April 13 – The Year in a Word

I fly to California on Monday.  Eight days after Easter and as has been my custom for thirty or more years, I will be attending the West Coast Presbyterian Pastors Conference. In fact, the WCPPC celebrates its Fortieth Anniversary this year, and some of the founders and first attenders are sure to be there.  Lots of things have changed in those forty years, not the least of which are the faces of those who come.

The WCPPC was started as a place for young Presbyterian pastors and youth workers of an Evangelical/Reformed bent to gather for fellowship and nurture. The word “young” was even in the name of the conference for its first decade or so. It is good to see that even as its Boomer core ages, young Presbyterian pastors continue to find their way to the WCPPC each year eight days after Easter.

For most of its four decades the first P in WCPPC was understood to mean not just Presbyterian, but Presbyterian (USA). Now it may mean EPC  Presbyterian or, this year, ECO Presbyterian, our alphabet soup getting thicker as the life of our denomination changes and declines.

But for all the changes, some things remain the same at the WCPPC.  With the single exception of its very first year, the conference has been held at Mount Hermon Conference Center, nestled in the Redwoods just a few miles from Santa Cruz at the north end Monterey Bay. And in each of its years the conference has been marked by a mix of solid teaching from great scholars and practiced pastors and remarkable fellowship of the accountability sort that best marks Presbyterianism of all stripes.

This year our primary Bible teacher will be Eugene Peterson, best known for his “Message” translation/paraphrase of the Bible, but whose deeper contribution to the life of the church may be his teaching on the nature of Christian vocation and spiritual discipline. I have heard  Peterson teach before and am eager for what he will have to say this year.

And our fellowship will be rich.  I will see friends I have known for over 30 years – from my stops along the way: California, Oregon, Virginia, Michigan and Pennsylvania.  And I will see friends of the newer and younger sort – a particular joy this year as last will be time spent with LPC seminarians and now California pastors, Jonathan and Kristy LaBarge.

Oh, there’s one other thing about the WCPPC that never changes. Monday night. On Monday night we “log-in.” Log-in as been the same as long as anyone can remember, I suppose the same for thirty-nine years.  In groups of friends old and new each of us will be asked to share one word that describes the year since we last met eight days after Easter.

Knowing that log-in is coming, I’ve been thinking for several weeks about what word I might use to describe this past year. I haven’t come up with one yet, but it might have to do with:

  • This wonderful season of life in which Becky and I find ourselves – grand babies and adult children who are faithfully following Christ.
  • The rich blessing of serving LPC, a community of faithful conviction, warm acceptance and compassionate service.
  • Doors that have been opened for ways to grow, connect, serve and share in the larger church, even the global church.
  • The strong guidance of the Holy Spirit in the areas of prayer and study.

But that word may also have to do with:

  • A season of long waiting as Becky and I experience in our own lives the reality of an under-performing economy – and not just the wait for a new job, but the wait for clarity as to God’s purpose and plan in and through all this.
  • Unease about the world that our grandchildren Caleb and Lena will inherit. From the national debt to moral decay, it is a world ever in need of a gospel that will turn it upside down.
  • Service and leadership in the church deemed irrelevant by many on the outside and made ineffective by its theological, moral and institutional confusion on the inside.

The word will come to me some time before Monday evening. It always does.

So, in a word, how would you describe your year since Easter, 2011?  I’ll tell you my word (when it comes) if you tell me your word!