September 24, 2010
Checking in from the Story Conference
Conferences in Chicago, where I live (OK, you got me, the suburbs of Chicago), are a mixed blessing. No flight costs? Blessing. No hotel costs (not to mention no roommates from the office blurring your boundaries)? Blessing. Some sense of confidence about where you're going and how to get there? Blessing. However, I'm finding that conference schedules don't mesh well with office- or homelife schedules; meanwhile, guilt sensations have an easier time finding me in Chicago than, say, in St. Louis, so I agonize more acutely over the work left undone at the office, and the life left unlived (and chores left unchored) at my house.
On balance, though, the right conference on the home front is worth the guilt feelings and complex coordination. I've been to three such right conferences lately: a retreat for editors; the twentieth annual conference of the Christian Community Development Association; and this week, the Story Conference--a conference for the creative class. (One more next week, then I'll mow the lawn. I promise.)
The Story Conference pulls together people in arts ministry, innovative church planters and leaders, and lay Christians in arts industries for encouragement and expansion of the imagination. The speakers have ranged from wildly successful novelists and filmmakers, to culture leaders among right-brained evangelicals, to pastors and activists. Two of our authors--Sean Gladding (The Story of God, the Story of Us) and Princess Kasune Zulu (Warrior Princess) are on the bill.
I'm struck by how often arts and justice work among evangelicals are commingled. The exhibitors here oscillate, almost booth by booth, between creative expression and justice/mercy ministry. IVP, as usual, sits somewhere in the middle: Princess is an AIDS activist; Sean is a storyteller. Each of them regularly feeds and acts on both their creative and their justice impulses. Out of everyone at this conference (I include myself in this) they're probably the two people easiest to pick out of a crowd.
I don't have much insight into this apparent collusion of the arts and social conscience. Maybe you do. I do know that as I look around at Story, I think we came to the right place, and there are probably folks here who appreciate that we came. Almost makes me forget that I owe my boss some paperwork.