I spent the first part of this week at #unco16, the UnConference. I’ve written about it a lot, shared about my experiences in the past, but it seeunco16ms that every year, the conference is *exactly* what I need.

This picture says it all to me: worship space, friends gathered, toys on the floor, folks using their phones to share what we are learning and to engage others beyond this space in the conversation. This is what UNCO is about in the short version.

The longer version of what I gained for the few short days we were together:

 

–Gathering with my colleagues from across denominations for support and encouragement.
–Sharing ideas and information, from concrete ideas such as Bible study topics and sermon ideas to how to rethink the ways we do Christian education, worship, and mission beyond our buildings and the traditional Sunday morning timeslot.
–Talking about real issues such as clergy burnout, self-care, pastoring through trauma, and other issues that affect clergy but where few resources are available to help.
–Working through big topics such as White Privilege, but bringing in #BlackLivesMatter into our conversations about worship and Christian Education and mission.
–Supporting clergy and church leaders called to ministries outside of traditional congregations, including online spaces, consulting, and other non-traditional calls to ministry (I have received so much support for my fiction writing from my UNCO friends!)
–Praying, singing, dreaming, and worshiping together with others, when often we are the ones leading worship or planning worship—instead, collaborating and finding meaning together.

It’s less than forty-eight hours. We worship, we dream, we work, and we play together. It’s incredibly enriching and fulfilling.

This year, our theme for UNCO was #UnLeashed. We talked about what we needed to be unleashed from, and what we needed to be unleashed to. For me, I wanted to be unleashed from fear—fear of what others might think, fear of failure, fear of others not being supportive in my call. But by the end, I was ready to be unleashed to the joy of the call again. More than ever, I find the joy of being called to ministry with my peers who are also experiencing that call, and being able to share both the joys and struggles with those who understand was life-giving.

I have returned renewed, refreshed, unleashed from my fear, and unleashed to hope.
I can’t wait for next year.
www.unco.us Join us at East or West.

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