How I’m Preparing for Kansas City

1. Reading Bloomability by Sharon Creech.

Bloomability

Written at a sixth grade reading level, it’s one of my favorite books. 13-year-old Dinnie is packed up and sent to a boarding school in Switzerland, where…. you should read the book.

2. Eating raspberries.

Raspberries might be a superfood with vital antioxidants and nutrients. I don’t know, I just know they taste good and they make me happy. And I’m quite certain that the convention center won’t be serving raspberries. So I’m getting my fill now. Last year I planted raspberry canes that are finally, finally bearing fruit. I’ve been waiting 9 months for this–it’s like Christmas in my backyard with all this red and green and deliciousness.

3. Playing soccer with teenage boys.

This is perhaps the only thing that has any bearing on convention. This week, one of the teenagers in the youth group invited me to play soccer with his friends. It’s been at least five years since I played soccer regularly. I’m still making my way back from a knee injury. But there I was, the only adult, the only white woman, on the field with a bunch of Latino boys who curse more than I do at a poetry event. They didn’t know I was a pastor, didn’t care where I came from, just knew that I could play the game. I ran the open spaces, distributed the ball, pushed the offense forward, made an assist. It was perhaps the most productive thing I’ve done all week. It’s space like this where the work of pastoring becomes ambiguous–nothing “gets done” in these moments. There was no worship or Bible verse of the day or conversation about Christian athletes. But after being in the office all day, dealing with the details of convention packing lists and catching up with the half-dozen polarizing blogs that were published while I was traveling last week, this reminded me what church was. Church is not arguments or being right or girding our loins for the delegate sessions (although maybe that would make the delegate sessions more interesting). Church is showing up so there will be enough people to play 9-on-9. Church is being where the youth group is, even if it’s not anywhere near the church building. This is what will hold the church together, more than regulations or doctrinal clarifications or enforcing orthodoxy.

This is how I’m preparing for Kansas City. Of course, I’m making packing lists and purchasing snacks and photocopying emergency contacts. But that’s detail work, that’s not preparation. Preparation is harder. Doing things I love, doing things that remind me why I love church. Several months ago, one of my friends–an avid cyclist–received a heart rate monitor. The first thing he did was try to get his heart rate as low as possible. That’s how I’m approaching this week. Kansas City will be its own celebration and stress. This week is keeping the heart rate low. Staying gentle, composed, patient. Investing in the most joyful parts of church so that there will be room, next week, for resilience. For hearing out people I disagree with. For mourning together, arguing together. Family business. After all, didn’t someone once say that the church is family?

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