true for anybody I meet (Christian, non-Christian, progressive, conservative, you name it). I geeked out with fellow Whovians, joked about Southern culture with folks who hopped the Mason-Dixon Line on their way to the conference, and commiserated with fellow thirty-somethings about having to explain what Top Gun was to a college student in attendance. I had my coffee bought by the uncle of a girl on my freshman hall at college, and got advice on how to approach my (eventual) dissertation from a few of the scholars in residence. Through those discussions, what I quickly came to realize was that every one of those areas was fertile ground to plant seeds for relationships. And with the advent of social networking, those relationships can continue to be cultivated, even from hundreds of miles away.