Design by Ryan Kemp-Pappan, @rk_p
Earlier this week I participated in UNCO or #unco12, if you follow along on Twitter, on the west coast at San Francisco Theological Seminary in Marin County. UNCO is short for unconference. So, instead of people attending a conference lead by experts, this organization facilitates participants to draw up from themselves and within the gathered body, in real life and on social media, what needs to be shared, taught, and taken away. This unconference relies heavily on the Holy Spirit to stir up among the people, drive what happens and then guide their steps. It’s as if the over-riding belief is that the two entities are so intertwined – Holy Spirit and people – it is difficult to distinguish where one begins and the other ends.
As someone who is enraptured by God to help form, support and be a part God’s kingdom in and through community, I am bursting with joy over UNCO. This is a laboratory that takes seriously God’s desire to work among God’s people – which is all people, since all are created – to experience what God desires for those made in God’s image – namely grace, peace, and justice.
Over the first night people shared on a dry erase board what they wanted to discuss and explore. We worshiped and invited God’s presence to move among us. The next morning we distilled the ideas people wrote down into breakout sessions and scheduled them throughout the day. After spending several hours – if you chose to go to each slated time slot – sharing our hearts and listening intently to one another, we enjoyed one another’s company (again) over beer, wine, orange juice and Coke Zero. For many, this communal and relational bonding went well into the night and into the morning on both nights. Sleep, what sleep?
Our last day at #unco12 was spent distilling even further the discussions that gained the most traction, in which folks agreed there was some sort of action worth pursuing at the time. One group worked on fleshing out an ecumenical database of churches and individuals interested in or currently doing innovative ministry (read: whatever innovative ministry means to you) which could be searchable by location and key word entry. Another group set some groundwork setting up a peer-to-peer resource production house. This organization would offer a platform for resources online to be provided by fellow church workers, as well as produce materials for purchase which are currently scarce or hard to come by, in areas like bi-vocational ministry and other current church education and culture issues. And even another group spent time looking at current structures and what it would mean to inform and resource bi-vocational and alternative forms of ministry. As you can tell, there is a lot of overlap. But that is the beauty of coming together and seeing what God is doing in our midst, particularly amongst our individual struggles and difficulties.
What will become of these actionable ideas? Who knows really (Okay, yes, God does). The course of these “take-aways” may alter over time… and they might not even happen. But that’s alright, and in some ways it might not even be the point. For faith and the Kingdom of God is a sacred mystery, one in which we, through the power of the Holy Spirit, faithfully partner with Jesus Christ in his reconciliation of the world. We ended our time by worshiping together, reading and contemplating 2 Corinthians 5 as well as singing “Awake My Soul” by Mumford & Sons and going out into the mess that God blesses.