FTE Leaders in Minstry Conference in New Orleans is so powerful that I feel compelled to try to put it into words. Why? I have experienced community, and it is good.

I don’t actually remember how I came across this fellowship. It may have been suggested to me by my pastor or possibly the seminary I will be attending. What I do know is that despite my research, I had no idea what to expect when I left for my trip to New Orleans. In my wildest imaginations, I would not have pictured what this conference has become for me.

"> Learning a New Normal | Forum for Theological Exploration

Learning a New Normal

By: Jennifer Dahle
June 18, 2011

What I have experienced here at the FTE Leaders in Minstry Conference in New Orleans is so powerful that I feel compelled to try to put it into words. Why? I have experienced community, and it is good.

I don’t actually remember how I came across this fellowship. It may have been suggested to me by my pastor or possibly the seminary I will be attending. What I do know is that despite my research, I had no idea what to expect when I left for my trip to New Orleans. In my wildest imaginations, I would not have pictured what this conference has become for me. One of the most wonderful aspects of this conference is the people I am meeting and the friendships I am forming both with other Lutherans and with people outside my denomination. I am surrounded by Mennonites and Baptists and UCC and Methodists and Episcopalians and Presbyterians and Jesuits and Pentecostals and Christians unaffiliated with a denomination. Each has a rich history and a story to share, and I’m intrigued by each and every one. The constant reminder that we are all God’s people, despite our differences in worship styles and theology, has fostered within me the need for dialogue and a whole lot of “wondering”.

Out of the brokenness of New Orleans has come a wellspring of hope, dialogue, and reformation. At times, the situation of New Orleans seems to mirror the situation of the church. Just as New Orleans is learning a new normal, so is the church. Declining numbers, poor church attendance and giving, and tensions within the church have inadvertently opened a door to rediscovering the church’s identity. The mission fields have changed; as much as we might like to, we cannot go back to the way things were.

The community of believers of which I have found myself a part of this week is a strong community full of leaders, seekers, and agents of change. God has blessed me with new friends and really opened my eyes to the need to work together across denominations and faiths. God is bigger than we can imagine, and by our divisions we attempt to make him smaller and more manageable. We’ve forgotten that God cannot be contained; he refuses to be brought down. Let’s leave plenty of room for “wonder”. Let us grow into something stronger, something better- a new normal of cooperation and dialogue. We’re up to the challenge.

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This blog post was produced during our 2011 Leaders in Ministry Conference in New Orleans, LA

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