I arrived in Atlanta late Wednesday night, ready for my first ever General Conference session experience. Although I’d heard that GC was something like a city-takeover wherever it happened every five years, I was still surprised to see the MARTA public underground filled with name-tagged Adventists on my first trip from the outskirts of the city into the heart of Atlanta on Thursday morning. I was even more surprised to see public city banners sporting the Seventh-day Adventist Church logo when I emerged near the Sheraton hotel, venue for IMPACT Atlanta (a GC concurrent discipleship intensive organized by the Young Adult Ministry Advisory [YAMA]). Neither could I miss the conspicuously flashing “SDA event” parking signs or the “vegetarian friendly” posters hanging in restaurant windows on street corners everywhere.
It was curious seeing well-known public evangelists walking around in real life, outside of their contexts on living room television screens. But much more meaningful than that was bumping into old friends—my childhood pastor’s wife, college peers, professors and ministry colleagues. I'm still finding it difficult to walk very far through the Georgia Dome without spotting someone I know and care about. I like that.
The exhibit hall in C4 is perhaps the most exciting place to be when nothing monumental is happening during the general sessions. Some 250 church and independent organizations, ministries, and academic institutions have set up booths to promote themselves to passersby each day. We at the Spectrum booth have enjoyed getting acquainted with many of you, our readers, while handing out buttons in support of women’s ordination and introducing new friends to Spectrum and Adventist Forums.
The people of Atlanta have already proven themselves to be generous hosts, and one hopes that we are being equally gracious guests. Yesterday afternoon I participated in IMPACT’s outreach efforts to the Salvation Army and the Boy’s and Girl’s Club. I heard one member of our group tell a local resident that we had come to bring good news to her city. I hope it’s true. I hope that whatever news we’re bringing is truly good news.
The theme of this 59th session is one I am both pleased by and proud of. “Proclaiming God’s Grace” represents, I think, a valiant desire to make our news to this city good. Our daily devotional segments have titles like “Grace in the Manger,” “Grace at Calvary,” “Grace and Reconciliation,” “Living by Grace as Disciples and Disciplemakers,” “Grace in the Sanctuary,” “Grace and Mission,” etc. Tara VinCross, senior pastor of the Chestnut Hill Philadelphia Church spoke this morning, and her message was well received.
IMPACT is one way young people are trying to put flesh on the theme of grace in the midst of all our denominational business sessions and policy-shaping. Service projects will continue throughout next week and will include more work with the Salvation Army and Boys and Girls Club, with ADRA (an “End it Now” signature drive is slated for Tuesday the 29th), with a day shelter for women and with Atlanta Union Mission. Approximately 50 young adults representing diverse locations (including Jamaica, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Kazakhstan) have signed up to participate in IMPACT activities. IMPACT has been marketed as hands-on discipleship training, and truly there are few things as integral to genuine discipleship as service.
Stay tuned for more…
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/2457