I've spent the last couple of days helping out and meeting people at the youth specialties' national youth workers conference here in nashville. I think there are over 4,000 people here. it's sheer coincidence that its on while I'm here. since I wasn't registered, I borrowed an exhibitor's tag and helped the team in the displays area. youth ministry in the US is clearly BIG business, and the array of mission tour operators, t-shirt and web design companies, christian univeisities and numerous publishers made me feel rather ill after a while.
it's given me the chance to meet a number of people, including Terry Carty who runs the Youth Worker Movement, with 4000 members (go join - its free and you get discount stuff!), and Ed Trimmer who teaches youth ministry at Huntingdon College (among other things!), a Methodist College in Alabama. and buy a few more books. damn. that's the last time!
Plus I got to sign the volume of "The Way of Pilgrimage" that I authored...
saturday morning i snuck into the main gathering. a fantastic biblical storyteller called marquis laughlin who presented a long section of John's Gospel. brilliant! mark yaconelli was speaking on spirituality. he was excellent, although in some ways too much funny stuff and not enough depth for me. mark started his talk with a centring exercise, then talked about the soul as being - the place where God dwells, where we truly know God, a place of innocence, a place that holds tears and suffering, and a place that waits for joy. he also focused a lot on the need to slow down and look inward. and finished with a disco dance, but i'll have to explain that one to you.
i've done a couple of circuits of broadway, the main street downtown, but can't find one souvenir worth buying! this is tack city.
last night i did the almost unthinkable - went to "the grand old opry" - a packed out saturday night. it was wall to wall old folks on bus tours (well, almost). the headline acts were patty loveless, nancy griffith, marty stuart, and other people I'd never heard of. (to the right is conclusive proof that andrew fox is moonlighting in tenessee on the weekends...) most of the music was definitely across that invisible line that for me separates "country" from "music". I was kept alive and awake by the occasional bluegrass, cajun or rockabilly tune, and the fact that every electric guitar was a fender telecaster and them guitar pickers were mighty fine! seriously, the backing bands were the best part.
today I fly home at last - 3 flights and stopovers - about 21 hours. i can't wait.
y'all come back now....
random note: the upper room folks told me about zoecity - a new christian social wetworking & web site. they seem to think it is worth keeping an eye on.