A little over a year ago in a small conference room in Indianapolis, Indiana, a group of Episcopal colleagues and partners gathered at a ridiculously early hour to discuss a bold, possibly crazy idea that turned into Rooted in Jesus. Bill Campbell, then-director of FORMA, had the idea of inviting over eight hundred people to Atlanta for a giant conference. We believed in the concept and got to work.
Fast forward to fall, when the publicity began in earnest, and registration opened. Soon, over eight hundred people registered, and the number kept growing. Registration stayed open – and people kept signing up.
Rooted in Jesus conference week arrived and all I could think was TURN UP FOR JESUS. The anticipation and excitement grew along with the registration numbers. The conference hotel was filled with folks who wanted to get rooted in Jesus. Folks showed up who hadn’t registered. No one was turned away. As I watched it unfold, I couldn’t help but compare this experience to Jesus feeding the 4,000. Matthew 15:32-34a reads:
Now Jesus called his disciples and said, “I feel sorry for the crowd because they have been with me for three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry for fear they won’t have enough strength to travel.”
His disciples replied, “Where are we going to get enough food in this wilderness to satisfy such a big crowd?”
Jesus said, “How much bread do you have?”
When people gather in the name of Jesus, Jesus shows up and Jesus provides. Over 1,200 people attended the Rooted in Jesus conference to get close to Jesus and spend time with people who want to be closer to Jesus. Rooted in Jesus is the largest conference of its kind, as far as we know. Nine partners, seven tracks, four pre-conferences, and one giant group of people who love Jesus made it happen. The conference was led by the Spirit, focused on Jesus, and provided by God. Jesus made sure everyone – no matter how tired or cranky they became – was fed. And there was enough for everyone.
I left Atlanta feeling full. One of the highlights was at the closing Eucharist when VTS professor The Rev. Dr. Mark Jefferson told us the story about what happens when our plant outgrows the pot it’s in. When our roots are tangled, they can’t grow, and they certainly can’t thrive. I don’t want to spoil, so listen to the sermon and be blessed with his word. Enjoy the sending eucharist with music by my sister-friend Sandra Montes and friends at 11:28 and 53:39.
If you ware at Rooted, I pray this is true for you: all of our lives were changed. Many of the hotel staff’s lives were changed. The volunteers and staff of All Saints Episcopal Church, who were so generous with their time, talents, and spirit, felt the change, too. All of us who were gathered in the name of Jesus brought Jesus’ energy into downtown Atlanta. We breathed it, shared it, then took it with us to share with our brothers and sisters at home.
If you’re like old me, who didn’t work for the church and couldn’t afford to take a few days off to go to a church conference out of pocket or aren’t with such a person, you probably weren’t at Rooted. There’s lots of footage and workshop info at the Rooted in Jesus website. I’m watching and re-watching so I can continue to process it.
Rooted in Jesus proved one thing for sure: The Episcopal Church loves Jesus. We’re putting Jesus first. And that’s good news for us and for our children. We belong to a church that puts on a conference for the best reason – we believe we must root ourselves in Jesus. Like the song says – Ain’a that good news!
photo courtesy of Jerusalem Greer