Posted by: ritagone | August 18, 2010

Connecting & Ordaining

Just got back a few days ago from our once annual, now seemingly semi-annual Christian Associates staff conference, recently renamed CONNECT (after all, “staff conference” is not a particularly creative or interesting name, is it?).  I’m still mildly jet-lagged, so anything stupid I say here cannot and should not be held against me.  Who ever thought of international time differences anyway?  Some sadist who had nothing better to do than torture poor weary world travelers?  Well, he succeeded!  I say “he” because I don’t think a woman would have done something so mean.

Oh yes, back to the conference… Interestingly enough, the conference venue at See Park, Germany, near the town of Kirchheim, was not the most conducive for “connecting” this past week at CONNECT.  For one thing, mysteriously, the main bar was not kept open in the evenings after our sessions ended, except for one night when our people asked – almost begged – for this to happen.  Why this was so I never did understand, because the hotel was turning away a lot of income from drinks and snacks they would have received from CA celebrants wanting to sit and talk and fellowship with one another over a beer or a glass of wine when the evening session was over.  And there weren’t very many other places where you could sit and talk and just hang out.  I was with a small group of people who wanted to talk; we had to ask a server if we could just sit in an unused restaurant booth for conversation.  He looked at Connie Schuh and me as if we were asking if we could sacrifice his firstborn child, pondered it for a minute, and finally hesitantly agreed.  When we left the booth after an hour of sweet conversation, we made sure every crumb was removed, every plate and utensil was right where we found it.  Not exactly the kind of atmosphere where you feel comfortable to – well, to connect.

And yet, there’s always the most magical relating going on, because that’s one of the things CA people do so well.  It’s almost a mark of who CA people are: can you sit and visit with 5 people at one time, can you hug and talk and stay up late and share and smile and laugh over a glass of wine or beer all at the same time?  You’re a CA person for sure!!

One of a group of meetings that I was privileged to participate in three times during the conference was to officially ordain three sets of CA people: two couples and one guy who was there without his wife.  The couples were the Crulls and the Daniels, and Dominic Rivera was the man who was at CONNECT without Hilary, his wife, (who was sorely missed).  These were serious meetings with both theological and relational questions designed to ensure that those being ordained understand that the step they are taking is meant to be taken with all respect and reverence, yet there was joy and laughter from those of us who sat in and participated.

And in one of these meetings in particular, I wish I could have brought you all in with us.  Matt and Toni Daniels serve in Uruguay and brought their entire tribe with them to CONNECT, a lively bunch of people who love Jesus and each other with an infectious outpouring that sweeps you into its atmosphere.  We (Rob, Linus, Steve Adams and myself) went up to the cabin where the Daniels family stayed during CONNECT so that we could question them for ordination.  Someone from their group was supposed to come along and help watch the babies so Matt and Toni could focus on the questions we were asking.

And then something began to happen: in the door one by one came every single person who had come to CONNECT with them, because they wanted to sit and listen to Matt and Toni be interviewed, wanted to hear the questions and participate in some small way in this very special occurrence in the lives of their friends and spiritual mentors.  And then, when the questions were over from us questioners, suddenly it turned into an outpouring of love and affection from these people who knew such grace and acceptance and wanted to talk about it, express it.  They wanted Matt and Toni to know how much they were loved and what they meant to each Uruguyan there.  I’m sure it wasn’t the first time these expressions of love and admiration were voiced, and I know it won’t be the last.  But I tell you, the tears were flowing; there was no way you could sit and listen to what was being shared and not weep tears of joy and feel just plain emotion at what you were privileged to see and hear there.  Matt was weeping; Toni was weeping; the four of us were weeping.  I was glad I was wearing waterproof mascara.

These people didn’t care two hoots that Matt and Toni were qualifying to be ordained.  What they knew was that Matt and Toni had come into their lives and cared for them, nurtured them, accepted them and helped them find Jesus in so many ways that they could only weep when trying to express it.

And that was one of the greatest connections made at CONNECT that I was privileged to experience.  When you get to sit in on something like this, you know that being a follower of Jesus Christ allows for such deep connections – if we will participate in it and open ourselves to it – that we will be flooded with tears of joy and happiness.

I wish for you today a connection with someone that goes beyond normal human connections, a connection that fills your soul with a song of pure perfection.

Regards, Rita

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